Monday, February 14, 2011

Birding in fits and starts

I am writing this post while riding the GO train to work. In my headphones is a song called Wasting Away by Nailbomb. Check the video here (Warning. It's not for everyone). The point is that winter is wasting away and I need some birds. This weekend was spent playing a bit of catch up looking for specific ones. I didn't have the time to do a full day trip what with installing the shower in our house, visiting Rachel's sister and her new-born twins, spending time with my twins and lastly, my tattoo artist, Pete Commanda was coming out to the house and staying the night. He wasn't tattooing me yet (That will be happening soon enough), he was there to work on Rachel's arm.

Pete tattooing Rachel.

As I said, winter is fast disappearing and I need to grab some birds before they head north again. My target birds were; The Barrow's Goldeneye and the Boreal Chickadee that had both eluded me twice so far at Presqu'ile Provincial Park; the Common Redpolls that are in Kendal daily, except those days when I'm there. I had also heard there were some Wild Turkeys just north of Kendal near The Dell Road. There were also a few other sightings that were getting pretty stale but I couldn't help but go looking for like the Bohemian Waxwings in Claremont and that pesky Harlequin Duck in Whitby Harbour.

Common Redpoll by Tuchodi
Bohemian Waxwing by pbonenfant

So, Friday started out with me taking Rachel to get her G1 driver's licence. She passed of course and even drove us home afterward. Way to go Rach. I told you it'd be easy. After a nice lunch with the kids, I called my friend Brad to see if he felt like taking a drive in the country looking for birds. Brad isn't a birder but he is a musician (Bradleyboy) and happens to be doing the soundtrack for this film. He agreed to go and see what the hell I'm actually doing. We made a quick trip to Kendal for the Redpolls and Wild Turkeys. I arrived in Kendal all hopeful. It just felt like a good birding day. In true form, the Redpolls were absent. We drove a bit north to another location they might be found. Again, no Redpolls at the feeder. Feeling a bit dejected, we turned around and stared back to Orono. As we drove up the hill, there were at least thirty Wild Turkeys scratching away at the snow in a field. I guess one out of two ain't bad.

Wild Turkey by Bobolink

After that we headed toward Orono as my kids would be waking from their nap and I wanted to get back. I had some important playing with trains to be done. The following morning, I was going to get that Barrow's and Boreal. Brad wanted to come along for the ride as he hadn't been out to Presqu'ile in some time. We arrived to find another birder looking for the Boreal Chickadee but he hadn't found it. I was still hopeful. He did mention that someone got the Barrow's recently. We got to the lighthouse and I started scanning the hundreds, if not thousands of ducks on the lake. I had heard that it was near the red bouy earlier. I looked there first. No Barrow's. I started to think I wouldn't get it again. Why was I even doing a Big Year? It just took any pleasure out of birding. I wasn't even having fun. And there were tonnes of great birds out there. Common Goldeneye, Long-tailed Ducks, Greater Scaup, Buffleheads, Redheads (these used to be a real favorite, a reason to love winter), Common and Red-breasted Mergansers. So many that I used to love so much that were nothing more than wallpaper now. I felt like a shitty birder.

Redhead by bamyers4az
Red-breasted Merganser (complete with punk haircut) by marlin harms

Then, all of a sudden, I saw it. A Barrow's Goldeneye. How could I have missed this bird? It stood out like a sore thumb. Nothing else looked like it out there. The markings were so obvious. That forehead, the dark feathers that extended down each side of the breast, the bigger white spot on it's face and the pattern where white and black meet on it's side. It really made the Common Goldeneyes look, well, common. I had seen these ducks up close when I was in Vancouver a month ago but surely this one was a more perfect specimen than those junkies out west. This one was special. This one was a tick. I loved birding again. Even the idea of doing a Big Year seemed cool. It made the lack of breakfast and hour-long drive to get there all worth while. Who needs Redpolls anyway? I guess I do but for a few brief moments, I didn't care if I ever saw a Redpoll. I got my Barrow's. Of course, I stopped in Kendal on the way home to try for the Redpolls once more. No Redpolls.

Barrow's Goldeneye by ingridtaylar
Common Goldeneye by marlin harms

Sunday I had to go and visit family. My sister-in-law had recently had twins. I guess it runs in the family. Coincidentally, there is a conservation area near their home. It was a good bet that the babies would sleep for most of our visit and I could slip out and try for a few birds. Before leaving town, I had to drop some cash off at Brad's so he and Dawson could go grab the bowling alley floor I bought from someone in Toronto. Standing outside their house I heard a Northern Cardinal. No big deal, I had ticked them on January 2nd. What was special about this bird is that he was signing his full song. Spring must be coming. Just as I was handing over the cash, a Sharp-shinned hawk flew over. Look out Mr. Cardinal. It was almost as if I just paid $240 for that hawk.

Sharp-shinned Hawk by dobak

As luck would have it, not only were the babies asleep, so was their mother. I headed out for a quick trip to see what I might find. There wasn't much there but I did get one tick. A beautiful pair of Northern Mockingbirds. They were flying around and eating berries together. Probably revelling in the plus 4 celsius temperatures. Then I headed back to Jenna's house to visit and she had made Beef Bourguignon (Jenn is an incredible cook). All-in-all, this was a good weekend for birds. Not a big list but I ticked a few good ones.

Northern Mockingbird by mikebaird

February 11th, 2011 day list
Wild Turkey

February 12th, 2011 day list
Barrow's Goldeneye

February 13th, 2011 day list
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Northern Mockingbird

Paul Riss
Punk Rock Big Year

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