Wednesday, April 6, 2011

An Eider, I already have.

So this weekend was to be a busy one. I had to get my raised-bed garden boxes done if I'm going to be ready to plant the food I intend to grow this year. There's a matter of getting into the kitchen crawl space to clean up under there. It would seem my cat found her way in there and used it as her private latrine. Nice way to pay me back for saving her from an unhealthy home. There was to be a trip to the swings in Orono park as requested by Miss Georgia. And there was something else. Oh yeah, a full breeding plumage King Eider on The Leslie Spit in downtown Toronto.

The Eider was spotted regularly the previous weekend and then several times throughout the week. Saturday morning is dance class for Miss G so it was out of the question to go then. Saturday afternoon was to be the garden box building. I always grew a bit of food in Toronto when we lived there but since my backyard was about the size of a compact car, I had to choose wisely about what to grow. Inevitably the damn raccoons would harvest my strawberries the day before I would. They didn't seem to like tomatoes so that was always very successful. The boxes turned out very well I think. There's more to do before they are dirt ready but they are on the road to supplying us with food for the summer and fall.

Our garden boxes.

Sunday morning would be the time. I really hoped the Eider wouldn't get all Bohemian Waxwing on my ass (I've had several failed attempts at those birds). Anxious as I was, I wouldn't wish my Saturday away. And what a Saturday it was, great weather, me and Shep building gardens in the sun, listening to the drumming of our local Pileated Woodpecker. Pretty much a perfect day (Would have been perfect had I been able to go fishing in the afternoon). Though it did end with a few drinks with good friends, Brad and Jude.

Miss Georgia in Papa's garden last summer.

One of my favorite girls on earth.

Shep in Papa's garden last summer.

My best bud, playing in the corn.

I woke Sunday morning well before the sun was up. I pressed a cup of Birds and Beans coffee and went outside to listen to the birds wake while I drank it. It started with a Robin, then another, followed by a couple of Chickadees, a Cardinal and many more. I always love hearing them wake up. It's funny, I get up at 6:30am for work every weekday so you might think I'd let myself wake up naturally on the weekend. But no, I set my alarm a half hour to an hour earlier just to be up before the birds start singing.


I grabbed my scope, bins and a couple sandwiches and drove to my get the man that stared all this, my Dad. When he introduced me to a Black-capped Chickadee so many years ago, I bet he never foresaw that I'd be tattooing over 250 Latin bird names on my body. He was ready to go right when I got there. Ever the punctual German. We drove about a half hour listening to the Black Keys new record, Brothers (I tend to keep it a bit more listenable when I bird with dad) until Whitby Harbour. Margaret Bain had called me Saturday and informed me of three Harlequin Ducks in the harbour. If you remember, I tried for them on my birthday and missed them. Well, they were in true form that day. Nowhere to be found. We hopped back in the car and headed to The Spit.

We were meeting my producer MP (she'd never been birding before) and a fellow by the name of Mark. He contacted me about seeing the Eider from a post I made on Facebook. This was amazing to me as I often think nobody is even following what I'm up to because I get very few comments on my blog. I guess some people are, it's how I met Mark. Mark's a great guy, very kind and friendly. That seems to be a trend with the birders I've met so far. We hit the first place the Eider was seen. No Eider. Immediately I got that shitty feeling that we'd not get this bird. C'mon. This was the first trip this year I took with dad. It needed to be a success. He REALLY wanted this bird. King Eider would be a lifer for him. And what better way to get one than full breeding plumage. I already had King Eider for my PRBY list but it was a female.

Female King Eider by Max Henschell

Mark made us feel better by showing us two Long-Eared owls nearby. These two little ones blew MP away. We had shown her several nice ducks so far but these seemed to affect her much more. Maybe they were a trigger bird. She did ask me at the end of the day if she could get a decent pair of bins for 100 bucks. "Sure," I replied, "but it's a slippery slope toward spending so much more on optics." Careful MP, birding's a bit like crack, except it enhances one's life instead of destroying it.

Canvasback by ingridtaylar

Common Merganser by Firstmac

Long Eared Owl by pigsonthewinguk

My shit digi-scope of the owl we saw.

We also got a couple more new birds for my year. Horned Grebe and Red-necked Grebe. I wonder if Red-necks are considered the white-trash of birds, always getting visited at the nest by child services and leaving parts cars all over the pond. Probably not.

Horned Grebe by qmnonic

Red-necked Grebe by kanuski

We kept walking, scanning the water, when heard Mark say the words all birders love to hear, "I'm on it." He described where it was and I got it right away. A second later, dad had a lifer. And what a lifer! This thing looked amazing, like some perfect evolutionary mistake. We walked around the pond for a better look. There was the typical scene that inevitably takes place near a rare bird. Several happy bird nerds all with scopes and bins pointing in the same direction.

King Eider by Zaskoda
King Eider by Dan Hershman
King Eider by sarahkim
My attempt at digi-scoping it.

After driving an hour and walking for almost 3 hrs, we observed the bird for about fifteen minutes and then just left. That's how it is. It was an amazing bird but there were other things to do with the day. Life to be lived. I had a date with my favorite girl and the swings at Orono Park. She's a little daredevil this one. Faster Dad, swing faster!

April 3rd, 2011 day list

Long-eared Owl
Horned Grebe
Red-necked Grebe

Paul Riss
Punk Rock Big Year

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