Monday, 30 June 2014

Eastern Ontario Rarity Hunt

With the doldrums of June birding, Kingston has remained surprisingly active, with numerous rare birds popping up over the past month.  An incredibly cooperative Kentucky Warbler has been at Parrot Bay Conservation Area west of Kingston for most of June, and I am kicking myself for waiting so long to try for it.  

This weekend, Caitlyn and I headed home to Kingston to visit my family and on Sunday morning we tried, along with my dad, for the Kentucky but with no luck.  We then took the ferry across to Amherst Island to try for a Lark Bunting which has been there for a week or so.  This is a really rare bird for Ontario, and is a species that is typically found out west in the great plains.  We showed up at the address where this bird had been seen, and it took us longer than I expected to track it down!  I knew that it was reported to sound similar to a cardinal, and after listening for 20 minutes I heard several notes in the distance that sounded exactly like that!  However, the high wind was making it hard to pinpoint the exact location, and the bird kept dropping into the grass.  I finally spotted it sitting on a mullein stalk in the middle of the field.  I pointed it out for Caitlyn and dad and we all got decent looks.  I also snapped a few really, really bad shots of it for the record, as you can see below.  This is a small songbird that is all black except for parts of the wing that are white.  Other highlights at this spot were Upland Sandpipers and other grassland bird species.

Distant Lark Bunting

After we had located our primary objective, we turned our attention to finding a scissor-tailed flycatcher which was reported from near the same location! This has happened so many times before: a rare bird is found at a location, birders flock to the area and end up turning up other rare birds!  It really makes me wonder how many rare birds are going unnoticed!  Unfortunately, we were unable to locate this amazing bird.

Shortly after, we headed to the Kingston Field Naturalist property on the east end of the island to try and find breeding Wilson's Phalarope.  We were soon rewarded with looks at many of these elegant birds as they flew by and foraged at some small ponds.

Wilson's Phalarope

On the way back from the ponds we encountered a bizarre scene, a Snowy Owl perched in a the end of June!  This is the latest I have ever seen one of these birds in Ontario.  Right now this species should be on its breeding range in the arctic tundra, not sweating in southern Ontario heat!  It appeared to me that it was holding its right wing at an odd angle, which makes me guess that it may be slightly injured, although it has clearly been able to survive for months past when it should have migrated north!  It was also very tame, and allowed us to walk right under it as we followed the trail back to the car.

  Amherst Island never disappoints! There is always something to see at this gem in eastern Ontario.

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