Saturday, May 24, 2014

300 (+1) and a Local Laughing

Yesterday I cycled down to Lake Ontario in Mississauga in hopes of seeing shorebirds flying by, particularly Whimbrel which are seen in this area at this time every year. When I arrived, it was immediately apparent that extremely impressive numbers of Gulls and Terns were feeding on dead and dying fish (primarily Alewife I believe) in the mouth of the Credit River. This provided a welcome diversion while waiting for shorebirds, and as I scanned through the flocks I noticed first 2 adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls sitting on the water, followed by a very late immature Glaucous Gull.

Turning my attention to the Ring-billed Gulls resting on the wooden boat docks in the harbour, I quickly hit the jackpot - an immaculate adult Laughing Gull!
Views were much better than this photo suggests!

What is likely the same bird was seen about 3 km to the east a week ago, so I had Laughing Gull on my mind, but still didn't really expect to find it. Laughing Gull is quite a rare bird in Ontario with perhaps 5 sightings a year.

Laughing Gull is my 301st bird species in Ontario. Regular readers may remember that I noted my list was at 296 at the beginning of May, and hoped to hit the "magic 300" this month. Here's how it happened:

297: On May 2nd I easily refound the continuing Eared Grebe at the Blenheim Sewage Lagoons. An overdue lifer! Of note is that this is the only one of the additions that I didn't find for myself.

Eared Grebe

298: Early in the morning on May 6th (and several other days), songbirds were streaming north out of Rondeau by the hundreds to thousands. The cool weather and late leaf-out was likely suppressing insect activity forcing them to move on. I was checking out the movement at the entrance to Marsh Trail, when I put my binoculars on a small flock of chipping sparrows foraging directly on the gravel trail, and immediately noticed an enormous, pale, boldy-marked bird mixed in: a Lark Sparrow! After a few seconds of enjoying the lifer, I ran back to my car (just around the corner) for my camera, but the bird was gone and was never seen again. I had hoped it would forage with the nearby sparrow flocks for the day, but it no doubt headed north with the many birds going by overhead.

299: May 15th - Neotropic Cormorant
300: May 16th - Lark Bunting. My last post told the story of these two incredibly rare birds.

301: May 24th - Laughing Gull

I could have hit 300 a long time ago by chasing rarities and localized birds, but 4 self-found lifers in a row is pretty special! Looking back, the last time I did it was spring 2011, and it is quite likely I will never do it again in Ontario as new birds are rapidly becoming hard to find.

By the way, my shorebirding was also very successful yesterday, with about 110 Whimbrel, 250 Dunlin, 3 Sanderling, 2 Semipalmated Sandpiper and 1 Ruddy Turnstone in total. I'm sure I also missed many birds while looking at gulls!

Lots of these little guys around! Dunlin taken last year

1 comment:

  1. Lark Bunting is a sweet bird for #300. I have never seen one!
    I recall my 300th which was pretty epic (Baird's Sparrow at Rainy River).