Sunday 1 January 2012

Happy New Year (list)!

I started 2012 needing to get from my house in Bancroft to my parents` place in Heidelberg so naturally I made a few stops on the way :) Before I left I was happy to see an adult male Purple Finch coming to the feeders, a nice start to the year!

My first stop was Whitby Harbour, hoping for a miracle in the form of re-finding the Smew found a week or so earlier, but I wasn`t that lucky. There was still a nice selection of waterfowl present including lots of Redheads and Gadwall.  Here`s the full ebird checklist.  Just as I was walking back to the car it started raining pretty hard so the plans for the rest of the day were in doubt.  I was supposed to meet up with Ken and my Dad in Hamilton to look for the long-staying Black-throated Gray Warbler (BTYW) that none of us had tried for yet but the rain scared them away.  I decided to go anyways and got lucky with the weather, being there for the only 2 hours of the day without rain.

As soon as I got to Bayfront Park I saw some familiar cars so I texted Barb Charlton to find out where she was.  She called me to say she was with Cheryl Edgecombe, Rob Dobos and Dave Don and they were watching the Orange-crowned Warbler! So, after taking one wrong turn in the park I found them, and the Orange-crowned! They then gave me directions to where they had just seen the Wilson`s Warbler and where they had had the BTYW earlier.  So I headed down the waterfront trail and after about 30 minutes of searching the target bird came out near the 1600m mark along with the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and a Yellow-rumped (myrtle) Warbler. I didn`t get any pics of the BTYW because I left my camera in the car fearing the rain.  It has been a well photographed bird though and you can check out Josh`s and Brandon`s blogs for photos.  Here`s my ebird checklist from Bayfront Park today. I do have a couple photos of the Black-throated Gray Warbler that was at Port Burwell December 10-16, 2007. Those photos aren`t great but are special to me because they were the first bird photos I took with my current camera. Here`s one (note the Port Burwell bird was a female):

After seeing the BTYW I ran into several other birders and discussed the age of the Hamilton bird.  After getting to my parents`place tonight I did some reading in Pyle and BNA and some searching online and came to the conclusion that it is a young bird (as expected with vagrants). Here`s the contents of the email I sent to one of the birders I had talked with today:

I looked for some good pictures of the BTYW from Bayfront and I think we can age it as a young (now in its second calendar year) male.  It looks like it has retained all of its juvenile (greater) primary coverts which are greyish brown with no edging, while the (greater) secondary coverts appear to have all been replaced (very black). The alulas are also brownish grey  The primary and secondary coverts on an adult should be more uniform in the shade of black, although the secondary coverts are naturally slightly blacker (pseudo limit). On some photos you can see the shape of the rectrices which look relatively narrow and tapered for a Setophaga warbler - also indicative of retained juvenile feathers.  I was initially bothered with this being a young male by the extensive black in the throat, mask, and crown, but on photos it is apparent that there are plenty of feathers that aren't glossy black and the black is mostly absent from the chin.  The best photos I found for ageing the Hamilton bird are Mike Veltri's:

I did some searching online for photos of male BTYW to compare the Hamilton bird with and here are a couple I found (with my ageing of them): (this one's really good although it doesn't say when the photo was taken. Based on the flowering tree it is in I would guess this is a spring bird, in which case this would be a second year male.  This bird has a molt limit in the greater secondary coverts (inner three are retained juvenile). The primary coverts and alulas are all worn, brownish and contrast sharply with the fresher outer greater secondary coverts. It may have also replaced the innermost tertial. (this one looks like a young male from Tennessee in November 2009.  It has retained juvenile primary coverts and the inner greater secondary covert also looks retained. (looks like an adult male. taken in february in California - the alulas, and primary coverts look evenly dark black and the throat, mask, and crown are even black in colouration)

I`d love to hear your thoughts on the ageing of this bird!

All-in-all not a bad start to 2012, especially considering I spent a good chunk of daylight hours in a car.

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