Wednesday 15 May 2013

Good things come in small flocks of White-crowned Sparrows

The birding in southern Ontario since mid-April has been great, to say the least with a long list of rarities having shown up.  I've been lucky enough to connect with more than my fair share and I have been very happy for that.  The last two have had something in common - they were both associating with flocks of White-crowned Sparrows.
White-crowned Sparrow in Polar Bear Provincial Park last summer

The first of these rarities was a young male Blue Grosbeak on Pelee Island.  It was found during the Pelee Island bird race (AKA Botham Cup) by Paul Carter.  Unfortunately, Paul wasn't on a team and though he waited for one of the 7 teams to pass him, none did, so no teams got it for the tally.  Most of them (including us) headed to there right after the race ended at noon on Saturday and got looks at this bird.  It was pretty elusive, alternating between the thick hedgerow and the grassy field that was just high enough to hide the bird.  It stuck around until at least May 13 (3 days) and on May 12 I got a few "record" shots of this bird:

This was a really nice bird to get and it was only my second ever (the first was a female I found at the Tip of Long Point on May 6, 2004). I think the photos of the more recent Blue Grosbeak might be a bit better....

The next nice bird to get was today. I was headed into Prince Edward County to check out some spots when I saw the post on Ontbirds advising that a Lark Bunting had been found by Mark Saunders at his home near Sharbot Lake.  I decided to do some birding in the county first, then head north.  I got on site a little after 1pm and I was greeted by Mark himself.  He told me the story about how he heard this strange song that reminded him of a mockingbird at 5am and when he went outside to investigate it turned out to be a Lark Bunting.  Amazingly, Mark had a Lark Sparrow at the same spot a couple years ago.  His farm is small but it is one of the only open field habitats in a sea of Canadian Shield forest for many kilometres in each direction.

Anyways, back to the bird.  The Lark Bunting was hanging out in a fairly small area near the actual house, usually with White-crowned Sparrows and after about 1 or 2 minutes of Mark telling me the story and showing me some of the places it had been seen the bird popped up and flew in front of me!  Obviously, it is a pretty distinctive bird with those big 'ol white wing patches and I got my camera out right away.  I managed a few shots and even one video of it. Overall I was a bit surprised at how small it was (certainly no bigger than the White-crowned Sparrows it was with), expecting something a bit bigger but that didn't bother me!

For some reason Blogger isn't letting me embed my YouTube video, so here's the link:

Well, it goes to show you, it is definitely worth checking through those flocks of common birds!

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