Nothing says winter is on the way like a tree full of Ruby-crowned Kinglets, and there they are today, right outside my door. September still has some breath left but October is rapidly gaining ground and soon we’ll be seeing those leaves on the floor, and the pointless raking and blowing will begin too.
It’s odd at this time, just a few short weeks after the salivation in anticipation of all those autumn warblers. Back in early August it was a case of marking time, waiting for the first wave. Now it’s a case of ‘where did the days go’ and, despite all those birds in the memory bank, it still seems too early to be thinking about winter tyres!
The past few days have been largely cool and Sunday was particularly damp. I’ve been covering the pits daily but we are in a slight lull, although yesterday there were a couple of Baird’s Sandpipers so not done yet. Sunday Sandra and I went off to Milton Road, east of Ottawa. Our target bird was a Northern Wheatear, a good North American year bird and an Ontario tick, so one in the bank for retirement. It threw it down much of the time and our visit coincided with a period of binocular avoidance by the bird. Eventually we got a distant view, it was enough for a European birder but there were quite a few Canadians there for whom it was a lifer, so they waited for better views.
Going back to the previous post and the Red-tailed Hawk. Bob Barnhurst, hawk counter extraordinaire, tells me that it is a sub-adult eastern race Red-tailed Hawk. Clearly I need to get more of a handle on the wide range of variation in this species. It struck me as very pale in the field and it is, indeed at the pale end. The fact that I had the shot highlights the value of even a lousy record shot. Had I not had that shot I might have been thinking in different directions for the ID of the hawk, such as, still a red-tail but where from? Now it’s case solved, thanks Bob.
For those of you interested, I’m expecting to be publishing my second eBook, Twitching Times later this week. It has taken a while to finish as it’s around 117,000 words with 100+ accounts and illustrations. In a nutshell it is all about my twitching rarities in the UK between 1982-2003. There are all sorts of stories in there, irreverently told of course. I’ll do a blog post to announce it and it will again be published via Smashwords.
Going back to the kit theme, a friend of mine in the UK is an avid patch watcher. He lives and breathes his local patch and has been instrumental in turning the old mining site into a reserve. He was doing a morning watch recently when four shorebirds came over, thankfully they were calling. He’s experienced, although I’m not sure whether he’s birded in North America, and he’s careful, critical and very exacting when it comes to making an identification. The birds were snipe-like and he was able to match the call, they were Long-billed Dowitchers. There has been one previous record of that species in the county of Nottinghamshire and there have been very few multiple bird observations of the species in the UK. It is a contentious ID call to make.
Here lies the problem. The guy has a solid reputation, but by making the dowitcher call he will now face some severe scrutiny by other, often PC based birders. Years of painstaking patch work building his reputation could go by the board if the national records committee don’t accept the record, so what has he got? A description of the birds, and a description of the call. Had he been in possession of an iPod with a microphone at the ready, he just might have caught something audible making his claim exponentially stronger.
The issue with the bird doesn’t end there. At a site to the south, four Spotted Redshanks were identified on the same date, by whom I’m not sure, but one national news service is lumping the records as one species and they are going for the Spotted Redshanks. It might be that the Spotted Redshanks were misidentified or, in one of those always happens coincidences, there were four of each species. Either way it was naughty for the news service to prejudge.
I’ve not done too much with the camera recently, hence the efforts below. The goose looks like one of the regular hybrids form last year, a Canada x Snow. The Scarlet Tanager was one of three that spent a couple of weeks gorging themselves on grapes in the small woodlot and the Blue-headed Vireo just would not look around.