A lot has happened in the past couple of years down here in the Pelee birding area. This year in particular has probably been the worst year of birding for me since I first started back in the mid 1990s. Spring was sort of a let down, as work was very busy, so I barely got out except for a few days armed with my new camera in the less crowded north end of Point Pelee National Park to try it out. Here are a few of my best photos.
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Like almost everyone else, I missed the Grace's Warbler, to which probably the greatest birder in all of Ontario told me later that summer "That ruined my spring.", which is understandable. One very interesting, and positive event happened this spring. I got the opportunity for some sub contract work for BSC in their Black-bellied Plover survey with my area covering just over what was once known as Mersea Township. This brought forth a bit of nostalgia for me as the area included the 11 concession where I grew up and would ride my bike looking for Black-bellied Plovers during the weekend in recently tilled fields. It also made me sit back and think about the younger days of birding, when everything was so new and exciting! I remember during the month of May before I got my license, my Mom and I would get up at 4:15am on Saturday mornings, pick up Jeremy Hatt down the road, and head down to Point Pelee and the tip during the predawn hours. Jeremy and I were as excited as kids on Christmas morning! I still remember our first Prothonotary, Hooded, Connecticut and Kirtland's Warblers as if it was just this spring. We even found a Henslow's Sparrow one spring, which we still haven't filled out an OBRC report for as we figured it was too long ago now to even fill one out.
It was also during those early years that Jeremy and I met a lot of great birders and made new friends and acquaintances. There were those who were serious birders, others that earned a living taking photos, and others that worked for the park and for the Friends of Point Pelee during the Festival of Birds leading hikes. Some of those individuals no longer come down in spring, either having to move away for work, or have aged over the years and can't come down anymore. Flash forward to this year with the passing of Alan Wormington whom I have known since around the year 2000. For me, (and others as well) this loss feels particularly painful. There is now this huge void whenever I go out birding knowing that I won't run into Alan at the tip or on a trail, or even outside of birding at the Roma Club for all you can eat "Fish Fridays" that we both frequented a few years back. (I just go by myself now). To be honest, I actually don't remember the first time I met Alan. I probably met him while birding with Steve Pike one spring when I was almost 20 years old.
Flash forward to now as we near the end of this shitty year, and there appears to be a silver lining. A group of us Pelee regulars are now carrying on where Alan left off in compiling sightings for the Pelee birding area. Jeremy Hatt and I are doing the winter reporting period from December to February, and I gotta say I am beginning to get that spark again that I had when I first started birding back in the 1990s. Though the thrill of birding itself has never waned, it is now the idea of starting something new with a group of passionate individuals that will help remove the sorrows and negative impacts of the year that was 2016, and move forward with a renewed sense of excitement!
So far the winter season has had some great birds in this area! Perhaps the highlight during the first week was a Red-necked Phalarope at the shorebird cell at Hillman Marsh (which is now frozen over as of today). An Iceland Gull at Wheatley Harbour that I found on November 29th, was found dead on the beach on December 1st by Jeremy Hatt. Most likely this bird died of botulism as it exhibited the symptoms of droopy wings and a saggy eye. After an overnight stay in my freezer in an extra large ziplock bag, Jeremy took it on a field trip to the ROM where it will now stay. Part of me wishes that I kept it and got it stuffed. This bird was absolutely beautiful! Though it would make for some interesting and awkward conversations here with guests wondering why there is a stuffed "seagull" hanging over them with it's wings spread out. The only other bird I have helped deliver to the ROM was a Harris's Sparrow that hit my parent's window during a winter when I was in college. I gave it to Alan Wormington to take to the ROM. I remember Alan saying to me "Why didn't you see it when it was alive?"...I wasn't even living at home at the time...lol.
Detail of Iceland Gull wing
Iceland Gull beginning to show drooping wings which may in fact be a symptom of botulism. I took a series of photos of this bird. Others show wings even more droopier and an unhealthy look to it's right eye as well.
Well that's enough rambling for now. For anyone that actually still follows this blog, I have a question to throw out there... "How did you become interested in birding?" Was it an individual? Was it seeing a particular bird that sparked the interest? I'm not sure how long of a reply you can leave in the comments section, but type as long or as short as you want. Heck if you own a blog feel free to make a post about it. After reflecting on my own early years of birding, I am very interested in knowing how others became part of this hobby/obsession that only those who are also lovers of nature can truly understand. I will be sharing my own in the near future.