Thursday, January 26, 2017

Point Pelee January 26th. Plus the mysterious Carbonated Swamp-Warbler!

Both Aaron and I have a cold, and since I had the day off and Aaron choose to work from home with the heat set to an oven, I had to get some fresh air. I find that when I'm sick with a cold (which is like never) getting outside and breathing in some fresh air is a far better remedy over staying in bed.

I drove down to the Tip of Point Pelee first around 8:30am.  This is when I noticed that I forgot my camera but I wasn't in the mood for taking photos anyway. Lake Erie at the tip is open on both sides and almost devoid of bird life when I got there.  Just some Herring Gulls and Great Black-backed Gulls on the water, along with very few Common Goldeneye.  A Common Merganser and a small flock of Red-breasted Mergansers flew over....time to leave!

I decided to park at the Visitor Centre parking lot and walk some trails to find some winter resident birds.  I walked Tilden Woods Trail, and Shuster Trail and was not disappointed as there was quite a bit of activity for the "dead of winter".

The highlight of the walk was a Ruby-crowned Kinglet that was in a mixed flock of Golden-crowned Kinglets, a Black-capped Chickadee, a White-breasted Nuthatch and 6 Yellow-rumped Warblers.  While going through the "Butter Butts" I had a brief look at one of the birds that didn't appear to have the contrasting dark auriculars with the pale throat.  The look was very brief and could have just been the lighting or who knows what it could have been, but just like that the bird flew north with the rest of the Yellow-rumped Warblers. Something to keep an eye out for as I'm sure the flock won't be leaving the area any time soon.

I also had 2 Horned Larks flying north quite high over the trail.  I would suspect these are spring migrants.  Jeremy Hatt had the same thing happening over Leamington last Saturday when we had those record breaking temperatures. This winter has been surprisingly mild which is great...for colds and the flu....

Changing the subject completely, last year I obtained a nice hard cover book of "The Birds of North America" a well known publication which has 435 plates by John James Audubon. The paintings were produced in the early 1800s so to many today they may look crude and almost comical.  You must remember though that these paintings were created when birding was practiced with a gun, not binoculars, and specimens were collected for identification.  Audubon took these specimens and created life like poses for his works that often depicted a single bird species in it's natural habitat.  One of these plates while going through book struck me.  A plate of two birds with the title "Carbonated Warbler" also known as the Carbonated Swamp-Warbler.

Apparently Audubon created this print by using two specimens he collected from the field in the state of Kentucky in 1811.  Though Audubon is a great artist and a pioneer in ornithology, I am afraid he was also well known to stretch the truth, and exaggerate a bit. In this case it seems that no one else but Audubon himself saw these birds and they were never to be seen again.  He may have in fact painted this plate from memory, perhaps a distant memory, where he forgot some field marks and added others instead. However, it should not be completely ruled out that he did in fact see and collected what may have been some of the last remaining individuals of a species (or subspecies) that had a very limited population before going extinct.

What do you think?  Could this have been a real species long gone from the earth, or just Audubon describing a bird he saw in the field and illustrating what field marks he actually remembers?

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