Sunday, November 15, 2009

It Was Worth The Drive To Brampton (Tolls and All)

November 14

Since November 11, I had received e-mail reports from the Ontbirds report, informing of a rare bird observed in Brampton (north of Toronto). With the passing of each day I hoped that the accidental visitor would stay for the weekend. The bird (closely related to the waxwings) was a Phainopepla, a member of the Silky-flycatcher family. Phainopeplas can be found in the southwestern United States and Mexico so why was it feeding on berries from bushes in a residential neighbourhood, north of Lake Ontario? In November no less!

There was no way Jean and I could let the opportunity slide by without trying to observe it. I demonstrated great restraint the previous day. On Friday I passed by the exit for the bird (Dixie Road) while travelling on the 407 to attend the Science Teachers Association of Ontario annual conference being held at the Double Tree International Plaza on Dixon Road. I was working a booth for my employer, a science education supply company, and the Phainopepla was within reach (mere kilometres). But without Jean I could not tick this as a lifer bird. Other birders we talked to today would not have been as kind.

Travelling time was a little more than an hour and we arrived in the neighbourhood at 11:30 AM (last reported sighting was at 8:35 AM). We found a small group of birders in search of the Phainopepla. No where near as many that flocked to observe an Eastern Crowned Warbler in the northeast of England 3 weeks ago. We picked the right time to arrive. When exiting our car, birders down the street ran in the opposite direction. They had seen it! Upon joining the group we were told of the bird's location. From the sidewalk and boulevard, all (24 birders and some local residents) could see the Phainopepla in a back yard tree. Moments later the bird flew to the front yard of a neighbouring residence where we were all treated to some great views as it moved between the trees and bushes.

Before it moved up the street (across from our parked car) Jean was able to capture some digiscoped images.

Lifer #288 and #191 for the Ontario year list, Phainopepla nitens. Only the second record in Ontario.

Jean and I were able to observe the Phainopepla for approximately 40 minutes before it disappeared into a bush. Satisfied with our observations we left the bird (as it remained hidden) to charm any additional birders arriving in the afternoon.

Looking at the Top 100 eBirders in Ontario (for 2009), 8 birders including myself, have the Phainopepla listed as their most recent addition. I'm currently tied for 15th with a birding friend Jean and I car pooled with on the Long Point OFO trip. She will most likely be attending the Niagara River Gull Watch so I predict the tie will remain by the end of the year. Right Anne?

It's been an interesting week in Ontario. In a matter of days, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher and the Phainopepla were reported on Ontbirds. The Ash-throated Flycatcher was found at Point Pelee NP in southwestern ON. The Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher flew into a window of a residence in Oakville and was taken to the Toronto Wildlife Centre. Sadly, it died two days later and was delivered to the Royal Ontario Museum. A more respectable way of collecting specimens. The warm front experienced earlier in the week most likely brought these birds (and possibly others) to southern Ontario. Here's hoping for a couple more. Sightings in the Niagara Region would be preferred.


  1. Great tale! Very interesting bird to show up in Ontario, or anywhere east. Glad you were successful in the chase!

  2. Thanks Mike. The bird was seen again today.

    A Western Tanager was observed at a feeder today in Val Therese, northeast of Sudbury. Photos will be on the OFO site soon. Not sure I'm up for a 5+ hour drive to Sudbury. My brother lives there though, so I would have a place to stay.

  3. Wow, What a twitch in Ontario. Congratulations to a great bird

  4. Thanks Gunnar and Jan.

    On Saturday (12/04) the bird was seen eating Rose Hips. Overnight temperatures are now below freezing. Hopefully it will find a way to stay warm.


  5. Great find Bob and it looks as if you got some excellent views. Lucky for us, we have Phainopepla visiting Northern California often for the mistletoe berries. Amazing to see them up there!