We met trip leaders Mike and Ken Burrell on Old Cut Boulevard. Their names were familiar to me. Not only are they both well ahead of my position on the Top 100 eBirders in Ontario, Mike is also the eBird reviewer that contacted me regarding a few observations I entered on eBird Canada.
I was hoping to find a Lesser Black-backed Gull but all we saw were Ring-billed and Herring Gulls.
Closed Gentian, Gentiana clausa
When the group stopped for a short break, there were some thrushes moving in the trees and brush near the campground comfort station that caught the attention of Mike. He identified one as a Gray-cheeked Thrush. This would be a lifer if Jean and I could get good looks at the distinctive features of the bird. We did not get a satisfactory view of the bird's field markings. It remained quite hidden and the presence of a Swainson's Thrush added to the difficulty of a successful lifer observation. In the open, distinguishing the differences between a Swainson's and Gray-cheeked Thrush would be fairly easy. We have gained a considerable amount of experience over the years but the partial views were not to my liking. For a lifer, I wanted to see all of field marks. The Gray-cheeked Thrush tick would have to wait. It was sooner than I thought it would be but not without frustration. I think we've all been there.
We had walked as far as we could in the provincial park and were retracing our steps when we came across our second attempt at a lifer Gray-cheeked Thrush. Mike picked it out as we walked through a stand of pine trees. Again, a quick view for me and I observed the bird did not have an eye ring and it was gray-brown above. This species is easily disturbed and as more of the group arrived the thrush vacated its perch. Mike asked if I got it. Yes, but unfortunately Jean did not see it. No tick. It was found again by a member of the group and though the description of its location was well described, no one could see it. Despite repeating the details of the bird's location, the group (now tightly packed together on a gravel road) still did not see it. The birder that found the thrush scored a view from another vantage point. The majority of the group hurriedly advanced to his location and he warned them to approach quietly. Luckily for some, it remained in the tree to feed on wild grapes. Jean and I stayed at the original spot with a few birders that successfully spotted the thrush. I still cannot believe we could not see this bird. Were Jean and I the only ones that could not see it? Frustrating as hell. The group left the area but Jean and I remained for one last futile attempt. Still no tick.
Warblers were more apparent during the hike. In total, Jean and I observed 13 species during the 5 hour hike. None were added to the year list on this trip but we had great views of a beautiful Philadelphia Vireo (#195) in the tall trees on Lighthouse Crescent. The yellow on this vireo was brilliant.
Walking through the Old Cut, Jean and I finally got our Gray-cheeked Thrush lifer tick. As we approached some netting on the trail, our nemesis of the day flew into the net. Mike quickly grabbed it and allowed for some quick views before taking it to the banding station.
A Swainson's Thrush was soon caught in the net.
Both birds were taken to the station in cloth bags and quickly processed. The Gray-cheeked Thrush was measured, weighed and released.
Through the window of the banding station, Jean and I viewed our lifer Gray-cheeked Thrush (#302) fly off into the brush of the Old Cut.
Another OFO annual convention had reached its conclusion.
Jean and I had a successful weekend in Norfolk County. Of the 91 species we observed, 2 were lifers and 9 were added to the year list. One more tick and we will tie our personal best. What was the best find during the field trips?
Was it the cupcakes? They did have a peanut butter cup baked in the center.
Or was it the Gray-cheeked Thrush? The Baird's Sandpiper was pretty cool but after all that frustration, ticking the thrush at the end of the day was the icing on the cupcake.