The weekend was practically over when I became aware of the latest vagrant observed in the Hamilton Study Area (HSA). On Saturday March 19, a female Mountain Bluebird was seen in the company of a male Eastern Bluebird by some birders tasting wine on top of the Niagara Escarpment.
There are no records of Mountain Bluebird in the Niagara Region and this is only the second for the HSA. A male was observed for 3 days in Flamborough in April of 1989 (Bob Curry, Birds of Hamilton and Surrounding Areas).
As for our observations of Mountain Bluebird, only one for Jean and I. We viewed a pair during our vacation out west in 2009. The last lifer of our BC/Alberta trip was viewed while travelling along the Bow Valley Parkway in Banff National Park. This western species of thrush would be a welcome addition to the Ontario list. It would be a few days later, the day after a Spring snow storm, when we attempted an observation of the Mountain Bluebird. The bird was observed only once this day, but I was coaxed into trying for the tick by the afternoon sunshine.
Jean and I are familiar with this area of Stoney Creek. We searched for Orchard Oriole along a trail, south of the winery, last summer but our best ticks occurred in 2007. A lifer Eurasian Collared-Dove in July and on Boxing Day, a Northern Hawk Owl was added to the life list.
The birder that observed the Mountain Bluebird on Thursday afternoon was still at the winery when Jean and I arrived. He had not seen the female since mid-afternoon and he believed it did not stay long after discovering the male Eastern Bluebird was absent. Insect larvae easily found earlier in the week had disappeared after Wednesday's snowfall. Jean and I viewed the vineyard at the back of the winery with the birder/photographer for approximately 45 minutes as migrating Turkey Vultures flew overhead. On March 20, he captured this image which can be found on the OFO photo page.
No addition of Mountain Bluebird to the Ontario life list for Jean and I but the trip was not all wasted. Before we left, all three of us observed an Eastern Meadowlark at the front of the property. Our first for 2011. I'll keep watch over the reports more closely. I would definitely like another shot at adding this species to my Ontario list. Hopefully, the Mountain Bluebird has sought shelter in the brush and woods neighbouring the winery and once the snow has melted, she will return to sitting on the posts long enough for two St. Catharines birders to see it.