Monday, December 31, 2012

Oh Where, Oh Where Was That Black-throated Blue?

With only the month of December left I was scrambling to add species to my 2012 Ontario list. Only 2 species were needed to beat last year's total of 216.

The most recent tick was a male Harlequin Duck (#215) in Port Weller on December 7. An eBird Rare Bird Alert informed me that the colourful diving duck was within easy reach. After ticking a Ross's Goose (#213) in Mississauga on November 10, Jean and I tried for a second FOY on the north shore of Lake Ontario when returning to St. Catharines the same afternoon.

On paper, it seemed easy. Well, we dipped on the small group of Harlequins and the subsequent postings of successful views taunted me to no end. The Port Weller sighting was in my backyard and was worth the 2.5 kilometre walk to the tip of the east pier. With less than 200 metres to go before we reached the red and white beacon at the end of the trail, Jean and I observed the Harlequin Duck sitting on the water with 3 female Buffleheads at the very tip of the spit.

#214 for my list was the most interesting bird Jean and I observed on the OFO Niagara River Gull Trip in early December. Observing a Black-throated Blue Warbler in southern Ontario at this time of year is rare and exciting. At the time of the observation, I did not realize that the warbler would also raise an issue for the eBird regional reviewer.

We observed the bird from the Niagara Parks pathway between the Engineerium and the Old Gatehouse and when I submitted the checklist, I used the eBird hotspot Niagara River-Upper Falls. Unfortunately,this was not the only location used by eBirders reporting their observation. In total, the Black-throated Blue was reported at 6 sites along the Niagara River. One was 25 kilometres down-river at a public park in Niagara-on-the-Lake. The reviewer was concerned with the multiple locations and confusion that it may cause for others that wish to search for the bird.

The locations were all eBird hotspots and it appears that some birders used only one location during their day of birding along the Niagara River. It may be difficult at times to keep multiple lists when moving from one area to the next but as the reviewer stated, there is a general hot spot for the river that can be used for a  running list. This spot is known as the Niagara River Corridor and it is located 1 kilometre north of the Rainbow Bridge. When keeping a single list for a Niagara trip or for any general hot spot across the eBirding continent, it is best to provide a detailed location for any noteworthy bird in addition to any notes you made regarding the identity. This assists others that would like to find the bird. I myself have found detailed comments helped to get a successful tick (the above mentioned Harlequin) so it makes sense to provide accurate information when using eBird.

That's it for my contribution in educating fellow eBird users. Keep those lists accurate and always be friendly towards your eBird regional data reviewer.

Back to birding in the last month of 2012. It was the final weekend of the year and the table still only had 215 species. No first of the years during the St. Kitts CBC on the 16th so it was left to the Port Colborne CBC to uncover some additions before my lists flip back to zero.

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