Spit in the Lake (I)

I went birding this morning in Tommy Thompson Park. I counted 31 species of birds, including 15 species of anseriformes (= ducks, geese, and swans). The Ring-necked Duck was a new one for my life list, as was the Green-winged Teal. If The Marvelous in Nature reads this, she’ll be happy to know that I finally saw my first American Tree Sparrow.

The bird that thrilled me the most, however, was one that I almost missed because I was looking at a bunny instead. It was just after noon. When I took my eyes out of the ditch and back onto the road, what I saw next was the birder on her bicycle about 20 feet from me and bunnykins. Approaching quietly, I followed her line of sight, and viewed a pale grey bird, the size of a robin, at the top of a mid-sized tree.

“What have you got there?” I asked.

“I’m not sure,” she replied, “I don’t have my guide with me.”

“I do.” I pulled my well-thumbed ROM Field Guide to Birds of Ontario from my bookbag. I looked through my binoculars. “Ohhhh… I think it’s… lemme look in the index…” Flip, flip. “This?”

We took turns reading the description, peering through our binocs, describing it out loud, until we were sure that that was our bird. It was a Northern Shrike, not as rare as its cousin the Loggerhead Shrike, but uncommon enough for me. Northern Shrikes breed way up in the top fifth of Ontario, about three-fifths higher north than I’ve ever been. So let us say, once again, that I was thrilled. The other birder cycled away, I penciled the new bird on today’s list, I looked up, and the Shrike was gone. It was one of those magic moments.

4 Responses to Spit in the Lake (I)

  1. Shelley says:

    I remember a couple of years ago wondering why my feeders were are all being ignored except for one cute little puff ball of a bird wearing a “Lone Ranger” mask.

    Since I’d never seen it before I pulled out the Audobon book and there it was – the Northern Shrike … no wonder everyone else was in hiding!

    But you’ve gone one on me … I have yet to see a Loggerhead.

  2. goodbear says:

    so cool! what a great morning you had!

  3. themarvelousinnature says:

    Glad you made it out! The coordinator at the station (who you met) said you’d dropped by this morning. It’s too bad I wasn’t down there this weekend, but it sounds like you had a great outing. Shrikes are one of my favourite winter birds, the sorts that I get excited about no matter how many I see. There’s been one hanging about the spit all winter (and still there, it seems!), but I’ve only seen him a couple times myself. Loggerheads migrate, and will pass through this area in teensy tiny numbers, but the odds that you’d see one are pretty slim. Northerns, on the other hand, are fairly regular during the winter and early spring, before they depart for their northern breeding grounds. The spit’s a pretty good place for tree sparrows, too – as I see you found! 🙂

  4. lavenderbay says:

    Yes, Goodbear, it was cool — even chilly for a bit till the weather warmed up, but sunny all day!The gaggles of Torontonians were humongous.
    I have yet to see a Loggerhead Shrike too, Shelley, but we did go looking for them a couple of years ago on the Carden Alvar, so Loggerheads are stuck in my brain as a highlight-we-almost-had. That’s really funny about your predatory songbird at the feeder!
    I’m glad you invited me, Themarvelousinnature. Between my excursion, a bit of shopping, and an evening out, I had maybe 30 minutes to whip together this blog entry, and am hoping to write a bit more about the Spit today.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: