The past few days have seen another surge in the CSI year list including some unexpected species. When plotting and planning I drew up lists of what I expected and what I predicted. Those lists are under CSI Big Year the tab on the header, divided up as givens – almost guaranteed species, tricky buggers – just that and megas, surely self-explanatory. I’ve made every effort to keep up with what has been seen on CSI, not just by contenders but also by any other birders. Despite concerted coverage birders will always come down and see something we haven’t, this time it was four rare (here) Bank Swallows (but, oddly, no Tree Swallows in the same eBird checklist) and a White-rumped Sandpiper on The Cape, these things happen, it’s some inexplicable law.
Away from CSI, Ronnie, Sharron and I did a ride down the Frotton Road, near Quinan. It was heaving with warblers, especially Black-throated Blue and Chestnut-sided, strangely absent on the day was Blackburnian, maybe they were just having a quiet spell, saving their voices for when the girls arrive. That little jaunt boosted my NS year list to within one of 200, it now stands at 204 so another year barrier broken.
Not every bird seen recently was photographed but I did manage a record shot of this Bobolink, big thanks to Rachel for the call. It was only there a short while, a great one to get for the year, it’s usually an autumn find on The Cape.
In the yard it has been steady, the highlight being the Rose-breasted Grosbeak previously reported being replaced by a moulting male.
Today (May-25) started interestingly with some migrants moving through the yard. This inspired me to walk the Cripple Creek Beach Trail (in the book!) looking for Spotted Sandpipers. Hopping out of the van, I picked up a bird flying into the top of a very distant tree. The instant ID was Grey Jay, an island mega really. I focused after a fashion, I had the lens set for short distance, and the bird flew to another tree so I kept snapping. The results are terrible but the bird is clearly identifiable as Grey Jay. In my notebook for 2015, sometime in the summer, I have a note stating ‘possible Grey Jay’, referring to a bird I saw behind the house, naked eye and just gliding through a small clearing, makes you think.
With such grand success and still the possibility of Spotted Sandpiper I pressed on. The sandpipers, bless them, were busy along the shore, as were the Willets.
Having committed to being thorough, I pressed on even more. After about 1km of the trail I came to a small pool and there, chugging across the water, tail pumping like a pumping thing was a Common Gallinule.
I grabbed some snaps and it grabbed some cover. At that point I met a guy and his wife who had seen the bird regularly over the past few days but had no idea what it was. I showed them the Sibley app, perhaps they are potential birders. I carried on to the point, adding Nelson’s Sparrow to the year list but the gallinule photos were not up to much so I headed back, bumping into Paul Gould. He’d heard all about the bird and had good looks but the photos ops had been similar to mine, so we staked it out and managed a few more. The object for me was to get a head shot of the bill and shield shape.
Being on CSI you have to consider all of the options. A few days prior we’d had a heavy storm from the east and there was the outside possibility of Common Moorhen, the Eurasian counterpart of Common Gallinule and formerly the same species. On David Sibley’s web site he illustrates the differences and, at first glance, the Cripple Creek bird looked good for Common Moorhen.
I posted the shots on Atlantic Canada Birding (Facebook) and David Bell pointed out that, although the bill had extensive yellow, the shape of the yellow is significant, a backslash (/) in Common Moorhen, a caret (>) on Common Gallinule. The shield on images I have of Common Moorhen show much more of an arch than Sibley’s illustration whereas it appears to be a flat-topped on Common Gallinule and tapering.
I have seen thousands of Common Moorhens, but probably only ever critically examined the first one I saw way back in c1967 (I think). Like House Sparrows, Starlings, Blackbirds and crows, etc., you see them on January 1st or on Big Day but after that they become background noise. Incidentally, I remember that most of the Common Moorhen nests I ever found were 2m higher or more in Hawthorn bushes.
This is a Common Moorhen.
Late on, after another perusal of the Common Gallinule, I dropped into Daniel’s Head and these two were on show behind Rachel’s place, her back deck has something of a commanding view, thanks for the hospitality Rachel.
Now back to the subject of the CSI Big Year. Regular readers will know that there are at least three participants and that one, Mike, has had a chunk of May elsewhere. During this crucial period, Johnny and I have been piling on the year ticks and, in my case, CSI ticks to the point where the leads are becoming significant, well at first glance they are, however, in reality there have only been a few birds that might not show up again this year, the rest are ‘givens’ waiting to be got. If the gallinule sticks and the Green Heron is still lurking, then we only have stuff like Orchard Oriole, a reasonable hope for fall and Warbling Vireo that might be tricky to pull back. And there is the probability that there will still be birds seen by any one of us that the others will not connect with. So, although Mike currently ‘only’ has 141, there are a good 15 species waiting plus the hoped for stayers. Grey Jay may yet be a one observer job but, with luck and persistence, it too may fall.
At the end of June I’ll do a more thorough breakdown for those following the saga, I know that there are at least three!
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