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Al eclipses record, and Blue Jay visits feeder

November 16, 2013
Red-crowned Ant Tanager

Red-crowned Ant Tanager

October and the first few days of November were a frenzy of work that left no time for birding.  As a result . . .  nothing to report on except that we now have regular visits from Blue Jays.  Cris is thrilled by this.  The big blue birds announce their arrival, as most species do, which gives her time to get her admiring eyes to the kitchen window.  The big Jays struggle on our red sunflower chip feeder, but hang on long enough to grab a mouthful of seed before awkwardly slipping off.  They also clearly enjoy the water when it is not frozen as it has been for the last few days.  In place of a Blue Jay photo is a teaser of a bird we saw on Ilha Bella in Sao Paulo State of Brazil.  A post with the Brazil birding story will come soon.

There have been no new species for me though, but my good big year buddy Al sent me an update on his year which is the feature of this post.  His area is the Camp Heidleburg property where he runs an Outdoor Education Centre for the Waterloo Region District School Board.  I worked with the Waterloo Board for over 20 years until 2006.   His outdoor centre has a small building and indoor classroom within a diverse forest patch that includes mature mixed forest, cedar swamp, a bog, fields and edge habitat.  The property is bordered by farmland but very close to other large regional forests.  A halloween surprise awaits in Al’s tale below:

Al and Chickadees

Al and Chickadees

Big Year Update…(from Al)

“My previous big years from 2011 and 2012 reached the
same totals, of 111.  I was a little sceptical that I would ever be able to beat
that, since I had recorded new species for the property in each of those years.
I had, however, missed typical species in each, also.

This year had been
quite productive, including a 38 species month of May.  By the end of May I had
106 species and I thought it would be impossible not to break 111.  Afterall, I
had not yet had Great Egret, Black-billed Cuckoo, Eastern Screech or Great
Horned Owls, etc.  How could I not get 6 more species in the second half of the

June yielded only 3 new species – Common Loon, Veery, and Savanah
Sparrow – now 109 total.  August was August…  but I did manage to pick up 2
new species by chance – Great Egret, for which I made a special walk to the
wetland here, as I knew they were dispersing and beginning their migration, and
Purple Martin (new for the centre list).   That seemingly only left the owls,
which can be hit-and-miss after the spring, and perhaps Swainson’s Thrush,

I encountered a very nice day in mid-Sept and after the day or work
I thought I would check the wetland again for potential duck species.  None were
found, but fortuitously, there was a Greater Yellowlegs returning from the
breeding grounds….  #112!!!!!!  And on the walk back I found a nice mixed
flock of warblers, chickadees, and a White-breasted Nuthatch.  Mixed in was
#113, the American Redstart.

Fast-forward to yesterday, Oct 31st, and
while at the pond I could hear chickadees in a frenzy.  I was with a class so I
could not spend time searching for what was certainly a saw-whet or screech
owl.  However, AFTER work it was game on!  I walked back down in the driving
rain to find an Eastern Screech Owl hunkered down near the top of a medium-sized
cedar, looking as drab and wet as its assessment of me, to be sure.  How
cliche…  an owl on Oct 31st.  But that brought my 2013 list to 114

Now, I know Swainson’s Thrushes were moving through the property
last week – I saw them all over the place elsewhere, but like Ted, sometimes
available time dictates what one sees or misses.  If that was going to be the
species to put me over the top I might have made the excuse, but I am
comfortable know I have surpassed the previous years totals and have another
mark to shoot for next year.  The tone seems like I am ending my challenge with
114, which is untrue.  Rather, it will have to be a very unexpected species (or
the undetected Bald Eagle or Great Horned Owl) showing up to reach 115.  All of
the expected irruptive winter species were achieved in Jan/Feb, so my list might
have come to its summit…  or has it…”

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