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I love Birds!

May 13, 2012

Worldly Birders, it’s true! I love birds! Even hawks and sparrows! And every single warbler I can’t ID correctly — in spite of all that, I’m overflowing with affection for avian creatures. It may well be the effects of May, and it could be that I now recognize more than 5 birds, and it might well be the effects of good old Zeiss (one can never underestimate the power of superior optics). In any event, bear with me as I gush!

Before the gushing, I should add that Birds and Words didn’t make it out to Long Point and Rondeau this weekend as planned. Instead, I had the unfortunate experience of being rear-ended by an intoxicated driver, which promptly turned into a gargantuan insurance saga, and all of this excitement was immediately followed by a speeding violation by yours truly and an unsavory interaction with a cop who was neither moved by tears nor sobs. So by the time Saturday morning rolled around, I was in no state to set the alarm for 4:30 am.

And then something strange happened. My husband, my dear husband who likes nothing more than sleeping until noon (and later) on Saturdays, knowing how upset I was to miss a day of Prime Birding, offered to take me birding somewhere in Toronto, and suggested Leslie Spit (Tommy Thompson Park). And guess what? There was a Spring bird festival! It turns out it was International Bird Migration Day! And all of this was written up in Toronto Star. And I met one of the owners of Birds and Beans coffee shop, and that’s when I finally knew that I was at the right place at the right time.

This was my first time doing solo birding, so I saw about 1% of what was actually out there, but my husband was impressed. I pointed out the obvious yet thrilling suspects first. The Red Winged Blackbird, the Tree Swallows, the Robins, the Sparrows (sorry, I couldn’t narrow it down, there was a nifty white stripe by the eye, but that’s about as far as we got), the Common Terns (yippee!!). OK — it was impossible not to recognize the common terns — Tommy Thompson Park had set up a breeding platform for them and there were about 100 terns, but I knew they were Common terns even before the sweet Park volunteer told me so and even before I read the 62 signs all over the place that said COMMON TERNS BREED HERE.

And then, I saw a Baltimore Oriole! I think it was even more fun to watch my husband discover the Baltimore Oriole (through my Zeiss, no less — he’s spoiled for life) than to see it myself. He thought I was joking when I called the bird’s coloring electric orange. We found the banding station and watched a kind and generous expert band a Veery, a Warbling Vireo, a Black and White Warbler, and, the piece de resistance, a Rose Breasted Grosbeak.

Photo from Wikipedia

The Rose breasted Grosbeak wailed at the top of his lungs and proceeded to chomp on the bander’s thumb a few times. I’d been wanting to see this particular bird up close ever since reading Rick Wright’s wonderful account of how the Rose Breasted Grosbeak sparked his love of birds! The bird certainly had personality and flair and a strong penchant for independent thought and reasoning. I could see myself getting on splendidly with the Rose Breasted Grosbeak!

We left the banding station energized and then I proceeded to find nothing but Yellow Warblers for the next half-hour. At this point my husband began to doubt my great birding abilities and suggested that I do some more reading and studying before our next outing together. And then, before I had any time to express great outrage at his last statement, we happened upon this:

Double crested Cormorant nests. Photo from here.

A strange and foreboding sight. Hundreds of double crested cormorant nests. Vociferous cormorants. Everywhere. After a while, I had to looks away — it was almost unsightly. Positively Hitchcockian (though I’ve neither read nor seen “The Birds”; forgive me, I don’t do horror).

Full disclosure: someone helped me ID the cormorants. But I’m still learning, right?

In any event, an unexpectedly perfect birding day and my first Tilley Hat-wearing day of the season. (Trust me, I was not the only one out there sporting a Tilley!) And, the best news of all: my husband wants to plan a trip to Pelee next year!

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. May 14, 2012 10:31 am

    What a day! A serendipitous end to a crappy week. A little bit difficult to picture the husband gazing through the binocs at an oriole on a Saturday morning, but great to hear. The rose breasted grosbeak is BEAUTIFUL!! I’ve only seen pine grosbeaks. My bird siting of the week was pelicans on Dragon Lake while driving into town on Saturday. My hummingbirds are back and a pain-in-the-ass pileated woodpecker is attempting to destroy the cedar fence posts in my garden.

    • May 15, 2012 10:29 am

      Indeed, the husband was a surprisingly good sport about the whole thing! The grosbeak was INTENSE. And that beak looked sharp!

  2. May 14, 2012 10:43 am

    Julia, love your birding stories – you made me want to go straight to that banding station on the Spit! You should start charging Zeiss for all the free advertising you’re giving him/them 😉

    Over here in the birding desert — or so I thought — of Bloor Street’s Portuguese Village, we (my sister, visting mother and I) have been entranced for a week by daily sightings, from no less a glamorous site than my kitchen balcony, of the apparently very rare red-headed woodpecker. He or she (females and males look the same… another rarity) always perches in the same tree, so we’re wondering if a nest is nearby. I couldn’t find any other reported Toronto sightings online, so I’m pretty darned proud of myself 🙂 Hoping they’ll make little red-headed babies to send over your way. Happy birding!
    -Chang

  3. May 14, 2012 1:32 pm

    Glad things got better for you. Sounds like a wonderful day. xo

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