Thursday, November 10, 2016

Mountain Bluebird and other notes from the field ♩ ♬ ♪

Late October through mid-November is, of course, prime time for vagrant birds around the Great Lakes. With this in mind I pulled over to check out an interesting looking songbird perched beside Dyer’s Bay Road midday on Tuesday (Nov. 8th). Was it a sparrow? A late Eastern Phoebe? I raised my bins and found myself looking at the familiar face of a Mountain Bluebird. Sweet!

It sallied out over the pasture, hovered for  a very long time, and plunged into the grass before perching on a stem with its sky blue back towards me. I fumbled for my camera and managed to take a few blurry shots before it took flight and disappeared from sight across the pasture. Three times I scanned the distant field edge but the bird was gone, gone and gone. Crap!

But I'd seen it well so I took few minutes to jot down some notes from the too brief encounter - lat. & long., thin black bill, long primary projection, hovering flight - and alerted the local birders. As I readied to continue towards Cabot Head, I saw that something bluebird-like had materialized atop an apple tree on the other side of the road, only 20 metres or so from the car. It was back!

For the next twenty minutes the Mountain Bluebird hunted for insects over the pasture, returning time and again to the apple tree, seemingly unconcerned about me. I took a series of backlit photos. Perhaps these can be improved with some more processing.

If accepted by the Ontario Bird Records Committee, this will be the third Bruce County record of the species. The others were both seen in December, in Wiarton, in 1979 and 1999.

Here's my eBird checklist:

Since that November 8th sighting, I and others have not been able to relocate the bird.

The MOBL wasn’t the only memorable bird I’d seen along Dyer’s Bay Road this week. On Saturday morning (November 5th) a Golden Eagle (not especially rare here) allowed uncommonly good looks as it perched over farm field.

Some other nice birds have popped up in the neighbourhood. On October 27th friends invited me to see a Tufted Titmouse visiting their backyard feeder in Tobermory. They were thrilled and so was I!

Courtesy of Don Wilkes

Two more have been seen recently in Kincardine at the south end of Bruce County, all part of a minor irruption of the species into southern Ontario this fall.

I wonder what’s next?