The phone rings… an ecstatic voice on the other end exclaims “fourteen Cattle Egrets in the fields off Richmond Road!” It’s another alert being reported through the local birder’s Rare-Bird-Alert network ! Although the Cattle Egret is rapidly expanding its range across the world, it’s still a rare sight to see one in Ottawa. But, to see fourteen… now that’s absolutely phenomenal!
October 2010 will go down as one of Ottawa’s best months for rarities. The excitement is feverish as birders anticipate finding their own rarities. Good numbers of Gray Jay are being reported from all corners of the Ottawa area. Will these birds settle in for the winter? Many local birders hope so. A Northern Wheatear poses for a photographer who is unaware of its rarity. The bird moves on before the word gets out – a birder’s nightmare.
Then there are those genuine rarities – the ones that get birders excited all across the province. Three potential first-records for Ottawa were reported in less than a week – Golden-crowned Sparrow from the other side of the continental divide, Great Cormorant from the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and McCown’s Longspur from the Prairie Grasslands. Typically migrating south, these birds have flown off course, and into a region where they’re not expected. To the birdwatcher, seeing them amounts to tremendous joy. Like a collector of sightings, the birder adds the species to their list of birds seen in the Ottawa area. Being lucky enough to actually see any of these treasures is like finding a precious gem and placing it into a glass case, beside your other gems.
It may only be a list. But the experience has potential to be profoundly moving. There’s still a few days left in the month. Can we find another rare bird?
* Special thanks to Giovanni Pari for his wonderful hospitality after discovering the Golden-crowned Sparrow.
* Thanks to Gary Fairhead for the Northern Wheatear record (even if we didn’t get to see it).
* A very special thanks to John Dubois for calling me about the McCown’s Longspur – John, you’re awesome (even though we couldn’t re-locate the longspur)!
* Special thanks to Bob Cermak for always having his cell phone ready, and calling about the Great Cormorant & Cattle Egrets.
* Thanks to Bernie Ladouceur and Mike Tate for the Great Cormorant (I’m still intensely trying to re-locate this one).
* And, thanks to Phil Wright for alerting us about the Cattle Egrets.
October 26, 2010