Sunday, 22 October 2017

My Weekend Big Year...2 Months Left!

Posted by Quinten Wiegersma

Almost 10 months ago I embarked on two major birding missions....one, submit at least one eBird a day, and two, do an "Weekend Big Year"

For those wondering what a "Weekend Big Year" is, it is when I tally up all the birds I see on the weekend only. I also established some "extra days" which I could take either on a Friday or a Monday (helpful for birding on holidays or PD days.) It has been very fun and very rewarding so far!

Back in August, I posted a Mid-year Update on my blog. where I posted some photos of the highlights of my year so far.

I have had some amazing encounters over the last 10 months, and 2017 is by far my best year for birding so far. I recently hit the 250 mark in Ontario this year with Brant, and yesterday I heard 251...the elusive (at least for me) Eastern Screech-Owl. I was starting to worry I wouldn't find one for the year!

I won't bore you with a full write up of my big year so far, so I'll keep it short and tell you about some of the highlights! I will include the link to a post in my blog if you wish to read further.

January first started with a bang when I saw a rare Smith's Longspur in Long Point, Ontario. It had been found a couple weeks prior on the CBC, and I was amazed that she stuck around for as long as she did. Certainly a great bird to start the year with!


A few weeks later I saw many winter finches in Algonquin Park...hundreds of Evening Grosbeaks, dozens of Pine Siskins, crossbills, and a Common Redpoll. Boreal Chickadee and Gray Jay also made it a worthwhile trip!

Gray Jay

I went to Virginia for a week in March with a group of non-birders. I saw nine lifers, including Brown Pelican, Laughing Gull, Boat-tailed Grackle, Northern Mockingbird, Fish Crow, and American Oystercatcher. I was only able to count a few of them though as I saw the majority of them on a week day!

Brown Pelican

At the end of April, I was able to catch up with a group of Willet and a Black-necked Stilt.

Black-necked Stilt

Point Pelee was awesome in the spring, and I saw many new birds for the year. Highlights included Prothonotary Warbler, Golden-winged Warbler, Acadian Flycatcher, and a White-rumped Sandpiper to name a few (I saw over 140 species.)

Prothonotary Warbler

The Bruce was also great, and I was able to add Eastern Whip-poor-will, Piping Plover, and Sedge Wren to the list, among a few others.

Sedge Wren

My trip to Thunder Bay was fairly successful (except for a certain aspect, which you can read about here) I added American White Pelican and Northern Goshawk to both my life and year list.

AW Pelican

Algonquin Park in July was pretty sweet as well. Although I only added three species, which I eventually saw on the weekend later in the year, it was still great to explore one of my favourite places on the planet.

Yellow-bellied Flycatcher

It was a few weeks before my next additions, but it was worth the wait. After hearing about a Wood Stork (ON 10th record) in Point Pelee, I made a beeline for it ASAP. That day I also saw Wilson's Phalarope, Red-necked Phalarope, Pectoral Sandpiper, and Cliff Swallow.

Wood Stork

Common Gallinule was a long awaited lifer in Long Point, and a great addition to the list.


My next addition was a MEGA exciting one...Fork-tailed Flycatcher in Toronto!!! This is a super duper rare bird to North America, and it is only the 10th one ever seen in Ontario!


I added a few year birds in Algonquin Park at the end of September. American Pipit and Rusty Blackbird are common in Ontario, but it was nice to see them for the year.

My next big additions were Little Gull and American Avocet in the Rondeau area. I took an "extra day" to see them. The American Avocet was a lifer.

American Avocet

Last weekend I saw my 250th species for the year in Ontario, and my 241st species for my Weekend Big Year. After a lot of hard work, my friends and I saw a Brant in Hamilton.


This brings us to my most recent addition, #242, an Eastern Screech-Owl I heard yesterday morning. It took me a minute to realize what it was, as I have never heard them vocalize before. I thought it was a Coyote being weird at first, as I had heard some earlier (1:30 am) in the morning. I was pleasantly surprised to hear the descending whinny!

I have two more months until my Weekend Big Year is over. I set a goal of 250 species, and I think it is attainable if I try hard enough and the weather cooperates. I have made a list of the top 25 most likely species (according to eBird) that I could add this year...I hope I can cross paths with at least eight of them!
  1. Red-necked Grebe
  2. Black Scoter
  3. Iceland Gull
  4. Glaucous Gull
  5. Bohemian Waxwing
  6. Lapland Longspur
  7. Golden Eagle
  8. Harlequin Duck
  9. Long-eared Owl
  10. King Eider
  11. Hudsonian Godwit
  12. Greater White-fronted Goose
  13. Purple Sandpiper
  14. Cattle Egret
  15. Short-eared Owl
  16. Long-billed Dowitcher
  17. Hoary Redpoll
  18. Barrow's Goldeneye
  19. Ross's Goose
  20. Nelson's Sparrow
  21. Parasitic Jaeger
  22. Black Vulture
  23. Franklin's Gull
  24. Sabine's Gull
  25. Western Sandpiper
A lot of these are a long shot, but hey, this is Ontario...we had a Vermillion Flycatcher in December! 

And for those who want a back story, the day I had finally convinced my Dad to got see the flycatcher, a stupid ice storm decides to move through...

I am looking forward to see what the next two months has in store! 

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