Sunday, 26 November 2017

A day at Colonel Sam Smith Park

Posted by Dennis Dirigal

Its not everyday that you have a PA day and get a day off of school to do whatever you want. Unlike "normal teens" I didn't go to the mall with friends but instead went for a what turned out to be pretty good day of birding at Colonel Sam Smith park in Toronto Ontario

As soon as my mom dropped me off at the parking lot at around 11:10 AM, the birding began with a mass swarm of American tree sparrows all around the gravel trails giving there little sweet call. From that point on the day kept getting better and better!! as soon as I reached the lake there was a group of around 200 Greater Scaup's as well as around 30 Redheads lurking between them. Although the ground was cold, I set up on the beach only a couple inches from the water and waited for the ducks to get close enough for some quality pictures, and lucky for me, my patience payed off with a pretty good shot of the Male Scaup.

Male Greater Scaup (Dennis Dirigal)

American Tree Sparrow (Dennis Dirigal)

From there on I decided to go to whimbrel point where I spent a good 45 minutes of the day watching any fly by or swimming birds. Some of the birds included Common Goldeneye, Common Merganser (which are not as commonly seen as the Red Breasted) and a Juvenile Great black backed gull flying east wards. But the main highlight I saw at the point were two Snow Buntings that were hopping along the rocks and calling every now and then, they took up most of my time there while I was trying to photograph them. it was a big challenge to get a shot of them in a good pose and capture the shot because of there size, how they were moving and the fact that I had to walk and lay down on uneven rocks along the water. In the end I was lucky enough to say that my last picture I took was my best picture. Right after I took my final pictures, I watched a group of around 10 more Snow Buntings fly right over me, soon enough the other two I was photographing decided to fly off with them. I will for sure never forget the struggles I went through for this picture (but it was worth it)!!!

Snow Buntings ( Dennis Dirigal)

After the point I walked along the trail that goes along the outside of the harbor that had a good variation of trees and bush that made for good sparrows and other song birds. For the days list I picked up 2 more birds, American gold finch and fox sparrow. Unfortunately they were in front of the sun and did not make for any good pictures at all.

On my way back while retracing my steps I saw a lot of unusual, rare and mind blowing birds. Back at the big group of Scaup and Redhead, a common tern that should of been well gone down south  flew right over me while calling its distinct call. Right behind it came 4 Killdeer calling there way over the lake. After that, I spotted a yellow warbler in the trees close to the parking lot hopping around with juncos. the yellow warblers are usually all gone by late September but there are always those special single warblers that stay along up north a little more or decide to go from the eastern side of the Continent to the western.

yellow warbler (Dennis Dirigal)

Now the whole 4 and a half hours of birding at the park was a blast, but the last 30 minutes were very intense. I decided I'd walk around looking for any owls and suddenly when I noticed at the very last second there was a Long eared owl sitting right in front of me staring at me straight in the eye. With all the excitement built up I instantly went to reach for my camera but it immediately decided to fly away. I followed where it flew off to and soon noticed that a red tailed hawk had started chasing it. Luckily the owl managed to escape an not be seen by the hawk. I had the biggest sense of relief when I afterwards saw the hawk fly back over me without the owl in its talons. Unfortunately I wasn't able to re-find the owl but either way, That will always be a memory i will never forget. As the day came to an end and my mom was ready to pick me back up, I got lucky and picked up white crowned sparrow as the last bird for the days list

White Crowned Sparrow (Dennis Dirigal)

Over all the day turned out to be great with 37 species (4 of them being rare for the time of year) and good day talking with other birders and people.

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