Sunday, 5 November 2017

A Hamilton Lakewatch

Posted by Owen Ridgen

On Saturday, November 4th, we had an amazing day birding Van Wagner's Beach in Hamilton. The winds cooperated perfectly for our outing, and brought in a plethora of great birds! Arriving early in the morning, we quickly set up our gear and hunkered down at the viewing platform, but we had scarcely finished before someone spotted a Red-Throated Loon-my first! We were to see several more throughout the day (at least 4 others). Some other intriguing sightings followed-rafts of White-Winged Scoters and Long-Tailed Ducks, two Peregrine Falcon flyovers, a group of Dunlin, dozens of Common Loons and a single Snow Bunting.

This Snow Bunting briefly landed on the beach near Lakeland Centre

Long-Tailed Ducks were everywhere!

If you look very closely, you can see the Red-throated Loon in this (digiscoped) shot.

This Vole snuffled around the viewing platform for several minutes in plain sight before scurrying away.

The next sighting of interest was a Black Scoter female flying with a group of White-Winged Scoters. My first, and a nemesis bird! Another couple soon followed, as well as our first and only Surf Scoter of the day. A Pectoral Sandpiper flew by in the distance.
Already satisfied, we decided to go eat some lunch at nearby Hutches', and then leave. After consuming some black bean veggie burgers, we decided to check the beach out front for gulls one last time. I was just finished saying that nothing out of the ordinary was around when a dark, mottled, compact shape zipped by about four feet in front of me from left to right over the beach. A Jaeger! Unable to get a photograph, we raced back up the beach and asked the other viewers at the platform if they had seen it fly by, and luckily enough, they had-it turned out to be a juvenile Long-Tailed Jaeger, the latest ever fall record of the species! Needless to say, it was a lifer! Parasitic and Pomarine Jaegers were seen later on, which I missed, but I could hardly complain. Anyways, the excitement wasn't over yet! By this time, Josh Vandermeulen, Jeremy Bensette, Glenn Coady, and a large group of other birders were at the platform. A Black-Legged Kittiwake had flown by (a new species for Jeremy's big year) but we had missed it. We continued to stand around, spurred on by our sighting of the LTJA, and pretty soon, some other young birders that I knew showed up, including Ethan Gosnell, Nathan Hood, Allessandra Wilcox and Ezra Campanelli. Together we spotted a pair of Sanderlings fly by, as well as a White-Rumped Sandpiper. We were in the middle of chatting when Josh shouted "KITTIWAKE!!" and a small, unique Gull flew by. We all saw it, and my father even managed to get some pictures.

Black-legged Kittiwake

Amazing! A four-lifer day! Soon afterwards, a Brant was seen, which I missed due to a bathroom break, one last surprise for the day. Afterwards we headed home, chilled but cheerful!

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