2021 – A YEAR OF BIRDS AND COVID

At the end of 2020, I thought it would be tough to bird in 2021.

If someone had told me I was going to see the birds I saw in Canada, Ontario and Ottawa during 2021, I’d have told them they were nuts.

Covid was going crazy, international borders were shut, travel between provinces was frowned upon. So I thought why not just stick to Ottawa and surrounding areas early in the year.

It figures I’d try to add to my Ottawa and Ontario list. With any luck, I’d also add to my Canada list.

In early January I added Red Crossbill (Ottawa), a bird that I’d missed In Ottawa, for what seemed forever. Having seen this bird elsewhere, over the years but the bird had evaded me in Ottawa County.

Red Crossbill

Late in January there were rumors that a possible Rock Wren (Canada, Ontario bird) was reported east of Ottawa but home owners were reluctant (Covid) to let people come to see it. It was living in their workshop surrounded by cats and even using the cat door to come and go as it pleased. Unfortunately, the cats finally did this bird in but only after a few hundred people (strictly following protocols) had a chance to see this bird.

Next came a Say’s Phoebe, found on Amherst Island, Ontario, on March 30th and then another found in Ottawa, November 16.

Amherst Island

Ottawa, Ontario

In mid April a Neotropic Cormorant appeared at Dows Lake, a trifecta for me, Canada, Ontario and Ottawa bird.

Ottawa Painted Bunting

More people began exploring Hilda Road because of the Painted Bunting, 2 days later a Eurasian Collared Dove was seen. Crappy photo taken but they all count.

Mid May saw a flurry of warbler activity and I and others had opportunities to see two new birds for Ottawa. First a Blue-winged Warbler was seen on May 15th at the Richmond lagoons, then a Cerulean Warbler in Dunrobin on the 18th, found by Nick Von Maltzen.

Again photos were not possible but below are photos I’ve taken elsewhere.

Blue-winged Warbler

Cerulean Warbler

The next bird to appear in Ottawa was an adult Laughing Gull, was seen from Britannia Point feeding over the rapids. I wasn’t able to get a photo of this bird, conditions and distance made it impossible. I’ve posted a photo taken elsewhere.

May ended with another new bird for Me in Ottawa, a first summer male Orchard Oriole. Tough to photograph…

June brought

American White Pelican (Ottawa), in my years of birding the Ottawa are, I’ve never seen low water like this in the spring.

Willet, new for Ontario, found in Pembroke, Ontario

In early July reports started coming in about a Steller’s Sea-Eagle being seen in Campbellton, New Brunswick. I decided to go for it even though it was a 12 hour drive and Paul Martin also wanted the bird and came with me. We spent 3 days looking but the bird had disappeared. So with our tail between our legs we came home without seeing it.

Fast forward 5 days and the Eagle was relocated in Gaspe, Quebec and off we went, 13.5 hours this time and we arrived 15 minutes after the bird had left. Spending the rest of the day looking, without success, we got to bird along with many Ontario and Quebec birders. Next morning we decided to get up at 4am and begin our search. We stopped at the first spot to scope for the bird when at 4:20am, we got a call that Bruce Di Labio had bird in his scope. The next few minutes were a blur, but we were on the bird in no time. Lots of celebrating went on that day. It was at least a km away but its one of my most cherished photos of the year.

The Eagle was an ABA and Canada bird for me.

Composite Photo of the Ontario contingent at Eagle site

On the return trip we saw a Bicknell’s Thrush a new Canada bird.

At the end of July another new Ottawa bird showed up at the Fletchers Wildlife Garden, a White-winged Dove.

September saw a flurry of Ontario and Canada birds for me, some near some far.

September 1, Chateauguay, Quebec – Little Blue Heron

On the same trip near Sorel-Tracy, Quebec

September 14th – Swallow-tailed Kite

October 9th, Ottawa bird – Slaty-backed Gull

Another crazy bird to show up in Southern Ontario in late October was a Groove-billed Ani, the day we went for this bird was one of the most miserable days of the fall, heavy downpour, miserable for the bird and birders alike. Never even took my camera out of the car. Phot below from Texas.

After the Ani, it seemed like the floodgates opened in November and birds from Texas and Arizona were showing up everywhere.

On November 7th in Montreal a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

November 13th in Mitchell’s Bay, Ontario a Sage Thrasher

November 23rd, St. Barthelemy, Quebec a Eurasian Tree Sparrow

I’d also heard about about a Fork-tailed Flycatcher in Hampstead, New Brunswick via Richard Waters, who probably thought I’d be tired after the recent trips and be apprehensive about going but he doesn’t know me very well.

After the trip to the Tree Sparrow was already 3 hours closer to the Flycatcher off I went. There was a window of sunny but cold weather (of course I forgot my parka at home) and when I arrived in Hampstead, I thought there was a possibility, the bird might have succumbed to the weather.

After waiting for 4 hours in the car I spotted movement, in the creek channel and there he was. Smaller than I remembered but a lovely bird.

Fork-tailed Flycatcher

I had decided that I’d take a break from chasing but wouldn’t you know it, a good bird showed up in Barrie, Ontario. What appears to be a Glaucous-winged Gull, was found by Justin Peter in early December. A short 5 1/2 hour drive and another great Ontario bird.

Glaucous-winged Gull

On December 5th, I was thinking, this morning that the 2021, couldn’t get any better, I got wind of a Boreal Owl, a bird I hadn’t seen in Ottawa in almost 9 years. A beautiful bird, very common in Ontario but seldom seen.

Boreal Owl

A few more memorable birds from 2021

Hoary Redpoll
Lark Sparrow
Pink-footed Goose I found
Tufted Titmouse
Yellow-throated Vireo
Loggerhead Shrike
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Red Phalarope

If not for Covid-19, I may not have birded so much in Canada. Love to chase birds, a bit like hunting, going to a spot and hoping to get a glimpse of the quarry, getting a photo.

Totals as of 2022

You have to keep lists , in order to comprehend, what drives us all to chase birds across the country (or anyhere,for that matter), some people count countries they visit, mountains climbed, bicycled countries and others trails hiked. I chose to count birds…

Get out there and do something. Life is short. Ciao for now.

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