Back to Van Wagner's Again

 

Last Friday (Oct 28th) the winds were out of the east, which meant of course that it was lakewatch time in Hamilton. On my way down that morning a few reports of Pomarine Jaeger came in from Van Wagner's, so my hopes were high! Of course, a rare bird would have been nice, but I wanted to get Pom out of the way since it was my last remaining "easy" code 3 species.

I arrived around 1pm and found a spot in the line of assembled birders to put my scope. This spot, a wooden platform with a prime view out at Lake Ontario sits directly behind the Lakeland Centre at Van Wagner's Beach. Because of its convenient location and its fame for jaeger watching, if it's a weekend and there are favorable winds, there will always be a crowd of birders gathered there. On top of the banter that happens whenever a crowd of bird people gather, this means that there are more eyes looking out at the lake, which usually means more birds spotted (the one drawback of a large crowd, is that sometimes when it gets slow on the lake, all the birders will get distracted talking to each other and nobody will be scanning...). For the next 4 hours I scanned back and forth and chatted with the folks beside me (Alessandra, Rich Poort and Andy Nguyen... who was there hoping to add pom for his big year too), and searched looking for jaeger-like specks on the horizon. As is often the case on most lakewatches, there was a lull in activity from 1 until around 4pm. Massive numbers of ducks that were flying out on the lake, mainly scoters and Long-tailed Ducks, but that was enough kept me from falling asleep though.

There were a few highlights during this time though, a juvenile Black-legged Kittiwake... and a new self found bird for me, a Pacific Loon that flew by mid-day. It was a species that I have always had my eyes open for, so finally finding one felt pretty good. I'm sure these loons are frequently overlooked in southern Ontario, as not many people pay attention to distant flying loons over the lake : )

Then, around 4:30 I picked up a jaeger in my scope heading away. Views were a bit distant, but I was able to watch it for over 5 minutes as it slowly circled higher and higher before becoming a speck on the horizon. It as a bulky looking jaeger with a prominent double wing flash and a heavy flight.... In other words species #352, Pomarine Jaeger! I was a bit disappointed that I didn't get photos, and the bird gods seemed to read my mind, as just after the first bird disappeared, I picked up a second Pom harassing some gulls right beside the shoreline. This bird was much closer than the last one, and I was actually able to get decent pictures as it whipped by (my first ones of a Pom too). This was a lifer for Alessandra and Andy (also #326 for his yearlist!) and by far the best views I have had of one.

- Pomarine Jaeger





Things quieted down shortly after that, so we called it quits and headed home... a very successful day.


Ontario yearlist @ October 28th - 352

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