August 25 2015. Paletta Park, Burlington, ON. I’ve been following some rather lively commentary about the appearance (not altogether unexpected) of a handful of migrant shorebirds: a Wilson’s Phalarope, and some Red Knots in particular. It sounded intriguing enough that I shouldered my telescope, slung my camera and binoculars and went to see if I could find them. I can claim to have seen the Wilson’s Phalarope, but the distances were great and the gusting wind too strong to make it entirely enjoyable. In fact I was reminded how little I really enjoy long-distance through-the-telescope birding. Deciding there had to be a better way, I gathered my stuff and made my way to a local park known for its densely wooded, unmanicured corners.
It was quite a different experience. Out of the wind, wandering the wood-chip paths, warm and fragrant with the scents of late summer; finding birds seemed of lesser importance. But, hearing a distinctive ‘plik’ note I replied with my own immitation and up popped a young Common Yellowthroat. It was unimpressed by me and quickly dove back into the deep tangles of wild cucumbers and grapes.
I sat down on the dry path and waited to see if it would reappear, it didn’t, but a Gray Catbird busied itself working through those tangles and several Ruby-throated Hummingbirds seemed to take exception to a group of American Goldfinches. One of the best sightings was a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher that sat for a few moments on a strategic perch waiting patiently for a meal. It dropped down to catch something and I lost it, a pity because we don’t see enough of them, a pretty little flycatcher.
Bird of the Day was a briefly seen Chestnut-sided Warbler. It takes experience to know a late summer Chestnut-sided Warbler because they bear little resemblance to the bird of spring with its bold splashes of chestnut. By August all traces of chestnut have gone, it’s a transformed bird with new field marks: a bright green back and clear eye-ring.
The pursuit of birding offers many ways to be challenged and rewarded: Some birders maintain life-lists and year-lists: Some spend hours hoping for the great photo; Others seek to see every extant North American sparrow species (imagine!). Today, abandoning the long distance pursuit of the uncommon for a quiet hour at close quarters with the familiar was all I needed to make a good day in the field.