September 23rd 2017. RBG Arboretum, Hamilton, ON. A blanket of hot weather has rolled over us and promises to hang around for a few days yet. Heat really puts the damper on all bird activity so my companion and I had low expectations of today’s count around one of our defined routes.
Saving the day though were uncountable numbers of Common Grackles pacing around and feeding across a wide-open expanse of short grass. By wide and open I’m referring to an expanse, perhaps five or ten acres, of clear, tree-dotted parkland, and the grackles were thick on the ground. We approached slowly hoping for a closer look suspecting that the group included some Red-winged Blackbirds and hoping that maybe, with luck, a few Rusty Blackbirds too, but no, it was all grackles.
They were quite a spectacle and counting them was impossible. They were flighty anyway and kept moving, marching and leap-frogging, group over group as if they were anticipating a call any moment to take off and leave for good; a bit like waiting for your flight to be announced. Enough of a spectacle to be Birds of the Day, especially in light of the rest of a hot day’s birding.
The woods and skies were noisy with migrating Blue Jays, but otherwise we were recording species numbers in ones and twos. One White-breasted Nuthatch, one Great Blue Heron (see artsy photo below), two Hairy Woodpeckers and so on. An hour later sticky and weary it really was time to call it quits.