Monday, 31 July 2017

Tricolored twitch to Toronto!

Tricolored Heron had been at the top of the list of Ontario nemesis birds of mine over the last few years. Between 1970 and 2006 Ontario had 36 records of this southern heron, equating about one every year. In the seven years between 2007 and 2013 not a single Tricolored Heron was discovered in the province. This also happened to coincide with the first seven years that I began to look at birds. A Tricolored Heron, reported after the fact, was a one-day wonder at Wye Marsh in Simcoe County in May 2014 but it wasn't until 2015 that I had my first crack at this species; a stunning breeding-plumaged bird that my friend Jeremy Bensette discovered in Leamington on April 11, 2015, and which was relocated at Holiday Beach Conservation Area where it remained until April 24, 2015. Unfortunately work got in the way of chasing that bird, during the time frame when it was in fact "chase-able", and when I finally made it down to Holiday Beach the bird had departed the area.

Later that spring, another Tricolored Heron made an appearance, this time in Collingwood from April 27 until May 1, 2015. Unfortunately this bird was also reported after the fact and was long gone when word finally got out.

Earlier this spring another stunning breeding plumaged Tricolored Heron was discovered, this time in Thunder Bay in late April. It also remained in the area for several days, entertaining dozens of local birders and photographers. I happened to be within striking distance of this bird as I was completing some field work in Wawa; however due to our tight schedule and the fact that my co-worker is not a birder, the 10 hour round-trip drive was out of the question.

Tricolored Heron - Tommy Thompson Park, Toronto (July 22, 2017)

Fast-forward to Thursday, July 20, 2017. Paul Prior was birding his local patch of Tommy Thompson Park, a man-made urban wilderness built with reclaimed fill and located at the foot of Leslie Street in Toronto. He discovered a Tricolored Heron and promptly got the word out on Ontbirds. Fortunately for myself and many others the Tricolored Heron decided that the constructed wetland in Toronto was suitable for its needs, and it remained to be seen the rest of that evening and the following day.

Finally on Saturday morning I was able to try for the bird, and by 7 AM I parked at the foot of Leslie Street and began the three kilometer walk to "Cell 2",where the bird had been seen the previous two days. As I locked my car, a vehicle pulled up beside me and the window rolled down. Expecting it to be a fellow birder I was surprised to see that it was my uncle Pete! He was in the area as he had dropped off one of my cousins at the airport that morning and had decided to go for a walk at Tommy Thompson Park.

I was a little anxious as I began the walk since no updates on the bird had been provided yet that morning, neither on the provincial listserv nor the various Facebook groups. Fortunately my fears were qualmed when Mark Cranford, crossing paths with me as he headed out of the park on his bicycle, informed me that birders were currently looking at the heron.

A few minutes later and I was watching the heron in my spotting scope next to a few other birders. Success!

Tricolored Heron - Tommy Thompson Park, Toronto (July 22, 2017)

Over the two hours I spent with the bird, it alternated between resting on one of the mudflats and actively hunting small fish in the shallows. During the course of the observation the bird always remained at a far enough distance that photography was out of the question, though with my spotting scope and phone I was able to take some reasonable digi-scoped images and videos.

The Tricolored Heron remained in the area for the subsequent days, and though I have not seen any reports in the last day or two it is more than likely still in the area. This heron was another great find by Paul Prior, after he discovered Ontario's first Common Ringed Plover last summer in almost the exact same location at Tommy Thompson Park.

Good birding!

No comments:

Post a Comment