The kind of Big Year I'm doing does not, at least during the baseball season, involve chasing rarities around the country or going to Baffin Island to see Common Ringed Plovers. I have to see birds pretty much where I see baseball games. There have been a few rare birds that have shown up in the greater Toronto area over the summer but I have been on road trips each and every time. Now a hugely rare bird had shown up in Toronto. Would it be a one day wonder, while I was in Cleveland this weekend? Well, it was there Sunday as well and I had a flight home that should have had me in Toronto by 7:00pm and at Tommy Thompson park by 7:30 with just enough light to get the bird.
As often happens to me, a flight delay, this time because of high winds, resulted in arrival after dark on Sunday eve. During the week the park is not open until 4:00pm and Sue and I were going horseback riding Monday during they day, for her birthday, so the timing worked out and we could only hope the plover was still there on Monday afternoon.
After a nice 90 minute ride on Thor, where I also e-Birded 10 species from horseback, we headed to Windermere Basin, where a Red Knot and Marbled Godwit had been seen on the weekend. With the help of a couple of birders who were already looking, we were able to see the godwit, which was species number 301 for my Ontario Life List. Luc Fazio was just arriving as we were leaving and he gave us the location of the Red-necked Phalaropes that had also been reported on the weekend, so we headed over to the Tollgate Ponds, along Eastport Drive. Luc decided to drive over and help us find them and yes, we were able to count the three phalaropes, which was also a new year bird for me.
Finally it was time to return to Toronto and add a huge lifer for both of us. Yes, one day I plan to be in the Aleutian Islands in the spring or take a trip to Baffin Island in the summer, but for the time being this was my best shot at a Common Ringed Plover. And although it is a Code 5 in Ontario, it is only an ABA Code 2 bird, so doesn't even show up on the e-Bird's ABA rarities report.
We took our bikes, as it's a 20-25 minute walk in. We passed other birders walking out who had seen it and when we arrived at Cell 2 there were lots of birders to help point it out to us, including Paul Prior, who discovered the bird, and narrated a video that seemed straight out of National Geographic.
We got the rare plover but also got to see an American Golden Plover, not a Lifer, but 376 for the ABA Year List. Great day for shorebirds, including three new Year Bids, that was for sure.