2016 Bruce and Ben Di Labio
Over the decades I’ve done many “big days” starting in the mid 1970s on my bicycle and into the 1990s and early 2000s on competitive big days at the World Series of Birding, Texas Birding Classic and Taverner Cup. I thought I had seen all the possible weather conditions. Not so.
I’ve dealt with rain and wind but heat was something I didn’t count on.
Ben and I started at midnight east of Ottawa and it was a slow start with very little calling and no nocturnal call notes overhead. It was obvious the late date and recent heat wave would make it more challenging. Regardless, our spirits were high and we worked our way towards Algonquin Park hoping to arrive by dawn. On Friday I had my car in for an oil change and check up. Everything was a go, at least I thought. As we staring working our way towards Algonquin it became obvious that one of my front wheel bearings was going. There was a sound which continued to increase in volume as the day progressed. Despite this problem we continued on. Over the years of big day competitions I knew that once you are committed to a route you don’t change the route. If you do it becomes a long chase. As we changed drivers Ben did the Algonquin run. We made numerous stops and were rewarded with few birds. During the night we managed to add American Woodcock, Sora , Virginia Rail, Eastern Screech-Owl, Barred Owl, and lots of Whip-poor-wills. At Algonquin Park we covered a variety of areas including Arowhon Road, Wolf Howl Pond, Spruce Bog Boardwalk and Opeongo Lake Road. Overall we did well with a number of species including Olive-sided Flycatcher, Boreal Chickadee, numerous warblers and an over abundance of black flies and mosquitos! The walk along the old railway line to Wolf Howl Pond and West Rose Lake was not enjoyable. Though birds were singing/active we missed a number of the Algonquin Park specialties including Spruce Grouse, Black-backed Woodpecker, and Gray Jay. We left Algonquin Park by 8:30am and made our way towards Presqu’ile Provincial Park. This leg of the journey is usually three hours with a few stops. As Ben and I worked our way south the temperature started to rise and few birds were singing. Our highlight was the Madoc Sewage Lagoon where we found 2 Trumpeter Swan, a family of Hooded Mergansers, along with Green-winged Teal and a few shorebirds. With the rising temperature we made a brief stop in Brighton Hills at noon and added Blue-winged Warbler, along with Eastern Towhee, Field Sparrow and Rose-breasted Grosbeak. We heard a Golden-winged Warbler calling too, which turned out to be a hybrid, Brewster's Warbler.
Our next stop was Presqu’ile Provincial Park where we added a few waterbirds and Piping Plover. Unfortunately due to the hot weather the beach was busy and few shorebirds were present. At 1:15pm we were on our way to the Napanee area in search of Loggerhead Shrike and any other grassland species. After a while we finally got one Loggerhead Shrike, one Upland Sandpiper and American Kestrel as the temperature reached 35c! By 4:30pm we reached the Opinicon Road/Chaffeys Lock area. It was deadly quiet with only a few Red-eyed Vireos and Indigo Buntings singing. We couldn’t find any of the area specialities. Over the next few hours we made our way to the Carp area and finished along the Carp river at Ben’s favorite birding spot, the site of last years Little Egret. With water levels low there was only one shorebird, a breeding plumage Black-bellied Plover along with Northern Rough-winged Swallows. Our final new species for the day was Chimney Swift which was guaranteed since they breed in our chimney. It was a long but fun day. We ended with 132 species and travelled 850 kms from midnight to 7:00pm.
Ben and I would like to thank everyone who sponsored us for the 2016 Birdathon. If you haven’t had a chance to donate there is still time. See link below.
To make a contribution online go to Birds Canada, search for last name 'di Labio' and click on "Give Now" to make a donation.
Bruce and Ben Di Labio