For too long I’ve had to endure being bottom of the pile in the leading pack of “big” TI listers. This year I’ve had to step it up a notch or two in order to avoid the shame of it all. Therefore I have to endure many hardships in order to get the ticks rolling in. T’was rather a grim day to be out on Toronto Islands, but this is the kind of weather that gets results for those brave (or stupid) enough to give it a try. I didn’t get out there until late since it was a Sunday and the TTC doesn’t activate until 9 in the morning. Safely delivered I embarked on the epic trudge to Hanlan’s and back.
Ward’s was very quiet, though there had obviously been a dramatic increase in the number of diving ducks with small squadrons of Bufflehead and large rafts of Long-tailed Ducks littering the grey waters along the Eastern Gap. Black-capped Chickadees were dripping off the trees, but in spite of much searching there were no Bo-chicks to be had. A few Yellow-rumped Warblers were mixed in with the flocks along with a late Red-eyed Vireo and a nice 1stW Red-headed Woodpecker – a bird I hardly ever see out there these days. Juncos were everywhere, but other sparrows were rather scarce, though I did see Fox, American Tree and a female Towhee. Whilst walking along the boardwalk a Northern Harrier and a smart immature Northern Goshawk flew in from the tip of the Spit.
Of course what I was really hoping for was a fly-by Cave Swallow, but none chose TI airspace on this soggy day! Whilst looking I did get my first Island tick of the day when a Red-throated Loon shimmered through along the horizon. Feeling quite pleased with myself I plodded on towards the pier. A few Pine Siskins and a Purple Finch flew over. The hoped-for Purple Sandpiper was also AWOL so I found a sheltered spot to eat my lunch, such as it was. feeling there must be something of note somewhere I decided to push on to Hanlan’s, not a decision to be taken lightly on such a day I can tell ya!
The feeder at the Art School was enlivened by the appearance of three PISI, both Nuthatches and hoards of Chickadees. I hung around taking pix of the siskins before trudging forever onwards. The Trout Ponds held the usual PB Grebes along with two smart-looking drake RN Ducks, a male Lesser Scaup and a female Green-winged Teal. A few more raptors appeared – a few Turkey Vultures and Red-tails, half a dozen Harriers and three or more Red-shouldered Hawks – TI tick number two, and a real tarty one at that! In my defense I will add that I’m hardly ever out here at this time of year… so maybe not so shameful after all?
Onwards to Hanlan’s and my finest moment… a flock of at least 80 White-winged Crossbills erupted out of a spruce as I neared the airfield perimeter fence – yet another tick, and one I’ve waited for for a long time. Hooray! Norm had a flock this past winter on Algonquin Island that I tried for and missed, so I felt pretty good about this one! However, just when I thought I was in for an epic photo session they all evaporated and were not to be seen again : (( I think there will be more though…
The beach at Hanlan’s was once again total trash with not much of anything on display so I was faced with a 5 Km. trudge back to Ward’s into a freshening wind and reinvigorated rain! With steely determination I made it just as the ferry was pulling in…
So, another fruitful session on the old TI. I’ll be back for more after Frankenstorm has had its way with us all!