Special Post - Hawk Watching Switches To Jaeger Watching

With strong east wind and rain in the forecast, hawk watching at Rosetta was out of the question so a group of us (Terry, Betty, Hugh, and I) loaded up the back of Terry's vehicle with spotting scopes, binoculars, food, and warm clothing and headed for the Jaeger Watch at Van Wagner's Beach in Hamilton.  It was something that we had kicked around for quite some time and with yesterday's reported sighting of a somewhat rare Shearwater (a seabird!), we thought we'd better go today.

The trip to Hamilton was filled with rain, heavy at times and we were slowed by traffic on occasion but our hopes of seeing something new and unusual kept us on track to our destination.  An early morning internet report of another sighting of yesterday's Shearwater only helped to fuel the excitement.

Upon arrival at Van Wagner's the rain had stopped but the wind had picked-up even stronger then it was back in Toronto.  Being that we were at the west end of Lake Ontario and the wind was coming across the full-width of the lake, it was much cooler as well.  We grabbed our gear out of the car, put extra layers on and then headed over to the 'Watch' at Hutch's Restaurant by the beach.

 The marriage of my new scope and tripod (both previously enjoyed)
worked extremely well on the first day of their new life together! (Walter)

Although at first we thought the place was void of birders, we eventually found many watchers hiding behind their scopes on the far side of the building standing mostly out of the near gale-force winds.  With roughly a dozen or so scopes pointed out on the water and slowly panning back and forth it wasn't long before we got our first great bird, at least since we had arrived anyway, a Parasitic Jaeger!  A little while later we had good views of a Long-tailed Jaeger a little closer to shore.  A little while after that, we had at least 8 Parasitic Jaegers (some estimated upwards of 12 birds) out beyond the platform flying as a group.  This was quite exciting for us folks from Rosetta who just don't see these birds in our neck of the woods.  Eventually other smaller groups of 'Parasitics' would fly by out in the distance.  A Black-legged Kittiwake was another highlight observed a couple of times at a reasonable range.  Other birds seen during our visit by several in the now quick-growing group of scope-totin' Jaeger-hungry birders included a small group of shorebirds that flew by just out beyond the water's edge and a Sabine's Gull that was standing right on the beach!  Unfortunately by the time of the Sabine's sighting we had already retreated back to the car for lunch and warmth.  Rain had also moved in to the area by this time and none of us wanted to head back out in to it.  The Sabine's Gull is now my new 'nemesis' bird - always so close and yet so far!

Although the Shearwater was not found again, our group came away quite thrilled with what they had seen at Van Wagner's Beach and some were even fortunate enough to add a few birds to their personal Life Lists.  I would imagine it won't be too long before we make the trip back out there again.  Our return back to Toronto included a much needed stop at Timmies, of course - LOL!

Many thanks to the good folks gathered by Hutch's Restaurant who were kind enough to call out birds as they were spotting them and then took the time to explain what we Jaeger watchin'-newbies were lookin' at.

An article written by Brandon Holden giving an explanation of Jaeger Watching at Van Wagner's Beach can be found here.

Walter

PS - We did happen to see a Turkey Vulture and a Peregrine Falcon (likely both locals) while we were Jaeger Watching!

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