A Parade of Rarities at Thunder Cape Bird Observatory

Numerous sightings of bird species rare to the Thunder Bay District have been recorded at Thunder Cape Bird Observatory since migration monitoring commenced there in the fall of 1991. Some species previously considered rare in the District have been seen at the Cape so often that they are now listed as regularly occurring species.

In 1994, largely due to the number of sightings at Thunder Cape, it was decided to reclassify Red-throated Loon, Surf Scoter and Golden Eagle from rare to regular in the Thunder Bay District. As well, several species new to Thunder Bay District have been recorded at Thunder Cape:

District Firsts From Thunder Cape

  • Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher banded on September 30, 2010 is a first record for northern Ontario
  • Black Vulture observed June 8, 2010 and observed on October 30, 2010 is a 2nd for Northern Ontario
  • Townsend's Warbler banded on August 3, 2008 is the first record for Northern Ontario
  • Bell's Vireo banded on September 7, 2007 is the first record for Northern Ontario.
  • Sabine's Gull observed on October 20, 2006 is a first for the Thunder Bay District.
  • Yellow-billed Loon observed flying past on October 14, 2006 is new to the Thunder Bay District.
  • Green-tailed Towhee banded on June 10, 2006 is a first for Northern Ontario (another was later banded on September 19, 2007)
  • Ash-throated Flycatcher banded on April 26, 2006 is a first for Northern Ontario
  • Kentucky Warbler male banded on May 29, 2003 is a first for the Thunder Bay District.
  • Brewer's Sparrow banded on May 27, 2003 is the first record for all of Ontario.
  • Pomarine Jaeger (imm.) seen October 9, 2001, new Thunder Bay District record.
  • Virginia's Warbler banded on August 29, 2001 is the first record for Northern Ontario.
  • Red Phalarope photographed on October 22, 1999 is new to the Thunder Bay District.
  • Little Gull adult seen on October 14, 1999 is a new District record from Thunder Cape.
  • Sprague's Pipit, May 29, 1998 is a new District record.
  • Painted Bunting (male), May 15, 1998 is a new District record.
  • Bewick's Wren, netted and banded on May 2, 1998, new Northern Ontario record.
  • Grasshopper Sparrow banded on June 4, 1997 was added to the District checklist.
  • Prairie Warbler, an immature female banded on September 26, 1993,was a first for the Thunder Bay District as well as Northern Ontario.
  • Swainson's Hawk, a light-phased immature seen on September 7, 1993,was a District first.
  • Violet-green Swallow, from October 28, 1992, was a first for all of Ontario.

In addition to these firsts for the Thunder Bay District, there are some others indirectly attributable to the operations at Thunder Cape:

In 1993 Thunder Cape Bird Observatory banders Dave Shepherd and his wife Julie Cappleman spent a few days at Point Porphyry, east of Thunder Cape. On September 14th, 1993 they netted Ontario's first Dusky Flycatcher as well as the fourth district Yellow-breasted Chat.

Ontario's first Black-throated Sparrow was found on October 2, 1992 at Camp Bay, Silver Islet by Thunder Cape Bird Observatory staff during a trip to obtain supplies for the Cape.

One Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher was banded (captured in a mist-net, banded, photographed & released) on Sept. 30. It was a hatch-year bird as evidenced by typical hatch-year moult limits & fault bars. Found by John Woodcock (JMW), also observed by Maureen Woodcock (MEW), Sachi Schott (SLS), Kyle Myschowada (KRM), Stacey Carnochan (SJC), Eric Matheson (AEM) and Nikolas Kotovich (NIK). Photo credits to Sachi Schott. The bird was not seen again after being released.

A Black Vulture was observed at TCBO on June 8 2010. It flew directly overhead, under good light conditions, about 20m high, then soared over more distant tree tops, then into the eastern sky and was gone. Found by John Woodcock, also observed by Maureen Woodcock, Jennifer Jeffreys (JLJ) & Christopher Sukha (CAS). There was little time but to call the bird to everyone's attention and quickly snap a few pictures. About half an hour later it made an even briefer appearance as it swooped over and disappeared up the west side of the Cape.

A second Black Vulture was observed Oct. 30 in Sleeping Giant Provincial Park flushed away from carrion beside the road (Hwy. 587) east of Lake Marie Louise and about 1.5 km south of the "Wildlife Habitat Nature Trail". The bird landed in a tree about 25m away giving us just enough time to observe it briefly in our binoculars and ready the camera for a shot. Found by John Woodcock, also observed by Maureen Woodcock. I believe Nick Escott and Brian Moore also saw the bird later in the day. Photo credit to John Woodcock.