Monday, July 19, 2010

July 18, 2010 Yellow-nosed Albatross found on Wolfe Island!

Probably the most exciting find in recent birding history was the discovery of a Yellow-nosed Albatross in the Kingston, Ontario area. If you live in Ontario or anywhere inland, for that matter, the ocean going albatross probably isn't on your "wish" list of possible finds! As the story goes on July 4th a good friend of mind, Paul Martin called me on my cell phone and left me a message about an albatross he had seen along the water front in Kingston. Thinking I had misinterpreted his message, I played it again. Yes, Paul said ALBATROSS in Kingston! Since I was leading a birding tour in Arizona when Paul discovered this bird, I called him that evening to get all the details about the albatross. I've always been a firm believer that "anything is possible in the birding world", but an albatross in Ontario?? That stretches my mantra to the limits!
Over the years we've all had a moment in birding when we've come across a Mega-rarity. It's a moment you remember forever. I think this sighting will be one such moment. Here's Paul's email to Ontbirds on July 4th, 2010.

Email: July 4th, 2010

At 11:45 today (4 July) an albatross (not identified to species) flew low over the parking lot between the smoke stack and the helicopter pad at Kingston General Hospital near the end of Barrie Street at Lake Ontario. The bird was at the lake shore, but flew over land the entire
time observed. The bird was as low as 10m above the ground and very close to the walking trail along the water edge (but on the hospital side). The bird passed back and forth 3 times, sometimes with Ring-billed Gulls in pursuit. The bird was last seen circling upward above the smoke stack drifting eastward.

The bird was predominantly white with fairly even black along the front edge of the underside of the wing, extending the full length of the wing. The upperside of the wing and back were uniform black. The bill appeared somewhat dusky, with a line at the top edge of the bill. The actual top of the bill may have been a different colour - I couldn't see for sure. The head may have been somewhat dusky, particularly around the eye.

The bird flapped when low with fixed, stiff wings. When soaring, the wings were arced, not bent. The bird appeared about 2.5-3 x the size (wingspan) of the Ring-billeds, although they were usually diving at it making comparisons difficult.

Context: I was walking my son in a wagon when the bird flew by - I had no binoculars or camera. I saw the bird for about 5 minutes, at times extremely close (15m) when it was at its lowest point, and left the bird as it was soaring to phone my wife to return with a camera. We could not relocate the bird later on.

Directions: From 401, take Division Street south to Johnson St. Turn left, then right on Barrie Street. Take Barrie Street south to the Lake. The bird was seen just to the west at the visible smoke stack opposite the hospital.

Now to finish the story. Yesterday an email was forwarded to me (via Paul Martin and Terry Sprague) from Sue Meech, from Sandy Pines Wildlife Centre. The albatross was found in emaciate condition on Wolfe Island, right across from Kingston, where Paul had last seen the bird on July 4th. The albatross was taken to the Sandy Pines Wildlife Centre but likely will not survive its ordeal. How it managed to make it inland is anyone's guess. One interesting note is that there is a sight record of Yellow-nosed Albatross in upper New York State on Lake Champlain on May 8, 1994. Below is the email from Sue Meech.

Email: July 17, 2010

Hi Terry

Have an unusual visitor.

Any idea what might have happened to bring it to Ontario? It was found
beached off of Wolfe island. Found by a cottager. Very emaciated and weak.

Sue Meech
Sandy Pines Wildlife Centre
Napanee Ontario

Yellow-nosed Albatross found on Wolfe Island.

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