Tuesday, April 29, 2014


An Eastern Whip-poor-will, my dream bird. Photo by Lev Frid.
You never know what the day is going to bring when you walk out your front door, and yesterday is a perfect example of one of those days.

We had an off site meeting yesterday for work that included lunch and bowling, didn't seem like work at all! While I was there I got a Facebook message from one of the students at the University where I work. I got to know Greg when he worked in our summer residence office for a couple years. He sent me a picture of a bird that landed on the ground beside a Starbucks he was studying at, and wanted to know if I could id it, as he had no clue. I couldn't really make out the bird on my Blackberry, and told him I would look at it when I was back in the office.

An hour later when I was back at my desk, my jaw hit the floor when I opened the picture, as I believed I was looking at a bird that I had been wanting for close to a decade, a Whip-poor-will! They are nocturnal birds and not often seen in the day-light hours. Honestly, I would be happy to just hear one calling in the moonlight, and their call is awesome, sounds just like their name!

I got permission to leave the office to go meet Greg, as I was very excited that I may get to see a Whip-poor-will, but also because I wanted to check to see if the bird was ok, and if I needed to call someone to come help it. They are on the endangered species list.

I got to the corner of Bay and Grosvenor and saw Greg sitting in the corner window seat, he pointed down, and there sitting between 2 cedar bushes was the bird. I was 99% certain I was looking at a Whip-poor-will. My heart was pounding so hard with excitement, and I was so wishing Rob was with me.

I went into the coffee shop to talk to Greg and watch the bird. He had seen the bird fly, and it had lightly hit the window but seemed fine. It then flew over to this little area to nap. It had shifted throughout it's time there,  but seemed comfortable enough, and seemed to be napping, as he would open and close his eyes once in a while. I adored the bird a little while longer with an amazing view and headed back to the office.

Picture through the glass. Photo by Greg Rupik
      When I returned to the office again, I immediately uploaded a couple of the pictures Greg emailed me to a Facebook birding group I belong to, to confirm id. Within two minutes I heard from two people I have a lot of respect for in the birding world, Amanda Guercio and Lev Frid.  I had no issue telling them exactly where the bird was, as I new they wanted to make sure the bird was ok, not just see it.

I stayed late at work to meet Lev at the subway, and because Amanda was further away and knows the downtown area well, told her the location. Amanda got there shortly before Lev and I. The bird was still there, as was Greg. Amanda is a volunteer for FLAP and has a lot of experience doing rescues, she came armed with her net, and being a bird bander, she brought that equipment too.

I watched these two try to catch this bird with my heart in my throat. It was flying across busy downtown streets and maneuvering around buildings. I was terrified I was going to witness the very reason they wanted to get it out of the downtown core to begin with, a window strike that would cause it's death. At one point I even told them I had to leave, as I thought I was going to have a heart attack. But I did know that they both knew what they were doing, so kept faith.

It was only minutes, but seemed like hours to me, and they cornered and captured the bird. And there on Bay Street, in the middle of downtown Toronto, I got to witness Amanda band the bird while Lev held it. She was nice enough to offer me to hold it, but I passed. Relieved that he had no injuries,  I just wanted the little guy safely tucked away for release out of the city.

Captured and banded! Photo by Lev Frid
Getting a wing measurement. Photo by Lev Frid
I walked towards the subway in total awe of everything that I had just witnessed and relieved that the bird was on his way to safer grounds in a suitable habitat to be released to continue his journey north. As Amanda had said earlier "downtown is no place for a Whip', and that is so true. Windows and reflective glass cause millions of birds to come to an early death every year.

My part in the tale ends here, but Rob's just starts.....he was able to leave work early and joined Lev for it's release, which Lev said went "Spectacularly!"

So Rob and I both ended up getting a "lifer" yesterday, with the same bird, just a couple hours apart. I made it too easy for him!

Enjoying his freedom in a much safer location. Photo by Rob Mueller
I still aim to hear them calling one night, but yesterday was a most memorable day!

A heartfelt "Thank You!" to Greg for letting me know about the bird, and to Amanda and Lev for the  rescue and release.  

For more information on Whip-poor-wills, click HERE.
For more information on the amazing work FLAP does and how you can help, click HERE.   


teawren said...

You need to go to Carden if you want to hear whip-poor-wills - about an hour north of TO

the WPWI haven't made it up here yet but knowing that they are in TO gives me hope that they will arrive shortly

Unknown said...

So awesome! Thank you for sharing. :) You made my day. I'm so happy this guy is safe. He'll have his own story to tell, I'm sure. LOL. Also - - I always imagined them being larger! The photo of the hand holding the bird really puts it into perspective. What a sweet little guy!!

Angie in T.O. said...

Thanks teawren!

Angie in T.O. said...

Thanks for the comment Jody! :)

Brightcetera said...

That is so cool! What a crazy way to see a life bird. :)
I just saw an ebird report about this bird!
Also, I've noticed Amanda's name quite a few times on eBird this past week for the Pelee area. (I've never met her)
Small world!

FLAP Canada - Ottawa Wing said...

What an amazing story and amazing opportunity to see a bird most of us have only ever heard. Nice plug for FLAP, too. We've just launched a chapter in Ottawa, 'though I'm not expecting a lot of Whip-poor-will rescues!