I had not chased the handful of records of Say's Phoebe in Ontario in the past. I came oh-so-close to getting it for my Ontario list in about 1990, when 4 of us trekked up to Rainy River to catch up to the specialties in that area: American White Pelican, Piping Plover, Black-billed Magpie, Yellow Rail, numerous Franklin's Gulls, etc. None of them were Ontario list birds for me, but nice to see just the same. The bonus bird on that trip was after a vicious storm from the west went through, bringing with it a Swainson's Hawk perched on a fence post along the road, at about eye level....which was an Ontario list species for me.
One evening we went just across the river and international boundary to Baudette, MN, for a bite to eat. On the return, crossing the bridge part way between the two border check stations, we saw a Say's Phoebe. But wouldn't you know it....we could not see it from the Ontario side; it was nice to see, but not countable for the Ontario list.
Back to today.
As mentioned, I immediately perked up with this news and zipped down the road to the place where the Say's Phoebe had been reported. No one was in sight....was I at the right harvested tomato field with tobacco wagons nearby, or should I continue on? A quick scan over the field didn't turn up anything immediately, but then....flying up from the ground was a bird that could be a phoebe. I got my binoculars on it just as it landed on top of the tobacco wagon......bingo! The phoebe size and shape, with the salmon flanks and underside, two pale wingbars, grayish back and slightly darker grayish head confirmed it. I quickly parked the car, grabbed my camera which I had with me (don't leave home without it....although full confession here....I don't always have it with me), and snapped off a couple of shots. I approached slowly and directly, getting a few more shots along the way. I didn't have my 500 lens, so my 400 would have to suffice. As one photographer said "the best camera to have is the one in your hands".
It was tempting to get even closer, but I did not want to scare it off for others arriving, so contented myself with getting a few distant shots which I felt could be cropped satisfactorily for the OFO site and eventual OBRC report. This makes it species #363 for the Rondeau checklist area (#339 for me).
At about that time, Jim Burk, the finder of this bird, came along. Moments later, Steve Charbonneau did as well. This bird was an Ontario bird and a Rondeau checklist species for Steve and myself, but 'just' a Rondeau bird for Jim. After viewing the bird with both binoculars and 'scopes, observing it catching flies and returning to one pole or another on the tobacco wagons, and at times wagging its tail, we left, but others were on their way.
Oh yes...the bird in question....taken with equivalent 640mm telephoto lens, and cropped about 50%. Most of the time when the bird was perched, it was facing me, so the photos do not show the side view with the black tail, the brighter salmon under belly, but we saw it fly out numerous times and periodically land with the side view and the salmon colour was much more noticeable.