Of course, we knew that the Lazuli Bunting was around - we just had to find him but we had no idea there was also a Northern Mockingbird in the area (another rare bird in Manitoba although not nearly as rare as Lazuli Bunting). As we drive down the highway, I spotted a large, long-tailed mimid on someone's front lawn as we were travelling at high speed. Since the only expected mimids in Manitoba are Gray Catbird and Brown Thrasher, I called it as a Brown Thrasher based on shape (the bird was in shadow as I caught them out of the corner of my eye). Wanting to be sure of the record, we decided to turn around for a better look. Well, as it turned out, this bird was in fact a Northern Mockingbird, and the generous home owners did not object to us sticking around to look for evidence of a nest. Sure enough, we found the bird carrying nesting material (photo below) and a possible nest but no proof of breeding. A real bonus nonetheless!
At Whitewater Lake we looked for breeding evidence of some of the rare egrets and White-faced Ibis that have frequented the site in the last few years as water levels have risen. We indeed saw White-faced Ibis, Great Egret, Cattle Egret and this Snowy Egret but, alas, did not find any juvenile birds that might have confirmed breeding. Can anyone lend me an airboat?
One thing that can be done while atlassing in the late season is to revist areas to try to obtain higher breeding evidence codes. This weekend I was able to increase some of the "possible breeding"codes I had ("S" for singing bird, or "H for bird in suitable "breeding habitat in the breeding season) to higher codes (probable or confirmed breeding). For example, the Grasshopper Sparrow was still singing in his old spot, allowing me to use the code T (bird on territory).
Now, not all birds have finished breeding at the end of July. I found this Vesper Sparrow nest with four eggs in the grasslands and hastily snapped this record photo before leaving as quickly as possible.
Other birds are a little more advanced but still with young in the nest. While we were waiting for the Northern Mockingbird I heard the song of an Orchard Oriole in the distance. I went a little closer and saw this male fly in towards us with food in his beak that was obviously not for his own consumption... guess, that is what you get for singing with your mouthful!!
I am finding atlassing is really opening my eyes to observing behaviour - a great way to improve one's skill!