Hunt for the Northern Gannet: Ontario man sets new provincial bird watching record
When Jeremy Bensette saw a Northern Gannet in Hamilton, it set a new record of 343 species
Jeremy Bensette, from Leamington, Ont. set a new provincial record for the most bird species spotted in a single year.
The CBC's Conrad Collaco spoke with Bensette a day after he found the one last elusive species —a Northern Gannet — to make him Ontario's new bird watching champion. That sighting gave him 343 species seen in 2017.
Listen to or read our interview with him. Here's an edited and abridged transcript of that conversation.
Jeremy Bensette, Ontario bird watcher
How did you find the Northern Gannet?
My friend and I were travelling towards Ottawa. We were around Kingston. I received a phone call that a Northern Gannet had been seen just south of Hamilton along Lake Ontario. We went to Hamilton to Confederation Park. A few friends had re-found it sitting on the water, believe it or not, just sitting on the beach. We ran from the car and got our eyes on it a.
It's kind of on an honour system — competitive birding. Of course, there is no real prize. One kind of builds a reputation. It's pretty easy to lose that reputation through mistakes or being caught being dishonest.- Jeremy Bensette
I think there's a decent chance a Northern Gannet on Lake Ontario might have a stomach ache. It's not in its usual salt-water environment. I don't know if it was feeling quite the same excitement that I was.
What counts as an official sighting?
It's kind of on an honour system — competitive birding. Of course, there is no real prize. One kind of builds a reputation. It's pretty easy to lose that reputation through mistakes or being caught being dishonest. It's pretty impossible to gain it back. I personally take a lot of photos so I have photos of almost every species I have seen in Ontario this year.
Which bird got you most excited and were most surprised to find?
What bird have you most wanted to see that has so far escaped you?
What made you want to do this?
I'm passionate and fairly competitive. A couple of my closest friends who brought me up in my bird-watching career are among Ontario's top competitive bird watchers. I was going to follow behind what they were doing. One of my closest friends is Josh Vandermuelen from the Hamilton area. He's the one who held the record since 2012 that I ended up breaking yesterday. He was also present at the beach when I saw the Gannet there last night which was really nice.
How has your quest for this record been received by Ontario's birding community?
It's been humbling — the amount of support people have thrown my way, whether it's friends I have known for years or people who I have just met. I've received emails from strangers who have been following along on my progress. I wouldn't have been able to get to this point without the support of the whole bird watching community. I can't be grateful enough for that.