Saturday, January 21, 2012

Winter Gulls

Glaucous Gull
Hannah & I took a drive today around Waterloo Region, looking for gulls in the vicinity of the Erb St. landfill and then further afield to Conestogo Lake Conservation Area, north of Waterloo. We spent a couple of hours examining the gulls in the vicinity of the landfill, and were able to find a number of interesting white-winged gulls mixed in with the more numerous Herring Gulls. Pictured to the right is an adult Glaucous Gull (one of nine Glaucous Gulls we saw, in several age categories).

Also present were two Iceland Gulls (first cycle), one Thayer's Gull (first cycle), and two Great Black-backed Gulls (one second[?] cycle, one adult). Looking at the richness of variation in the many Herring Gulls present was also interesting; different age classes, different sizes, individual variation in plumage and bill colour/shape. Overall it was a nice opportunity to study the gulls.

Rough-legged Hawk (dark morph)
Our drive to Conestogo Lake Conservation Area did not yield an abundance of bird sightings but we did see several Rough-legged Hawks, both dark and light morphs.

It was calm and peaceful out in the countryside. The sun was shining and it was not too cold.

We had a birthday dinner to attend, but on our way back to Waterloo there was a group of 11 Wild Turkeys right next to the side of the road. Most of them darted off when we slowed the car, but one posed nicely for a photo.

Wild Turkey
It is always nice to blend a day of birding with other activities, and since I had a gift certificate from Myriam for a kitchen store in St. Jacob's, we stopped in to see what kitchen tool I could buy. As a result I am the proud owner of a professional grade pepper mill with a lifetime warranty. Now I don't know how I ever lived my life without it.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

King Eider - Port Weller

The weather in Ontario in January is rarely as nice as it was today. Sunny skies and above freezing temperatures made the conditions for winter birding extremely pleasant. The plan today was to travel to Niagara with several stops along the waterfront to scope out the waterfowl and whatever else might be around. We saw a nice variety including Trumpeter Swan, American Black Duck, Northern Shoveler, Canvasback, Redhead, Greater Scaup, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Common Merganser and Red-breasted Merganser.

The plan also involved going after a drake King Eider that has been seen off & on for the last few weeks at Port Weller. This is the same location where Hannah & I got skunked looking for a juvenile Purple Gallinule last fall.

I had assumed that we would have to walk the lengthy trail out to the end of the canal, peeking in at various spots along the way. That turned out to be unnecessary since we immediately found the Eider amongst a raft of diving ducks in the canal directly adjacent to the parking area.

King Eider (Second-year Male)

King Eider is an arctic-nesting duck, and most spend the winter in the oceans off of Eastern Canada, New England and Alaska. A few are seen in Ontario each year, usually during the fall.

A very handsome duck indeed!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Mountain Bluebird - First Vagrant for 2012

January 2nd; my last day off. I was doing some grocery shopping and bit of birdwatching not far from home when what should hit my inbox but a message about a Mountain Bluebird only 10 minutes away! First reported to Wellbirds by Paul Kron and forwarded to Ontbirds by Josh Vandermeulen. Thanks guys!

I took a quick trip to see if I could locate the bird, and all I had to do was walk up to where the other 6 birders/photographers were already standing. It then began to snow rather heavily and the wind picked up, so I retreated for home.

Mountain Bluebird

It is a female bird, age uncertain. Mountain Bluebirds are cavity nesting birds that inhabit grasslands and open woodlands in the western half of North America. They overwinter in the southwestern United States south into Central America.

But I wasn't quite satisfied since Hannah was at work and had not seen it yet. After she arrived home we immediately took another trip to the spot where Bill Read and Bob Curry/Glenda Slessor were each using their cars as a blind from which to view the bird.

Mountain Bluebird

Hannah was able to get a good look before the light began to fade. Memories of our summer vacation to Washington State.

Postscript: Hannah's Mom was able to observe this bird the next day.