Saturday, February 4, 2012


Today we sojourned to the Haldimand plain, in search of winter owls, rare geese and a new corvid for our Ontario list. Wouldn't you know it we were mostly successful.

Snowy Owl
We departed at 8:00 a.m. with a full agenda and not much wiggle room if we wanted to fit everything in. Our first stop was Rock Chapel Golf Centre, north of Hamilton, where yesterday a Greater White-fronted Goose was reported with a healthy flock of several hundred Canada Geese. Perhaps we arrived too early, because there were very few birds present. A handful of Canadas and three American Wigeon (new for the year list).

Our next stop was Townsend where another Greater White-fronted Goose had been reported earlier in the week. Again we were unsuccessful, and the thousands of Canada Geese that had been present only a few days ago were nowhere in sight.

Next we headed for Fisherville in search of Short-eared Owls. We weaved back and forth along the concession roads but could turn up no owls (though we did see two albino Wild Turkeys, a nice variety of winter raptors as well as a flooded field with 41 Northern Pintails).

Onward to Cayuga where we investigated the bridge over the Grand River for old Barn Swallow nests (reconnaissance for Hannah's project at work for MTO). After that we did a little bit of reminiscing at Ruthven where we enjoyed the company of the (Eastern) Bluebird of happiness.

Next we did some target birding. The plan was to seek out the Fish Crows that have been regularly observed in Fort Erie for the past few weeks. Marcie from Fort Erie telephoned just as we pulled into town to tell us that she was at that moment looking at two Fish Crows and to give us directions. We arrived a few minutes afterwards and had good up-close looks at the pair, both of which were vocalizing nicely.

Fish Crow
Now it was crunch time. We still hadn't seen any owls, so off we went to the mouth of the Niagara River at Fort Erie where we quickly found the Snowy Owl reported there. The only problem was it was out in the middle of the river on the roof of the pump house and technically it was not in Canada, but rather the United States. However, it is a major irruption year for Snowy Owls (the largest ever documented) and another had been reported from Vineland, which was on the way back home. A quick detour off the QEW and we had our target.

With the time approaching 4:00 p.m. we booted it to Stony Creek where there is a reliable spot to see Short-eared Owls up on the Niagara escarpment at dusk. Three came out at about 5:15 p.m. and we watched them happily for about 15 minutes before calling it a day.

Today we added seven new bird taxa to the year list: American Wigeon, Northern Pintail, Cooper's Hawk,  Snowy Owl, Short-eared Owl, Fish Crow, Horned Lark, Eastern Bluebird and Northern Mockingbird.

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