Friday, January 16, 2009

Duck. Duck. Coot!

On Sunday January 11, Jean and I provided our counting abilities in an annual duck count. John had asked for assistance in the count as well as two December Christmas Bird Counts (CBC). Since meeting John in May of last year our birding activities have increased greatly, both CBCs and the duck count firsts for us.

The duck count covered four areas in the Niagara Region, Fifty Point to Vineland, Vineland to Port Weller (St. Catharines), Port Weller to Niagara-on-the-Lake (NOTL) and NOTL to Niagara Falls. We would cover counting ducks from Fifty Point to Vineland with John and Katherine.

Due to road conditions Sunday morning, we started in Vineland rather than starting at Fifty Point in Grimsby. We travelled along lane ways running parallel with Lake Ontario, scanning for any signs of waterfowl. If numbers looked good, we would exit the car and start counting, using our scopes for ducks further out on the lake. It had snowed overnight and we encountered deep snow on some lanes in Beamsville which eventually loosened and almost completely removed the muffler from John's car. Jean and I, sitting in the back seat of the car, were thankful for the return to Vineland to make the switch to Katherine's car.

With an improvement of road conditions, as well as hearing, we drove to Grimsby to continue the count, heading in an easterly direction towards Vineland. The marina at Fifty Point Conservation Area was mostly iced over with a small amount of open water in the north end. Amongst the Canada Geese and Mallards a lone American Coot was seen trying to decide between swimming in the water or walking on the ice.

The amount of waterfowl encountered at the point in the conservation area was massive. John had large numbers of Long-tailed Duck and White-winged Scoter to count. Canada Geese and other waterfowl requiring a scope were left to me while Jean and Katherine tallied the ducks closer to shore. Though the sun was shining, standing at the point was cold! Luckily the count was before the deep freeze we are currently feeling.

Two more spots were visited in Grimsby, concluding the count at the city's marina. Many Mallards and Canada Geese were observed and Jean did an excellent job of spotting the only Northern Pintail (male) seen on our count.

With our first duck count concluded, the snow and cold experienced while counting has not deterred my participation in next year's count. I have yet to receive final tallies but birds added to the year list included, Canada Goose, American Black Duck, Mallard, Northern Pintail (1), Redhead (2), Lesser Scaup, White-winged Scoter, Long-tailed Duck, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Common Merganser, Red-breasted Merganser and American Coot (1). The Ontario year list now stands at 32 and still behind the 2008 list.

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