Saturday, January 31, 2009

January Finale

Today birding was limited to a short period of time in the afternoon, after picking Jean up from work. With that in mind, I thought the best option was to look for Northern Harrier in the area we usually find the raptor.

We simply travel a section of rural road in west St. Catharines, scanning the fields on either side for Northern Harrier, usually observed in flight. Today I was pessimistic. The weather was cold, it was snowing and with a strong south-west wind blowing snow horizontally across the path of our car, the odds were not looking good.

I really like this area for birding. We have observed 8 lifers along this road, including the Northern Harrier (#149). The Snowy Owl (#252) we observed in December of last year was observed from this road.

Savannah Sparrow, Bobolink and Upland Sandpiper were all ticked on the same day in May of 2007. I initially saw the Bobolink only as a flash of black and white when returning home from a cycling club ride. I believe my quads were killing me that day. Wanting to identify the bird, Jean and I returned later in the day to observe a few Bobolink (#167) popping out of the green, knee-high hay on the south side of the road. On the north side of the road, Savannah Sparrow (#168) were observed flying between the rows of a vineyard. The third lifer of the day, Upland Sandpiper (#166) was observed in a grassy ditch further along the road. No vineyards here, just an open fallow field.

The remaining lifers observed include, Eastern Meadowlark (#122), and Rough-legged Hawk (#231) on March 10, 2008 and Snow Bunting (#232) on March 11, 2008.

Unfortunately, with recent changes to the grape juice market, some of the vineyards have been removed in order to receive government compensation. A small vineyard remains but the "for sale" sign next to it discourages me. St. Catharines urban expansion is limited so any vacant land available will be seen as an opportunity for development. With the new regional hospital planned less than one kilometre north of the area, development is inevitable. Observing Bobolink may have to be done elsewhere.

Although the future of birding this road does not look good, today we were successful in observing the bird I sought. Not one but two Northern Harriers were observed, a female and possibly a juvenile, flying back and forth over the snow covered fields. The weather did not seem to affect them.

The month of January has come to an end and the year list now stands at 49. Three species behind the 2008 list.