Saturday, February 21, 2009

A Great Backyard Bird Count Weekend.

Last weekend was the 2009 GBBC and I'm sure many of you participated. Over 3 of the 4 days I submitted 14 checklists covering 10 areas.

Due to work I was unable to contribute any data on Friday. Saturday, Jean was working so I limited my birding to the yard. The usual visitors were observed with an afternoon observation being the most exciting. A total of 21 American Crows, a murder, were seen all at once, flying north of our yard.

Sunday morning, I was surprised to find 3 Northern Cardinals at the feeder. Usually a pair visits the feeder, though they had been absent earlier in the year. I believe they have grown accustom to the section of missing fence. Shortly after noting the cardinal trio, I heard the call of a Downy Woodpecker in the distance. The woodpecker was most likely in the large Walnut tree across the parking lot. I scanned the tree repeatedly until I found it with my bins and recorded my first woodpecker for this year`s GBBC.
In the afternoon, Jean and I attempted to add a second woodpecker to the list. A trail running along 12 Mile Creek has produced a Red-headed Woodpecker in the past. At this section of the Merritt Trail we are above the creek, level with the tree canopy. The edge slopes to 12 Mile Creek below and is covered with a mixture of scrub and trees. From the the scrub the call of a Carolina Wren was heard. We would observe it briefly before it disappeared deeper into the brush. On the west side of the trail are a few expensive townhouses with feeders, providing easy observations of Downy Woodpecker, Northern Cardinal, American Tree Sparrow, House Finch, Black-capped Chickadee, Dark-eyed Junco and House Sparrow. The trail gently descends south, eventually reaching creek level. We did not stray too far from the feeders hoping to catch a glimpse of the Red-head.

Our next stop Sunday afternoon was Port Dalhousie to check out the marina we had visited recently. Bufflehead, Common Merganser,
Long-tailed Duck and American Coot with
the usual marina waterfowl were observed. Unfortunately no Redheads here this day. We would find them at the next stop, Jones Beach, on the east side of the Welland Canal, along with some Lesser Scaup.

We ended the day at the spot were we had observed the Snowy Owl. No appearance of the owl but 6 Horned Larks were observed flying around the remains of a harvested corn field. One lark stood atop the base of a corn stalk, resembling Dick Turpin with its black mask.

Though we did not find the Red-headed Woodpecker or Snowy Owl the day was still enjoyed.

Monday was a provincial holiday and after a filling mid-morning breakfast at the Early Bird, yes the Early Bird diner, Jean and I travelled to Niagara Falls. The first stop was Dufferin Islands. The only new bird observed for the count while in the nature area was the American Black Duck (4). Crossing the Niagara Parkway, we stood near the engineerium overlooking the river above the Falls. 2 Gadwall, a new bird for the GBBC as well as for the year list (#56), were observed in the stream that flows from Dufferin Islands into the Niagara River. A Great Black-backed Gull, on a rock in the fast moving rapids, was spotted. We continued upriver along a pedestrian path, no snow this time, and did not observe much until the Hydro intake pond. With the Hydro control gates a kilometre upstream, the water levels can change frequently. The Niagara River was higher on Monday, reducing the number of gulls and waterfowl that occur in this section above the Falls. On the ice of the pond, many Ring-billed Gull and another solitary Great Black-backed Gull were found and in the open water, Hooded Merganser (first observation for our GBBC) and Common Goldeneye.

Our last stop on the river was the viewing area near the control gates. The two gates closest to the river bank were open, increasing water levels at the breakwall that runs parallel to the riverside. This greatly reduced the number of gulls that can be found on the structure. Further out in the river, Redhead, Common Goldeneye and Common Merganser were observed using our scope. On the small island in the middle of the river a number of gulls were seen but only Ring-billed and Great Black-backed were identified.

Before heading back to St. Catharines we visited the well known feeders in the village of Chippawa. New birds for the GBBC weekend included Tufted Titmouse, Red-bellied Woodpecker, White-breasted Nuthatch and American Goldfinch.

Upon returning home I let the dogs out into the yard and observed a Cooper's Hawk roosting in the neighbour's yard. I grabbed my camera but the hawk proved camera shy and flew away to perch in a coniferous tree on the other side of the parking lot. The Cooper's Hawk would be the last bird observed for this year's GBBC.

In total, 36 species were observed over the 3 days of birding. The Gadwall was the only addition to the year list, keeping us one species ahead of last year's provincial list.

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