Saturday, April 11, 2009

Good Friday Birding

With the snow gone and temperatures back to normal, Good Friday was actually starting to look like a Great Friday. You think I would want to sleep in on a holiday but our one dog would have nothing of it. This is beginning to sound like a recurring theme. I took the dogs outside and surveyed the area for any bird activity. It was 7:50 AM and my watch must be synchronized with that of the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. There he was again, same tree, same time.

Later that morning, Jean and I headed for Niagara-on-the-Lake (NOTL) to purchase her brother his birthday gift. Last night's attempt to purchase shade-grown coffee did not go as planned, the cafe downtown was closed. No worries, we can go to NOTL, pick up some fair-trade coffee at the 10, 000 Villages store and then go to the Queenston boat ramp on the chance of spotting the reported Black-headed Gull.

No coffee. Even though NOTL is a tourist destination, 10, 000 Villages was closed. We purchased some loose tea instead. A green tea named Monkey King, quite fitting we thought, for a brother born in the Year of the Monkey. After a couple more purchases we headed up river to Queenston look for the reported gull. Finding the Black-headed Gull would not be easy, there were hundreds of Bonaparte's Gulls on the Niagara River. We scanned the gulls looking for a red bill amongst all the black bills but came up empty. Well at least we added Bonaparte's Gull to the year list, #79.

In the evening, we were returning home after the birthday dinner and I thought we should check out an owl nest we had visited on April 1. At that time there were only young in the nest, no adults to confirm the identification of the species. This time we saw a total of 4 owls. Upon our arrival, 1 adult and 2 young were in the nest. The adult flew off and left the young to survey us on their own. From our location across the residential street we searched the forested land for the adult owl. Jean and I could not find the bird so we crossed the road and started walking the trail through the forest. We slowly passed the tree with the nest, yes it's right on the trail. The trees are all deciduous, improving our chances of observing the adult owl. Jean and I looked at the trees in the area we saw the owl fly to and after a few minutes I found it. The bird was a Great Horned Owl! The white throat and the fine horizontal barring on the lower breast and belly confirmed the identification. Within minutes of spotting the owl, I found the mate, immediately to its left. It's amazing how close they were but we did not see them both right away. This was our first observation of a Great Horned Owl in Ontario, #221 for the provincial list. We ticked our lifer at St. Marks NWR in June of 2007. As we were leaving we noticed one of the young had left the nest for a branch to obtain a better view of Jean and I. The immature owl seemed as interested in us as we were in it. I wonder if they keep their own list?

When we got home, I sat at our computer to inform John Black of our observation (I had left him a phone message after our first viewing of the owl). John had beat me to it. He had e-mailed us earlier, requesting the location of the nest for data collection.

It has been an interesting year for owls. The last 4 lifers were owls and with today's observation, the last 5 species on the provincial list have also been owls. It'll be tough to add another owl to the list.

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