Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Birding with the Next Generation

No, Jean and I were not birding with Captain Jean-Luc Picard and Counselor Deanna Troi (ah man that's terribly corny and/or geeky), we took our nephew and niece birding on the Sunday morning of the holiday weekend.

We received letters from them both a few weeks ago, thanking us for the last adventure, feeding calves and horseback riding at a friend's farm. In their letters they expressed an interest in a day of birding with their Aunt and Uncle. After looking at the event filled calendar, (theirs, not ours) a morning of birding at a local provincial park was planned.

Our nephew birded with us twice last year, including the guided walk in Algonquin Provincial Park. That time he had overheard Jean and I discussing the walk and he asked to come along without any influence from us or his parents. He immediately made a friend of the park naturalist and was a dutiful assistant, opening and closing the spotting scope's protective bag. What amazed me on this trip was our nephew's observations when viewing Cedar Waxwings through the spotting scope. The park naturalist asked if he could see the red on the wings, our nephew replied yes and indicated he could also see yellow on the tail. It looks like we may have a future birder in the family.

On the way to Short Hills Provincial Park, we asked what they would like to see. Turkey Vulture, Crow and Chick-a-dee-dee-dee were called out from the back seat. OK, we'll see what we can do.

Before we even left the parking lot, the young birders would observe their first Eastern Kingbird, #139 for our year list. En route to Swayze Falls, we would observe, American Goldfinch, Northern Cardinal, Indigo Bunting, Song Sparrow, Field Sparrow (#140), Yellow Warbler and Black-capped Chickadee, the only species called out from the back seat we would see. Hard to believe no Turkey Vultures flew over while we were there or American Crows for that matter.

We looked at Swayze Falls from the park's viewing platform and continued our search for birds along a narrow foot path where we encountered a small toad.

The kids told me to add it to my list of birds we had observed. In addition, the following was added to the list, butterfly, sparkly rock and snail's shell. It would be hard for any additional bird observations to compete with the likes of a sparkly rock. While the kids were building a dam in the gravel path, Jean and I heard the song of a Blue-winged Warbler. It would continue to sing, remaining unseen, as we walked back to the parking area. Other birds observed during our next generation hike, Northern Flicker, Eastern Phoebe (#141), House Wren, Gray Catbird, Brown-headed Cowbird and Chipping Sparrow.

Our nephew and niece know us too well. "When are we going to Tim Hortons?" was asked before we were half way through the hike and shortly after an inquiry on the presence of snacks. No snacks but a stop for a doughnut or muffin with chocolate milk was in order.

It seems Auntie Jean and Uncle Bob did a good job. The kids still want to go birding, well as long as a stop at a large Canadian doughnut chain immediately follows the outing.

On our way home, Jean and I stopped to look for Bobolink in a grass field where we have observed them in the past. In a small ditch of a farmed field, immediately west of the grass field, we observed a Least Sandpiper (#142) in beautiful breeding plumage. That's a first. We usually see our first in the late summer.

Many Red-winged Blackbirds would pop out of the grass and a few Savannah Sparrows were flying across the road to get to the other side but there was no sign of Boblinks on this day. We will return to this spot in the rural west end of St. Catharines to tick Bobolink but for now we will concentrate on the warblers passing through the Niagara Peninsula. Results will be posted soon. I'm starting to sound like a broken record. Is that saying still allowed in the 21st century?

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