Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Icing on the Cake

November 7

With the weather as appealing as it was Saturday, there was no way Jean and I could pass on a chance to hike one of the many trails in the region. We returned to Port Weller in St. Catharines to walk along the Welland Canal. Since our last hike, the trail was officially opened and named after the late George Nicholson.

Before starting our hike we checked out the area surrounding Jones Beach (the start of the trail). Unlike last time, we found a Brant feeding from the grass with a mixed flock of Canada Geese and geese hybrids. The lone Brant was #189 for the year.

From the beach we could see many waterfowl out on the lake near the viewing area at the base of a lighthouse, our destination using the Welland Canals Trail. Upon reaching the Lake Ontario entrance of the Welland Canal, the trail turns east (running along a break wall) towards the stone seating area.

Along this section of the trail we observed over 100 Common Merganser.

A pair of Bufflehead were south of the spit.

The highlight while we scanned the waters on either side of the break wall was 3 loons. For comparison, it is always helpful sighting two different species within moments of each other. One loon had a thick beak and a faint pale collar on the neck. A Common Loon. The other two were of the same species and had a small and thin beak (appearing slightly upturned) and an extensive amount of white on the neck. These two were Red-throated Loons, a lifer bird (#287) for Jean and I. We now have 190 species for the year!

Other species observed while walking the trail included, Northern Flicker, Downy Woodpecker, Black-capped Chickadee, Ruby-crowned Kinglet (2), Northern Cardinal (3), Long-tailed Duck (5), White-winged Scoter (2), American Kestrel, Ring-billed Gull and a few stubborn Double-crested Cormorant. Someone should tell them that winter is just around the corner.

Returning to Jones Beach we found the Brant still hanging with the much larger geese.

All and all, a great hike on Saturday afternoon. A Brant was added to the year list, Red-throated Loon added to the life list, topped with some amazing weather. I had feared we would have to stand in below freezing temperatures to observe our lifer Red-throated Loon. Just thinking of those ice flows on the Niagara River and Lake Ontario gives me the chills. There's no rush to get back to the car when it's +16 degrees Celsius. Here's to the unseasonably warm weather lasting for the Niagara River Gull Watch at the end of the month.

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