Sunday, December 13, 2009

"Urned" Ticks

My apologies to Peter Cashwell, author of The Verb "To Bird", for using the noun urn as a verb in the title of this tale of winter listing. I simply could not resist using the Haigism.

Though I had Friday off, -15 temperatures (with the wind chill) kept me from venturing outside for any extended period of time. Saturday was more bearable and we continued the winter listing/Christmas preparation theme in west St. Catharines.

Jean was in search of a variety of conifer branches to make a decorative urn for the front porch so a visit to our friends' rural property was needed to complete the task successfully. My hopes of ticking a Northern Harrier en route were dashed when we came upon city barricades that prevented us from travelling along a favourite stretch of road. The reliable harrier tick will have to wait. At the other end of the road, more barricades as well as a few vehicles and guys with radios. Could this be the city and the NHS collecting data for their request to silence train whistles?

Our friends' property, complete with a creek, provides many hiding spots for a variety of birds amongst the deciduous and coniferous trees. With pruners in hand and bins at the ready, Jean and I began our search.

The first three species encountered were already on the list but some pishing brought out an inquisitive Carolina Wren. Northern Cardinal and White-breasted Nuthatch would also be found while exploring the west side of the meandering creek. Over on the east side, a male Downy and an American Tree Sparrow were spotted.

With the branch collection completed we talked with our friends and observed three Red-tail Hawks and a Great Blue Heron, all flying high above the Northern Harrier's favourite hunting grounds.

Two planes flying very low (as if they had just taken off) flew towards our location. Was this why the road was closed? A temporary landing strip in west St. Kitts? The reason for the road closure was answered later in the evening. A message from our friend on our answering machine revealed that the road was closed to shoot scenes for a short film.

The urn looks mighty festive on our front porch and the winter list is starting to look better. Next week is the St. Catharines CBC and though I do not expect a repeat observation of last year's White-winged Crossbill ( a lifer for Jean and I and a free coffee for John and Denys), we should be able to tick a few interesting species for the winter list. Stay tuned for the results of our first of two Christmas Bird Counts.

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