Sunday, February 7, 2010

Last Chance Weekend

January 30
The first month of 2010 was quickly coming to an end and as some of you may know, I am attempting to tick as many birds as possible during the month of January but with an added challenge. All observations have to be within the Niagara Region. During the previous weekend Jean and I added 8 species to the list bringing the total to 45 species. Five more and I have set a new personal best. On January 30, Jean and I continued birding along the Niagara River with some spots in mind that would hopefully have positive results.

Our first stop was the Whirpool. I was anticipating to find Bonaparte's Gulls along this section of the river and if lucky enough, a Little Gull as well. The January deep freeze was in full effect. No Bonaparte's were found. Three to four dozen Herring Gull with a few Ring-billeds were all that we observed at first. As we scanned the gulls flying over the Whirpool, 2 oddities caught our attention. Both gulls were immatures and one was slightly whiter than the other. It was considerably smaller than the second juvenile which had a bicoloured bill. The size difference led us to conclude we had 1 Glaucous Gull and 1 Iceland Gull. Though we found no Bonaparte's or Little Gulls, we left the Whirpool with one species added to the regional list, the immature Glaucous.

Next stop, Dufferin Islands. Our plan was to hike through the natural area and then cross the parkway to view gulls and waterfowl above the Horseshoe Falls. Perhaps we would find our Bonaparte's there.

Walking along the wooded trail we ticked some surprising birds. The first to catch the attention of Jean and I was the call of a Belted Kingfisher. We soon spotted it flying up the creek that empties into the pond at the west end of the natural area.

Walking to the pond we scattered seed on the trail, on tree stumps and even offered some handouts.

At the feeders near the pond we observed another surprise feeding with the juncos, cardinals and tree sparrows. A female Red-winged Blackbird!
Song Sparrow, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Golden-crowned Kinglet (cheers for breaking the 49 species mark) and Brown Creeper were also added to the January list while at Dufferin Islands. The total now stood at 52 species and like any lister I was looking for more.

Above the Falls we had the same result as the Whirpool. A large amount of ice (it was January after all) and hardly any gulls. A few Herring Gulls in flight and a lone Great Black-backed Gull sitting on the ice.

All was not lost though. There were a few waterfowl in the fast flowing water, including a male Canvasback (#53). The lack of gulls, -10 degree temperature and bone-chilling wind shortened our stay at this location. Before heading to Chippawa to seek out Tufted Titmouse visiting residential feeders, we stopped at the control gates.

Again, gulls were limited (no waterfowl either). Nowhere near the number we observed during the OFO trip in late November last year. 20+ adult and immature Great Black-backed Gulls were resting on the breakwall.

The feeders would not only produce the required Tufted Titmouse but also a large number of Brown-headed Cowbirds. Six cowbirds were feeding from the feeder but when we looked up into a nearby tree, we observed an additional 100.

Our last stop was at the village's boat ramp on the Welland River. In December 2007, Jean and I ticked our lifer Ross's Goose at this location. On this day, 500+ Canada Geese sat on the opposite bank. Amongst the waterfowl on the river, we ticked 4 Redhead.

We required only 5 species to reach a new total for our January regional list. We finished the day with an addition of 11 species. The new total stands at 56 birds and with one day remaining, there is still a chance to add more birds before turning my attention to an upcoming OFO trip and the Great Backyard Bird Count. Would additions continue on the last Sunday of January?

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