Sunday, February 21, 2010

A Long Line of Cars in Haldimand-Norfolk

On Saturday February 6, Jean and I attended the OFO field trip in the Fisherville area. We arrived in Cayuga and waited in our car for the arrival of trip leader Dave Milsom as easterly winds blew snow across the parking lot. I had layered my clothing appropriately, donned my toque and wore my extra thick socks. All I needed was my scarf to keep the cold wind from blowing down the back of my neck. Uhmm. Where's my scarf?

Luckily, Wendy Hunter was present on this trip and she is responsible for the sales of OFO merchandise. Toques, fleece vests, hooded sweatshirts and baseball caps. All adorned with the OFO logo. This trip, Wendy was carrying a new item. Yes, you guessed right fellow birders. Scarves! Quite a few of them were sold in the parking lot of the first stop, including a pair for Jean and I.

After a brief description of our itinerary, 46 birders in 26 vehicles headed for Ruthven Park.

Ruthen Park is a national historic site and was the former home of the Thompson family. The front of the home (like plantations in the southern U.S.) faces the Grand River. We concentrated on the birds in the wooded valley, east of the home. Eastern Bluebirds (6) were the highlight of our short visit.

On to the next spot the long line of cars would go. At the intersection of Highway 3 and Regional Road 54, a red light would stop my car. The long line would continue on, disappearing from my sight. Legally I could turn right on a red but I had to wait for a pedestrian crossing in front of me. The slowest pedestrian ever! It was all very comical as the senior gentleman walked along the crossing in front of the Subaru, carrying a switch of willow in one hand and a pointed rock in the other. We crossed the Grand River and eventually caught up to the line with Jean and I still laughing. I laughed some more with the birder from the vehicle stuck behind ours as we walked along the roadway to view feeders at a private residence. The owners of the property were given an OFO certificate of appreciation last year for allowing birders access to their property.

From the road we observed Downy Woodpecker, White-breasted Nuthatch and Tufted Titmouse. Something was odd though. None of these birds were moving. Dave commented that you never see a titmouse sit in one spot for more than a minute. "There must be a raptor in the area." Sure enough, a Sharp-shinned Hawk eventually revealed itself as it flew across the yard. The 2 White-breasted Nuthatch that were frozen to a trunk of a tree for 15 minutes could once again move between the trees and feeders.

The wood duck boxes along the creek could possibly contain screech owls so Dave played a tape of the owl's call as we all fixed our bins on the wood duck box. No owls but there was quite a bit of activity at the rear of the property. Amongst the many American Tree Sparrows, Black-capped Chickadee and Dark-eyed Juncos we spotted 1 Chipping Sparrow. The White-throated Sparrow seen by some of the group was not ticked by Jean and I. Two additional species of woodpecker (Hairy and Red-bellied) were also observed.

Near Selkirk, we travelled along the Blue Water Parkway to view waterfowl on Lake Erie. It was very cold here and we found only 3 species of duck. We quickly checked out some feeders and ticked a Red-winged Blackbird and a Song Sparrow. I missed out on the Red-breasted Nuthatch. Hard to be in two places at once with such a large group.

We stopped for lunch at the Sunflower Cafe in Selkirk and the staff did very well feeding the 40+ birders that invaded their restaurant without any warning. After a fulfilling bowl of chicken oriental soup I was ready for some more birding. We headed to the Nanticoke coal burning generating station and while travelling along the lake's shoreline towards Nanticoke, the group stopped to scan a large flock of Canada Geese for other waterfowl. While checking out some feeders across the road, a few in the group were "mooned" by a resident from his living room window.

Arriving at the east side of the generating station, we were greeted by the sun and 3 soaring immature Bald Eagles.

Standing on a bluff overlooking Lake Erie, we shared views through our scope with Anne and Bev, our carpooling friends from the Long Point trip last year. Anne will be travelling to Panama in the near future and she once proclaimed she had scope envy. Well I can rightfully say I have "travelling to a destination outside of the ABA area envy"! Jean and I added Gadwall to the year list at Nanticoke. With Bev done birding for the day, Anne joined Jean and I for the remainder of the trip. An extra pair of eyes is always welcomed. North of the generating station, the long line of cars stopped to get a view of a distant Rough-legged Hawk. Another tick for the year list.

Not much observed on the west side of the generating station so we continued on to Port Dover to view waterfowl in the harbour and along the shoreline. This was our last observation with the OFO group.

Rather than take a natural break and pick up some coffee at Tim Hortons, Jean, Anne and I decided to head for the next stop on the trip, the Fisherville Raptor Centre. Though we followed the directions correctly, we could not find the centre. We contacted Dave by cell phone and found we travelled too far east. At home I discovered we had past the raptor centre without seeing it. It gets better. Not only did we pass the centre, we may have even stopped near it while taking a close look at a dark morph Rough-legged Hawk. For those of you that use eBird, you will know that "hot spots" appear as red dots on your map when plotting an observation. Well, when I plotted the Rough-legged Hawk observation, the red dot for the Fisherville Raptor Centre was on the same section of road. In fact, it may have been on the opposite side of the road from the hawk. This hawk had distracted us! That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

We attempted another call to Dave's cell but with no answer, we decided to call it a day at 4:00 PM. The trip report I received later in the evening informed that the trip continued on to 5:30 PM and 4 Short-eared Owls were observed at the Hagersville dump.

Though we did not see any owls, Jean and I had a good day of birding. We added 5 species to the year list and ticked a total of 30 species. The group observed a total of 50 species and did very well avoiding an accident with all the avian distractions we encountered. The driver we came across back in St. Catharines however, was totally distracted. Although the vehicle was stopped at a red light, they were driving the wrong way, on a one way street while using their cell phone!

The next weekend was busy. The 2010 Vancouver Olympics was on multiple channels, Valentine's Day on the Sunday, followed by Family Day but most importantly it was time for another The Great Backyard Birdcount. Birds of Niagara, prepare to be counted.

1 comment:

  1. I can't belive we were that close to the Raptor centre!Feel like I was there all over again -thanks a great read as usual