Tuesday, June 22, 2010

On the Road to 200: Pre- & Post-Carden

Prior to the Carden Alvar OFO trip, Jean and I had a few additions to the year list.

Hiking along 12 Mile Creek, we searched for the Red-headed Woodpecker on the Merritt Trail. Melanerpes erythrocephalus continues to avoid our detection and with the leaves out in full force, it will prove difficult to find. A hike on the rarely used foot path below the Merritt Trail may be needed to improve our odds of ticking the woodpecker. All was not lost on this evening walk. We managed 1 first of the year out of the 26 species observed. A Great Crested Flycatcher was spotted, its bright lemon yellow belly aiding in the observation of the bird perched in a distant tree.

The morning of May 23, Jean and I returned to Malcomson Park to find some more first of the year warblers. Only two dozen birds observed during our time spent in the north St. Catharines park but not only did we observe a first of the year Red-eyed Vireo, we also ticked our third lifer of 2010. After a brief discussion of the field markings Jean and I observed through our bins, we were confident that we had a lifer Canada Warbler.

A late afternoon stop at 5th Avenue added Eastern Kingbird to the year list.

On the holiday Monday, we did some afternoon birding at the Wetland Ridge. We still needed Pied-billed Grebe for the year list and I have come to rely on the lagoons behind Niagara College as a spot for ticking the small grebe. We were not disappointed. The pair of Pied-billed Grebe have returned and are nesting in the north lagoon.

Strolling around the lagoons in the usual clock-wise direction, we observed our first of the year Green Heron as it flew across the south lagoon.

Leaving the lagoons, we walked on the side trail below the Niagara Escarpment where we encountered a rare flying squirrel in the fall of last year. No squirrels this time, but we found a raptor enjoying a late afternoon snack. Look for a future Niagara Digiscoping post that will reveal the bird we enjoyed viewing on the slopes of the Niagara Escarpment.

Still on the high of ticking 5 lifers in the Carden Alvar, we began our June birding by hiking on the Merritt Trail. Migrating warblers heading north have been and gone so it's back to searching for any bird needed for the year list. 29 avian species observed during the walk, one more would have been nice to make an even 30. Again, no Redhead but we ticked Cedar Waxwing, removing another much needed bird from the year's target list. In addition to the bird observations, we had some great scope views of a family of beaver (3) in the creek below the trail.

The next two ticks were planned. On June 6, we walked the trails of St. Johns Conservation Area to find Scarlet Tanager. Our first tanager observation of the year was a uniformly green female on the wide path as we approached the St. Johns Ridge Trail.

We observed 4 males as we continued our walk in the conservation area.

A week later (June 13), we went to Short Hills Provincial Park to find another reliable tick.

This time the bird was blue. Within 15 minutes of entering the park from the Roland Road entrance, we heard and saw an Indigo Bunting.

Continuing with the blue theme, Jean and I ticked a second species as we walked along the Paleozoic Path. The beee-bzzz of a Blue-winged Warbler was heard. The warbler continued to sing but it would not make an appearance and eventually moved on. I have seen Blue-winged Warbler on previous occasions, including in this provincial park, so I'm counting this tick.

Jean and I currently stand at 159 species for the year, slightly ahead of the 2009 list. What will be #160 this year? Unless I receive an e-mail regarding a reportable bird, the next tick will be at Niagara Shores in Niagara-on-the-Lake. If only the Red-headed Woodpecker was this easy.

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