Thursday, November 25, 2010

Finding #200

October 24: La Salle Marina & Park

After ticking a Fox Sparrow in the Hendrie Valley, Jean and I stopped at the LaSalle Marina before returning to St. Catharines. The marina sits on the north shore of Hamilton Harbour at the west end of Lake Ontario and is an excellent location for viewing waterfowl. Marina employees were busy putting the last of the boats away to mark the end of another sailing season but the large number of waterfowl usually seen here in the winter had yet to arrive. Less than a dozen Trumpeter Swans were found east of the marina.

In March of 2007, we viewed our lifer Eastern Towhee (#154) at the feeders near the public parking area. A day Jean and I still laugh about. We were standing with a group of photographers, all waiting for the reported towhee to make an appearance on the brush covered slope. During the winter months this species should be wintering in the southeastern United States so it had attracted a number of interested onlookers. House Sparrows were a plenty as we waited quietly. An older gentleman exited from a nearby port-o-potty, its spring-hinged door slamming shut as he approached the group. "What you looking for?" he asked in a loud voice. "A towhee." replied one of the photographers. "A what?" "A towhee." "There it is!" exclaimed the inquisitive senior. "No, that's a sparrow." the photographer responded.

The Eastern Towhee did not show itself while we stood with the photographers but as Jean and I started our walk along the Shoreline Trail, we briefly observed it visiting the feeders at the side of the trail. Since then, I think of this day every time we drive by the portable toilet when visiting LaSalle Marina.

Returning to present day, Jean and I strolled along the Shoreline Trail towards the eastern most point of LaSalle Park. No towhee at the feeders this day but we found Yellow-rumped Warbler (1), White-crowned Sparrow (1), White-throated Sparrow (5) and Song Sparrow (2) while birding the gravel path near the marina.

To get back to the parking area, we walked through the wooded section of LaSalle Park. At the west end of the park, I scanned a flock of Canada Geese with hopes of finding a Cackling Goose. None in this flock so at the end of the day we still stood at 199 for 2010.

A monument to commemorate French explorer Sieur De La Salle's landing in September 1669.

November 6: Jones Beach & the Port Weller East Pier

The first weekend of November, we birded the area immediately east of the Welland Canal.

Last November, we observed a Brant at Jones Beach and a lifer Red-throated Loon while walking on the Port Weller East Spit. This year all we found amongst the Canada Geese were a few hybrids.

Adult and immature Herring Gulls at Jones Beach.

We walked the 2.5 kilometre trail to the beacon. Many Common Mergansers were on the move and we spotted a distant Red-necked Grebe and small flocks of Bufflehead and Long-tailed Duck.

As we walked back on the east side of the spit, Jean and I found an American Tree Sparrow in the tall grass. The species has returned to the Niagara Region for the winter.

This day, Scaup species observed in the bay and in the pond appeared to be Greater one moment, then Lesser the next. Scaup species it would be when submitting the observation to eBird later that evening.

The next time I come across a similar flock, I'll call the species. I promise.

November 14: Fifty Point Conservation Area and 40 Mile Creek

Reports of a Purple Sandpiper and Lesser Black-backed Gulls led Jean and I to the northwestern edge of the Niagara Region. Both species were observed at Fifty Point Conservation Area earlier in the week. Though there was no additional reports, I was willing to make an attempt at adding 2 ticks to the year list. Only one was required to reach the goal of 200 but if we were able to observe the Purple Sandpiper, a rare fall transient in the Niagara Region, it would be a lifer.

Searching the breakwalls of the Hamilton Conservation Authority managed area we did not find the shorebird.

Jean and I then headed over to the marina to look for the Lesser Black-backed Gulls. A Northern Harrier flew eastward above the fishermen standing on the moorings as we walked along the east side of the marina. The only gulls found were a few Ring-billed.

On the way home we stopped at the Grimsby marina.

A Double-crested Cormorant stood on a rock monitoring the usual waterfowl species.

While a Great Blue Heron supervised from the marina's breakwall.

On more stop in Vineland at a lakeside road. A few common waterfowl (merganser and goldeneye) with some Bufflehead. The day ended with an observation of a flock of Northern Cardinal following one another through the trees on the embankment. In total, we watched 13 cardinals as they moved from tree to tree. A sight we have not seen before. Sure we've encountered one here, two there, another over there as we walked along a trail but never bunched together like this. Do I consider 13 cardinals unlucky and possibly a hindrance to my goal of reaching 200 species before the year is over? Not at all. There's still plenty of time left and no need for panic mode just yet.

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