Unlike the St. Kitts and Falls counts, participants gather at a set location and are assigned a section the day of the count. Compiler Drew Campbell (co-writer of the Hotspots and Day Trips in Niagara section in the recently published Niagara Birds) gave Jean and I our own section. Section 9, an area west of Port Colborne in the Township of Wainfleet, is very similar to the area we cover on the St. Catharines CBC.
Rural roads, fields and bird feeders.
Species were limited at the first feeder but as we continued down the side road, Side Road #20 actually, we spotted a Rough-legged Hawk (light phase) perched in a tree. As we drew near, the raptor left its perch, displaying the tell-tale makings underneath the wings while in flight. Nearing the end of the day, we observed a second Rough-legged Hawk, this time a dark phase of the species.
At a feeder near Highway 3, we added Red-bellied Woodpecker to our section's list.
Jean found 2 American Tree Sparrows on the north side of the Feeder Canal. A few were seen at feeders as well.
The Feeder Canal was built in 1829 to provide water from the Grand River to the first Welland Canal and until the 1920's was used as a shipping canal.
Following the Feeder Canal westward on Feeder Road takes you to the town centre of Wainfleet. During the Labour Day weekend, the Marshville Festival attracts many visitors. I always scan the canal for herons after a day of eating apple fritters and touring the sawmill.
Jean and I covered Section 9 in just under 4.5 hours and observed a total of 22 species. If not for homeowners keeping their feeders filled, the list surely would have been disappointingly low. Snow Buntings were not ticked and though we left no field unchecked we did not find any Horned Larks. Returning to some spots in the afternoon proved to be valuable. We watched 4 Eastern Bluebirds take turns dropping into a ditch from a tree branch and then disappear into a hole to drink from the small pools of water that lied beneath the thin sheet of ice.
After the count, Jean and I headed over to Sugarloaf Harbour to look for a pair of Peregrines that were observed by another group earlier in the day. Through snow flurries, we could see Rock Pigeons flying above the grain elevators but the falcons were absent. Gulls were resting on the ice near the marina and we added our last birds of the day to the year list, Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls. Only two days into the New Year and we are well ahead of last year's pace. Though the CBC's are done until next December, we still had one count remaining, the duck count. But before we searched for waterfowl on the lower Niagara, Jean and I went looking for the January 3 bird for my Bird-A-Day challenge (to be discussed on a future post) on the upper Niagara.