Saturday, February 19, 2011

A Less Than Perfect Storm

For the start of the fifth week of my Bird-A-Day challenge I returned to the marina in Port Dalhousie. So far, six species on the list, including Trumpeter Swan C14, have been observed from the sidewalk in Lakeside Park. To end the month of January, I ticked the Red-breasted Merganser seen in the channel that empties into Lake Ontario. My choices were limited the next day but the ubiquitous Mallards and Canada Geese continued to avoid the list. I settled for Ring-billed Gull.

I was not looking forward to Wednesday. A huge snow storm was on its way and it was predicted that St. Catharines would receive 30-45 cm by the afternoon of February 2. Wednesday morning was a disappointment. St. Catharines was spared from the heavy snowfall. After work, I was planning to search for a bird and then pick up some groceries for supper but after being dropped off by a coworker, I could see I was going nowhere. The driveway entrance was packed with snow from the wake of a city plow. I had to use one of the species that I've been holding in my pocket for such an occasion. I did not expect to see much standing in my backyard and it held true. The best I could do was European Starling and beans on toast for supper.

On Thursday I was back at the marina. Scanning a flock of Common Merganser as they flew up the creek, I spotted 2 Long-tailed Ducks within the group. The end of another work week and another day of working until 7:00 PM. I settled for Blue Jay after a quick search while on my way to work.

Found a little time to bird Saturday afternoon after picking up ingredients for Sunday's chili. At the feeders in St. Johns, I ticked the second woodpecker species for my Bird-A-Day list, a Hairy Woodpecker.
While the chili was slowly cooking, Jean and I birded along our favourite section of the Merritt Trail on the afternoon of Super Sunday. Not many feeders filled with seed and before I could set my binoculars on an American Goldfinch Jean called, a male Cooper's Hawk flew in and the scattering began. The hawk patrolled the area while a White-breasted Nuthatch continued to call from a hidden spot in the valley. With no birds to observe at the townhouse feeders,we continued our stroll on the trail.

At this time of year, viewing the creek from above is possible. We could see a couple of Mute Swans on 12 Mile Creek but I still wanted to hold off ticking this species for the challenge. The call of a Belted Kingfisher was heard, most likely the same bird I selected for my January 26 tick.

Further down the trail, a rustling in a squirrel nest caught our attention and I shrugged it off as being one of the tree dwelling rodents. Jean persisted and out popped a Carolina Wren. A much better bird than the American Robins I was observing feeding on the fruit of the nearby Sumac Trees. I turned my attention to the small bird as it weaved in and out of the cluster of leaves. Not an easy bird to find when they are not vocal. This was surely to be the pick of the day.

We walked as far as the remains of the Niagara, St. Catharines and Toronto Railway bridge but could not find a species more worthy than the Carolina Wren. In the Spring, we'll return to this area to look for the nesting pair of Cooper's Hawks that were successful in raising one nestling last year.

Returning along the trail, we stopped at the townhouse feeders and they were still empty. The fear of falling prey to the male Cooper's Hawk had not past. Over a bowl of chili, home-made guacamole and American football, I decided on the surprise Carolina Wren for Super Sunday.

Now if only the work week would produce a couple of surprises.

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