Friday, April 22, 2011

Birding With Your Piers: 2011 BOS Spring Count

April 10

Finally! The snow has gone, hopefully I have not jinxed it, and its time to start adding the Spring migrants to the year list. I can think of no better way to do this than by walking along the piers at the north end of the Welland Canal with a few of my fellow Niagara birders. Though it was our second year of assisting John Black with the Spring Buffalo Ornithological Society (BOS) count, this was the first time that Jean and I birded the west pier in April.

In all, 11 birders hiked along the treed piers on the west and east side of the canal before going to our assigned areas within John's section of the BOS count.

As we arrived at the Coast Guard station, Kayo quietly informed us that there was a Wild Turkey nearby. The bird became concerned with our presence and for a couple of minutes it forgot it could fly as it ran back and forth along the fence line looking for an opening. The turkey eventually remembered it had feathers and that it actually could fly. Once on the other side of the fence it quickly ran off into the brush. We would spot a second Wild Turkey while walking along the west pier.

Walking past the Coast Guard station, Jean and I started ticking our first of the years (FOY). Tree Swallows flew overhead and an Eastern Phoebe sitting on a branch was ready to start the day.

Our group split into two smaller groups as we walked towards the end of the pier. Kayo, Dan, Jean and I covered the western edge while the rest searched for Spring migrants along the canal side of the pier.

Yours truly, doing his best to hold a Purple Finch (FOY) for John. Thanks to Dan for picking it out.

By the time John found an opening to reach the west side of the pier where we found the bird, the Purple Finch flitted off to the opposite side of the pier. There's still plenty of time left in the year to spot one.

Scanning the species of waterfowl on Lake Ontario, Jean and I ticked a Red-necked Grebe for the year list.

At the end of the pier, more waterfowl, including a FOY Surf Scoter. Though it was distant and we had no scopes, we could still make out the colourful bill and the white patches on the forehead and nape of the male scoter. Other birds added to the year list while on the west pier included, Rusty Blackbird, Yellow-rumped Warbler (first warbler of the year) and Caspian Tern.

On to the east pier (spit). This time we drove our vehicles to the end of the Seaway Haulage Road and stopped at the ponds along the way.

At the larger pond we found a good variety of waterfowl. FOY Lesser Scaup were observed with Ring-necked Duck, Redhead, Bufflehead, Nothern Shoveler, Gadwall (1), Hooded Merganser (1), Ruddy Duck (1), and Mallard.

Carol and Paula viewing waterfowl on the East Pier.

While stopped at the smaller pond, Jean and I ticked our FOY Brown-headed Cowbird.

We parked our cars at the end of the pier and walked eastward towards the beacon. Jean and I hike here a few times a year and in November 2009, we ticked a lifer Red-throated Loon (#287).

Many Red-breasted Meragnser were on the lake. We spotted a lone Barn Swallow (FOY) in a small flock of Tree Swallows and a Savannah Sparrow (FOY) jumping in and out of the grass near the path.

After completing our count on the piers and adding 12 species to the year list, we stopped at the Parmalat settling ponds before heading our separate ways. It was too early in the morning, not to mention too cold, for ice cream so birding was the only reason to explore the ponds on the property of the dairy. Once the weather warms, a double scoop of ice cream in a waffle cone will be enjoyed after finding some shorebirds. Though a few species were present there was nothing new for the year list.

That was some good birding on the piers. Jean and I had not even started our area and I was already thinking of May and the warblers we would find on the west pier. It's been a long winter and I cannot wait.

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