Friday, February 10, 2012

Fishing for a Bird-a-Day

After a good day of birding along the Niagara River on the the last Saturday of January, my excursion the next day was limited to the late afternoon. A fine blowing snow made it difficult to observe the progress of the new regional hospital and interfered with the spotting of a possible Cackling Goose mixed in with the hundreds of Canada Geese.

Each goose scanned as they took flight was your standard Canada. The several Dark-eyed Juncos observed at the backyard feeder during my weekend Project Feeder Watch would have to do. I was hoping there would be some improvement during the work week.

On Monday January 30, Jean picked me up after work and we went for a stroll along 12 Mile Creek. A few ducks on the creek which included American Black Duck (ticked 4 days earlier) Bufflehead (already picked) and Mallard (too soon). But there were some male and female Common Goldeneyes. The species I sought. Nothing else materialized that would would have kept Bucephala clangula off the list so Goldeneye was penciled in at the start of another work week.

The next day was unbelievably warm (10 degrees Celsius) and it influenced me to try something new. I decided to try for Hooded Merganser in the forebay above the Falls. Though they were not found at this location during a recent nature outing it was worth a shot. If not there, I could always use Gadwall as a backup. After finishing work, I was at the Falls in less than 20 minutes. Over the last few years, I think I've visited this site more often to spot gulls and waterfowl than to see the thundering waters of the American and Horseshoe Falls. Hoodies and Gadwalls there be in the forebay but a smaller bird caught my attention. It was a species that you don't normally see at this time of year and it required confirmation when entering my checklist to eBird Canada. For the last day of January, a FOY Pied-billed Grebe.

On the first day of February, I headed west along the QEW after work. This year, I was extending my reach a little further and I was at Jordan Harbour in no time and I began my search for a reported Snowy Owl. No owl but there was one female Hoodie and even better, an American Coot in the marina. So the coot was the bird-of-the-day and Mallard remains off the list.

A flock of American Robins made for a quick and easy pick the next day and on the Friday a different approach was set. I was scheduled to close at the end of the week and it allowed me to take some time in the morning to find something out of the ordinary. Down at Martindale Pond while walking along the path in Rennie Park, I heard the song of Carolina Wren (FOY). I could not see the bird but its quick three-part song was coming from the far side of the pond near the Henley Grandstand. Good enough for a Bird-a-Day tick.

Image Courtesy of Dave Van de Laar
Jean and I did not bird for an extended period of time on the Saturday but we took our bins and scope with us when visiting friends in Beamsville. We planned to stop in Jordan on the way home to St. Kitts. A Snowy Owl was reported the day before and it would have been unwise to pass by the marina without a look. Jean's mum was with us and all three of us had a good view of a heavily barred Snowy Owl through the scope. We watched the female owl for a few minutes as it stood on the marina's breakwall and a woman asked if she could pay me for a look at the owl. No payment was necessary for a view of her very first owl. There were now two owls on my 2012 Bird-a-Day Challenge. Priceless.

On Sunday February 5, Jean and I went to the southern edge of the Niagara Peninsula to chase another reported species. For the last few weeks, a member of the Corvidae family was attracting Ontario and New York birders to a short stretch of residential road in the town of Fort Erie. Fish Crows (3-5 at a time) were being observed with many American Crows. I had been looking for a chance to take a crack at spotting one of these Fish Crows and Super Sunday seemed like an ideal day for it. Ingredients for the game-day chili were purchased in the morning and by early afternoon Jean and I did not need to look far when approaching  the road from the south. To our left was the golf course and straight ahead, a couple of parked cars. There were three birders looking north towards a clump of trees containing crows. The crows were calling and mixed in with the caws we could hear the distinctive nasal call of a Fish Crow. If we did not get a visual on the calling bird it would be okay. Jean and I observed our lifer while vacationing in the Panhandle of the Sunshine State. All five of us were concentrating on one particular crow and when we set up our scopes for a closer look it soon flew from its roost.

The crows changed there position and were collecting on the ground and in the trees approximately 150 metres away from where we all stood (two more birders had joined our little group).

There was a house immediately to the right of the spot we were studying and it most have been an interesting view for the homeowner. She did come out but that was only to retrieve her concerned dog that had approached our group. Once the dog was sure we were no threat and retrieved by the owner, we continued our search for a Fish Crow. The nasal calls could still be heard and one crow sitting in a tree attracted my attention. It was slightly smaller than the other crows in the neighbouring trees. Our scopes were fixed on the bird and I informed three birders about to leave that it may be worth staying a bit longer. Turns out it was a Fish Crow. Watching the crow through the scope until it called sealed the i.d.

The large flock of crows continued to move but we got on the Fish Crows again and both Jean and I captured some digiscoped images. We observed two Fish Crows in one tree and a third was heard calling.

So, Fish Crow was added to the Ontario list, the 2012 list, the Winter Bird list, and of course, the Bird-a-Day list.

A couple more images before heading to the river for a picnic lunch while observing waterfowl drift by and a drive along the Parkway. The rafts of Redhead and Canvasback were back.

After some good finds on the weekend it was time to enjoy some chili and American football before setting a plan of attack for another work week.



  1. Thanks for your comment and especially for providing the image of the owl.