Saturday, January 17, 2015

Lifer Below the Falls #450

In my home province of Ontario, Jean and I still have a few species to add to our provincial list. 201 to be exact unless additional species are accepted by the OBRC. When one is a lifer and it happens to be in Niagara, well I get three lists taken care of all at once.

On November 15 last year, we observed our lifer Sabine's Gull from a vantage point 57 metres above the Niagara River. Table Rock is an excellent location for viewing gulls flying below the Falls and after 15 minutes of scanning the Niagara River while elbow to elbow with tourists, we spotted the striking wing pattern of the reported juvenile Sabine's Gull.

A prediction for the next addition to my lists? Using eBird's Target Species application indicates the top five for my Niagara list based on frequency are Black Scoter, Black-headed Gull, American Pipit, Vesper Sparrow and Northern Saw-whet Owl.

Jean and I have not observed a Black-headed Gull and the remaining four species have been observed outside of the Niagara Region. Our lifer Saw-whet Owl was viewed on the region's front door step at the Hamilton managed Fifty Point Conservation Area and when I submitted my checklist to eBird, the conservation area had one hot spot at that location. A year or two later, the location was split into Fifty Point CA (Hamilton side) and Fifty Point CA (Niagara side). The conservation area is divided by Fifty Mile Creek a natural border between the regions of Hamilton and Niagara. I can recall that we were on the Niagara side of the creek but I've decided to leave the lists unchanged.

So, next species then? Black Scoter and I will keep you posted.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

New Year's Day 2015

Listers. We are a predictable bunch. Our eBird year lists reset to zero and we dash out the door to tick species we observe every day or that unique one that is far away from home. That was my plan the morning of January 1.

First stop was a municipal park along the Lake Ontario shoreline. During the St. Catharines CBC on December 14, a Harris's Sparrow was observed in a flock of House Sparrows by two well-known birders from Hamilton so Jean and I returned the morning of the 18th with hope of finding our next lifer on the Waterfront Trail in Cherie Road Park. No lifer that day but we left with a new spot to go birding in the Garden City.

The first species observed by Jean and I on January 1 was a Red-bellied Woodpecker at a feeder near an entrance to the trail. Yeah, I ignored looking at hydro lines and front yard feeders while en route to the north end. Other species observed while in the park included, Long-tailed Duck, Bufflehead, Ring-billed Gull, Downy Woodpecker, Dark-eyed Junco, Northern Cardinal, House Finch and American Goldfinch.

Our next stop was a hot spot further east along the shoreline which produced good results for our group during the Niagara Falls CBC on December 28. A much needed Red-breasted Nuthatch was added to our Niagara 2014 list but below freezing temperatures a few days later caused the creepers, wrens and nuthatches to remain hidden from sight. After 30 minutes of exploring the wooded area of Happy Rolph's, we found only three species and left with just Canada Goose and Black-capped Chickadee added to the Niagara list.

On to Niagara-on-the-Lake to observe waterfowl on the river and to attempt a 2015 observation of a lifer we observed in late November last year. A long distance drive to St. Louis, Missouri for Jean and I is no longer required after viewing the reported Eurasian Tree Sparrow. It was first observed by a homeowner on the Niagara Parkway and since then, many birders have travelled to the north-east corner of the Niagara Region to catch a glimpse of an Old World species introduced to North America in 1870. No repeat for us or for anyone in 2015. Last reported sighting occurred on December 28, 2014. During our Eurasian Tree Sparrow stakeout, we added Blue Jay, European Starling and House Sparrow to the Niagara list.

We then ran into some birding friends at Nelson Park on the Niagara River and took in some great views of a Common Loon with 4 Red-throated Loons.  It's always good to have similar looking species side by side for comparison. Waterfowl seen included Redhead, Red-breasted Merganser and Mallard.  We could not find the Glaucous Gull spotted by our friends near the Queen's Royal Park gazebo earlier in the day.

Near Fort George, Jean and I stopped at a spot where seed was left on the ground. Knowing we had observed Tufted Titmouse here in the past, we waited for a few minutes and added another tick for the day. We were now heading home but along a planned route that might produce the Ring-necked Pheasant observed late last year and a Snowy Owl found at the Niagara District Airport by our friends.

No pheasant for us but I was glad to hear our friends had found three in the same field. The Snowy Owl could not be located either. We settled for Red-tailed Hawk, Mourning Dove and Rock Pigeon on the regional roads near the airport. Last species observed on the first day of 2015 was a Northern Harrier at the Snowy Owl stakeout in west St. Catharines.

It was a start. 364 days left to obtain 200+ species for the Niagara year list. Covering our section for the Port Colborne CBC on January 4 could produce some interesting species. I was hoping the weather would cooperate.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

A New Year

Happy New Year!

It's been approximately 21 months since my last posting. The over extended sabbatical is over and the tales have returned. There's no shortage of birding adventures. Birding in Belize, 2014 lifers and the chase to tick as many species for the Niagara 2015 list is underway.

Jean and I had a personal best for the Niagara Region last year. During the months of November and December there were some unexpected ticks.........

......and then some misses when searching for species observed by others during the St. Catharines Christmas Bird Count.

The last species for 2014 is a bird that is becoming more and more difficult to find in Niagara. After we finished the Niagara Falls Christmas Bird Count, Jean spotted a Ring-necked Pheasant standing in an open field. Best of all, it was in the circle and was added to this year's count.


What will be the first species and last species in Niagara and beyond for 2015? Time will tell.