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.

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