Thursday, January 24, 2013

January 23, 2013 Great Gray Owls in the Ottawa district.

Hi Everyone
After birding Amherst Island yesterday we headed up to Ottawa for the Great Gray Owls. Arriving early afternoon we parked at P8 parking lot and walked backed along the Rockcliffe Parkway to Green's Creek and followed the well beaten path to the edge of the field /forest. Two Great Gray Owls were located roosting in deciduous trees  approximately 200 metres apart. We didn't observed the 3rd owl but it was likely nearby. This is still the most reliable location to observed Great Gray's this winter.
Good birding, Bruce

From downtown Ottawa, go east on the Queensway and take the left fork toward Orleans. Exit at the Montreal Road exit. Turn right at St Joseph Blvd. Continue along St Joseph Blvd. until you come to the lights where you turn left onto the Rockcliffe Parkway (at this intersection on St Joseph Blvd., the Rockcliffe Parkway is on the left and Bearbrook Road is to the right). Continue along the Rockcliffe Parkway. The first bridge you cross is the one going over the highway. Continue quite a ways along and the second bridge you see is the one that crosses over Green's Creek. The owls are located in the field on the left side of that bridge. It is public NCC park land so open to all. However, do not park alongside the road there or you may get ticketed. Instead, drive 1 kilometer past that spot and park at parking lot P8 on your left. Then walk back to the bridge. 

Great Gray Owl

Great Gray Owl 

Great Gray Owl 

Great Gray Owl

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

January 22, 2013 Amherst Island birding.

Hi Everyone
Spent the day birding Amherst Island in the cold and wind! Overall it was lots of fun, low numbers of raptors, and a few surprises. The Owl Woods had 2 Barred Owls and after much searching a Northern Saw-whet Owl. This is my first small owl in the woods this winter. It was interesting that this individual was very high up in a Jack Pine not the more usual 2-3 metres up. Overall raptor numbers were low but a nice variety with 7 Red-tailed, 3 Rough-legged, 1 Northern Harrier, 1 Sharp-shinned, 2 Bald Eagle, 1 Merlin, 2 Snowy Owl and 1 Northern Shrike. The biggest surprise was an Eastern Meadowlark on the KFN property at the east end. There was very little snow on the island except where snow drifts remained. Access to the Owl Woods was limited to the south entrance but there was one drift you had to drive over. The north entrance was still blocked by snow drifts. If you have any questions email me at
Good birding, Bruce
Directions: Amherst Island: Located 18 km. west of Kingston. Exit off Hwy. 401 at exit 593 (County Rd. 4, Camden East) and drive south to the very end (Millhaven). Turn right on Hwy. 33 and drive 100 metres until you see the sign for the Amherst Island ferry. The ferry (20 minute trip) leaves the mainland on the half hour and leaves the island on the hour. Cost is $9.00 Canadian round trip. There are no gas stations on the island. There are restrooms on the ferry, and at the island ferry dock. The East End K.F.N. property is at the easternmost part of the island on the east side of the Lower Forty Foot Road.

Because of liability issues, visitors to the Kingston Field Naturalists' property at the east end of Amherst Island MUST be accompanied by a KFN member. For KFN contact information or how to become a member, please visit ."

Black-capped Chickadee

In recent years the Barred Owl has become a regular sight in the Owl Woods.

A small group of House Finch enjoy the early morning sunshine.

With very little  no snow cover on Amherst Island the Snowy Owl is easy to find.

After much searching we finally found a Northern Saw-whet Owl in the Jack Pine plantation. My first small owl in the Owl Woods this winter.

A cooperative Merlin was a surprise on the island.

January 21, 2013 Boreal Owl in Kanata,Ontario

A Boreal Owl was found today in Kanata sitting on a snowbank along Campeau Drive near Terry Drive. The owl appeared ok and when approach closely, it flew up into a nearby tree and sat. This nocturnal owl may have been hunting during the daytime which isn't always a good sign. I've picked up a few Boreal Owls that have starved to death. The owl disappeared at dusk so hopefully it wasn't in to bad a shape. There have been at least 4-5 Boreal Owls this winter in eastern Ontario and likely more to come. Check any of the local park woodlots and if you have a feeder look around your backyard. You never know where one might show up.   

Boreal Owl in Kanata.

Boreal Owl

Boreal Owl


January 17-18,2013 More Newfoundland birding

On January 17th and 18th checked for numerous late lingering species that were located at local feeders. After a few visits we finally had great views of the Yellow-breasted Chat coming to a series of feeders in St. John's. It's amazing to see any warblers during the winter months and we ended up with 3 species, the chat plus Common Yellowthroat and a Yellow-rumped Warbler. All had survived the big snow storm a week earlier. The Pink-footed Goose was present again at Bowring Pond feeding with the 100's of Am.Black Duck, Mallard, Northern Pintail and various hybrids. This rare goose has attracted a lot of attention in town and many locals are coming out to see it.  Overall another wonderful experience winter birding in Newfoundland!

A lone  wintering Brant feeds along the coastline at Flatrock.

Black-headed Gull resting. 

A rare sight during the winter months was a Yellow-breasted Chat.

A feeding frenzy of ducks at Bowring Park. 

Amercian Black Duck 

Male Northern Pintail 

Feeding American Black Duck 

Great Cormorant 

Pink-footed Goose

A view of St.John's Harbour 

A pair of American Black Ducks feeding on exposed grass. 

A late lingering Yellow-rumped Warbler

A female Eurasian Wigeon in flight along with a female American Wigeon. Note the gray under wing on Eurasian Wigeon compared to the white on the American Wigeon.  

Black-headed Gulls, 2 juvenile and 1 adult in flight. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

January 16, 2013 Wild goose chase in Newfoundland over!

Up early and ready to continue the wild goose chase. I decided to give it one more try and look at Bowring Pond  before expanding our search area to include the original area the goose was found back in November. We arrived at the pond just after 8:00am and carefully scanned the hordes of wintering ducks. Within seconds I spotted the goose as it sat feeding on the ice. We had great views of this european  vagrant. We continued checking various open ponds in the city of St. John's and had great views of Tufted Duck and Eurasian Wigeon.     

The Pink-footed Goose is a casual visitor to North America from Europe. 

Pink-footed Goose 

A number of European and American Wigeon feed on exposed grass. 

A male Eurasian Wigeon  feeds in the open water.  

Female Tufted Duck 

Male Tufted Duck. 

January 14-15, 2013 Birding St.John's Newfoundland

Arrived in Newfoundland around 3:00pm and headed to Bowring Pond in St.John's hoping to see the Pink-footed Goose that had been frequenting the area for the past few weeks. We arrived at 4:00 pm and no goose. It had been seen earlier during the afternoon. Carefully checking the area we observed a late lingering  Lincoln's Sparrow but no goose. The following day we were back at Bowring Pond but no goose. At Cape Spear's we found a nice group of 75+ Purple Sandpiper, 20+ Black Guillemot and great scope views of Dovekie. At Kelly's Brook we observed a male Common Teal along with Green-winged Teal. Another couple of attempts produced no goose. This was becoming a wild goose chase! 

A view from Cape Spear's of the coast line. . 

A Dovekie  in flight. 

The Purple sandpiper is a regular winter resident in Newfoundland. 

A female Eurasian Wigeon  was a home with the Mallards. 

The male Common Teal  is easily recognized by its horizontal stripe. 

The male Greeen-winged Teal has a vertical stripe. 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

January 12,2013 Great Gray Owl, Barred Owl and other winter birds in Ottawa.

The birding was great around the Ottawa-Gatineau district today especially with the nice mild weather. It was a slow start but the bird activity picked up during the morning hours with a couple of Ruffed Grouse feeding just off the road side near Bourget. A quick run through the Ste. Rose-Casselman area produced a small group of Lapland Longspurs feeding where some grain had spilt in the farm yard. Great close-up views! Along Cons.19 there were a couple of Rough-legged Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk and a lone Northern Shrike hunting in a fallow field perched on a metal fence post.  Unfortunately no Snowy Owls and along Cons. 20 a few small groups of Snow Buntings flushed off the road. As we worked our way west towards Ottawa we encountered a large flock of 150+ Snow Buntings along Giroux Road. It was interesting to watch  some of them bathing in a shall pool of water along a creek which had opened due to the mild conditions. Further along the road a large covey of Gray Partridge were feeding in the field.  A quick check along the Rideau River revealed no Barrow's Goldeneye but there was an adult Cooper's Hawk sitting up in a tree along the river. It looked very wet as it had its wings out and tail spread as if it was drying off. While it sat there a Merlin flew by and buzzed it. There was also 1 adult Great Black-backed Gull resting on the ice. Over the years, winter gulls population has changed drastically in the Ottawa district. Back in the late 60's/early 70's gulls were almost non-existent during the winter months and would only occasionally appear during a "January thaw". By the mid 80's this had changed and we had our first overwintering gulls. Over the next 20 years gulls during the winter months weren't uncommon. Now in the last 5 years there has been a major decrease and for a while this winter, no gulls were found along the Ottawa River. This is partly due to the change in landfill and recycling practices. With little edible waste going into  landfills and garbage quickly bull dozed and covered with earth, there is virtually no food for the lingering gulls. There is also a falconer at the Trail Road Landfill discouraging the gull too. There are two landfill sites east of Ottawa, 1 at Russell and another just east of Casselman that have had gulls during the winter months. I'm not sure where these birds spend the night perhaps along the St. Lawrence River.
The rest of the morning and early afternoon was spent searching the open water along the Ottawa River for any interesting water birds. Nothing note worthy but there were a couple more Great black-backed Gulls and an immature Herring Gull. A small flock of Bohemian Waxwings were observed near the Champlain Bridge and numerous small groups of Common Redpolls. Late afternoon we were rewarded with a Great Gray Owl  and Barred Owl feeding in the open. This has been the best winter for the Great Gray Owl since our largest invasion back in the winter of 2004-05. There were 200-300 hundred owls in eastern Ontario! So far this winter 20+ but most just passing through the area. I'd recommend driving around before dusk and watch for them as the hunt over open fields or along edges of wood lots. 

Good birding, Bruce

A Barred Owl hunts during the late afternoon. Through nocturnal this owl  does hunt during the day light hours. 

Great Gray Owls have amazing hearing and  will fly off a  hunting perch and plunge into the snow and retrieve a vole. 

Great Gray Owl 

Great Gray Owl

Great Gray Owl 

Great Gray Owl hunting. 

Great Gray Owl 

An adult Cooper's Hawk  appears to be drying out with tail spread and wings drooped to its sides. 

The Lapand Longspur is a regular but local winter visitor  and prefers open fields  where manure has been spread or around farms building where seeds/grain has spelt. Always closely check flocks of Snow Buntings for longspurs. 

This winter hawks have been scarce, likely due to a lack of rodents. This dark morph Rough-legged Hawk  was patrolling the open farm land east of Ottawa. 

The Northern Shrike is also known as the "butcherbird". This winter shrike impales its prey on thorns . 

A flock of Snow Bunting take advantage of the mild conditions and do some bathing in the open water.