After Tuesday's unsuccessful jaunt to Hamilton, I wasn't feeling that motivated to brave snow squalls and rush hour traffic today. However, by 11 AM this morning, the lure of the big year (a feeling of obligation more than anything) was enough to kick my butt out the door. Instead of spending all day fruitlessly searching for geese, I thought I would fruitlessly search for owls instead. I have missed Short-eared Owl exactly three times this year already, and Long-eared Owl twice.
My first stop was Bronte Creek Provincial Park in the howling winds. After about 15 minutes of searching a dark owl-like bird flushed from a stand of trees I was searching. It landed back in the stand and I had brief looks at my first Long-eared Owl for the year. I found a second not long after. Unfortunately they are not always the most photogenic subject and it was hard to get a view of these owls amidst the tangles and branches.
I was planning on trying for Short-eared Owls later in the afternoon in Stoney Creek which meant I had a few hours to kill. I drove around looking for geese, at one point even parking myself for an hour and a half along Eastport Drive as some geese started to trickle in. This is one location where the Brant and Greater White-fronted Goose has been seen sporadically over the last week or two. However, only about 40 geese filtered in and none of them were anything but Canada's.
After birding for another hour or so, picking up Green-winged Teal for the year at Windermere, I headed up the mountain.
The snow squalls that had lasted pretty much all day finally disappeared. I had great looks at a Northern Shrike, a Rough-legged Hawk, several Red-tails, an American Kestrel, and a smattering of Northern Harriers.
|Northern Shrike - Stoney Creek|
|American Kestrel - pre mouse kill|
|American Kestrel - post mouse kill|
Finally at around 4:20 PM I noticed a Short-eared Owl rise up out of the grass. I managed to get a few distant photos of it and 2 others as they circled the field with bouncy wingbeats.
|distant Short-eared Owls - Stoney Creek|
Success. Hopefully someone else can find the geese this weekend so I can try for them before leaving for up north. 109 for the year, in case you're keeping score.