Thursday, 14 February 2013

Cranes, owls, and more in Haldimand

Yesterday, I teamed up with Barb Charlton for a tour of Haldimand County to see what we could come across on this late winter's day. The day dawned bright and sunny and for the entire day we were treated to calm, relatively warm conditions. Horned Larks sang from nearly every field and other spring migrants were in attendance including Tundra Swans and Northern Pintails. It was a great day to be out! We managed to see 54 species for the day.

We started the day near Caledonia, slowly working our way south along the concessions east of the Grand River towards Cayuga. Some highlights from these early stops included several singing Tufted Titmouse, a Northern Mockingbird, and some great looks at a Rough-legged Hawk or two. We had a Northern Shrike, and a big flock of Snow Buntings containing smaller numbers of Horned Larks and Lapland Longspurs.

In the afternoon we crossed over the Grand River by Dunnville and birded along the Lakeshore, making it about 1/2 way to Nanticoke before calling it quits. As we were driving along one of the roads, we were surprised to see a flock of 5 Sandhill Cranes "grazing" in a snow covered field. This species is usually much to the south of Ontario at this time of year, and in fact this was the first time I had seen some in February. Though they were distant from the road I took some photos anyways.

Sandhill Crane - February 13, 2013

Along the lakeshore we saw our first Northern Harriers and Cooper's Hawk of the day, along with a beautiful Red-shouldered Hawk (that I blew my focus on). If the autofocus on my new camera was even half decent I would have taken a great flight shot! Oh well, what do you expect for an entry level SLR?

Red-shouldered Hawk - February 13, 2013

Bird activity was very high nearly everywhere we went, and spring certainly seemed imminent. In the residential community of Stonehaven, we were treated to singing Northern Cardinals, Carolina Wrens, House Finches, and other "fun" birds like a Red-breasted Nuthatch and Common Redpolls. Not the rarest of all species, but it was certainly a welcome change to see the flurry of activity after a harsh, cold winter. In just a few weeks migrant songbirds like Red-winged Blackbirds and Common Grackles will be returning.

Not far from Stonehaven, this immature Bald Eagle made a pass.

Bald Eagle - February 13, 2013

The waterfowl was fun to sort through since everything was concentrated in the few areas of open water. We were unable to turn up the Greater White-fronted Geese or Snow Geese that had been hanging around, but we did have great looks at a Cackling Goose swimming with it's monstrous "Canadian" cousins fairly close to shore. A flock of 10 Northern Pintails were certainly spring migrants, as probably were the 20 or so Tundra Swans scattered along the shoreline. 

On our way back towards Dunnville, we pulled over to the side of the road to investigate a suspicious looking white lump in a field. Turns out, the white lump was a Snowy Owl! They are not as common this winter as they were last winter and this was the first one I've ever seen in Haldimand County. A pretty sweet bird to finish the day with!! It was very distant so these phone-scoped shots will have to do.

Snowy Owl - February 13, 2013

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