This Tuesday, Barb Charlton and I leave southern Ontario for the cold snowy north of Ontario. This is a trip I've wanted to do for some time, and so now that there are a few rarities coming to feeders up north we're making this trip happen. While our total species seen on this trip will be relatively small we should get most of the northern specialties that one can get in the winter. Here is a brief outline of our itinerary:
Tuesday, 3:00 AM: leave Barb's place in Flamborough and drive up to Sudbury, then across to Sault Ste Marie. Hopefully get into the Soo with a few hours of light left to check some of the spots around town. Stay overnight in the Soo.
Wednesday: Leave Sault Ste. Marie early with our destination being Marathon. Once in Marathon, try for the Harris's Sparrow that is coming to a feeder as well as various finches. Try for Boreal Owl that night.
Thursday: Bird the Pukawska area in the morning to try for Three-toed and Black-backed Woodpeckers. Leave Marathon and drive towards Longlac, stopping at MacDiarmid to try for the Gray-crowned Rosy-finch. If we have any light left (unlikely), try for the Spotted Towhee in Longlac. It hasn't been seen for a couple of days so it might be gone/dead. That evening, try for Boreal Owl in several spots if we still need it.
Friday: Go back to MacDiarmid if we missed the Rosy-finch that day. Try for the Spotted Towhee again. Then drive to Cochrane, birding along the way. Again, try for owls late afternoon/evening.
Saturday: Leave Cochrane and, if the Varied Thrush is still being seen, drive to Ottawa. Bird along the way and if we're missing any boreal species then try to pick them up somewhere. Arrive in Ottawa late that night.
Sunday: Try for the Varied Thrush first thing in the morning, then head-er home. If there are any things we still "need" on the way home (Hawk-owl, maybe harlequin duck or something) then try for it.
Depending on what birds we have seen/haven't seen, as well as things we can't control like weather, our route may change and we may stay up in northern Ontario for a longer or shorter amount of time. The itinerary I've outlined above is more of an "ideal" itinerary.
Here are a list of the target species in order of most likely to least likely, as well as the rarities coming to feeders.
Rarities at Feeders:
Harris's Sparrow (likely)
Gray-crowned Rosy-finch (likely)
Spotted Towhee (unlikely)
Varied Thrush (likely)
Very likely to guaranteed:
Greater than 50% chance:
Great Gray Owl
Could go either way:
American Three-toed Woodpecker
Unlikely but possible:
Gyrfalcon (none reported yet this winter)
Other species are quite possible that wouldn't be year birds but still nice to get. They include both crossbills, Common Raven, Pine Siskin, Northern Goshawk, cool subspecies of redpolls, Snowy Owl, etc.