Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Northern trip stuff and another owl for the list

I had a number of target species to get on the northern trip. The following is that list and how successful I was at seeing them.

Varied Thrush

Spotted Towhee

Harris’s Sparrow
Gray-crowned Rosy-finch

These were the four rarities that we hoped to see and the Gray-crowned Rosy-finch (code 5) and Spotted Towhee (code 4) were the main reason for this trip! Fortunately we saw both of them, immediately making the trip worthwhile. The Harris's Sparrow (code 3) was nice to get early on. I will probably see Harris's Sparrows when I go north in the fall (they migrate through in small numbers), but even still I don't want to have to worry about this bird later in the year! We missed the Varied Thrush (code 3) in Ottawa which was really depressing since it was my second unsuccessful try for that individual. Two days after passing through Sault Ste. Marie we heard about a Varied Thrush near the Soo that had been present for several weeks....that's how it goes I guess. 

Ruffed Grouse

Spruce Grouse

Sharp-tailed Grouse

The grouse weren't major targets on the trip, simply because I will pick them all up at various points throughout the year. We were hoping that we would stumble upon them at some point on the trip but didn't have really high expectations. We did see Ruffed Grouse (code 1) in a number of locations, but missed the other two species.

Great Gray Owl

Boreal Owl

Northern Hawk-Owl
Barred Owl

There were extremely few small mammals up north and that would explain the paucity of owls. We missed all three of the northern species! I already had seen Great Gray Owl (code 3) in Kingsville and was really hoping to get the other species. We tried several times for calling Boreal Owls (code 3) in suitable habitat, but it was perhaps too early in their breeding season and we were unsuccessful. Northern Hawk-owl (code 3) was one that I thought we would stumble across as we drove backroads in the north, but that was not to be. We had a probable Barred Owl fly over the road in the north but didn't get a great look. Fortunately, I picked up Barred Owl yesterday in Guelph (scroll down the post).

N. Three-toed Woodpecker

Black-backed Woodpecker

We did get Black-backed Woodpecker in Sault Ste. Marie, but struck out on Three-toeds in several locations. Weather definitely played a factor. 

Gray Jay

Bohemian Waxwing

Boreal Chickadee

We got Gray Jays in several locations and a big flock of Bohemian Waxwings in Sault Ste. Marie. Surprisingly we didn't get any Boreal Chickadees in the boreal forest, but I did see a single bird in Algonquin on the way back. 

Pine Grosbeak

Hoary Redpoll

Evening Grosbeak

These were the remaining 3 regular finches I needed to see and we saw many individuals of all three species (all were code 2 birds). Getting the northern subspecies of Hoary Redpoll (Hornemann's Hoary Redpoll) was a great bird, even if it doesn't count as a year bird.

So when it all comes down to it, I got 3 of my 4 main targets, and 8 of my 15 secondary targets. Not great, but at least I saw the birds that mattered the most for my big year! I should get multiple opportunities to see all the secondary targets I missed.


Yesterday I spend a couple hours in the morning doing some local birding around Guelph. The Barred Owl which had been hanging out at Guelph Lake all winter wasn't too hard to find and Matt Strimas-Mackey and I spent some time watching it hunt in the early morning sun. Very cool bird! 

Barred Owl - Guelph Lake

Barred Owl - Guelph Lake

I tried unsuccesfully for a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker in Guelph (not a bird I'll miss this year, but a cool bird to get in the winter), and successfully saw my first Northern Pintail of the year, a drake. Brings the list up to 127.

Northern Pintail - Guelph

You may recall at the beginning of the year that I made a goal of seeing all 10 regular finches and 10 regular owls early in the year. I have now seen all the finches (plus the bonus rosy-finch) and 8 of the 10 owls. I'll probably head north in April to get Boreal Owls calling on territory as well as trying for Three-toed Woodpeckers again.

There are several other birds that I hope to see before I leave for Scotland on February 16. They are:

Northern Hawk-owl
Black-legged Kittiwake (Fort Erie bird still being seen)
California Gull (one was seen on the weekend at the Niagara River - could very well be around)
Varied Thrush (might have to drive to the Soo for this one)
Tufted Titmouse (not really rare, but I should get them in Niagara)
Harlequin Duck (female bird occasionally being seen in Niagara)
Snow Goose (several birds are in the province, hopefully I can see the one in Hamilton)
Sharp-tailed Grouse (would be a life bird for me. Will try for them when I am back in the Soo)

I have to keep forcing myself to stay focused and only look for winter specialties and rarities. I could easily go to Long Point and get 5 or more year birds, but they would be all common birds that I will pick up later. If I spend time doing that I may miss a great rarity because of that.

This post is getting fairly long-winded so I think I'll end it here.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like you are making good progress! Where abouts is the owl at Guelph Lake? I might be heading that way tomorrow.