Saturday 8 November 2014

Hamilton Fall Bird Count - November 2

On Sunday morning I drove back down to Hamilton from my parent’s place in Cambridge to spend the day completing the Fall Bird Count. This is an annual count that takes place in early November every year and takes place within the Hamilton Study Area, a circle with a 25 mile radius, centered at Dundurn Castle in Hamilton.

I joined up with Brett Fried and Erika Hentsch at Van Wagner’s Beach in the morning. The plan was to lakewatch all day, eventually being joined by Bill Crins and in the afternoon by Barb Charlton.
The winds were out of the northwest and not as powerful as the day before, where they were strong from the due north. Generally north or northeast winds are the best to blow birds past Van Wagner’s Beach. Though the conditions were not ideal, they were good enough to spur hundreds of ducks and a good number of loons to fly past. At one point in the day at least six Red-throated Loons were on the water. some at close range.

One highlight came mid-morning when Bill spotted a Short-eared Owl way out over the lake. It lazily flopped its way to shore, escorted by a group of eager gulls. Lucky for us, the owl happened to fly directly over our heads as we watched from Hutch’s Restaurant.

Short-eared Owl - Van Wagner's Beach, Hamilton

Another major highlight was an excellent look at an adult Pomarine Jaeger that cruised by right along the shoreline. We were given a 15 second warning when the gulls in front of us got up in a panic. It appeared to be the same Pomarine Jaeger that had been photographed and seen by a group of birders the previous day. We ended up seeing the Pom a few times over the course of the day as well as the occasional unidentified distant jaeger.

At one point I left the beach to do some “poaching” in some other count areas as there were good birds around. The Wilson’s Phalarope at Princess Point was still keeping company with some Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, and I scored a bonus Blue-winged Teal in the process. Of course not 5 minutes after I had left, Brett texted me about a Red Phalarope that he and Erika had observed not far offshore! Earlier we had been joking that I was the sacrificial birder, and that a good bird would be found once I left....

Later in the day once the lakewatching really died down I took a spin around the harbour to check out a few more spots. The Eared Grebe was still alive and well, diving frequently south of the island off of the parking lot for Canada Center for Inland Waters in Burlington.

Eared Grebe - Burlington

A Brant had been found at Spencer Smith Park in Burlington and was apparently quite tame, feeding on the grassy lawn. I was hoping to smoke some photos of it and came away with a few decent frames. The lighting was a bit harsh and it was tough getting a low angle with all the goose crap on the lawn...

Brant - Spencer Smith Park, Burlington

Brant - Spencer Smith Park, Burlington

The count ended up setting a new record and 152 species were tallied. Among the highlights seen by others were a Yellow-headed Blackbird, Swainson’s Thrush, Gray-cheeked Thrush and Brewer’s Blackbird.

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