Friday, February 28, 2014

End of Winter?

Normally by this time of year, it is very clear that spring is on its way. Waterfowl, crows, gulls and the first robins, starlings and blackbirds should be arriving. This winter, by far the coldest, snowiest and longest I've ever experienced, shows no signs of letting up.

I have still been getting outside now and then, and there are a few signs of spring. Chickadees, House Finches and cardinals are singing on every sunny day, woodpeckers are drumming, and I've seen a few chipmunks and a groundhog.

Depending on what I see, I may not post again until we get warmer temperatures, but here's a few of the birds I've come across in the latter half of February.

Male White-winged Scoter in Etobicoke

Ducks continue to be a big story on inland rivers across Ontario as open water remains scarce. Even on Lake Ontario, the differences are apparent, as White-winged Scoters seem to be present in larger numbers and closer to shore than I've seen in the Oakville to Etobicoke area before.

Not as pretty as the male, but I found this female White-winged Scoter on the Speed River in Guelph. This is the first "real" winter record of this species for Wellington County. Although there have been a few sightings into mid-December on large bodies of water like Guelph Lake and Mounstburg Reservoir, this is the first sighting after those areas freeze.

Female White-winged Scoter in Guelph

Other unusual to rare ducks continue on local rivers:

Red-breasted Mergansers


Common Goldeneye and Bufflehead

The last photo was taken on the ice-choked Credit River in my patch in Mississauga. I've only had two previous sightings of goldeneye and three of Bufflehead here, while Common Merganser is very uncommon, so finding 8 Bufflehead, 16 Common Goldeneye and 4 Common Merganser in a single visit was very exciting.

Snowy Owls continue throughout the area. I came across three between the 19th and 22nd of February.


The second owl, a long-staying bird at Bronte Harbour in Oakville, has an interesting story attached. After checking the usual vantage points I was unable to see the owl (although a female King Eider was visible not far out on the lake), so decided to walk to the other side of the marina in the hopes it would be sheltered against the docks in the vicious wind. 

As I walked along the shore, the owl suddenly flushed up in front of me and carried a duck carcass out to the marina. Here's what it looked like where it was sitting:

It's never a good idea to flush owls, but this was totally accidental, as I was walking into the sun and wind and had had no idea it was there.

Finally, here is what is probably the most unique picture I've ever taken:

I noticed this Red-tailed Hawk tearing into a female Mallard near a group of ducks in Mississauga. The ducks gave the hawk a wide berth, but the Mute Swan was unperturbed, and I managed to get this very odd combination together!


  1. Last foto, wonderfull strange combination

  2. Interesting post, and great photos!