Monday, December 22, 2014

Great Local Birding (part 1)

December is one of my favorite times for birding in Ontario, although some years are much better than others. I've spent lots of time birding around Etobicoke, Mississauga and Oakville, and this is certainly one of the better Decembers!

A Painted Bunting showed up in a residential neighborhood in Oakville recently and has been seen by many, but we couldn't find it in a brief visit. However, my first White-winged Crossbill in over a year was an excellent surprise! As usual for this species, it was very tame but unobtrusive, and we only noticed it because it landed in the middle of the road.

I don't think I'm going to go look for the bunting again. Wandering around a neighborhood for a few hours isn't really my idea of a good time!

I had this Long-eared Owl in my usual spot last week. Hopefully it will stick around, but I've never had one here for the whole winter. To find this species, look in dense conifer trees adjacent to open grassy areas.

The strangest thing for me recently has been the number of Orange-crowned Warblers around. Most are along the lake, but the bird below was in a brushy field a few kilometres inland. Not sure what it could possibly be finding to eat! I've had a total of five birds in different spots. Most years I won't see any after October!

It is turning into another fantastic winter for Snowy Owls. This one was very far away, but I got much closer views of some this weekend, so stay tuned for an upcoming post.  I'm not sure why we're getting two huge invasions in a row, but this winter's birds may be returning from last winter.

Winter is the best time to see gulls locally as Arctic breeders move south, and I've had a nice variety at Lakefront Promenade Park in Mississauga. This one is an immature Glaucous Gull (the huge pale one with the bicolored beak).

Iceland Gull is vaguely similar to Glaucous but is usually much smaller and daintier. This immature and adult (next picture) were only a few metres apart.

The crown jewel was this immature (first winter) Thayer's Gull. Breeding in the western Arctic, Thayer's are uncommon to rare on Lake Ontario, and I only see a couple each winter. A very attractive looking gull in its juvenile plumage, while the Herring Gulls of the same age have already molted into a messier looking plumage.

This Ring-necked Duck at the same location is a very good bird for Mississauga in December, and not surprisingly has since left. This species is mostly found on smaller ponds and lakes, so must go far enough south that these areas won't freeze.

There's lots more to add but this post is getting a bit long so I'll add some more soon.

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