Sunday, January 24, 2016

Owls and Other Birds

I've done lots of birding in the last few months, and although I haven't had any serious rarities, I've had lots of interesting sightings. Owls are always an attraction in winter so I'll start with a few different species.

When I spotted a small owl low down in a tiny cedar, I was surprised to find this Eastern Screech Owl rather than a Northern Saw-whet Owl which often roosts in this fashion. Not a bird I generally get close views of in the day, so definitely a highlight.

I've also discovered this screech owl roost hole on my patch - it's nice to be able to see one whenever I want!

Eastern Screech Owl is one of two common resident owls in this area, the other being Great Horned. One disgusting December day with strong winds and freezing rain I came upon this very unhappy individual. Based on the small size this is probably a male.

I've "only" had two Snowy Owls this winter, but both have provided great looks. The first was roosting on the roof of a house near Lake Ontario.

When waterfowl hunting occurs at Rondeau in the fall, large numbers of Canada Geese spend the day resting on the beach where they are safe. I checked these flocks thoroughly several times, and came across one Cackling Goose as well as these two Snow Geese: an adult blue morph and young white morph.


Eared Grebe was another highlight from Rondeau in late fall, with at least two individuals spending time along the beach. Eared Grebe is a western species that only occurs sporadically in Southern Ontario.

One last highlight from Rondeau was this young Red-headed Woodpecker in early December. Red-headeds only winter in very small numbers in Ontario, and this is by far the latest I've seen.

Any shorebird is a nice find in winter, so I was happy to spot this Killdeer along the shores of Lake Erie in Haldimand County in late December.

American Pipit is an honorary shorebird, feeding on invertebrates along shores and in wet areas. This one in Mississauga recently is one of very few January records for our area. Presumably it was pushed off of a farm field somewhere with the first major snowfall of the winter.

This Northern Shoveler was at the same tiny park. Although it is a common wintering species in Hamilton, shovelers are very rare in Mississauga in winter.

A very nice surprise on my first visit to my patch of the new year was this Common Yellowthroat, seemingly very healthy and active despite its missing tail. A few winter yellowthroats are found each year in Ontario, mostly in marshy areas. Oddly, both winter records for my patch have been in dry weedy areas.

For some reason, leucism seems to be more regular in robins than most other species of birds. This is maybe the tenth one I've seen.

Winter may have some good birds, but I still can't wait for spring! The first Horned Larks, gulls and waterfowl will already be starting to move north on warm days, Great Horned Owls will be starting to nest and male Striped Skunks may even be starting to look for mates.

1 comment:

  1. I came across your website by searching owls post in Toronto.
    I love the pictures of Great Horned Owl in rain.
    Poor thing! He is soaked.
    As much as I feel sorry for him being soaked, he looks really cute in the picture.

    Great find of Screech. I have not been able to find one. Very nice picture.