Monday, January 10, 2011

Big January 2011: The First Ten Days

The white dots in the water are Long-tailed Ducks
For the third year, I am counting bird species during the month of January. It gives me a reason to get out in the cold and while the waterways, woods and meadows seem quiet at this time of year, winter birding is unique as many birds, particularly raptors and ducks, come south to our area between December and March.


The first bird I saw on New Year's Day was a Black-capped Chickadee at our feeders. It was mild and rainy but I went out and found all the usual suburban suspects. I was fortunate to see the Varied Thrush which is still over wintering in the region. A walk along the Grand River allowed me to see Common Mergansers, Common Goldeneye, Bald Eagles and a variety of woodpeckers. On one old tree above the river bank I saw a Downy, Hairy, and Red-bellied Woodpecker and a White-breasted Nuthatch all at the same time.


Yesterday was a clear, sunny day, cold and crisp just like January should be. In the afternoon I headed down to the shores of Lake Ontario at Burlington. The marina at Lasalle Park is home to many winter ducks and swans.


Near the beach, many Mallards and swans waited for human handouts but further out, rafts of ducks including Canvasbacks, Red-head, Ring-necked, Greater Scaup, Buffleheads and Goldeneye ducks fished, snoozed and swam in the water.


Trumpeter Swans made a racket and Mute Swans stood out with their orange bills. Some of the Trumpeter Swans were paired and moved up and down in syncronized mating dances. There was one odd swan in the usual mix. A lone tagged Tundra Swan with its shorter, thicker neck and yellow eye patch swam with the others. It was the first time I have seen the three Ontario swans in the same place.


My next stop was the Burlington Canal where the old lift bridge and newer skyway span the opening to the harbour. Unfortunately, the lift bridge was still undergoing repairs for the second winter and I could not park close to the water. Construction workers were busy on a Sunday and the racket from the heavy machinery was deafening. I did not expect to find much in the area.


I had to walk along the water front trail to get to the pier and as usual, there were hundreds of Long-tailed Ducks near the lighthouse. Last year there were many Mergansers as well a three types of Scoters in the canal. I believe the construction has discouraged some of the regular winter birds.


On the way back to the car, I saw an unfamiliar bird eating berries in a tree by the bridge. I have only seen one Northern Mockingbird in Ontario. This one allowed me a much closer view.


On the way home, I stopped at the Royal Botanical Garden Arboretum just before the sun set. I was surprised to find a flock of about thirty American Robins in the trees near the road. There are a few Robins which brave our cold winters each year, but I have only found them once before.


I have counted 46 birds so far. Last year my goal was 45 and I found 56. The year before I counted 61 but I was off work at the time following knee surgery and went out in the car every day looking for birds. I saw a life bird yesterday too, but will save that story for the next post.

13 comments:

  1. Ca't believe what variety of birds wintering in your area. We have black cap and mountain chickadees, re breasted nuthatches, downy and hairy, pileated and flicker woodpeckers, crows, ravens, bohemian waxwings-- that's about it.

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  2. So much activity in winter.I think that Long Tailed Duck is spectacular.apperently there was one near us last summer,but I never did get to see it.

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  3. You are such a tease. Love the long-tailed duck. Wonder what the story on the tagged swans is.

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  4. Gaelyn- The Tundra Swan was tagged in Sudbury Ontario and is now in the open water 6 hours south of there in Lake Ontario. Swan tags are huge so the numbers can be seen with binoculars when the birds are out on the water.

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  5. Great photos on so MANY birds. Your numbers are high this year and I hope you surpass your record. I too love the long tailed duck, very delicate and I always have a soft spot for Chickadees. Can't wait to see the "lifer" on the next post!

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  6. What a great way to take the focus off winter! Wow... so cool to see such a variety of birds. I smiled as I saw so many green heads!

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  7. The way you track down birds is amazing to me.

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  8. Great photographs of so many birds. I am surprised that you caught the robin. Guess I thought they all flew south.

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  9. I'm impressed by the three different kind of swans you can see.I've only seen Mute Swans.It's also interesting to me that we are seeing many of the same winter ducks and other water birds.The difference is that I waited an hour to see one Long-tailed Duck but you have hundreds of them.That would be quite a sight for me. Great collection of photos! I'm looking forward to your next Big January report.

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  10. What beautiful photos! And so many varieties! It almost looks like summer -at least the water pics do.
    I too thought the robins would have gone south.

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  11. You are off to a really great start. You should be able to beat your record. Always nice to have goals.

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  12. In Rankin Inlet in Nunavut I have seen in june a lake full of migrating tundra swans...all in pairs!

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  13. Thanks for your comments. They are all appreciated.

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