Sunday, January 23, 2011

Birding in a Deep Freeze

Rough-legged Hawk and a Frozen Landscape

Southern Ontario is in a deep freeze this weekend. Folks from the prairies and Northern Ontario wonder what we are whining about as this is pretty normal weather for them all winter. It is not customary for me to plug in the engine heater of my car, to have my potatoes and carrots freeze in the garage, to wear long underwear or to cover my face with a scarf. Most people went about business as usual and the two nature outings I wanted to go to were well people, not birds. Five hours of outdoor searching did not net a single new bird for the January count and the closest I got to one was observing some fresh sawdust created by a Pileated Woodpecker.

Here we are on the first walk examining the fine details of coyote scat, complete with the undigested portion of some rodent. This was only 200 metres from the road and parking lot of the nature area within the city. 

Our very knowlegable guide showed us various animal tracks in the snow and we learned how to identify some trees by their bark and branch formation. When I went to leave, a group of Chickadees and Juncos were eating seeds in a ditch beside my car and they were the first birds I saw moving about in two hours.

A surprising number of people showed up to look for raptors in the countryside. The people leading the tour are likely the most experienced birders in our region and they compiled an impressive list of species in the recent Christmas bird count. Armed with a big scope, they could pick out a hawk in a rural back acre.

We stopped by some feeders in a small hamlet and saw a few Chickadees and a Tree Sparrow. The rushing water from a nearby dam kept the river open for a few kilometers and in the cold mist, a variety of ducks were found.

I will be surprised if I add any more birds to my count this month. But getting out and looking is not about numbers. I got plenty of exercise, met interesting new people, enjoyed beautiful winter scenery and learned more about the world around me.


  1. It must have even been too cold for the birds.

  2. Looks crispy. too bad no birds.

  3. I'll bet it's amazing how fast one can look when it's that cold out! You are a brave soul Ruth!

  4. It would have been nice to something on your outing, but it always nice just to get out and enjoy your hobby with others.

  5. You forgot to add that you got some great pictures. I like the very subtle vignetting on the first and the terrible winter beauty of many of the others.

  6. It is fun to join with a group and learn some new ideas from others with the same interests.I had fun going through your blog.

  7. It's good to get out, even in the cold. But the birds must have found a warmer spot to hang out!

  8. Looks like Minnesota! But at least the sun was shining and it sounds like you had a good day Ruth.


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