Saturday, March 8, 2014

Mom, I Am Hersty

...for more nature!

Friday, March 7th 2014. A cold (-21C) clear morning transitions into a clear sunny day, south wind, +3C. A good day to go to Lake Ontario, and check out what is migrating on those southerlies.

Amherst Island is one of several islands at the northeastern end of Lake Ontario, accessible by car ferry, at Millhaven, about 30 kms west of Kingston, ON.  It is much larger along its east-west axis than its north-south axis.  It is mostly flat to slightly rolling, and covered by farms. The entire island is a great place to find raptors.

Jon Ruddy and I made the 2.5 hour drive to the ferry terminus, arriving for the 11:30 sailing.  This ferry is a phenomenon in its own right, as it runs all winter, providing permanent residents with a reliable system for going back and forth to the mainland.  To do this, the ferry has a reinforced hull which permits it to respond like a mini icebreaker. 

The channel thus opened during this VERY cold winter, has created a small bit of open water within a very frozen large area of northeastern Lake Ontario,  I have NEVER seen the ice on Lake Ontario stretching so far from the southern shore of Amherst Island. I am told it has happened twice in the last 40 years.

A few Red-breasted Mergansers take advantage of this tiny bit of open water.

Frozen Lake Ontario, and the shoreline of Amherst Island. Note the coyote tracks.

The swirling water behind the Ferry

Note the  broken ice at each side.  Enough ice for a BIG party.

The Ferry dock, Amherst Island

One of the Red-breasted Mergansers-opportunists in the small channel opened up by the Ferry-the ONLY open water for miles around.

Jon and I begin our tour of the island, and immediately spot some Horned Larks at the side of the road. Further on, we find 6 Snow Buntings. We slip-slide to the trail, where we are set upon by a horde of evil chickadees demanding FOOD...NOW!!!

For several hours we tromp around in the snow, meeting two pairs of fellow enthusiasts, one of which tells us that a Barred Owl is nearby.  This turns out to be the ONLY owl we will find, though we spot some hawks in the fields nearby, which alleviates our sorrow and pain to some extent. We both checked myriads of Jack Pines, Cedar, Balsam Fir, Spruce and many hardwood trees up and down, looking for owl profiles and their pellets on the snow.

Jon's View


Tromping along the tail

Aren't Jack Pines photogenic?

A MOST enthusiastic Barred Owl observes the two humans

We get back to the car, gobble some lunch, adding to our growing number of raptors (4 Rough-legged Hawks and 9 Red-tailed Hawks, one of which is a very different looking northern variety).

We see a Northern Shrike, a large flock of Robins (spring!?) and Snowy Owls, 2 on the Lake Ontario ice and 5 more on various perches.  Yes, a new one day record for me, seven Snowy Owls.

We meet the returning Ferry at 5 PM for the return trip to the mainland.  Next trip, Mexico, New York for the hawk migration.
An ice mound visitor in Lake Ontario

It appears I have been spotted....

The Blogger's shadow at the stern of the Ferry

Jon says BYE BYE to Amherst Island

It appears that the residents don't want windmills!

An island farm seen from Lake Ontario

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Yikes! Shrikes!

Saturday, March 1 2014  -5C Cloudy, Windy, Some snow

Indeed, there are birds that tolerate snow. Some even migrate to our clime to spend the winter.

I offer the previous edition's Lapland Longspur, Horned Larks and Snowy Owls as examples.  Strangely, in my last two outings, I haven't seen any Snow Buntings.  These Arctic birds appear in large flocks along our roads and at our farms during winter.  Have heart though, it appears a few of these intrepid birds have found their way to Florida, with one being reported in Lee County yesterday and two in Duval County today.  Even these very hardy birds have given up this winter!

Today, with the keen eyes of Jon Ruddy, we found not one, but two Northern Shrikes not very far from my residence in Kanata (along March Valley Road, for you local people). I managed to snap a few photos of one.

On January 11 ,and January 26, I snapped photos of these birds' southern cousins in Florida: Loggerhead Shrikes.  It is interesting to compare the two, as it is rare to see both species in such a short timeframe.

Jon also spied a Rough-legged Hawk and a Snowy Owl.

After observing a host of Chickadees,  a Tree Sparrow, a Goldfinch, White-breasted Nuthatches and Mourning doves at the feeders at the west end of the Rifle Range, we then checked out the Deschenes Rapids (Ottawa River) where there were a few Goldeneyes (ducks), Mallards and even a female Bufflehead. Our last stop was the Jack Pine Trail at Moodie Drive...part of our Capital Region's Green Belt.  A nature club maintains some feeders at this trail, where a host of Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers share food with Nuthatches, Chickadees and Mourning Doves.

A few days ago, I went on snowshoes to the same spot accompanied by friends Cathy and Maureen.  We were hoping to see a Black-Backed Woodpecker....a handsome bird of our boreal forest.  We saw signs, but no bird.  To entertain ourselves, we offered some sunflower seeds to the Chickadees, with the following results.

Your Blogger with Chickadee

Downy Woodpecker at Jack Pine Trail feeder (suet)

Friend Maureen on Snowshoes on Jack Pine Trail