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DVOC Field Trip Report
by Adrian Binns

February 16-18, 2008

Click Here for pictures by Martin Dellwo

It certainly was a different year with owls few and far in between and some finches proving more elusive than they should have been in Ontario. Our first morning was spent in New York State beginning with a 3rd cycle Slaty-backed Gull on Lake Cayuga in Ithaca and a very distant Glaucous Gull. A search of the farm roads throughout the Summerhill area produced a nice feeding flock of 2 dozen American Tree Sparrows and a dark morph Rough-legged Hawk. It was not until we reached the Hovel Chalet that we saw our first Common Redpoll along with 3 dozen Evening Grosbeaks, but that did not last long as a Sharp-shinned Hawk showed up to spoil the party. Not far away a lone fluffed up redpoll sitting in a snow bank turned out to be a Hoary when it finally flew to a feeder and was joined by darker and more heavily streaked Commons. Our only waxwings of the day were about 60 Cedars crossing 90 east of Montezuma NWR. We crossed the border at Niagara at 2pm just after checking out both icy falls. Several stops along the river produced at least 4 Iceland Gulls, a Thayer’s and amongst many Bonaparte’s 2 Little Gulls. Our final stop was east of Hamilton where a Northern Hawk Owl has been in residence for 3 months and it did not disappoint putting on a tremendous show. Totally confiding it flew closer towards us and at one time within 20 metres of us before flying across a field. Less than 5 minutes later it was back on the same tree proudly showing off a meadow vole in its talons.

The weather changed dramatically on our second day. Not only did the temperatures creep up above freezing, there was an extended period on freezing rain. We struck out looking for Grey Partridge around Brantford Airport and had a very successful hour near La Salle Park with over 100 very vocal Trumpeter Swans. A few Mute Swans were mixed in and there was a great mix of waterfowl highlighted by a Wood Duck, a Redhead, American Wigeon, many Canvasbacks, Greater Scaup and White-winged Scoters. A young Bald Eagle was on the ice with a fish but it soon attracted 3 others including an adult which produced an aerial show and the one did everything it could to keep its catch. From here the freezing rain became worse and a mile stretch along 403 west of Toronto produced no less than 8 wipe outs, several right before our eyes – all but one on the other side of the road! We crawled our way north to check out 3 areas for owls, shrikes and waxwings. One road we took turned out to be a solid sheet of ice which ended up with us having to turn around, get the vans pushed and be witness to a car travelling unaware of the conditions and crashing into a snow bank. Win’s van got stopped by the Mounties. A routine procedure when they spot a motley crew. Just south of Keswick we finally caught up with a Snowy Owl, a beautiful immature that perched nicely on a telephone pole. A second one was found on a barn. We were surprised to find a Mink frolicking about the snow and frozen ditches besides the road. Our final area was to look for a Great Grey which was seen last weekend. We had no luck other than coming across a male Snowy and having a large flock of Snow Buntings land on the road in front of us. One last stop at some feeders produced White-breasted Nuthatch, Cardinal and Downy Woodpecker.

Monday was an official holiday in Canada, Family Day, but the weather no doubt played a part in the lack of ‘families’ we came across. In spite of balmy temperatures, in the low 30’s we had tremendous winds to start out the day followed by snow showers. We spent the morning in Algonquin Provincial Park where the feeders at both ends of the road had activity consisting of mostly male Pine Grosbeaks and a couple of Common Redpolls. The road was completely devoid of birds with the exception of a Raven or two. At Mew Campground the road was a sheet of ice. A camper had a bit of seed on a table and that attracted Red-breasted Nuthatches, Black-capped Chickadees and Red Squirrels. We did the walking loop along the Spruce Bog trail but all the action was in the car park, not only with the ice but with the same birds as at Mew. This time most were very obliging landing on hats and outstretched hands to pick up free hand outs. At the end of Opeongo Road we slogged through the snow for a couple of kilometers in search of Boreal Chickadee, Spruce Grouse and either of the boreal woodpeckers. Other than a few Gray Jays we were skunked! The final stop was at the visitor’s center where Pine Grosbeaks dominated the activity along with 3 Hairy and 1 Downy Woodpecker and a few nuthatches of both flavors. However it was the Hoary Redpoll that stood out amongst 3 Commons that produced the greatest excitement and for 15 minutes was very obliging before taking off. Being a holiday the centers cafeteria was open for lunch. After filling our bellies we settled in for the long haul back to Philly, breaking up the journey with stops every 3 hours including a Chinese dinner at the Ho Buffet! We finished with 70 species.

Species Seen:
Great Blue Heron 1 at Niagara
Trumpeter Swan 100+ at La Salle Park
Mute Swan A few at La Salle
Canada Geese Common at La Salle and in NY at Cayuga
Gadwall 1 at Niagara
American Black Duck 2 at Niagara & 20 at La Salle
Mallard Common at Niagara & La Salle
Canvasback 30 at La Salle
Redhead 1 male at La Salle
Greater Scaup 20 at La Salle
American Wigeon 2 at La Salle, a first for this trip
Wood Duck 1 at La Salle, a first for this trip
White-winged Scoter 14 at La Salle
Long-tailed Duck 30+ at Niagara & 2 at La Salle
Bufflehead 30 at Niagara & 2 at La Salle
Common Goldeneye 30 at Lake Cayuga; 20 at Niagara and common at La Salle
Hooded Merganser 1 male at Niagara & 1 at La Salle
Common Merganser 2 at Lake Cayuga and 1 at Niagara
American Coot 6 at La Salle
Bald Eagle 1 at Lake Cayuga; 4 at La Salle and 7 at 1000 Islands
Northern Harrier 1 near Montezuma NWR & 2 at Stoney Creek
Sharp-shinned Hawk 1 at Hovel Chalet
Cooper’s Hawk 1 in the Kleinsburg area
Red-tailed Hawk 20+ along Rte 90; a few seen daily
Rough-legged Hawk 2 in NY and 4 in the Sunnidale area
American Kestrel 1 in NY and 1 near Kleinsburg
Wild Turkey 20 near Brantford
Bonaparte’s Gull 100+ at Niagara - Queenston
Little Gull 2 at Niagara - Queenston
Ring-billed Gull Common on each day
Herring Gull Common seen daily
Thayer’s Gull 1 at Niagara - Adam Beck
Iceland Gull 4 at Niagara - Adam Beck
Glaucous Gull 1 at Lake Cayuga
Slaty-backed Gull 1 3rd cycle bird at Lake Cayuga; a first for this trip
Great-black Backed Gull Common at Lake Cayuga, Niagara and La Salle
Rock Pigeon Seen daily - now there is a shock!
Mourning Dove A few seen daily
Snowy Owl 2 in the Ravenshoe area & 1 male in the Sunnidale area
Northern Hawk Owl 1 at Stoney Creek
Red-bellied Woodpecker 1 in NY
Downy Woodpecker Up to 2 seen daily
Hairy Woodpecker 3 at Algonquin
Pileated Woodpecker 1 in NY; fresh workings in Algonquin
Gray Jay 6 in Algonquin
Blue Jay A few daily
American Crow Seen daily in good numbers
Common Raven 20 in Algonquin
Black-capped Chickadee A few daily with about 20 in Algonquin
Tufted Titmouse 1 in NY
Red-breasted Nuthatch 10 in Algonquin
White-breasted Nuthatch 1 in the Sunnidale area & 1 in Algonquin
Eastern Bluebird 1 at Stoney Creek
American Robin 1 in NY and 2 at Niagara
Cedar Waxwing 60 on Rte 90 & 6 sp. on Rte 401
European Starling Seen daily
American Tree Sparrow 30 in NY; 20 at Stoney Creek
Dark-eyed Junco 10 in NY & 4 at Stoney Creek
Snow Bunting A nice size flock of 60+ at Sunnidale & 10+ at Ravenshoe
Northern Cardinal 1 in NY; 2 at Niagara & 1 near Brantford
Brown-headed Cowbird 2 at Stoney Creek; a first for this trip
Pine Grosbeak 30 at Algonquin
House Finch 10 at Stoney Creek
Common Redpoll About 10 in NY & 6 at Algonquin
Hoary Redpoll 1 at Lacey Road in NY & 1 at the feeders at Algonquin Visitor’s Center
American Goldfinch 10 in NY & 6 around Stoney Creek
Evening Grosbeak 30 in NY at the Hovel Chalet

Mammals & Rodents:
Red Squirrel 10 in Algonquin
Grey Squirrel 1 in NY
Black Squirrel 2 in the Kleinsburg area
White-tailed Deer Up to 10 seen on 3 days
Mink 1 very confiding one on Yonge Road south of Keswick
Meadow Vole 1 freshly caught by the Hawk Owl