Monday, 16 April 2012

Bushwhack Birding

I spent the better part of the day in my old birding grounds,(relatively speaking), driving around the Niagara Area, where I spent a lot of time in January and February.  Many of my trips have been spurred on after reading the Hamilton Naturalists Club Birding Reports, that Cheryl Edgecombe does such a great job of putting together.

Today was no different.  I decided to try a few locations. I started in LaSalle Marina in Burlington, one of my favourite birding spots this winter, hoping to hear and maybe see a Pine Warbler.  I found nothing but House Sparrows, ducks and swans, although there was a nice flock of Tree Swallows flying about.   I next returned to the Saltfleet area, where I had seen Short-eared Owls one evening with a gaggle of other birders, and searched for Pectoral Sandpipers along 5th Road East.  The most likely place for them turned up, not Sandpipers, but nesting Killdeers.  Nice but not what I was looking for.  Perhaps the Sandpipers had just been migrating through that day.  No worries.  I've been shut out before on these bird chases and I try not to let discourage me.  I did see more Tree Swallows and Brown-headed Cowbirds, along the way, as I headed over to Fifty Point Conservation Area.

There seems to be no real paths or trails in Fifty Point, just some wooded areas and I had to bushwhack my way through the spiked branches and the thorns of wild rose bushes to find the birds I was looking for.  It started off very slowly and even though I heard a few birds, I saw nothing.  Sometimes I feel like a very bad birder.  People report birds in locations, I go to said locations and see no sign of any birds.  But I always keep in mind, "Your patience will be rewarded," and besides I paid $9.00 to get into the park and was going to get my money's worth, even if the high winds were making me sway back and forth and nearly topple over as I peered through my binoculars on uneven ground.

I played the call of the Fox Sparrow in hopes of getting it to show, but instead I called in Yellow-rumped Warblers, American Goldfinches, Song Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos.  I eventually found my way out of the bush and searched in a clearing by the lake and was rewarded, without the use of bird calls, a nice look at the Fox Sparrow.  At least I'd have one bird for my $9.00, windburn and thorny scrapes.

I continued on back into the bush again and along the way got a nice look at an Eastern Phoebe before finally finding another of the birds I had set my sights on, a Brown Creeper.  I had a nice look at it as I knelt on the ground with my binoculars, trying not to fall over, but it continued on with it's creepy business and I didn't see it again for a photo.  By this time it started to feel like rain was coming on, so I headed back to the car just as the sky started to spit.

One more stop before I had to head home, and that was to Edgelake Park in Stoney Creek, for one last shot at a Hermit Thrush.  I found the park easily enough and walked the paths, but it seemed like there were no birds around.  I moved over to the other side of the park and this time had to make my way through a wooded area to find the source of the bird calls.  I did see two turtles and a Belted Kingfisher, along with a male Cardinal, but not much else, until I moved further into the woods.  There, under a long was a likely candidate for my thrush.  I waited at a safe distance and yes, it jumped up on a log and revealed itself as the Hermit Thrush.  Alas I didn't get to hear it sing, as I hear it could give candidates on American Idol a run for their money in the beautiful voice department.  It's also the state bird of Vermont, if you need the answer to a trivia question next time you're in New England.

I ended where I began in LaSalle Marina thinking maybe the Pine Warbler would be out for an afternoon Warbler, but again, it left me wanting.  I did see a lovely Blue-grey Gnatcatcher along with a Downy Woodpecker, giving me 27 species for the day,(after a very slow start), and 3 more Big Year Birds, bringing me to 306.

Birds seen in Niagara on April 16, 2012:

Brown-headed Cowbird
Tree Swallow
White-breasted Nuthatch
Downy Woodpecker
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Belted Kingfisher
Song Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
Brown Creeper
Hermit Thrush
Dark-eyed Junco
Blue-grey Gnatcatcher
American Goldfinch
Eastern Pheobe
Canada Goose
Trumpeter Swan
Mute Swan
Ring-billed Gull
American Robin 
Double-crested Cormorant
European Starlings
Black-capped Chickadees
Wild Turkey
Red-winged Blackbird
Northern Cardinal

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