Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Tommy Thompson Park Waterfowl Festival

This past Saturday was the Winter Waterfowl Festival at Tommy Thompson Park in Toronto.  I had the pleasure of being a volunteer for this event and had lots of fun talking to people about Snowy Owls, waterfowl, and other wildlife.  People were there from all knowledge levels from some who could ID every species there to others who were only being able to identify a mallard. It was such a wonderful group of people and great to teach some and their families how to ID, while learning some ID tips and tricks was the more advanced birders! 

The first thing we spotted during set up was a Snowy Owl!  This was my 5th for the year and was spotted WAY out on the ice.  We were able to set up the two scopes we had to focus on it so that everyone else would be able to see. Looking at it with the naked eye it looked like a tree stump off in the distance, so that just wasn't going to do!!  Looking at it through the scope it looked like a young female and was munching away on something!  

In total we saw 9 different species of birds!!  These included (and some of them have photos below):  Long-tailed Ducks, Redheads, Goldeneye, White-winged Scoter, Greater Scaup, Mallards, Common Merganser, Red-breasted Merganser, and a Hooded Merganser.

Female Goldeneye

Red-breasted Merganser chowing down on a fish

White-winged Scoter

Red-breasted Merganser

Greater Scaup female

Long-tailed Duck and some Goldeneye

Goldeneye all perked up!
As the festival was coming to an end, there was some really exciting news of a Long-eared Owl in the area!  This was not only incredibly exciting for me (I'd never seen one before, so he was a lifer!) but it was also exciting and a great learning experience for those visitors seeing their first owl!  The Long-eared was hunkered WAY into a tree with brush in front of it.  In fact, the photo below was probably the best I got out of 100 attempts!  As we didn't want to disturb the owl, we left our attempts at photos at this, having a group of people watching him from afar was probably agitating enough so we didn't want to get any closer.

Long-eared Owl hiding away
On our way walking out towards the Cells, there was another Snowy Owl! This one had far less streaking then the first, but was most likely still a youngin.  Maybe someone else who is better at sexing can weigh in!  This one was "much" closer to the shore where binoculars at least would give a great and detailed view.  I don't believe you can every really get tired of seeing these beauties!!

Another Snowy out on the ice
This turned out to be such a successful day and I'm sure there was plenty more to see in the areas where the event was not taking place!  Hopefully many of you get a chance to head out to the Park on the weekends it is open to catch a glimpse of some awesome ducks..and maybe another bird or two!!

Happy Naturing!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Snowy in Newmarket

Well it's been quite a while sine I last posted, my bad!  There haven't been too many exciting sightings that I have been able to catch, but there has been a few!

I went out for a lunchtime drive with one of my labmates Ken (Burrell for everyone who does know him!).  We drove along the river and managed to spot a few Goldeneye, 2 Long-tailed ducks, Red-breasted Merganser and a bundle of Mallards.  It was a pretty quiet day so we really didn't get to see too much!  The water on the Otonabee River is very slowly starting to break up a little bit. I see it everyday while on the bus and although the majority of it is still frozen over, the water patches are opening up and holding quite a few goldeneye!

I tried to also find the Snowy Owl that has been seen in the area, but unfortunately had no luck there either!   I dod, however have some luck while looking for one when I visited Newmarket!

My boyfriend and I were driving all around the onion fields trying to find one we had seen recorded there on Ebird. After about 15-20 minutes of driving around random roads we started to get a little worried that it was no longer around or that it was so snowy we couldn't even find it!   While a concession away I noticed white on top of a telephone pole (photo below!).  Now, either that is a really awkward mound of snow balancing perfectly on a pole....or....that's an owl.

Snow....or owl!?
We raced over to the area (because obviously it was an owl!) and lo and was!!

Snowy Owl on top of a telephone pole.
We inched our way slowly up towards it in the jeep to take a nice close photo of it.  Unfortunately, as we were stopped and snapping a photo, a large pick-up truck zoomed right by and startled it, making it then fly into the nearby field.

Snowy flying off the pole..

Snowy then flying across the field
It's crazy how well these birds can blend into their environment.  The photo below, the snowy was flying off towards the creek, you can barely see it against the snow.  We lost sight of it until it landed and the dark markings on it's wings showed up once again.  Thank goodness it was on a post or else I would have missed it!

Here's to hoping spring is coming soon!!

Happy Naturing!