Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Sneaking around Shrewsbury

This is quite a late blog post, but it's better late than never!

About two weeks ago now, I went on a little road trip to Shrewsbury, Ontario, while I was at home in Chatham for reading week.   I met up with an old high-school friend, Sean Tilden (Photography Website).  I had heard on ebird about a bundle of Snow Geese, Tundra Swans, and diving ducks in the area and figured it would be an awesome break from some work.

We started out by heading to the Shewsbury waterfront/boat launch.  There was a tiny opening in the ice where hundreds of Tundra Swans, Canada Geese, and Redheads were.  We could spot a few Canvasback ducks too, however anything else was lost in our binocular vision.  I definitely need a scope!  Eating something on the ice was also a Bald Eagle, and we also spotted a Northern Harrier flying above.

We then picked up from this area and drove around nearby cornfields to try and spot the Snow Geese that had been reported earlier.  We eventually located a flock of nearly 400-500 Canada Geese and within them we could see a few Snow Geese, but not nearly the hundreds of them that were reported earlier!  With a scope we may have been able to spot the Ross's Geese that had also been reported or the Greater White-fronted Geese that were reported shortly after we were there. 

Just around the corner from the geese we stopped to watch and take some photos of Snow Buntings and Horned Larks.  These are probably two of my favourite winter birds, so camouflaged and yet so colourful against the snow.  I would love one day to be able to band one!

Horned Lark

Snow Bunting
Just as we were getting ready to leave, we noticed a really dark Snow Bunting fly by and land.  of course, it was not a Snow Bunting, but nothing other than a Lapland Longspur!  It was bird lifer #236 for me!  How adorable are they!  For the rest of the drive I suddenly started noticing more and more of them throughout the area.  It is always funny how after you see something for the first time, suddenly you see them everywhere!  If you are out for a drive and see a flock of Snow Buntings, look for ones that seem just a shade or two darker.  If you look closely with binoculars you will be able to see the darker-rusty colouring, less white on the underside, and a yellowish eye stripe (starts at the brow and curves around to the neck).  They look so beautiful on the wintering grounds, I couldn't even imagine how they would look in their breeding plumage!

Lapland Longspur
We then went to try and spot some Short-eared Owls (with no luck!), but we did get to see a Sharp-shinned Hawk who had recently eaten a Junco! It's always a little fun when you find a bunch of feathers and a predator, and you try and figure out what they had just eaten.  It's very CSI like! 

 We then continued on our way to the Erieau Marina where we were greeted by quite a number of ducks, gulls, swans, and coots!!  Coots have always been one of my favourite birds since I've seen them, just the look of them is so goofy and confusing.  Are they ducks...or are they shorebirds?  What is with that bill!?    We were lucky enough to see about 30-40 of these birds slip and sliding around on the ice.

A final "rarity" that we were able to spot was a Great Black-backed Gull! This beauty was flying around the harbour and generally sitting with a group of Herring Gulls.  

Hope everyone is having a great first day of March!