I wasn't going to go after the Crested Caracara up near Wawa.....congrats to those who took the chance and saw it, of course.....so I did something a little more local. I explored the former Dover Twp part of Chatham-Kent, since some Snowy Owls have been seen with a little more regularity in the last few days.
I noted my first of the season on the weekend, a single bird that was well out about half way between the two roads, so photos were challenging. This first shot is of the one I saw, and it is greatly cropped.
Today was a different story. I had heard from a couple of other local birders who had been out yesterday and seen as many as three snowies, so today I ventured out to try and get some better shots, as well as roam more extensively than I had on the weekend.
The one I had seen on the weekend was there, in more or less the same spot. A little farther down the road I came across another one, also well out in the field. A third one was seen along yet another road, but also too far for a useful photo. I checked the area along Meadowvale Line, east of Hwy 40, where several snowies were seen last winter. Due to the fact that most corn stubble had been plowed under, the fields didn't look too appealing, and I didn't see any owls. But near the corner of Baldoon Road and Greenvalley Road, where I took the photo of the snowy at the head of this blog late last winter, I did see another snowy, but again too far out to bother with. (Side note: I have no idea where the name Greenvalley came from......this part of the landscape is as flat as a pancake!)
I was giving up hope of finding a snowy worth photographing, so decided to meander along the north-south Big Pointe Road instead of following the various east-west ones I had been on mostly to this point. At one section that I didn't realize was a dead end since a bridge had been decommissioned, I went to the end and looked for a place to turn around. I was concentrating on the messy road conditions, not wanting to get stuck in such an out of the way place. When I got mid-way through my three point turn, I happened to look out the window and couldn't believe what I was seeing....this is an uncropped image, other than making it square! The Snowy Owl was standing on a concrete slab just across the narrow ditch and was not paying any attention to me.
I made a side trip into Mitchell's Bay, to take a quick look at the lake. The water was very calm, and one could see ducks a long way out. One nice looking male Canvasback was feasting on the aquatic vegetation that had accumulated in the small channel at the end of the road, which enabled me to get this photo from the car. Since it is the duck hunting season, I expect if I had to get out of the car this duck would have been long gone, quite quickly.
Sandhill Cranes are becoming more abundant in recent years, both as migrants as well as the local breeding population. Blake, in his blog and on ebird, refers to his experience of regularly seeing 60-100 or more birds most days just north of Walpole Island, along the St. Clair River. While those numbers don't often occur in west central Chatham-Kent, smaller numbers can be found regularly. A dozen here, a dozen or more there, and they do add up. On the weekend, I came across a flock of seven well out in a field, with five of them close enough together for me to get this distant shot.
Swans are around in numbers that are building. There are several hundred in the immediate vicinity of St. Clair NWA or part way between there and Pain Court. I expect with the colder weather over the next few days or weeks, there will be several thousand making a din across the landscape!
With Christmas Bird Counts not far off, (the SCNWA count is on Jan 1) I hope that these birds will stick around for a few weeks yet.