Nelson's Sparrow

Nelson's Sparrow

Friday, 1 December 2017

Winter listing has begun

I'll be honest....I don't spend a lot of effort seeking out birds for my current or all time winter list. But I do keep one. Now technically December 1 isn't officially winter...there is another three weeks until winter officially arrives. But for purposes of an official winter list, as per accepted birding guidelines, the winter listing period goes from December 1 until the end of February. During that period, typically 220 or so species can be found in Ontario each year. One has to do a lot of travelling in order to get close to that number on one's personal list in a season!

Today I headed to the Bate's subdivision just outside the Rondeau Provincial Park gates, as I knew there would be a lot of birders there first thing in order to get the continuing Townsend's Warbler on their winter lists. Townsend's Warbler is an extreme rarity any time of year, although Rondeau has had half a dozen records, all of which were in the spring other than the one that was first found here about three weeks ago. Sure enough, there were at 25-30 keen birders scoping out the best spots where this bird has been seen with some regularity. As much fun as it would be to see this bird again and add it to my winter list, I was interested in seeing just who would show up from afar. As it turned out, there were some from the Hamilton/GTA and even farther away. Several folks were ones which I hadn't seen for probably more than 3 decades! So the combination of the fabulous weather (sunny, calm wind, temperatures a bit above freezing), numerous birders whom I was able to reconnect with, plus seeing the target species and the other species with which it typically hangs out with, it was a great morning.
Townsend's Warbler

This bird is always a challenge to photograph, much to the chagrin of the numerous birders who had big lenses with them. The photo above was taken on a different day, since I didn't see it in an easy to photograph position today.

Gord and Maria, the year-round residents of the cottage where this rarity has been most frequently seen, have been most friendly and cooperative with the probably two hundred or more birders who have been searching for this bird over the past few weeks. Thanks, Gord and Maria! Quite likely after this weekend, the number of birders will thin out considerably, so you will soon have your quiet neighbourhood back.

The crowd did eventually disperse after having seen the Townsend's Warbler and doing some socializing. Some were talking about stopping at other good bird sites on their return home, to add other rarities to their winter lists. I, on the other hand, decided to go into the park and check some of my regular haunts.

The campground can be a good spot with its combination of open oak forest as well as numerous red cedars, some of which still had an abundance of berries.

This has been a great year for acorn production, and many Blue Jays have taken advantage of the abundance. In spite of the BJs relatively large, raucous nature which would lead one to believe they are not afraid of much of anything, they are really quite shy, especially when a camera is pointed their way. They are often seen like this, hunkered down and partially obscured in some low vegetation...
 ....or before you can get their photo, they are on the fly.

There was the usual mix of other birds, including Black-capped Chickadees, Dark-eyed Juncos, Red-bellied Woodpeckers and such. A Northern Harrier flew high overhead.
 A Northern Flicker was seen. They haven't been very abundant this fall in my experience.
The campground has been a good spot for seeing, and photographing, Pileated Woodpeckers this fall. I have regularly seen both male and female birds somewhere in the campground. I've heard that other birders have observed one or more of the birds excavating a presumed nest site, but this is unlikely. Nest excavation, according to several authoritative literature references, does not occur until the spring.

Sometimes they are quite furtive and shy, other times they can be pleasantly cooperative. Today was one of those cooperative days. I got dozens of photos, with about 20 of them as keepers. Here are four:


Note the tongue, used for extracting insects


I looked for things like Northern Saw-whet Owls as well as other lingering warblers.....a Blackpoll Warbler had been seen just a few hundred metres north of the campground in similar habitat recently, and a Wilson's Warbler had been seen in the campground a couple of weeks ago, but I didn't find any such creatures today. They could still be around, and with the annual Christmas Bird Count just a little more than two weeks away, hopefully they will be considerate enough to show up for it!

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