Saturday, December 14, 2013

A Blustery CBC!

Although not the windiest/snowiest Christmas Bird Count I have ever done, there was a persistent strong east wind with snow today. It was a widespread storm, but thankfully not a big dumping of snow.  Visibility was poor and birds were hunkered down on the Kettle Point CBC today.
I took yesterday off work and worked my way up to Sarnia.  The St. Clair River is decidedly void of ducks save for a number of Long-tailed, but Sarnia Bay was loaded with a variety of gulls and waterfowl.  I first took a look at the Bay and saw all three types of mergansers, a variety of diving ducks including a Surf Scoter and some American Coots.  A huge number of Canada Geese was present, but not a Cackler amongst them.  Needless to say no Brant either!
With virtually no gulls on the river, Sarnia Bay had lots to choose from. No Bonaparte's around anymore, but I did pick out an adult Lesser Black-backed, and adult Iceland and a 2nd cycle Glaucous.
Over at the government dock area, a Northern Shoveler was amongst the Mallards.  Josh Bouman brought this to my attention the other day, and here is a photo taken by Josh. (thanks Josh).

At the mouth of Lake Huron, many Long-tailed ducks present plus a White-winged Scoter or two.  Looks like the bonies have finally left as I did not see one.
I headed out of Sarnia via Michigan Avenue, but did not find a Snowy Owl, especially in the airport area.

On the way to Pete's place in Hungry Hollow, I stopped at Rock Glen CA.  Quite a few birds were at the parking lot as the adjacent house has feeders.  Nothing special though.

Upon arrival at Pete's he showed me his special count bird at the feeder.  A Yellow-bellied sapsucker showed up a day or two earlier.  Seems every year Pete has some special feeder bird.  A couple of years ago a bright male Rose-breasted Grosbeak was present.  Sometimes it is an Eastern Towhee, or a redpoll (in a non-redpoll winter) or a White-winged Crossbill.  The Brambling in 1993 came well after the count!
In the afternoon Pete Chapman and I did some scouting for the next day's CBC.  Harriers must have been on the move as we saw at least six or seven.  Rough-legged Hawks were numerous as well.  We were hard-pressed to get a Red-tailed!
At the Sylvan bridge area, we came across a couple of Northern Flickers, an elusive Carolina Wren, an even more elusive Winter Wren and a flock of 13 Yellow-rumped Warblers.  The warblers are always a guarantee here as there is ample poison ivy and lots of cover.
A Northern Shrike right in Thedford was a novelty.

Early this morning, but not too early, we got up to check for owls at some known locations.  We came up with seven Screech owls with not much effort.  (It was just too cold, snowy and windy to put in a concerted effort!).

Steve Charbonneau joined us this morning in the limited visibility.  Our longest walk of the day was in the river valley near the Sylvan bridge. Highlights here included four Northern Flickers, five butterbutts, a single male Common Merganser in the river (phew!), and some eagles.  Just as we were arriving at the spot, an adult Golden Eagle flew over the road.  We assume this was one of the ones we saw later when two were together soaring around.  (Just after that we saw our only Tufted Titmouse of the day).
As we were about to leave in the vehicle, another eagle made an appearance.  An immature Golden Eagle! To have three in one area on a count is pretty unique.  As I mentioned in an earlier blog, we often get one Golden over the river valley each year.

Today we managed to come across some Snow Bunting flocks.  In one flock, I managed to count 14 Lapland Longspur.  Horned Larks were fairly plentiful as well.
During lunch, the sapsucker showed up at the feeder to be counted for the day.

I checked Rock Glen after lunch and added a Sharp-shinned Hawk for the day.  I headed home early as I had enough of this weather and the drive home would be stressful enough.  Surprisingly the roads were not too bad.

By the way I could not bother lugging a camera on the count.  It would not have been any good with the weather today anyway!

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