Sunday, 16 December 2012

Now in Canada

10th November - 15th December 2012

Well, it's certainly been some time since I wrote anything here - due to a variety of factors - but I'm now settled once again, with decent Internet and some time on my hands.

Much has happened since June, including more trips and lifers in Nepal, a 6-week stint in Thailand (mainly to see my daughter) and now a more permanent move to Canada which is where I'll begin. Other day trips and reports will come retrospectively but while the last month is still fresh here goes...

Male Hooded Merganser - Clyde Lake, Ontario

For the last month, Terri and I have been staying with her parents in their self-built log cabin on Clyde Lake on the Lanark / Renfrew County border, Ontario. After 20 years in the woods, they have just sold up, so we spent much of our time helping them pack and move. With a 'real winter' coming, we experienced temperatures as low as -17°C but not much more than a few centimetres of snow. Birdlife is always thin on the ground during the Canadian winter and with the lake soon freezing over even less was to be seen. However, before that happened regulars on the lake included Common Goldeneye, Ring-billed Duck, Hooded Merganser and the odd Bufflehead. Always a touch nervous, these shots were taken from some distance and are not too good...

Male and Female Ring-billed Duck - Clyde Lake, Ontario
As the harsh weather kicked in, the amount of open water decreased rapidly, but just before it closed over completely American Black Duck and Common Merganser (Goosander) made brief stopovers from, I assume, even colder climes. Out and about, other birdlife did reveal itself. Perhaps the commonest of all (or at least most visible) was the Wild Turkey. Often seen in flocks of 10-40, these somewhat 'unreal' birds could be easily seen along the edges of woodlands and in open pasture. However, for some reason, I completely neglected to take any shots. Other 'game' included Ruffed Grouse - a striking bird of the forest undergrowth. Talking to Terri's father, these birds are apparently somewhat scarce this year, so we were both pleased to see a cracking male displaying with full ruff and cocked tail to 4 females along the trail.

Black-capped Chickadee - Flower Station, Ontario
Other than Wild Turkey, the commonest local birds were Black-capped Chickadee and Blue Jay. Both species allowed relatively close viewing, though the chickadees would, at times, almost land on you. Often seen in association with the chickadees was White-breasted Nuthatch and on occasion, Hairy Woodpecker. I also had a couple of viewings of Pileated Woodpecker, a spectacular species and one of the world's largest woodpeckers. Corvids included Common Raven and American Crow but other than that a single Slate-coloured Junco graced the cedars for just one day and was replaced by Common Redpoll the next.

Blue Jay - Flower Station, Ontario
North American Beaver - Flower Station, Ontario
Packing and moving meant that we took many trips out to Perth, where a storage locker had been rented. This allowed for other wildlife sightings. After spending much time looking for beavers a couple of years ago, sightings came in thick and fast this time around. I guess they were just 'running' around trying to collect as much food as possible before it was too late. In places, they actually cut down trees 8-10 inches across - apparently nothing spectacular, but quite amazing to me. Other mammal life included regular sightings of Northern River Otter, American Red Squirrel, American Grey Squirrel (mainly black variety) and the odd White-tailed Deer, American Mink and single Fisher. Mammals that left tracks but were unseen included Moose, Coyote, Red Fox and Cottontail.

Female Pine Grosbeak - Lanark, Ontario
Other than the birds highlighted above (and a brief trip to Niagara which I'll come to later), daily outings to Perth added a number of other highlights to the list. Red-tailed hawk was seen almost daily and, before the weather turned icy, both adult and immature Bald Eagle were quite regular. My latest eagle sighting however was an immature Golden Eagle - very nice. European Starling seemed quite common but it's certainly worth checking the flocks as occasionally they turned out to be Cedar Waxwings! Ring-billed Gull was present at a few mainly urban sites and Canada Goose was often seen flying overhead at dusk or sometimes grazing in arable land. I did also see approximately 1500 Snow Geese split across 2 flocks on a trip to Winchester in late November - quite a sight indeed. Northern Shrike and Merlin both performed well on separate days but my personal highlight was both White-winged (Two-barred) Crossbill and Pine Grosbeak on yet another day out - the latter my first, and so far only, lifer here in Canada. The crossbill was a cracking red male that obligingly landed right in front of the car but the grosbeaks (seen later) were an entirely female flock of about a dozen birds feeding, within just a few feet, on ripe fruit.

Male Northern Cardinal - Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario
Well, I did have a side-trip to Toronto/Niagara which I've kept separate since there was a noticeable difference in the birdlife. It could have been that birds were still moving through (20/21st November) but I believe the slightly milder weather must have made a difference. Garden birds seen only on this trip included American Robin, Mourning Dove, House Sparrow, Northern Cardinal  and Sharp-shinned Hawk. Of course, there were the expected waterbird differences too including Mallard, Great Black-backed Gull, Bonarparte's Gull and Double-crested Cormorant but the waterfowl highlight was 2 male Long-tailed Ducks seen flying from Canada into the US and back again! Noticeable were the high numbers of Red-tailed Hawks and American Crows. A treat though was an immature Cooper's Hawk perched in a tree just across from our friend's bird feeder - no doubt waiting for its own turn.

Mourning Dove - Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario
Immature Cooper's Hawk - Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario

Well, that's about all for now. Hopefully, I'll get caught up with things before too long.

Till next time...


1 comment:

  1. Hey mark,
    Loved the blog and the pics. Hope to see some closer shots of the ducks, they look amazing! I'll just have to wait until spring though. The beaver looks amazing too.

    Once more my resolve to visit Canada is strengthened! I would love it there I think.

    I'm on Borneo right now where I would have loved to have your expertise in recognizing which hornbill or kingfisher we were looking at. Not knowing their name did not make them any less pretty though!

    All the best and give my regards to Terri!