Sunday, 3 February 2013

Some birding in Kingston

Saturday, 26th January - Sunday 3rd February, 2013

Although birding in Kingston, Jamaica would no doubt provide a lifer or two, I'm afraid it's Kingston, Ontario where I am now based - and I've put the last couple of weeks to good use and explored locally. In terms of numbers and variety, it's been hard work to be sure, but I now feel comfortable in the knowledge that I've established a 'local patch' and can now start running up the totals as the days begin to lengthen.

It's been a mixed week weather-wise beginning with freezing temperatures and a frozen lake, that thawed again for a day or two mid-week, only to freeze up at week's end. It's been snowing now since Saturday night and doesn't seem to be letting up as we move into Sunday night.

This week, I discovered 'eBird' and have added a link both here and on my 'useful links'. eBird ( is jointly-run by Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society and is a useful resource and database for birds and birders. I've been using it to add all my sightings. For those of you in the UK, it is very similar to the BTO's BirdTrack ( I discovered it through the new BirdTrax add-on that now sits on the right of my blog. If you're having trouble with that particular item, try clicking on one of the 3 tabs (sightings/rarities/checklists) to make it load. It posts recent bird news from a pre-defined area (mine is set to a 50km radius of my home in Kingston), derived from submissions to the above eBird site. And yes, I've already got my name in there - most notably for a Pine Warbler that really shouldn't be here.

Male Hairy Woodpecker, Lake Ontario Park
Male White-breasted Nuthatch, Kingston

All very exciting, so onwards to this week's news, beginning last Saturday with a stroll around Portsmouth Olympic Harbour and Lake Ontario Park. Unfortunately, the weather wasn't great, rather dull in fact, but I did connect with both Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers, a couple of White-breasted Nuthatch and the ever-present Black-capped Chickadees. Maybe 100 or more American Crows were in trees near the harbour, with 3-4 Northern Raven buzzing around nearby. As the lake was frozen, the only waterfowl I saw were a couple of mallard and Canada Geese.

Male White-breasted Nuthatch, Lake Ontario Park, Kingston
Sunday was a much brighter day, so off I went again to the park, this time with a packed lunch and the idea of extending my walk north into Marshlands Conservation Area. To start with, the American Crows were still present at the harbour so this time I managed to capture a couple of shots.

American Crow, Portsmouth Olympic Harbour, Kingston
The park was far more productive than the previous day and right off, I was watching Dark-eyed Juncos, White-breasted Nuthatch, more chickadees and... 2 lifers! The first was a male Red-bellied Woodpecker, which is actually quite a common North American bird. However, it was new for me and showing very nicely. All these birds were associating in the same area due to, I discovered, someone leaving seed. The second bird however was far more tricky and didn't show itself clearly until later in the afternoon as I returned from my trek. All it gave away in the morning was a flash of olive and yellow, at least one white wing bar and an impression of streaks on the chest. More to follow...

Male Red-bellied Woodpecker, Lake Ontario Park, Kingston
Just a tad further on, I came across a small flock of Golden-crowned Kinglets, again allowing good views but unfortunately very difficult to photograph. These kinglets are the equivalent of the European Goldcrest and are very pretty indeed.

Rideau Trail, Marshlands Conservation Area

Hoping to find a decent local patch, I crossed the main road and entered Marshlands Conservation Area, following the Rideau Trail. This trail then continues north over Bath Road into Grenville Park before reaching the northern limits of Kingston up near Princess Street. It is this area that I hope will become my local patch, and by the looks of all the wetland, scrub and forested areas it should prove fruitful later in the year. Other species seen in these 2 areas included White-throated Sparrow, Red-tailed Hawk, a pair of Northern Cardinal and a small flock of Common Redpoll.

After a good walk, I was back to the park by early afternoon where I added Downy Woodpecker and Brown Creeper. And finally, I got decent views of the mystery bird which turned out to be the latest ever Pine Warbler for Ontario! It certainly seemed very happy, so I'll keep checking on it - maybe it'll survive right through to the Spring. Anyway, it was still there on the 1st February.

Male Pine Warbler, Lake Ontario Park, Kingston - Jan 27th

Male Pine Warbler, Lake Ontario Park, Kingston - Feb 1st
The following day, I had a male Peregrine Falcon in town, chasing down the feral doves around St. Mary's Cathedral. However, further trips to the park have produced mixed results. Mid-week was mild and wet, with nothing new other than this Red-tailed Hawk being mobbed by European Starlings. In case you're wondering, North American hawks tend to be what we would call buzzards (Buteo) and not our Accipiter.

Red-tailed Hawk, Lake Ontario Park

Friday was a slightly different day for me, with business up in town so, finding myself at the northern end of the Rideau Trail, I walked back south to the lake and park. With the weather once again crisp and sunny, it was very enjoyable. Many of the same species were seen again, including 'my' Pine Warbler later on, but up near Grenville Park, I locked on to several American Tree Sparrows. They were not that forthcoming for the camera but did allow good views nonetheless. These cracking little sparrows have a bright chestnut crown, offset by a mainly grey face. A couple of White-throated Sparrows were again logged in this section of the trail.

Down by the lake, 7 Ring-necked Duck, a trio of Hooded Mergansers, many Mallard, a handful of Canada Geese and 6 Tundra Swans were making the most of the still unfrozen waters in Elevator Bay. Way off in the distance, towards what I believe is called Dupont Ponds, were many more wildfowl. Unfortunately, they were much too far away for me to even guess at their identification.

Canada Geese - yes real ones...
Ring-necked Ducks, Elevator Bay, Kingston
Till next time...


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