Wednesday, 28 December 2016

"Just popping down the dump..."

Wednesday 28th December 2016

That's what I said, and genuinely intended to do, as I headed out of the door. Living here on Wolfe Island, we have to take all our recyclables (almost everything) and rubbish to the local waste collection centre ourselves. Just a year or so ago it was an actual dump with gulls and vultures in abundance but, for the best, it now focuses on recycling and the dump is long gone.

Anyway, I never just 'go to the dump' - I always have my bins and camera with me, as I inevitably take a circuitous route via all the best birding hotspots. Not too much along the way in terms of rarities but these Tundra Swans in town were particularly cooperative. Notice the difference in the extent of the yellow dot at the base of the bills on these 2 birds. No wonder newbies often claim to have seen the much rarer Trumpeter Swan in error believing that they should be able to see yellow at 200 metres with their 8x40s! Oh, by the way, something like 10% of all Tundras show no yellow at all so beware!

Tundra Swan - Marysville, Wolfe Island, ON - see the yellow?
Tundra Swan - Marysville, Wolfe Island, ON - see the yellow?
Tundra Swan - Marysville, Wolfe Island, ON - lots of yellow
Tundra Swan - Marysville, Wolfe Island, ON - lots of yellow
After taking a run through the village, I then took the famed 4th Line in the search of Snowy Owls. There are not so many around this year - we've had 3 good years on the run so this is not surprising. However, a small arrival over the last week has seen up to 6 birds along this road. Though this picture was taken a few days back, the very same bird was present day.

Snowy Owl - 4th Line, Wolfe Island, ON
Snowy Owl - 4th Line, Wolfe Island, ON
I also picked up a Rough-legged Hawk on my journey - the first for some time as this species is also in short supply this year. However, bigger news was forthcoming when I received a phone call from Kingston-based birding buddy James Barber. He'd just relocated a couple of female Harlequin Ducks seen in Kingston during the annual Christmas Bird Count, directly outside his apartment at Portsmouth Olmpic Harbour. I was just minutes from the ferry, so without winter coat, breakfast, clean teeth, or fresh clothes, I headed over to the mainland and picked up my 245th Frontenac county lifer - Harlequin Duck.

Harlequin Duck - Portsmouth Olympic Harbour, Kingston, ON
These birds were actively diving just metres from the shore unperturbed by birders, dog walkers and joggers - a wonderful sight! Now for a male...

'Til next time.
Mark.

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