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22 November 2010 @ 05:27 pm
Sub-zero Birding  

For the first time this season it was below zero when I got up and stayed below zero during my whole birding outing on Sunday; it didn't warm up above -3°C all morning. In January, such a temperature may feel mild, even balmy; however, in the middle of November, when temperatures have been almost 10 degrees above zero, it feels downright cold. In fact, on days like this when -3°C seems bad, I can't believe I go birding on days when the temperature is -10°C, and question my sanity when I recall those times when I went out when it was -20°C! (See here and here, for example!)

I started the morning at the Beaver Trail on Moodie Drive. The last time I had been here was in July, on a scorching hot day that was over 30°C; today was much different. There was a thin layer of ice on the pond, and certainly no butterflies around! I didn't see much other than two White-tailed Deer in the woods, a couple of Blue Jays, two Hairy Woodpeckers, and at least four American Tree Sparrows at the trail entrance as I was leaving.


I drove south to the Richmond Lagoons, where the ice was thick enough to hold all the geese and gulls resting on it. Some small patches of water were still open, and I counted a couple hundred Canada Geese, 31 gulls (30 Herring Gulls and one Ring-billed Gull), 25 mallards and and a couple of black ducks.

From there I drove over to Moodie where I found two different raptors. One was a Rough-legged Hawk soaring high above the road. The second was a Merlin perched in a tree right beside the road! I was looking for Northern Shrikes, a bird I haven't seen all year, so when I saw a small bird perched near the top of a tree I stopped to check it out even though I knew the shape was wrong (from a distance a shrike looks like a round ball of feathers with a tail sticking out). I was pleased nonetheless when I discovered not the shrike I was hoping for, but the Merlin instead!


I stopped by Andrew Haydon Park briefly, where I saw one of the American Coots, two Buffleheads, two Red-breasted Mergansers, one Common Merganser, and eight unidentified scaup on the river.

I still had Northern Shrikes on my mind, though, so I thought I'd end the day with a drive down March Valley Road. I drove down Herzberg, and when I came to the stop sign at Legget I glanced down that road, remembering the time almost two years ago when I had seen a flock of at least 100 Bohemian Waxwings eating berries in the same area. To my surprise, I saw perhaps 200 birds perched at the top of the tallest tree on the left-hand side of the road. It's been a while since I've seen any flocks of European Starlings, the most likely species, of that size, so I took a detour down Legget to check them out. Sure enough, they were Bohemian Waxwings! I got out of the car and watched them for a while. Eventually a couple of smaller groups headed off in different directions, while a third group flew to the same crabapple tree on the opposite side of the road where I photographed them two years ago. I tried to get closer to take some pictures, but they flew off to the tall tree again when I got out of the car.

I continued on my way to March Valley Road, which was unusually quiet. I only saw one hawk perching in a distant tree but didn't bother to stop. Still, I was happy with the Merlin and the Bohemian Waxwings, and went home feeling that the outing had been worthwhile.