Wednesday 26 December 2012

The land of ice (storms) and snow (geese)

For a birder from southern Ontario, Eastern Ontario is a very different place and since Erica's family is from that area I get to explore the birding there pretty regularly.  One of my regular spots I like to check when I have time is the Long Sault Parkway.  The eBird barchart has 199 species listed, which especially when you consider it is situated in a part of Ontario that is pretty under-birded, is pretty impressive.  The best bird I saw on the list was Jacob Bruxer's Western Grebe that he found earlier this fall.  There was also a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher back in 2009.  The best thing I have been lucky enough to see was a Eurasian Wigeon a few years ago that had been found earlier.

It is a really neat causway that connects something like a dozen islands over a 10km stretch of road.  There are lots of places to park your car and have a picnic and there are even some camping spots along the way.  I usually only ever get there in the waterfowl season but I imagine it would be a pretty good spot for passerine migration too.

Anyways, while visiting for Christmas I made a quick trip there are on the 23rd.  Here's my full list.  It was fairly slow, with lots of ice building since my last visit on December 9. The best thing I found was a group of 51 Snow Geese mixed in with the Canadas right at the Long Sault end of the Parkway.

On December 9, I captured this pair of Common Loons in nice and close:

Snow Geese are definitely one of the birds I think of when I think of eastern Ontario with the massive migration of Greater Snow Geese passing through each year.  The other eastern Ontario specialty is Gray Partridge.  Even saying that I had only found Gray Partridge once before while visiting Erica's family.  That was a pair of birds seen in the field across from her parent's house on March 21 of last year.  Erica's Dad lets me know whenever he sees them which is still pretty infrequent. However, this morning we went for a cross country ski around the fields and found some pretty fresh tracks in the snow that I was pretty confident were Gray Partridge. I started following them and it was clear that they were enjoying the leftover soybeans in the field.  A few minutes later I put up a group of 11 of them!  They flew across the road so on our way out an hour or so later Erica and I took a detour to see if we could find them for a photo.  We were in luck as they were busy foraging in a corn stubble field. This was the first time I have actually heard Gray Partridge.

I also took a quick video of them. Unfortunately as soon as I stopped recording the flock got up and flew a short distance and started making all sorts of noise...
In case you are interested in the exact spot where they were, here is our eBird checklist.

And here's a link to the eBird map of Gray Partridge in Ontario.

On the way east on Saturday we had to stop in Kingston for a few things so instead of actually setting foot in a mall I went around back to check out the long-staying Northern Mockingbird, which is a pretty good Kingston bird.

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