Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Amherst Island with Colin & Hilda

Dec 18, 6:15 am

We left Ottawa on time and arrived for the 8:30 ferry with 15 minutes to spare. It was very cold, and the only birds to be seen were a few Common Mergansers and Mallards. We made the short crossing and used the heated facilities to don our heavy warm clothing. We drove straight across the island, stopping twice to view Red-tailed Hawks and a Rough-legged Hawk. While viewing one of the former, Colin heard its mate calling, and it soon flew over the road to join the one we were scoping.

At the far side of the island, we saw a raft of Common Goldeneye and one Northern Harrier.

We were able to drive right in to Owl Woods. We flushed several Blue Jays as we drove slowly in. We were the first ones there, so decided to park right on the edge of the road, for fear of getting stuck. We put on our warm hats and boots and started hiking in. A friendly White-breasted Nuthatch and many Black-capped Chickadees followed along looking for handouts.

We checked every evergreen tree on the way in. In a clump of cedars, Colin found some whitewash and a pellet, but they may have been old.

In the woods proper, we split up and each saw owls. At one point, I saw one perched briefly and thought it was a Barred Owl, but it was obscured by branches, and was most likely a Long-eared Owl. Over the course of the next couple of hours, we did see about 5 Long-eared Owls, flying about, but never got an opportunity to photograph one. We checked the usual spots for Boreal and Saw-whet Owls, but could not find any. A few other birders arrived, including Michael and Wade from Ottawa.

On the trail back out, we saw a Northern Cardinal and a Hairy Woodpecker.

We drove out to the north side of the island, and photographed a Red-tailed Hawk that was perched low and close. We drove to the east end and saw a large group of Tundra Swans out on the ice, accompanied by Black-backed Gulls.

We turned up to the KFN property and saw two Rough-legged Hawks from the road. Just around the corner were a female Snowy Owl on a utility pole and an all-white male on the ground. A little further along, there were several House Finches in a shrub by the road. We headed back towards the ferry, stopping to photograph an obliging Rough-legged Hawk. We crossed back on the ferry, and drove to Kingston to check out Elevator Bay. We had some trouble to find it, and when we did, it was just about all frozen over. We made a stop by the penitentiary, and saw several male Common Mergansers in the water.

All in all, it was a very good day to be out in nature.

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