Friday, January 20, 2012

The hunt for the Varied Thrush and Snowy Owls

January 19, 2012

Having missed it on January 16, we organized a full out assault.  I picked up Nina and went straight to 988 Calypso Road by 9:45.  Connie met Peter and they arrived shortly after us.  Bob came on his own, because he could not spare the whole day, and finally, Rick arrived last with the two British (or Australian?) birders in tow.

We had the best chance, since we had 10 to 15 minutes alone at the feeders, but there was no visit by the thrush.  There were lots of other birds - Blue Jays, Dark-eyed Juncos, American Tree Sparrows, Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers, American Goldfinches, Mourning Doves and a flock of a dozen or so Rock Pigeons.

After  while a couple of White-breasted Nuthatches showed up, which gave us something to photograph. 

We were there a good hour with no luck.  Rick and the couple moved on first.  We were all getting cold feet and needed a bathroom break, so I suggested a stop at Tim Horton's in Casselman, which everyone readily agreed to. 

Just before we left, a birder by the name of Tony Bigg arrived, having come from St. Isidore.  He told us the whereabouts of some Gray Partridges and Snowy Owls.  In his OntBirds posting, we learned that the thrush came in only 15 minutes after we left!

After a hot chocolate and a snack, we were ready for Snowy Owls.  We took the 417 to the next exit, and went left to Concession 20.  There we saw Rick stopped and we pulled up behind to find out that we had driven by not one, but two Snowy Owls, including one on a pole at the corner!  Chagrined we walked back to photograph it.  It flushed but went down, then came back to an even better perch on a nearby utility pole.  We had driven past, but saw the others stop, so circled back.  This time the owl did not flush and we got some great shots.
We continued down to St. Rose, turned right and soon saw 6 Lapland Longspurs on the road.  We halted quickly and they were right beside the car.  Nina got some shots through the open window, while I had to be content with shooting through he windshield.
We turned left on Concession 21, and before long Nina spotted a light-morph Rough-legged Hawk.  She scoped it, but it flew off giving us good binocular views.

We turned left on Renaud, which was too icy for Connie, so she went back to take a safer road.  Thus, she missed the Red-tailed Hawk that we saw fly across the road.  We turned left on Concession 19, and met up with Connie again.  Further along, I spotted yet another Snowy Owl on utility pole.  More great photos including some flight shots.

A little way along, we saw a couple of Snow Buntings, and then a single one on a fence post. 
We took Route 3 to Route 8, then Route 500 back to Casselman, passing a dozen or so Wild Turkeys along the way.

This is where Bob had to pack it in, but the rest of us retraced our route to 988 Calypso.  We parked and headed in with Nina and me in the lead.  I spotted the Varied Thrush underneath the feeder with it's head barely showing.  It quickly retreated, but Nina saw it briefly in behind in the trees, and again under the table beside the feeder.  Unfortunately, Connie and Peter could not pick it up before it vanished. 

We waited a while, but it did not return.  Hans van der Zweep arrived and we chatted until a Northern Shrike came in and all the birds disappeared. 
It was getting really late, so we all packed it in.  A good day of winter birding!

1 comment:

  1. It was a super great day! Nice BLOG entry Bill :o)