Had a great day out yesterday. MK picked me up at York Mills and we headed eastwards. First on the agenda was the Townsend’s Solitaire that has taken up residence just south of Ganaraska Forest. However, our journey was rudely interrupted by this superb Barred Owl that was hunting right by the roadside shortly after we exited the 401. We watched it for a few minutes since it allowed rather a close approach offering great photo ops in spite of the murky light conditions.
A couple more photos of the same bird. I gather there are good numbers of Barred Owls in south Durham at the moment – as many as 20 I’ve been informed, so this is the winter to get out there and get yer fill! It was fascinating to watch this bird at close range…
We arrived at the spot for the Solitaire, along with many others! It was pretty foggy and there really wasn’t much action at first. After a while a few Evening Grosbeaks arrived, but there was no sign of the wanted bird. However, after an hour or so it was spotted further down the road and eventually provided all present with some okay scope views as it perched conspicuously, though distantly, on exposed snags. It was quite vocal at times and this was often the best way to locate its whereabouts. I reeled off a few record shots of the distant bird, but they are hideously bad!
Oh well, you get the idea! A bit later I was pleased when a gang of burly Evening Grosbeaks descended from the treetops to feed upon some roadside sumac offering some half-decent photo ops. There seems to be quite a few of these hefty finches in this area which is quite nice. Since I bird mostly in the Toronto core area I can go one or two winters in a row without seeing any at all, so it was good to watch these birds going about their business for a while.
After we’d had our fill of these great birds (and socializing) we headed south with some brief en route. At Starkville we chanced upon a Common Raven perched atop a telegraph pole. It was eating some unidentifiable whitish thing that reminded me of tripe! However, prolonged studies did not reveal the true identity of its grim-looking meal…
Next up was Thickson Point, where a nice male Eurasian Wigeon has been hanging out with other dabblers for a few weeks. He was easy to find as he was calling constantly as we arrived at the point. The relatively warm conditions and excellent light made duck viewing a bit more pleasurable that is usually the case and we sent a good hour here grilling the waterfowl. There were lots of American Wigeon here and way too many Gadwall! Nearby trees held a Northern Shrike and another resting Barred Owl.
After checking out Whitby Harbor (nothing) we found this great little Merlin sitting in a tall pine in a nearby residential area. Showing no fear it allowed a close approach and we took as many pix as we wanted in the great afternoon light. At one point it fanned its tail and had a good wing stretch – perfect!
The rest of the afternoon was relatively uneventful. We dipped on the asylum Harlies, but turned up the regular Barred Owl along Hall’s Road and spent some time with the local Turkeys! It’s a bit of a zoo along this road on a nice winter afternoon with folk everywhere, but I guess that’s okay. All the usual birds were visiting the feeders and it was nice to see an active Muskrat attending to its house.
One of the turkeys (of the avian variety) seen along Hall’s Road!
…and the Barred Owl actively hunting along the edge of the marsh.