January birding in bruce County

It's been awhile since I wrote about birding on the peninsula, so I'll add a few recent sightings.

Matt Parsons found a Harlequin Duck at the Lion's head Harbour in late December and I hadn't had a chance to chase it since I returned from visiting family in southern Ontario for the holidays. Erik was driving me home (after our Niagara trip the day before), so we made a quick "detour" to Lion's Head on the "way" back. The duck was just chilling with Common Goldeneyes in the harbour, so it was a pretty easy find.

Harlequin Duck

When I arrived back at my house I was greeted by my overwintering flock of Purple Finches. These finches have been growing in numbers since early December and I can now see up to 75 during a walk around my property. Normally PUFI are an uncommon winter bird around my area, so having them so plentiful this winter is exciting.

A few days ago I went on a drive around South Bruce with my dad to try and find some new birds for the 2020 yearlist. First we went to MacGregor PP, where Andrew Keaveney had found an Eared Grebe during the Saugeen Shores CBC. After scanning the lake for a few minutes I spotted it diving on the other side of the inlet. It was too far away for good (even ok) pictures, but it was still a county lifer so I'll take it.
Eared Grebe "record shot"

We then drove around the Paisley area looking for overwintering raptors, which turned out to be a good decision as we found a Golden Eagle and a dark morph Rough-legged Hawk. Golden Eagles have become regular winter residents in South Bruce in recent years, with 6-10ish birds hanging around from Decmember to April. The one we saw decided it was going to come closer for a picture, which was nice of it. While we were pulled over for the eagle I also saw a Northern Shrike beside the road.
Golden Eagle

Golden Eagle

Golden Eagle 

Northern Shrike 

Rough-legged Hawk

Bruce birding in the winter is pretty quiet most of the time and species lists won't be anywhere near those of more southern counties, however there are still some cool birds around if you spend time looking. In few weeks before things start to pick up, with Horned Lark being the first noticeable arrival in mid February.

Winter Birding on Lake Ontario

On January 3rd I headed down to do some Niagara/Hamilton birding with Erik van Den Kieboom and David Turner. We left fairly early and drove straight from David's house in Grey and arrived at Niagara around 10am. Our first stop was the Whirlpool, where 2 Black-legged Kittiwakes had been hanging out. After a few minutes we located them flying below us with a few hundred Bonaparte's Gulls.

Black-legged Kittiwake


Next we made our way to Dufferin Islands Park above the falls, where we decided to bird the park for a few minutes before going to look for gulls. There wasn't much around, but we saw a few decent birds including; Gadwall, Hooded Merganser, Cooper's Hawk, Carolina Wren and Ruby-crowned Kinglet.

Carolina Wren

Out of focus Ruby-crowned Kinglet

We then took a walk along the edge of the falls and did some gull scanning. We didn't see anything crazy, but we did see all the normal goodies;  2 Icelands Gulls (kumliens), 4 Lesser Black-backed Gulls and a Glaucous gull.
Lesser Black-backed gull

Iceland Gull

Iceland Gull

After that we retraced our steps and stopped for a quick scan at Adam Beck, where we saw 2 more Iceland Gulls.
Iceland Gull

Iceland Gull

Our final stops before heading on to Hamilton were the Queenston Docks and the overlook at Queenston Heights. Sadly we missed the Black Vulture at Queenston Heights by 5 minutes, but we did see 6 Little Gulls at the docks. We finished the Niagara part of our trip with 9 gull species, with our only miss being Black-headed Gull.

Horrible photo of a Little Gull

On to Hamilton! First we went to the Lift Bridge to look for the continuing King Eider. The eider wasn't feeling cooperative and decided to spend the day somewhere else, however the Northern Mockingbird, Peregrine Falcon and ever-present Long-tailed Ducks didn't disappoint.

Northern Mockingbird

Long-tailed Duck

Long-tailed Duck

Peregrine Falcon

After that we did a few quick stops at Tollgate Ponds, Windermere Basin and Lasalle Park, adding some birds to our 2020 lists including;  Ruddy Duck, Ring-necked Duck,  American Coot, Great Blue Heron & American Coot.

Our day total ended up at 61 species, not bad for an early January day.

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