Mib-Febuary on the Bruce

Just going to do a quick blog update with recent sightings before I get busy with other stuff and forget...

 On February 8th, a Harris's Sparrow was seen by a feederwatcher on the northern part of the peninsula. This is a pretty good bird for the county (and Ontario in general) and I was really hoping to see it. There was no exact location, which made twitching it challenging. Lucky Arni Stinnissen contacted the homeowner and arranged for a group of birders (Arni, Michael Butler & I) to go see it the following day. I zipped up with my mom on the morning of the 9th and saw the bird just after arriving. I wasn't really expecting to get a county lifer this month, so this was a welcome surprise!

- Harris's Sparrow

 On a non-rairty note, I finally caught up with what had turned into a bit of a yearlist nemisis in Lion's Head.. American Robin. I guess spring is here now 🤔.

 Now on to my current highlight of 2020.. On February 18th I heard a commotion in my yard and went to investigate. It seemed like all of the chickadees in my neighbourhood were freaking out in a nearby stand of Cedar Trees. In the past I've found Northern Saw-whet and Eastern Screech Owls &  a few hawk species by listening for mobbing songbirds, so I thought it would be worth a look. After spending a few minutes searching my eyes landed on a small, sleeping owl trying to blend into a tree trunk... a Boreal Owl!! I quickly ran home and got my camera (faceplanted in the snow on the way of course) and returned to get a few shots. The owl woke up after 20ish minutes and cleaned it's talons/preened for awhile, then glided off into the forest (maybe tired of being harassed by Blue Jays!). This is one of the rarest birds I've had in my yard and it was also a lifer for me! Pretty amazing experience.
- Sleepy Boreal Owl being mobbed by Blue Jay

- Sleepy Boreal Owl

- Awake Boreal Owl

 The next day I was on a walk down my road and saw a dark shape crossing the road ahead of me.. a Fisher. This was very exciting, as it's  rare to see Fishers around my area and even more uncommon to get a good view of them. But then the sighting was about to go to epic level.. the Fisher looked up into a nearby tree, where I followed it's gaze and saw a adult Northern Goshawk! The Fisher-goshawk stareoff only last a few seconds, as they both saw me & ran/flew off. You never know what you'll see on a winter walk!

Anyway that's basically it for recent birds.. off to Arizona for a week of birding tomorrow, I'll write a post about my trip after I return.

Bruce Birding Club outing on Feb 5th

Yesterday I arrived at 8am in Southampton to meet the BBC for an outing (led by Norah Toth & Judy Duncan) around the southern part of the county. The day started out at -7°C with sun and nonexistent wind, not bad birding weather! Our first stop was the Southampton Harbour, this turned out to be our best stop of the day. As I was scanning a flock of Common Goldeneyes, something popped up among them... a King Eider! For the next 20 minutes we watched it swimming/occasionally diving right offshore.

- King Eider 

- King Eider and Common Goldeneye 

 Getting a great view of a county lifer was pretty exciting way to start the day! King Eider is a rare visitor to Bruce County, with only 8 accepted records on eBird. Bob and Anne-marie had a male 1st winter KIEI at their place last week, so it's likely the same one (This bird). Some other things that were kicking around the harbour needed me to take their photos...
- Common Goldeneye showing off to the eider 

- Bufflehead 

- Red-breasted Merganser 

- Long-tailed Ducks 

 Our next stop was a house with a feeder, which I wasn't expecting to be very productive because feederbird numbers have been really down this winter in Bruce. I was pleasantly surprised though! Just after we got out of our cars Bruce Edmunds spotted a Red-headed Woodpecker on the roof of a barn. This is a good bird for the county in the winter, Red-heads normally migrate south by November. The usual suspects were around the yard too, including 3 other woodpecker species (HAWO DOWO RBWO).
- Red-headed Woodpecker 

 Unfortunately a House Sparrow decided to photobomb one of my shots..

 For me, seeing Horned Larks on the shoulders of country roads is a sign that spring is around the corner, so it was fun seeing my first ones of the year fly up in front of our car.
- Horned Lark

 We spent the rest of the morning meandering around county roads and stopping at feeders from time to time. Highlights included; Red-tailed & Rough-legged Hawk, Snowy Owl, American Kestral, Northern Shrike, A Common Raven building a nest and Red-winged Blackbird.
- Rough-legged Hawk 

- Red-winged Blackbird

 After we had lunch in Paisley we made our way  towards the Lake Huron shore, ending up at Baie Du Dore, which was our last stop for the day. During years when the lake freezes, Baie Du Dore can be excellent for waterfowl and gulls (becuase it's basically the only open water in the area). Most of Lake Huron is still open at the moment, so the bay is fairly quiet. Bald Eagles and Great Black-backed Gulls were still present in decent numbers and of course the resident Mute Swans were swimming around😞. Probably  the highlight bird there was a distant Horned Grebe (yucky photo of it below).  Some gulls & goldeneyes flew close for pictures as well..
- Herring Gull

- Herring Gull

- Common Goldeneye

- Horned Grebe

 The ice looked pretty cool too

 We ended up at 39 species (5 FOY for me), not bad for early February. We really lucked out with the weather, sunny and relatively warm all day, which is all you can ask for in the winter.

 Some other recent Bruce sightings below

 - first Barred Owl of the year calling behind my place last weekend.

 - On January 22nd a juv Gyrfalcon flew over my yard! Unfortunately I didn't have time to get my camera, so no pictures this time. (2 year yard-gyr streak!😱)

 - a Northern Flicker that I saw flying South along the Huron shoreline.
- Northern Flicker 

- 6 Trumpeter Swans at the Rankin River Portage

- My big Purple Finch flock is still around, varying in numbers day to day (20-70 birds).

My 2022 Big Year From a Stats perspective

  I'm going to write several wrap up posts about my big year, I just have so much that I want to talk about! First off I want to talk ab...