Saturday, 22 December 2012


With the end of the world rapidly approaching, Janean and I decided it would only be fitting to head down to the Lake Ontario waterfront to increase the Ontario winter bird diversity.  A couple weeks ago, there was a sighting of Purple Sandpiper (Calidris maritima) at Darlington Provincial Park near Oshawa.  That is the only species I am remotely likely to encounter out here at this time of year that would be a lifer, so I thought we'd give it a shot.

As directed on the listserve message about the sighting, we accessed Darlington from the end of Colonel Sam Dr. past the General Motors of Canada head office.  Unfortunately we were a little short-sighted with our choice of footwear and had to tread carefully on the Waterfront Trail, dodging saturated sections of the path.  Eventually we found ourselves at the edge of a lakeside marsh where the shore was lined with a small group of Canada Geese (Branta canadensis), a lone male Redhead (Aythya americana) bobbed on the water, and several American Herring Gulls (Larus smithsonianus) struggled against strong winds.  We continued on to the shoreline of Lake Ontario and were nearly blown over and sand-blasted, so we retreated to the sheltered side of a small hut.  From there, I scanned out for approximately 20 minutes trying to spot waterfowl among the white caps.  I was pleased to find a couple small groups of Long-tailed Ducks (Clangula hyemalis) and Buffleheads (Bucephala albeola), along with larger groups of Common Goldeneyes (Bucephala clangula).  A lone Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator) was in the mix and several large groups of Greater Scaups (Aythya marila) flew by against the wind.  Just as we were packing up, a group of Common Mergansers (Mergus merganser) flew from the direction of the marsh, perhaps tucked away in a small channel that I couldn't see before.

The walk back to the car was relatively uneventful with a couple exceptions.  First, we had a small flock of Northern Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis) flash by and refuse to come out for better looks.  Then, when we were just a couple minutes away from the car, Janean stopped abruptly and gasped.  I thought something was wrong but soon saw it was a gasp of surprise and delight.  A Barred Owl (Strix varia) was perched low at the side of the trail.  I am certain a lady that passed us had walked right by it without noticing and I might have done the same as well.  The light was a little dull, but I managed some nice shots of this confiding owl.

Getting stared down by the classic pure black eyes of a Barred Owl!

Like I said... confiding!

I finished off the day with a quick scan over Second Marsh that is part of the McLaughlin Bay Wildlife Reserve.  The day's diversity was enhanced by groups of Gadwalls (Anas strepera) and a mixed group of gulls that included around 100 Ring-billed (Larus delawarensis) and three Great Black-blacked Gulls (L. marinus).

Now that I know the world is not going to end, I hope to get back down to Lake Ontario a couple more times over the course of our time here.  The lack of Purple Sandpiper reports, however, means it is not as imperative.  I'll keep my eyes open for more reports in the mean time.  I probably won't have anything to report on before Christmas, so happy holidays and good birding to all!

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