January 14 2018 (Sunday) Lynde Shores, Cranberry Marsh, Whitby Harbour, Second Marsh. Photography Field trip
Leader: Claude King, Dave Milsom.
Today's photo workshop attracted a dozen birders/photographers who all seem to enjoy getting photos of birds when they venture out into the field.
Although the main emphasis was on taking good photos of the more common birds, we did manage to see a few rarer species including Brown Thrasher, several White-throated Sparrows and Red-bellied Woodpecker in Lyndeshores Conservation Area, Bald Eagle and 2 Redhead ducks in Whitby Harbour, Great Black-backed Gull off Oshawa Harbour and Song Sparrow at Second Marsh.
Many thanks once again to Claude King for sharing his photographic knowledge with the group, for showing us some of his excellent photos, and for giving individual assistance and advice throughout the day.
January 13 2018 (Saturday) Ottawa Area [until Noon]
Leader: Roy John.
Despite my apprehension about road conditions following Ottawa's + 9 C/rain plunge to -17 C/snow overnight, the Ottawa road crews had cleared the city streets by 0700. The rural roads were wind swept and bare. So we had no problems in getting around, but finding birds was another issue. We only found 20 species. However six species were good to find in Ottawa in January ? Wood Duck, American Wigeon, N. Pintail, Bald Eagle, Snowy Owl and Lapland Longspur.
January 6 2018 (Saturday) Leslie Street Spit, Toronto
Leader: Dan Riley, Garth Riley.
I suspect we came close to setting two records for today: 1) the coldest temperatures for an OFO outing starting the day at -23C (feeling like -32C) and 2) the shortest outing at just under 2 hours.
Sixteen participants joined Dan and I, and managed to tally 24 species of birds. We started the day with a Northern Mockingbird huddled in the shrubs at the corner of Leslie St. and Unwin Ave. The most productive area was the open water at the bridge at Unwin Ave. Nice surprises here include a drake Northern Pintail, two Lesser Scaup, three Hooded Mergansers and two American Coot.
Some of the participants spotted a fly over Common Raven as well as three American Robins. Another participant briefly saw a bird flush from the wet woods which was most likely a Long-eared Owl based on their description.
Ashbridge's Bay proved unproductive with a small group of Ring-billed Gulls huddled on the ice. The only species we added here were a couple of Herring Gulls. The wind started to pick up and subsequently the temperature became unbearable. The group quickly dissipated to the warmth of their cars.
Thanks to all the participants for braving the cold and making it an enjoyable time. Below is the link to the eBird checklists for the outing. Note that I left off Common Raven as I did not see this bird.
January 1 2018 (Monday) Peterborough Area
Leader: Dave Milsom, Matthew Tobey.
10 birders arrived in Peterborough this morning for our annual January 1st outing. The temperature at the outset was -28 Celsius. Our main aim was to see the Ross Geese at Cobourg Harbour but we failed despite 4 separate visits. Despite this we had a good day with 39 species found, including Snowy Owl, 2 Bald Eagles, 2 Merlins, 2 Sharp-shinned Hawks, 2 flocks of Snow Buntings, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Common Grackle, 2 Brown-headed Cowbirds, 4 White-throated Sparrows, all 3 Mergansers, 4 flocks of Wild Turkeys, 35 Robins, and one Common Raven. We also saw 4 Coyotes in one field on Hannah Road and a Porcupine near Peterborough Airport.
Many thanks to Matthew Tobey for his expertise and co-leadership.
December 10 2017 (Sunday) Toronto Lakeshore
Leader: John Schmelefske.
Three relatively new birders attended today's waterfront outing along the lakeshore west of Toronto. 38 species were seen. The small group size allowed us to linger on each species and look at details. The day began at Humber Bay Park where we were lucky to get a good look at a Winter Wren.. Other highlights here were White-winged Scoter, Great Black-backed Gull and Green-winged Teal.
The next stop was Colonel Sam Park, where an American Widgeon, Red-Necked Grebes and numberous other waterfowl were seen.
The final stop of the day was Sedgwick Park where Nashville and Yellow-rumped Warblers were still present. Also seen were Golden-crowned and Ruby Crowned Kinglets as well as another Winter Wren and Brown Creeper.
Many thanks to the three eager participants for their enthusiasm and companionship! It?s a great day when you can add 9 new species to your life list!
December 3 2017 (Sunday) Niagara River Gull Watch
Leader: Josh Vandermeulen, Jeremy Bensette, Marcie Jacklin.
In perfect gull-watching weather on Sunday 4 December 2016, over 130 OFO members and friends spend an enjoyable day birding the Niagara River. The purpose of the trip was to identify and age the largest number of gull species and see other good birds on the River. It was a treat to see everyone from all over Ontario, and we were pleased to welcome our American friends from neighbouring states. Having so many sharp-eyed birders worked in our favour. Our group saw 10 species of gulls listed here in checklist order:
Bonaparte's Gull: numerous and almost all were adults.
Little Gull: one adult seen very well from the boat launch at Queenston.
*Black-headed Gull: one adult flying and resting on the water put on an excellent show at Whirlpool, though was a challenge to pick out from above at the viewing areas.
Ring-billed Gull: common on the River.
Herring Gull: common on the River at Adam Beck and above the Falls.
Thayer's Gull: one adult at Adam Beck was seen well. One juvenile below the Falls was seen well by a group that braved the wet mist.
Kumlien's Iceland Gull: almost all the Iceland Gulls we see on the Niagara River are the kumlieni subspecies which breeds in the eastern Canadian Arctic. At Adam Beck we saw two adults and 1 third winter. Above the Falls out from the barge viewing area was one adult.
Lesser Black-backed Gull: several adults and a juvenile at Adam Beck, and at least five adults and a juvenile seen from the control gates area.
Glaucous Gull: one adult out from control gates area.
Great Black-backed Gull: one adult at Adam Beck, two at Queenston, and least four adults and one juvenile above the Falls and at the control gates.
Other Species on or near the River: four adult male Harlequin Ducks seen well from the viewing areas near the barge. At least five Tufted Titmice at Dufferin Islands were eating peanuts from people's hands, also a Red-bellied Woodpecker, Carolina Wren, Winter Wren and Brown Creeper. A Pine warbler was in a pine tree on the median between the Greenhouse and the River. Black Vultures were seen all day on various roofs and chimneys in Lewiston NY (up to 7 at one time), from the pull-off on the road below Brock Monument that leads down the hill to Queenston, adult Bald Eagle at Queenston.
December 3 2017 (Sunday) Niagara River Gull Watch
Leader: Josh Vandermeulen, Jeremy Bensette, Marcie Jacklin.
Well over 100 birders joined Marcie Jacklin, Jeremy Bensette and I for the annual OFO gull trip along the Niagara River yesterday, December 3, 2017. We were treated to beautiful weather conditions - nearly 10 degrees, sunny and calm - and a wide variety of interesting birds were seen, including nine species of gulls as well as the Thayer's subspecies of Iceland Gull. The OFO group began at the overlook for the Adam Beck/Robert Moses power plants in the morning, then birded the stretch of river from Niagara Falls to above the Control Gates during the late morning and early afternoon. Due to the size of the OFO group, small factions broke off throughout the day, covering many locations. Below are some of our highlights from an excellent day along the mighty Niagara River. My apologies if I have missed any sightings. Due to the size of the group I am sure there were several notable sightings that are not covered here.
Adam Beck overlook - several "Kumlien's" Iceland Gulls of various ages, including a nice comparison of several 2nd winter birds. One of the 2nd winter Iceland Gulls at Adam Beck appeared to lie more on the Thayer's side of the spectrum, while an adult "Thayer's" Iceland Gull was also viewed by some. Two Peregrine Falcons were seen here as well.
Niagara Falls - the Black-legged Kittiwake was seen well by most birders who tried for it. The bird would disappear for half an hour at a time but was frequently observed flying in and out of the mist at the base of the Horseshoe Falls, providing excellent looks at its distinctive juvenile plumage. A life bird for many!
Above the Falls - the group of five Harlequin Ducks were in their usual location, amongst the rocks mid-river and across from the Floral Showhouse building (greenhouse). At least eight different Lesser Black-backed Gulls of various ages were found in the stretch of river between the edge of the Falls and the Control Gates, while "Kumlien's" Iceland Gull and Glaucous Gull were also observed here. A Snowy Owl spent a second consecutive day at the south end of the concrete breakwall extending south from the Control Gates. Two Common Ravens provided entertainment near the Control Gates as they flew around and exhibited some pair-bonding behaviour. I heard second hand that someone watched one of the Common Ravens steal the remains of a dead bird from the Snowy Owl! Common Raven has only recently become a member of the avifauna of Niagara as the species slowly extends its range to the south in southern Ontario. Three Northern Rough-winged Swallows were lingering on the river, flying back and forth from the area around the barge to the Control Gates. Northern Rough-winged Swallows are often seen here into early November, but it is unusual for them to linger into the winter birding season. This is only the second record out of the last 10 years during "winter" in Ontario.
Queenston - The Black Vultures were active on this warm sunny day and several groups saw individuals gliding over the river near Queenston. Some of us were not so lucky and our only views of Black Vulture were of 1-3 birds roosting on the roof of the usual church across the river in Lewiston, NY. The Queenston docks provided good views of up to three Little Gulls as they foraged along the river to the north.
Crystal Beach - While a little ways away from the Niagara River, several groups of birders reported success in observing the Brant at Crystal Beach Waterfront Park, located on the north shore of Lake Erie between Point Abino and Fort Erie. This bird does occasionally wander along the shoreline, but is usually on the beach immediately west of the parking area at Crystal Beach Waterfront Park.
Thank you to Marcie and Jeremy for assisting me with leading this hike, and thank you to all the other birders who were so generous in assisting with identification and aging of gulls with their fellow peers. Additionally, I want to give a special shout out to Justin Peter and Mark Peck who put together an excellent gull workshop and quiz at the Niagara Falls Public Library on the Saturday afternoon. I hope that a great time was had by all, and I'm looking forward to next year!