NFN winter birding field event

By: Cody Rowe

There is something about the call of the outdoors that brings birders together, regardless of the weather, and Sunday January 18, 2015 was no exception. A group of 13 birders flocked to the shores of Lake Erie, all were eager to venture forth and find birds a little less common than the handful of Mallards and Ring-Billed Gulls that were gathered around the Port Dover Harbour.

Led by the wonderful guides, Audrey Heagy and Dave Okines, our seven-vehicle convoy made their way to Silver Lake. Unfortunately the lake was frozen over, but we did find a pair of American Black Ducks, hundreds of Canada Geese, House Sparrows, and some European Starlings. Leaving Silver Lake we followed the Lakeshore Rd to a beautiful dark morph Rough-legged Hawk (one of many seen that day) and a few American Crows. A little further down the road, we stumbled upon a large flock of Brown-Headed Cowbirds along with a few Red-winged Blackbirds feeding by the roadside and enjoying their day. We stopped briefly to view an amazing male American Kestrel sitting in a bush, this was the first of four of these birds to be seen during the afternoon. As Dave scanned the surrounding fields for the possibility of a Shrike he brought us more excitement. While he did not come up with the Shrike, he did spy a gorgeous male Snowy Owl sitting in the middle of the next field which warmed our chilly endeavour and excellent views of it were had by all.

Overjoyed with the Snowy Owl and satisfied with the diversity, a few of our crew headed homeward while the rest of us trudged on to find more birds. We were certainly not disappointed with a surprise Northern Mockingbird flitting about on a lawn just south of Fisherville that had just two trees on it making viewing easy.

Although dusk was quietly approaching, it was held back by a brilliant Short-Eared Owl perched in a tree by the Raptor Preserve on the 6th concession. Within seconds, another Short-Eared Owl burst from the trees, then another and another. A total of four Short-Eared Owls emerged and started to dance around the tree tops giving the group beautiful views. A Northern Harrier was seen hunting at the back of the field. Around the corner two more Short-Eared Owls appeared, darting out from the Cedar hedges. As the sun slowly slid behind the horizon it was time to head home after a very enjoyable birding afternoon. We would like to thank our excellent leaders, Audrey Heagy and Dave Okines and everyone who participated! Thank you to the beautiful birds that made our day awesome!