Earlier this month I set myself a goal of finding 60 bird species in January. I found a list of sightings of winter birds in Ontario on this web site *, excluded rare or occasional finds, and concluded that there are about 160 birds species in the province in an average winter. Not all are found in my area though and I would have to travel to winter birding hot spots such as the Niagara River to see large numbers of winter migrants. Anyone who goes birding near the falls in the winter must be impervious to very damp chills and icy surfaces. (not me!) I decided that finding 60 of these birds would be a good start for one winter month.
At the end of last week I made the twenty minute trip from the hospital to Guelph Lake Conservation Area. Guelph Lake is created by a dam on the Speed River and was built to control flooding along the Grand River watershed. It has naturalized beautifully and the conservation area is a favourite haunt for birders. The area is closed to cars for the winter but it is possible to snowshoe or ski on the snow covered trails. I noticed a bus load of school children at the Nature Centre and stopped in for a look. I liked the sign that said, "An experience is worth a thousand pictures."
The students were just finishing up their outdoor winter activities as I looked around at the winter camping site with tents and a snow house. Bird feeders were set up in a wooded area and many birds were in the trees and brush. In thirty minutes I was able to count the last few birds needed to reach my goal.
I knew Cedar Waxwings are found in small groups throughout the winter and had seen a flock in mid-December. About 15 of them flew in from the lake and rested in the trees near the feeders. The feeders attracted large numbers of Chickadees, Tree Sparrows, Cardinals, Downy Woodpeckers, House and Goldfinches, Juncos, as well as the birds I will describe in this and two other posts.
I have only seen one Eastern Towhee and found it this summer near our home. They are not common in any season here. A lone Towhee is wintering at Guelph Lake near these feeders and I had a few glimpses of it as is hopped on the ground in some brush. A number of factors which I will describe in a later post kept it from coming out into the open.
And so I counted birds # 57 and #58, unexpected additions, especially the Eastern Towhee.
More to come...
*this web site also lists winter birds found in all Canadian provinces