Volume 4, Number 3 - March 1, 1999
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Cold nights and warm days, lots of sun. Lows near -18, highs +2.
Spring is in the air, OWLS are calling, GRAY JAYS are nesting, MERGANSERS are courting....
More reports of NORTHERN SAW-WHET OWLS calling came in last week, Feb 22 two responded to Robin Tapley's BARRED OWL tape played at the base of Millar Hill north-east of Huntsville. Feb 26 visiting birders from Hamilton, Bill Lamond, George Naylor and Kevin McLaughlin had one calling along the Oxtongue River opposite Spring Lake Motel in Dwight. Just down the road, a pair of BARRED OWLS have been vocal since the middle of Feb. outside the Logging Chain Inn.
SNOWY OWLS have been hard to find in southern Ontario this winter but one has been seen a few times in Simcoe Co beside Hwy 169 south of Washago and just north of the Hwy 12 junction. When Ron Reid and Janet Grand last checked on Feb 26 it was on the ground, well back from the road, east of the highway midway between conc 6 and 7, best seen from the 7th. It was being harassed and dive bombed by no less than four ROUGH-LEGGED HAWKS. Bob Bowles and others checking the next day found the hawks but no owl, appears the hawks made it move. On the 7th conc a massive flock of SNOW BUNTINGS swirled as Bob made his best estimate, 2000 plus! HORNED LARKS were also in the fields in good numbers.
If you're down that way you might want to check the fields in Carden Township for SHORT-EARED OWLS, Ron Reid had one on Jan. 9 and 19. To get to the area go south on 169, turn left at the sign to Dalrymple Lake, follow past Lake Dalrymple and where road curves south to Kirkfield, turn left onto McNamee Road, look all along this road, and to the left up Wylie and Shrike Roads. Dusk is when the SHORT-EARS are most active.
You can see ROUGH-LEGGED HAWKs in Muskoka too, on Feb 25 one sailed past Al Sinclair at tree-top level just North of Port Severn at White's Falls Rd. On the 27th the two on South Monk Dr were still around, across the road from #1094 in the trees at the back of the field. These two seem to know each other, at one point they were sitting on the same branch. If you hear SNOW BUNTINGS twittering look on the TV antenna at 1094, 22 were lined up into the wind in perfect formation.
A pair of nest building GRAY JAYS was found in the Dwight Bog by Doug Tozer on Feb 13, just a few sticks but the earliest date on record for finding a nest under construction after 30+ years study in the Muskoka-Algonquin Park area by Dan Strickland.
Further south 4 to 6 GRAY JAYS were still coming to feeders on Purbrook Rd when John Challis and Gayle Carlye checked on the 21st. Go past the sharp curve where the road turns east and before the big swamp look for a small bungalow on the right with a no trespassing sign and a wooden gate. If they're not there check the feeder up the road on the other side, treat them with some pieces of beef fat to get a good look, bread is not very nutritional. They also had 14 WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILLS on the trip, one a roadkill.
Ron Tozer supplied us with a count of the MALLARDS and BLACKS at the Huntsville swing bridge, 50 on Feb 25th, maybe more since some may have been up or downstream. Amazing how many ducks will winter if you supply them with a free lunch. COMMON MERGANSERS arrived on the South Muskoka River last week, a lone female was being courted by 5 males below Trethewey's Falls on Feb 26. They took turns scooting in front of her tails up, she was not impressed and kept swimming back and forth trying to avoid them. John Purchase saw 3 there the next day and 5 near Santa's Village on the 28th.
The latest BOHEMIAN WAXWING feeding site is in Dwight where 28 were choking down Mountain Ash berries at the Spring Lake Motel on Feb 26 and 27.
At the feeders GOLDFINCHES numbers still going down but we're seeing more PINE SISKINS, REDPOLLS are very scarce, the only reports are from Glen Orchard where a couple were at Jennings' feeder on the 18th and Uffington where Al Sinclair heard one calling as it flew over late on the 22nd. If you have regular REDPOLLS please let us know, it will soon be too late to see them this winter.
Lisa Jones reports that they're moving their feeder farther from the house next year, a loud thump on the window turned out to be a HAIRY WOODPECKER crash. It's now at Wing and a Prayer expected to survive but is showing signs of concussion. To be safe a feeder should be 30 M (90 ft) from windows.
The BACKYARD BIRDCOUNT
Where have all the birds gone this winter? Check the maps at web site http://birdsource.cornell.edu/gbbc/maproom_tax.html
The big flocks of EVENING GROSBEAKS are in Nova Scotia and Minnesota, gee I'm starting to miss them.
CORRECTION: The bird alert reporting the RED-HEADED WOODPECKER incorrectly located Orgill's Bay on Lake Rosseau, it is actually at the south end of Lake Joseph. BTW Eleanor got some nice closeups of the bird with her new monster 500mm fluorite lens.
The theme of the Westwind Forest Stewardship Inc. conference in Huntsville on Feb 23/24 was "Expanding the definition of wildlife".
The old definition: Undomesticated vertebrate animals, except fish, considered collectively.
The new definition: All wild mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fishes, invertebrates, plants, fungi, algae, bacteria, and other wild organisms.
Many of the speakers at the conference talked about the new groups in the definition and how they are being included in forestry management, all of considerable interest to the naturalists who attended.
Some tidbits from the conference:
When and where is the best time to look for Spotted Turtles? - Mid April to mid May basking beside small ponds on the southern Canadian Shield (they have been seen on the Torrance Barrens).
What happens when a Massassauga Rattlesnake hibernaculum is destroyed? - In the fall the snakes continue to look for it until they freeze to death.
Why leave some Balsam Fir in a managed hardwood stand? - Black-throated Green Warblers need them for nest sites.
What's the plural of "fish"? - "fishes"
What's the latest method the MNR is using to improve management of wildlife? - a computer modelling program which will predict the effect of different logging plans on 15 indicator species.
In the next 100 years Global warming will shift the boundary between temperate and boreal forests 500 km north. What's the problem? - the rate of natural forest migration is only 10 to 40 km per century!
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