Birding the Bowmanville Area

This blog is going to be a birding blog that is based in the Bowmanville, Ontario area. Bowmanville is about one hour east of Toronto on the shore of Lake Ontario. One focus of the blog will be the life and times of the Ospreys that breed in the marsh along the waterfront. Birds will be the focus but other critters may raise their heads on occasion.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Ptarmigan in Darlington!!!

OK! This is a bit bizarre, but this week a Willow Ptarmigan turned up on the grounds of Darlington Nuclear Plant here in Bowmanville. These are birds of the Arctic tundra so this one is definitely out of its normal range. Apparently what happened was that one of the Darlington staff noticed a strange bird on one of the gravel storage areas, took a photo somehow and looked it up in a bird book. He then notified the Biodiversity Officer for the site and she consulted with some birders and eventually came to the decision that this was a Willow Ptarmigan as opposed to a Rock Ptarmigan. Either one would be way out of their range! Apparently there was quite an irruption of these birds into central Quebec this past winter so this was probably an offshoot of this irruption! After the posting about this bird was made on ONTBIRDS someone reported that they had probably seen one at the Carden Alvar earlier this year but hadn't believed themselves! The only other southern Ontario record was one from Whitby Ont. from May of 1897, 114 years ago following another winter irruption of these birds.
Having found this bird and learning the magnitude of the sighting, the staff at the Darlington Plant organized an event to allow the birding public a chance to access the area and see the bird. We all assembled at the Darlington Info Center at 8:45AM and after a pre job brief, we boarded school buses and took a ten minute ride down to the storage area.

The assembled crowd of birders in the Info Center. Some came from as far away as Missouri!!

Boarding the school bus for the trip down to the nuclear sites storage area.

After three trips by the bus, everyone was down at the area and the bird was pushed out into view by three OPG "birddogs". It took some pushing and the lead birddog almost had to push it out with his feet, but eventually it walked out into the open and gave all 150 or so birders an excellent view!

These photos are not the greatest, as I don't have an SLR with a six mile long lens but they give you the general idea!

Kudos to the staff at OPG for going way above and beyond, and providing this opportunity for the birding public!! Many corporations would not have even thought about this, let alone have gone to the trouble to organize, and provide this opportunity, at a highly secure facility such as a Nuclear Power Plant. Congrats to OPG and their staff at Darlington!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Darlington in the Rain!

I have been in school this spring so I have to be in Pickering, by 8 AM. Needless to say this has cut into prime birding time. However saturday afternoon was a foggy day so I thought I would go over to the Waterfront Trail Area at the Darlington Nuclear Plant and see what there was to be seen. Well as I pulled up in the parking area I saw warblers before I got out of the car! In between the rain showers the birding was great. Warblers seen included Yellow rumped, Yellow, Black throated Blue, Bay Breasted, Blackburnian, Cape May , Magnolia, Tennessee, and Common Yellowthroat. Also in the immediate vicinity of the parking area were numerous Catbirds, Northern Orioles and at least two Orchard Orioles, Rose Breasted Grosbeaks, Wood Thushes, Brown Thrasher, and Least Flycatcher.
I then meandered toward the pond and had great looks at a Green Heron as well as a Common Moorhen. The best sighting at the pond had to be the adult Beaver that came ashore 10 feet from where I stood and munched away at the vegetation in front of me. Foggy days seem to make the wildlife more approachable! I don't think I have been as close to a wild beaver on land before in my life. Needless to say my camera was at home!
As the rain got a little heavier I decided to call it a day and was just about back to the car when I saw the bird of the day, at least for me! A gorgeous male Scarlet tanager about 6 feet off the ground and 15 ft away! He stayed visible in the immediate vicinity for at least 10 minutes and not a soul came by to show it too!
See what going out in the rain will get you!!!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Osprey watch!

Easter Sunday and it turned into not a bad day after starting out cloudy and cool. One of my boys is sick so we were kind of stuck close to home. however after supper Jake and I went for a short drive and checked out the Ospreys. There was a bird on its usual perch on the fourth post of the pond. When we first arrived I couldn't tell if the other bird was on the nest or not. After a few minutes, the other bird stuck her head up from in the nest. I don't know if this means she is already sitting on eggs or not. After a few minutes she flew down towards the male and back up onto the platform. The male then joined her and there was some copulating going on as we were leaving.
While we were watching the ospreys the sun was setting and the pond was glowing orange. Three Great Blue Herons flew over in tight formation quite low and a few Caspian terns were flying about the marsh. Jake and I finished the evening standing down at the lake and Jake threw rocks into the lake as little boys have been doing for ever!!!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Nest Repair in Progress!

In between snowstorms today, April 17, I went down to the West Side Marsh and checked to see if "our" Ospreys were back. Sure enough both birds were present. One of them was hard at work repairing/remodeling the nest. It is on the second most westerly of the four platforms. The other bird was resting on one of the branches on the most westerly platform. It was great to see them back as I always question if they are both going to make it through the winter and the long flights, both south in the fall and north in the spring! In other Osprey news I noticed on the ONTBIRDS bird alert someone reported that two sets of cell phone towers near Aurora, ON which have historically had nest on them have been changed to prevent there nesting this year. hopefully theses birds will find other suitable nest sites in time to raise their young this season. As of the 14th of this month the count for Ospreys going past Beamer point was 24. I am sure many of the Ospreys follow close to or over the lake and are thus not seen by the hawkwatch staion.
Other birds of note seen in the vicinity were Caspian Terns, Kestrel and Merlin as well as my first for the year Brown Thrashers. Always nice to see them!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Ospreys are returning!

Tonight while in the backyard lighting the barbecue I looked up to seean Osprey circling in the overcast sky. It was the first I have seen this year and being April 4th it is quite early for the year. It didn't look like it was one of he Bowmanville marsh birds as it appeared to be heading off to the northeast likely towards Rice Lake or the Kawarthas.
So far this year the Beamers Point Hawkwatch at Grimsby, ON has only recorded 1 Osprey. This was April 2nd. Also last week the Buffalo bird report listed an Osprey as a late arrival at the Tift Nature Preserve near Buffalo. I have not seen or heard any other reports this year so I was quite pleased to see the one over my yard today.
Other birds seen today include Wild Turkey on a Bowmanville lawn as I drove to work this AM.

Back on the Osprey topic, below is a photo of the Osprey platform at the mouth of the Wilmot Creek in Newcastle, ON. It has remained to my knowledge unused since it was erected. I think it is probably too vulnerable to predation by Raccoons for the birds liking!!

The Osprey platform at Wilmot creek.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Spring is springing!!

Today is March 23 and it is snowing out. I was out doing errands and decided to pop down to the West Side Marsh to see what I could see. This is my favourite quick birding trip and below you will see a Google satellite shot of the area.

The red X's are the rough location of four Osprey poles that have been erected by the Central Lake Ontario Conservation Authority. More on the Ospreys later.
Today I stopped to look at this pond and the first thing that I saw was a group of about a dozen Hooded Mergansers. These are a beautiful bird and it was nice to see them. There were also a couple of Buffleheads as well as Mallards and Gadwall in evidence. In the larger waterfowl, there were lots of geese paired up along the shoreline and at least four pair of resident Mute Swans. One of the swans was acting kinda funny and as I watched it, I realized that it was trying to chase off an animal in the water. A River Otter! For me an unexpected find, although I have heard of reports in other areas not to far away. Other birds seen today were Ring Billed gulls, Crows, Grackles, Red Winged Blackbirds, Brown Headeed Cowbirds, Robins, Mourning Doves, Chickadees, Junco, Purple Finch, Tree and Song sparrow. On the actual lake I saw Common Goldeneye and on the drive down to the marsh a single Turkey Vulture.
The Ospreys are not back yet. They are one of the last raptors to show on the return migration. They also tend to be under represented by the usual hawk watch sites. I think this is because they are more likely to fly over open water and most hawks will not. The hawk watch sites are mainly set up where the migration is constrained by a body of water. This is the case at the Beamer's Point Hawk Watch in Grimsby Ontario which is at the west end of Lake Ontario. I will be keeping you all posted on the life and times of these Ospreys when they do return in about a month.