York Region: Tundra Swans (NO), Snowy Owls and an X Shrike

Gene Denzel lezned at yorku.ca
Sat Mar 13 18:02:45 EST 2004

Given the beautiful (if chilly) day, and the forecast of grubby weather 
tomorrow, we decided to take off this afternoon to follow up on Ron 
Flemings sightings. We had no luck with the tundra swans (not even any 
geese there!), but did better up on Ravenshoe Rd where we found (near 
the Jade Green Farm road going N from Ravenshoe) one pure white snowy 
to the North, and (presumably one of Ron's) a heavily spotted one to 
the South. One only needed to swivel the scope. The one to the North 
stretched its wings several times, and then flew a short distance to 
right alongside the farm road.

While checking around, a couple of horned larks flew in to peck around 
in a nearby driveway, giving very good views, and then we had a  Shrike 
acting like a flycatcher across the road!  (This bird then flew into an 
evergreen and was hidden, and I tried whistling to it, and it gave a 
series of hard jeering calls in response, before flying off.) My wife 
had a better angle and got her binoc's on it while it was in the tree, 
and she thinks loggerhead, which is consistent with the call I heard. 
Still, would they be migrating this early?
(See Ron's directions below.)
On 13-Mar-04, at 12:37 PM, Ronald J. Fleming wrote:

I got up early this chilly March morn to join Kevin Shackleton and Keith
Dunn to check if any of the tundra swans reported in southwestern
Ontario earlier this month might have made their way up to York Region
yet.  Low temperatures and a surprisingly bitter wind made us doubtful,
but as male red-winged blackbirds shivered in their epaulets beside us,
we did in fact find 14 tundra swans in the company of about 100 Canada
geese in the mainly frozen fields at the north end of Bathurst Avenue.
We also had excellent looks at a mink that was following the frozen
ditch along the line of the dike there.

In an equally barren landscape just southwest of Keswick, we once again
scoped frozen fields in a stiff wind along Ravenshoe Road, this time in
hopes of finding the snowy owls that have wintered at this location once
again.  With stinging ears and watering eyes we were rewarded for our
efforts, finding two female/juvenile types.  One was visible from
Ravenshoe Road itself, sitting on a raised line of dirt less than a km
from the road on the south side, not far from the northern extension of
Yonge Street.  The other bird was almost at the southern end of this
desolate little stretch of Yonge, on the east side of the road.

At both locations we observed and heard numerous horned larks.

After Kevin dropped me off at home around 9:00 a.m., I went looking for
northern goshawk in the forests east of Newmarket in an effort to locate
one for Dave Mudd.  This was my third attempt in as many days and I once
again came up empty, but I did observe a large accipiter crossing Warden
Avenue from east to west less than a km north of the Aurora Road.  It
may have been a male gos, but then again it could have been a large
female Cooper's;  I couldn't be sure as it was already halfway across
the road before I noticed it.  I will be searching the area again, as
well as following up on some stick nests that I saw while hiking.

The northern part of Bathurst described above is accessible by taking
Yonge Street north from Newmarket, then turning right just south of
Bradford at the lights.  Bathurst immediately jogs west, then north
again.  If you follow it all the way up, you will reach a point where
the trees end at a wide open area.  By looking west, preferably with a
scope, you should see ducks and geese in the distance (although they do
move around!).  As the snow and ice in the fields starts melting with
the spring thaw, more and more migrating waterfowl will drop down to
feed and rest here over the next several weeks.

Ravenshoe Road runs east-west in the southern end of Keswick.  The area
described above is most readily accessed by driving north on Hwy. 404 to
its terminus, then switching to Leslie Street and following it up to
Ravenshoe Road, where there is a stop light and a gas station.  By
turning west you will descend a hill and soon enter the open
agricultural fields that lead to the Holland River and the northern
fragment of Yonge Street referred to above.  Once you're out in the
flats it comes down to a Scope-and-Hope strategy.

Ron Fleming, Newmarket

"Ronald J. Fleming" <ronaldj..fleming at sympatico.ca>

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Professor Gene Denzel
Information Technology Program
Department of Mathematics and Statistics
York University   416-736-5250

Gene Denzel <lezned at yorku.ca>

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