[Ontbirds]Merlin, Snowy Owls, Snow Buntings - Keswick & area

RON FLEMING flemingron at rogers.com
Sat Jan 7 13:25:47 EST 2006

    Mike Van den Tillaart and I decided to try one of the regional forests east of Newmarket this morning and wound up at the North Tract (just SW of Davis Drive & KennedyRd).  There was very little bird activity in the mainly coniferous woods there but we did encounter several Red-breasted Nuthatches and two BROWN CREEPERS.  Returning to where my van was parked along Kennedy Road, we stopped to scope a small falcon perched in a tree on the west side of the road and were pleased to see that it was a female MERLIN.
  Driving north from there, we stopped at a very busy feeder set-up on the NW corner of Kennedy and Queensville Sdrd.  There was a mixed flock of about 200 birds feeding actively there, about 60% American Goldfinches but including numerous PINE SISKINS and two COMMON REDPOLLS.
  We continued north to Willow Beach west of Sutton to drive the south shore of Lake Simcoe in search of Bald Eagles, but found only a few Mallards, Cm. Goldeneye, and RB Mergansers.  The ice now runs several hundred metres out from shore in most places.
  At the western end of Ravenshoe Road in southwest Keswick we stopped for several minutes to enjoy remarkably close views of approx. 700 SNOW BUNTINGS foraging along the road, in the fields, and often right beside us in the ditch. We then drove down the short section of Yonge Street that runs south from Ravenshoe Road and, looking south from the where the last two buildings sit (signed #22094), we had excellent looks at a heavily barred SNOWY OWL on the second hydro pole down the road.  (Please note that this barren stretch is certainly driveable but it is a narrow road that is not well maintained, so take care you don't get stuck; it is in the middle of nowhere.)
  Returning to Ravenshoe Road, we crossed paths with Eva D'amico, who was also out birding.  As we were talking by the roadside I decided to do a quick check of the fields on the north side of the road.  Thanks to my old but still reliable Bushnell Spacemaster scope, another SNOWY OWL came into view, this one sitting almost invisibly in the snowy field just west of the property marked #444, about 100 metres out.  (This may be the same bird that sometimes perches on the TV antenna of house 282 a short distance further west.)
  Ron Fleming, Newmarket
  Directions - Keswick is north of Newmarket.  Take Leslie Street north 
to Ravenshoe Rd., then turn west and follow Ravenshoe down the hill and 
past the sports fields there.  Follow it out into the flatlands, 
looking for snow buntings and snowy owls in the barren landscape.  I have 
found the north side to be generally more productive, but that's not a 
hard and fast rule.  You can drive to where Ravenshoe ends, then turn 
south on Yonge Street (a short and rather desolate line segment of that 
much longer thoroughfare) and drive along it if you 
wish to.  Snowy owls, harriers, snow buntings and rough-legged hawks are 
all possible sightings.  As mentioned, exercise caution in this latter stretch.


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