[Ontbirds] Long-eared Owls, Shrike - Kleinburg/WW Crossbills - Vivian

RON FLEMING flemingron at rogers.com
Sun Jan 28 17:26:40 EST 2007

En route from Hamilton to Newmarket this morning I followed up on Gene Denzel's Saturday report about Kleinburg-area birds and abandoned the 407 for feathered fare.  At the Nashville cemetary I found two Long-eared Owls.  Unfortunately, one of them flushed and drew the attention of some local-and-vocal Blue Jays, so I decided not to bushwhack in search of any others lest they suffer the same harrassment.  For the record, this kind of restraint (which I must admit I did not have as an eager novice) is recommended; it's hard to pull in the reins when your excitement is high, but its much better for the birds if you do.  I think owls, in particular, get chased a lot.  Not to sound like a grumpy old teacher (which actually I am, come to think of it...), but bear in mind that they need to devote their energy to hunting and surviving rather than fleeing from humans.  
  Anyway, a little further south, on McGillvray Rd., I bumped into two birders who were also following up on Gene's report (you're a popular man, Dr. Denzel).  They directed me to the Horned Larks in the field just south of the driveway that leads into the main farm at # 9471.
  I set up my scope and counted 72 Horned Larks plus 11 Snow Buntings.  I could not find any Lapland Longspurs but the spirit of Gerry Bennett, whose birding turf this once was, would surely say "keep checking".
  When I turned north again on McGillvray, a commotion in a roadside bush caught my attention: it was a Northern Shrike chasing Tree Sparrows.  He never nabbed one, but the flock of 60 or more sparrows that had been cavorting happily in the weeds when I first arrived was soon lying low.  Along the south side of Major Mackenzie Drive where it crests the hill west of Hwy. 27 there was a wintering flock of about 20 American Robins.  (I'd like to have done a better count but it was a bad place to stop).
  Back home in Newmarket, I grabbed my cross-country skis and drove out to the North Tract east of town to follow up on Chris Dunn's report aboutWhite-winged Crossbills.  This large section of York Regional Forest runs from the east side of McCowan Road all the way over to Hwy. 48.  There are thousands and thousands of crossbill-friendly conifers.  Still, during one of my many stops for oxygen, the calls of some anomalous winter finches (i.e. not goldfinches, not house finches, and not pine siskins) caught my attention and I looked up to see a flock of about two dozen birds moving south then east just about the treetops.  I can't swear that they were Chris's crossbills, but the flight calls (different than their more characteristic two-tone trills) were certainly similar to those recorded on the Stokes Guide to Bird Songs that I checked when I got back to the van.
  Interestingly, when I got home to check my e-mails Chris Dunn and Julia Marko had sent a message saying they'd seen and heard the crossbills again Sunday morning.  Their original post from Friday describes the area well: "At 10:30 a.m. there was a flock of between 25 and 30 White-winged Crossbills at the North Tract of the York Regional Forest, about 6 
km east  of Newmarket. The birds were vocal, feeding on spruce cones by 
the side of  McCowan Road, about 250 m south of Davis Drive.  Directions: From the 404, take the Davis Drive exit and follow Davis Drive east to  McCowan Rd.  
  This area is known as Vivian and the North Tract is sometimes referred to as the Vivian Forest.
  Ron Fleming, Newmarket
  P.S. Gene Denzel: Sorry I was unable to make the Kleinburg trip.  Icy road conditions between Newmarket and Kettleby prompted me to turn back that morning.

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