[Ontbirds]Snowy Owls, Horned Larks west of Newmarket

RON FLEMING flemingron at rogers.com
Sun Feb 25 18:18:38 EST 2007

Slowly but surely, birds are starting to get that zugenruhe, as the German scientists call it (or "Urge for Leaving", as Joni Mitchell sang it).  Even up here north of Toronto the cast of characters is slowly beginning to change.  In many local fields that I checked today, Horned Larks had replaced Snow Buntings.  Out of seven stops with birds moving about in field habitat, six yielded larks and only one yielded buntings.  The larks that I got a good look at were the prairie race (praticola), sporting yellow chins and white faces.  Their tinkling songs were a pleasure to hear.
  Another welcome addition to the open fields west of Newmarket today was a pair of Snowy Owls.  Snowies were conspicuously absent from the south Holland Marsh this winter - the two I observed today were the first ones reported in the Bradford area since November, a far cry from last year's nyctea-rich winter.  
  One of the owls was a female/juvenile type (fairly heavily barred) sitting on the ground about 300 metres NNE of house #345 on Strawberry Lane.  The other was a pure white male - also sitting on the ground - about 100 m SSW of house #289 Tornado Drive.  This latter bird was almost directly south of the old GMC pickup truck that is half-buried in snow near the blue utility building on the south side of the road.  As a reference point in the otherwise featureless fields, there was a small group of wooden crates in an L-shape sitting against a backdrop of two long grey buildings (waaay back by a few kms).  The time was 2:00 p.m.  I also had a male American Kestrel fly by in this area.
  The top end of Bathurst Street (north of Queensville Sdrd.) yielded nothing, nor did the north end of 2nd Concession, but the west end of Ravenshoe Road in southwest Keswick had a dozen Snow Buntings near house #444 and, farther west near Yonge, the palest light morph Rough-legged Hawk I have seen.  The on-again/off-again Snowy Owl that haunts the bare strip of Yonge Street south of Ravenshoe has been seen as recently as this morning by Keith Dunn.  The bird was on top of one of the poles at the roadside beside the only building out there on the south end of Yonge.  Despite numerous attempts I, personally, have not had luck with this bird since Dec. 16(!) but Keith and his nephew Chris have seen it on several occasions.  Keith suggests that an early morning visit - before the snowmobiles get zooming around the perimeter of the fields - seems to be the best time to look for this bird.
  Yesterday, while returning from Toronto, I observed 28 Wild Turkeys in a field on the east side of Jane Street, about 3 kms north of King Road (which runs eastward into King City from nearby Hwy. 400).  Last Monday (Feb. 19) Keith Dunn had male turkeys displaying in a field just east of Keswick and, on Feb. 15, he had a Brown-headed Cowbird at his feeder in Keswick.
  Lastly, I should mention that the eagle species seen in the general vicinity of Lemonville (east of Aurora) earlier this month sounds as if it was, indeed, a Golden Eagle.  Apart from my own fleeting glimpse of the bird on Feb. 11 and my hockey buddy's much better view on Feb. 10 a resident farmer informed Dave Probert (whom I had phoned to do some local sleuthing) that he had, indeed, been seeing a huge bird of prey near his property, a bird that he felt was a golden eagle, not a bald.  I have searched for the bird four times since Feb. 11 but have not been able to find it.  It was seen in the general vicinity of Lemonville, which is just south of Bloomington Road on McCowan.  Bloomington sits on a ridge that offers good views to the south, but it is a busy road.
  Ron Fleming, Newmarket
  The Bradford Marsh area is just west of Newmarket.  It is most easily accessed by driving north on Hwy. 400 and taking the Canal Road exit a few kms north of Hwy. 9.  Turn right (east) on Canal Road and follow it about 4 kms to Tornado Drive, then turn right.  Once you cross Hazel St. you will see the blue "garage" coming up on your right.
  Ravenshoe Road can be reached by travelling north on Leslie Street, past Newmarket and Queensville to the south end of Keswick.  Turn left (west) at the lights, go down the hill past the baseball diamonds, and keep going into the vegetable fields.  Yonge Street runs south from Ravenshoe near the western end of that road.


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