[Ontbirds] Mid winter report from the Sault-"Grren morph Siskins, Robins.Rusty Blackbird, Owls and BB Woodpecker , Hoary Redpolls

Kirk Zufelt zufelt_k at shaw.ca
Sat Jan 31 16:38:11 EST 2009

Ontario Birders;

I thought I might update people on the what is happening bird wise in the
Sault Ste. Marie Area.

It has been a relatively good winter locally.

Obviously the most dramatic story is the absolutely massive numbers of Pine
Siskins. The numbers are still growing and I have literally hundreds at my
feeding station all day-every day with 2-3 "green-morph" birds most days. I
am going through a 50lb bag of Nyjer seed and a 50 lb bag of black oil
sunflower seeds every 10 days along with bags of millett and safflower
seeds, corn, suet and grit. I have 8-10 large bags of Nyjer seed out at all
times and they are covered with Siskins as are all the other feeders and
ground. It is a continuous feeding frenzy. Mixed in are a fair number of
Common Redpolls a few Hoary Redpolls and a smattering of Goldfinches and
Purple Finchs. If it continues like this I will be broke by spring.

At one point earlier in the winter White-wing Crossbills were everywhere but
they seem to have thinned out considerably. Small numbers of Pine and
Evening Grosbeaks on the roadsides and a complete absence of Red Crossbills
rounds out the finch report.

Along with the finches I have a wintering Norhtern Flicker (very rare for
winter in this area) and today a female Black-backed Woodpecker was in the
dead Spruce trees behind my house- making 5 sp. of woodpeckers for my yard
today. I have 100s of dead Spruce trees on my property and this is my second
Black-backed in the last few years. I have had 4 American Three-toed
Woodpeckers over the last 3 winters but none as yet this year. Given that we
have 5 feet of snow it is a bit of a challenge getting around back there.

On Whitefish Island in Sault Ste. Marie there has been a very reliable Rusty
Blackbird hanging around the trail and a sizeable flock of Robins both
unusual in winter locally. Both sp. of Waxwings and both Redpolls are also
present in this area.

There have been at least 4 Boreal Owl reports locally one in Bruce Mines
hung around for a month. I of course haven't seen any of them. Just south of
us in the Rudyard, MI area there have been up to 5 Snowy Owls, 3 Hawk Owls
and 1 Great Gray Owl. Dave Bell a very kowledgeable and keen local birer had
a juvenile Golden Eagle flying over the Sault earlier in the week. It was
with a Bald Eagle which is the commonest wintering raptor in the area. There
were several Gyrfalcon sitings and some photos from the farming areas south
of Sault, MI earlier in the winter but none the last couple of weeks.

 Interstingly Sault Ste. Marie has never really attracted much attention
from "Ontario Birders" given our distant location. This contrasts
dramatically to Sault Ste. Marie area of Michigan  which is considered a
prime birding hotspot all year around by birders from Michigan, the other
Great Lakes states and really from across North America and further afield.

 The Sault Area (defined by the Sault Naturalists as the area within a 50
mile diameter circle with the centre at the international bridge) Checklist
includes over 360 documented species including such megararities as Black
Rail (banded), Short-tailed Hawk, Ferruginous Hawk, Wheatear (4 records),
Barn Owl, Ancient Murrelet (4 or 5 records), Cave Swallow, Black-throated,
Cassin's, Brewer's and Golden-crowned Sparrows, all 4 Longspurs, Inca and
Common Ground Dove, Tufted Duck, Virginia's Warbler, Clarke's Nutcracker,
Lewis's Woodpecker(2 records), Slaty-backed Gull and Wilson's Plover to just
name a few. There are several Michigan birder's who have seen well over 300
sp. at Whitefish Point alone (which in area is smaller than the tip area of
Point Pelee).

The fact that many (but certainly not all) of the prime local birding areas
are in Michigan has also certainly contributed to the relatively muted
interest in the Sault Area in Ontario birding circles.

Any one passing through the area is welcome to contact me by E-mail for an
update or advice on local birding spots.

Good birding

Kirk Zufelt

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