[Ontbirds] Amherst Island - Northern Hawk Owl, Short-eared Owl

Chris Kimber cmkimber at gmail.com
Thu Feb 17 11:20:07 EST 2011

Yesterday I spent the day birding Amherst Island with my parents, Mike
and Sue Kimber, who were up visiting me from Toronto.  Despite being
well-aware of the lower numbers and diversity of raptors on the
island, as is not terribly unusual for mid-February, we were still
optimistic about finding some interesting birds and that proved to be
the case.

The number 1 target was the 'regular' Northern Hawk Owl along South
Shore Road, which I had missed the day after its discovery.  Around
1030 AM, Immediately upon passing house #4455, where the bird was
initially discovered and at the west end of its apparent hunting
circle, my dad picked up the bird dashing past us in flight, after
which it obligingly alighted on a power pole and allowed us prolonged
scope views along the road.  We gave it a fair bit of space and while
it did not hunt in our presence (to our disappointment!) it was
actively looking about almost everywhere but at us, apparently intent
on locating its next vole.  As a side note, we did not see this bird
while driving through the area again around 430 PM, and there are many
places in the trees around the houses in the area where it could hide.

We were also treated to a banner display of Short-eared Owls.  One was
found between Stella Road and the Hawk Owl along South Shore at 10AM,
when my dad stopped the car to investigate what proved to be a House
Sparrow atop a dogwood, only to have the owl burst out of the grass at
its base and post up on a tree in the stiff breeze and give great
scope views.  The second was found on an unsuccessful hike to the bar
at the east end KFN property, where it was actively hunting in front
of us for some time between the wetland cell and the bar around noon.
The third was hunting on Marshall 40 Foot Road south of the Owl Woods
at 4PM, the fourth hunted right in front of us and eventually posed on
a fence post right beside our car just before 5PM between Stella and
Marshall 40 Foot Rd along the north shore, and the fifth was at the
north end of the latter road at the same time, and may have been the
bird we saw near Owl Woods earlier.  These can be easy birds to miss
on the island and I had the best looks at this species in 15 years
birding in the province yesterday, which was a real highlight!

In addition to the aforementioned Snowy Owl dip, numbers of other
raptors were relatively low as well.  Single light and dark-morph
Rough-legged Hawks were seen along with about 5 Red-tailed Hawks and 1
male American Kestrel was at the south end of Stella Road.  A scope
was essential to ID a Northern Shrike nearly over the horizon west of
Marshall 40 Foot Road.

In the odds and ends category, 2+ Common Ravens were at the east end
of the island. ~100 Snow Buntings were at the usual spot at the south
end of the road to Owl Woods and another 150+ were in a couple of
flocks at the east end property, but all the careful searching in the
world yielded a big fat 0 larks or longspurs. A Ring-necked Pheasant
was calling from the south end of the road to Owl Woods, and a vocal
and invisible Red-bellied Woodpecker and silent but visible Brown
Creeper were near the Owl Woods feeders.

There were no waterfowl nor gulls along the ferry channel, but the
open water along South Shore Road held 6 drake Redhead with the scaup
and goldeneye, and 4 Trumpeter Swans were sleeping on the ice there in
the evening.

The area around Kingston itself produced a few interesting birds on
the drive to and fro.  In the morning, both Peregrine Falcons were
hawking pigeons near their nest site downtown and a young
Sharp-shinned Hawk flew over Bath Road.  In the evening a Belted
Kingfisher was along the road at the east end of Collins Bay where
they often attempt to winter, and a dark-morph Rough-legged Hawk was
over the fields north of Elevator Bay.

DIRECTIONS: Amherst Island can be reached by taking exit 593 off of the 401,
following Highway 7 south to Millhaven.  The ferry to Amherst is located
100m to the right of the intersection of Highway 7 and Bath Road.

Good birding!

Chris Kimber
PhD Candidate
Dept. of Biology
Queen's University
Kingston, ON
cmkimber at gmail.com

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