Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Spring? or not...

Well, about a week ago the weather decided it was going to be warm, and the snow started to melt. The birds started returning and singing - only a few species as is typical for super early spring, but it was still nice. I spent quite a bit of time down at the Locks, and managed to find a Snowy Owl! A new bird for Ontario! Also found some year birds like Peregrine Falcon and Ring-billed Gull. There was quite a bit of activity, with the Rusty Blackbird starting to sing along with Robins, American Tree Sparrows, and the redpolls, goldfinches, siskins, etc. Then I heard about a 2-week old report of a Boreal Owl in the Sault College Woodlot. Now, I'd never even been to the woodlot before, and had no idea how to get around it, let alone where the "conifer plantation" was. Turns out the conifer plantation is a fairly large area - about 4 acres. Since I had no idea on the exact location, I decided to head down the hill to the first part of the plantation that I saw. I found a likely-looking area, and walked off the path and into the thigh-deep snow. I got into the trees, and promptly spooked a rabbit still in full winter gear. I followed it for a few yards, trying to get close enough for a photo. It took off running, as rabbits are prone to do. I looked up to check the tree I was standing beside and - BOREAL OWL!!! It was staring at me with those bright yellow eyes, wondering who was interrupting its nap. So, it took me all of 2 minutes of searching to find this little guy - I got amazingly lucky. Went back the next day with Kirk and after an hour and a half had nothing to show for our efforts but a small pellet from the day before. I was just happy that I found it - this is the first Boreal Owl I've ever seen (although I've heard them calling before).

Now we are back to winter with a huge storm in the last 24 hours. We got a few inches of snow along with rain and ice pellets yesterday evening. Overnight that turned into pure ice on the roads with wind chills below -20ºC. Woke up briefly at 6 a.m. as the house was shaking - turns out the wind was 80+km/h with gusts up to 100km/h causing power outages in some areas (including the hospital!). This continued through the entire day, mixed with blowing snow causing total whiteouts - driving was quite the experience - averaged around 20km/h as you couldn't see a car or the red lights until they were 20 feet in front of you! Of course, living in the Sault, we still had school, but by the end of the day the highways (along with most of the city) were completely shut down and there were multiple accidents.

Boreal Owl! These photos are uncropped!

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