Friday - long drive down to Guelph to visit the old house, stayed over at Brett and Erika's where we ended up not going to bed till 3AM! Well at least Brett and I...Erika passed out well before I got there.
Saturday - up 'early' and after getting our stuff together we spent the afternoon birding with Barb in Hamilton. It was a rainy and foggy kind of day so we didn't see a whole lot (by Hamilton standards) but I did nail down a few target species such as Long-eared Owl, King Eider and about 28 other year birds. After a nice dinner I spent the night at Brandon's catching up (but not on sleep!).
Sunday - up early again and once Brett and Erika arrived we were off to Niagara! The river was actually pretty slow for this time of year (other than the masses of ducks in Fort Erie - where were all the gulls???) but there is always stuff to see. See Brandon's blog for a rundown of our sightings since he decided to put up all of our eBird lists! haha. Highlights were two Thayer's Gulls at Adam Beck in amongst the numerous Kumlien's and a total of 9(!) Black Vultures at Queenston. Since we had pretty well scoured the river and come up empty in terms of rarities, Brandon and I decided to cut our losses and head back to Hamilton while there was still some light. This proved to be a good strategy as we got to the lift bridge with perfect evening light to view a Snowy Owl being harassed by gulls, 3 King Eiders including a 1st-winter male that swam right up to us and the usual hordes of diving ducks. Then we did a quick check at Windemere Basin but came up empty on our targets before heading back to Brandon's for the night.
Monday - did some last-minute target birding around Hamilton. I had success with most of my targets, picking up Black Scoter at Millen Rd (plus 2 King Eiders at Brandon's condo), Black-crowned Night-Heron at Windemere, did some duck photography at the lift bridge and finally went to LaSalle Marina. I missed the Eastern Screech-Owl that roosts in the parking lot but did get Trumpeter Swan (a little over 200 of them) and 2 cooperative Carolina Wrens. Then it was back to Guelph for a quick MarioKart session before driving up to Sudbury to spend the night at my grandparents' house. It was a pretty uneventful 4 hours other than a Moose eating a tree about 15 feet off the side of the highway somewhere between Parry Sound and Sudbury!
Tuesday - I had plans to search for the Gyrfalcons this morning (made on the Thursday before I left), and it turned out that Brett and Barb had teamed up with Amanda Guercio for a bit of northern birding and had the same idea as me! So we planned on meeting at Kelly Lake for 8:30 to search for these mythical beasts. I was a few minutes late in heading out the door but this proved to be a bonus. Just as I was getting on Highway 17 I noticed a largish gray bird flying parallel to the highway about 300-400m south of me. I immediately pulled over and grabbed my bins - holy $#*& that's the Gyrfalcon!!! Luckily it landed on a power pole, and after a quick call to Barb I got the scope on it and managed a few shots with my phone. Brett, Barb and Amanda pulled up and each got a quick scope view before the bird decided it was time to go and headed off toward the lake. We spent a little over an hour searching for it (and hoping for the white-morph as well) with no luck and decided to call it quits as we all had more driving to do before the day was out. After saying goodbye I made my way back to the Sault, checking out some back roads and hoping to find a Hawk-Owl with no luck (see previous posts for comments on this species). The Gyrfalcon was only the second one I've ever seen, with the first also being a gray-morph back in December 2002!
All in all a great extended weekend, spending time with friends and only missing a few targets while adding 51 species to my year list, which has since stalled out except for a Merlin. There hasn't been anything reported around here for some time so who knows if I will add anything else until January 28.
Ducks packed in the ice at the lift bridge in Burlington on Saturday's foggy morning
Not a black&white photo!
King Eider on Sunday evening - no photos from Niagara
2 female King Eiders made for a total of 3 birds here!
Better lighting was had on Monday morning - Long-tailed Duck
This guy surfaced right underneath me after I watched him swim around underwater for a bit - thought this was a cool photo even if it isn't all that sharp
Long-tailed Ducks bounce on the water when they land...or faceplant
Trumpeter Swans at LaSalle
An inquisitive Carolina Wren at LaSalle
Worked its way down the railing toward me until a squirrel chased it off when it was only about 4 feet away!
The looks we had at this gray-morph Gyrfalcon were much better than my phone-scoped shot would have you believe!