Tuesday, April 9, 2013

An Ontario Big Day: Test Run

It is starting to warm up here and more birds seem to be arriving daily. The boys and I took advantage of the nice weather to go birding around Peterborough and decided it would be a good day to test our Big Day capabilities. How many bird species could we see in a day of April birding in Peterborough? The kids were ok with leaving early (before 7 a.m.) and first thing we headed south. We then worked our way north and returned to Peterborough around noon. After lunch, we drove north and made it home mid-afternoon.

Here is a quick summary of some of the highlights of our trip of nearly 200 km:

Where we went looking for birds on April 6, 2013
1) Garden Hill- our first destination. We thought we were at the Garden Hill Conservation Area but, no we just stopped at the Garden Hill town pond. Nice stop though as we saw Canada goose, trumpeter swans, hooded mergansers, ring-necked ducks, northern cardinals, black-capped chickadees, American goldfinch, and red-breasted nuthatches. Our day was off to a fast start 36.5 km into the trip.

2) We took a side trip to Wallace Point and on our way we saw a great gray owl. It flew across the road in front of us, lit on a nearby tree, and watched us for 3-5 minutes while I fumbled through the bird book to make it was who we thought it was. It was a large owl, very yellow eyes, had no ear tufts, and a white 'bowtie' at its neck. No doubts about this being a great grey owl. Soon after this we saw wood ducks and green winged teals. 23 birds, 67 km covered, and still before 9 am.

3) A short trip toward Rice Lake south of Keene and I saw the killdeer. Notable only because it was a first sighting of the year for me.

4) Shortly after that, we saw an eastern meadowlark singing on the side of the road. Another first for the year at 111 km into our trip.

5) Our next stop was Little Lake in Peterborough. I've seen a lot of birds here and had heard a red-necked grebe might be in town. We looked and looked and only saw the usual suspects on the lake. But hiding in a bush near the lake was a white-throated sparrow. Yes, this was another first sighting of the year. We were now at about 40 birds and 125 km into our trip. After a quick stop for coffee, we took a long walk through Beavermead Park.

6) The boys started asking about lunch, but I told them it was a bit early for that. It was only 10:45 a.m., so I convinced them we should take another walk before finding a sandwich. We took a 2 km hike through a Trent nature area and saw song sparrows, chickadees, and tree swallows. 

7) Our final stop (not shown on map) was to take a quick look at a nesting bald eagle. We were now 166 km from home and we were all getting tired. On our drive home, we saw an American kestrel and that was the end of our day.

All in all, we drove 200 km and saw 41 birds. Seeing that Damon starting the yearlong challenge, I am returning the favor and throwing down a new challenge: most bird species in a day!. I have no doubt that Damon can top our mark from today, but perhaps he is worried about the result and won't even try? And if I can do 41 bird species in early April, how many could I see in a late-May big day run?

And what other challenges will we come up with?

In case you are curious, here is a complete list of birds from our April 6, Peterborough day trip.

No. Bird Trip Km
1 Starling 0
2 Mallard 5
3 American Crow 5.3
4 Rock Dove 10.3
5 Mourning Dove 16.9
6 Red-winged Blackbird 17.1
7 Canada Goose 36.5
8 Trumpeter Swan 36.5
9 Hooded Merganser 36.5
10 Ring-necked Duck 36.5
11 Northern Cardinal 36.5
12 Black Capped Chickadee 36.5
13 American Goldfinch 36.5
14 Red-breasted Nuthatch 36.5
15 Common Merganser 44.5
16 Common Grackle 46
17 American Robin 48.5
18 Osprey 53.5
19 Song Sparrow 55.1
20 Blue Jay 59.1
21 Great Grey Owl 64.3
22 Wood Duck 65.2
23 Green Winged Teal 67.4
24 Great Blue Heron 92
25 Bufflehead 92
26 Wild Turkey 95.7
27 Northern Shrike 97.8
28 Pileated Woodpecker 97.9
29 Killdeer 99.9
30 Eastern Meadowlark 111.1
31 Turkey Vulture 111.1
32 Goldeneye 123.9
33 Lesser Scaup 123.9
34 White Throated Sparrow 124
35 Dark-eyed Junco 124
36 Ringed-billed Gull 125.5
37 White Breasted Nuthatch 129.8
38 Downy Woodpecker 130.2
39 Tree Swallow 137.2
40 Bald Eagle 166.2
41 American Kestrel 182.1

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