[Birding (and more) in Calhoun County and beyond
I've been going after it pretty hard lately. I've been out to Duck Lake 15 times in Nov/Dec, with nothing new to show out there. Honestly it wasn't until past week that it really was even decently birdie. Just as the freeze came in. My other target has been Beadle Lake which has been fairly birdy also. Multiple White-winged Scoters were hanging out there since 11/24, with 4 showing up on 12/19. No Black Scoters though, or even Long-tailed Ducks. They showed up to the East and the West, but not here. This freeze put the lakes at basically almost completely frozen over, and now this big blizzard with below zero wind chills for multiple days, has probably sealed my fate for ducks this year. Maybe the river can attract something. I still have hopes for Pine Siskin, but beyond that it will be a real rarity of a passerine to tick the count up to 220.
Have had a decent amount of accipiters showing up taking shots at the feeders. 11/1 a Sharpie took a pass at the feeders, landed in a tree and then shot up a few branches and grabbed a Goldfinch. On 12/4 I think one nabbed a House Finch in the yard. On 11/10 a Cooper's Hawk either nabbed something out of the air, or chased it down. I couldn't tell what it was though. On 11/15 one took off from the ground, so I assume that was also a successful attempt.
I missed a chance to record Cackling Goose calls on 11/13 out on Duck Lake. Caught them as they were flying with a much higher pitched call. Managed some pics after they landed back on the water. Not a FOY, but always cool to see. A big dump of snow in mid-November brought a late Fox Sparrow to the feeders for 4 days, along with a cismontanus Junco.
I managed to re-find the juvenile and adult/3rd cycle Lesser Black-backed Gulls on Duck Lake on 11/20, and again on 11/23. The "ducks" were still woefully low numbered. 11/24 finally got a Great Horned Owl in the yard calling this winter. On 11/25 I was searching through a large group of geese on Beadle Lake and was just about ready to leave, when I heard an odd call. A group of geese was flying about 50 feet overhead, and at the back was a large white goose with black wing-tips. Finally a Snow Goose, and number 218 for the year. Now I just needed to hope for Ross's Goose or Greater White-fronted to show up. I did however end November with no new November birds in the county. First time it has happened this year.
December has been mostly uneventful save some White-winged Scoter sightings, and trying to get anything good to show up on Duck Lake. I did the B.C. CBC on 12/17 and didn't get anything flagged except high counts for Red-shouldered Hawk twice. I cam across some crows and jays mobbing something in some pine trees. As I sat there trying to see what it was, a buteo came in to the area. After a minute or so it started to call. Clearly a Red-shouldered Hawk, and was answered by a second one that was in the area the crows were gathered around. This count of two flagged for high count. About a mile down the road I had two calling again. Not sure if the same pair or not, but possible. Not too long after this I had a Red-shouldered about a mile south. Anywhere from 2-5 birds in the area. Very cool bird to get on the count. It was only a couple of days later that I had a pair driving down 9.5 Mile Road. Gotta love the moonroof in the winter to catch things up in trees.
On most of my trips to Duck Lake I try to stop by J DR N for Short-eared Owl. Had a brief moment of excitment when a bird came gliding into the field. Turned out to be a Northern Harrier, that appeared to catch something. A nice bird, but not the one I wanted.
Herc and I took a walk along the river to see if birds were starting to show up. There were quite a few geese and swans, and a smattering of ducks. Most much further East than I wanted to walk. I did manage a FOS abieticola Red-tailed Hawk. In a last hurrah on that same day we hit up Duck Lake, only to find it 98% frozen. A few small areas with some open water for ducks to concentrate. I manged 11 Cackling Geese quite a ways from the boat launch. No different gulls, and a Bald Eagle harassing some Coots. I got High Counts on American Black Duck, Hooded Merganser, and American Coot. Prairie Lake also gave a flagged high count on Hooded Mergansers hanging out in the small patch of water.
The first big day of the storm I didn't get anything super rare blown in. I had a ton of birds, and managed to find 4 cismontanus Junco under the feeders. Wild number. Today I was only able to pick out 3 of them. Tons of goldfinches and House Finches, along with juncos.
We are suppossed to get a warm-up later next week, but I'm not sure it will be enough to open up anything on the lakes. I know some geese and swans are still heading in to Beadle Lake after flying out, at least yesterday that was true. Pine Siskin might be only shot, if they haven't already moved through. Next mostly likely one after that is Evening Grosbeak, which has probably blow through the region also. Hoary Redpoll won't be an option, as the species map for them this month show them all north of Montreal, with no U.S. sightings at all. I may have to try for Northern Saw-whet, or Long-eared Owls as desperate moves.
I really thought 220 was going to be very reachable when I was at 217 at end of October. It has still been the best year ever, both for me and the county. We are sitting at 226 as Dr. Dale Kennedy had a female Brewer's Blackbird out on R DR N. I also thought at end of October we could manage 5 more birds to get to 230. It really, up until the past week, has been so much southerly winds that I don't think stuff was moving like normal.
My exploits in my latest passion, Birding...not Bird-watching;-)