Sunday 1 February 2015

Birthday Birds! Fish Crows and Black Vultures

Today is my birthday (and my wife's birthday) and so naturally I spent a little bit of time birding while visiting with my great in-laws down in Stevensville.  I always feel a little bit more lucky on my birthday when birding, and today was no exception! I had heard that Fish Crows had been reported in Fort Erie and so I went first thing to check it out for myself.  Driving with my windows down, I heard a small flock of American Crows and drove over.  As soon as I pulled up I heard that distinctive squeaky "uh-uh" call which is so different from the more common species.  I uploaded a video I took of them so you can hear the difference.  You will hear the American Crows first and the squeaky Fish Crow at around 3 seconds into the clip and then off and on.  I tried to get them in the frame but none of the birds I focused on in the video are Fish Crows, they were around the other side of the tree.

I eventually was able to see the birds that were making the ruckus and they immediately flew off.  I snapped a couple quick shots of them.

Fish Crow
Fish Crow
Apparently they have more pointed wing tips than American Crows and I guess I could see that in the photos, but I would not be comfortable calling them Fish Crows without hearing that call!

I had tons of ducks along the river and all the usual species including huge numbers of Canvasback!

I also had my first Ring-necked Ducks of the year, like this drake below.
Ring-necked Duck
At Dufferin Islands I stopped quickly to try and find some Titmice, but I was impatient and left without seeing them.  I did, however, find this wintering White-crowned Sparrow that was quite tame.

White-crowned Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
After this I picked up Glaucous Gull at the control gates and an adult Iceland Gull at Adam Beck.  I decided to continue the fun and went as far as the Queenston overlook to try and find the elusive Black Vultures that sometimes hang out there.  After waiting for 15 minutes and using my spotting scope I found a cluster of Turkey Vultures.  Soon after I picked out 7 Black Vultures rising from the treeline and even at several kilometres away, the stocky appearance, fast wing beats and level wings were easily discernible.  A great end to another great birthday!

Queenston Overlook
 Part of a poem from Dylan Thomas on his birthday, quite appropriate for the birders among us (thanks Dad).

My birthday began with the water-
Birds and the birds of the winged trees flying my name 
Above the farms and the white horses 
And I rose In a rainy autumn 
And walked abroad in shower of all my days 
High tide and the heron dived when I took the road 
Over the border 
And the gates 
Of the town closed as the town awoke.