The Beginning of Winter

Rough-legged Hawk

With the beginning of December comes the beginning of winter – at least for birders. This is the time when winter listing begins, and once again I’ll be keeping a list of all the species I see between December 1st and February 28th. I usually average only around 60 species; not a great number, but still respectable.

During the week I saw the usual species on my way to and from work and at home – Canada Geese flying overhead, crows and starlings and pigeons perching in various places, and a Mourning Dove eating seeds beneath my feeder. I have to wait until the weekend to get out and really start looking for birds, and once it arrived I set out with a number of places in mind.


My first destination was the Ottawa River. When the river is still open at the beginning of the listing period, as it is this year, it is a crucial place to stop in order to tally a decent number of waterfowl species. When I visited Andrew Haydon Park on Saturday, the river was quite choppy and there were not as many ducks on the water as I was hoping. Four Buffleheads and a couple of mallards were swimming close to the bay near Dick Bell Park, a few Common Goldeneyes were diving quite far out, and a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers were swimming toward the Dick Bell marina. The American Coots, unfortunately, had left, and I didn’t see any loons, grebes, scoters, Long-tailed Ducks or Common Mergansers out on the water either.

Walking back to the car, I noticed a number of gulls and a couple of Canada Geese resting on one of the frozen man-made ponds. I added Herring, Great Black-backed, and Ring-billed Gulls to my list before leaving.

Gulls and Geese

From there I drove to Shirley’s Bay to check out the feeders (there were surprisingly few species of birds present) and the dyke. The Hooded Mergansers and Common Mergansers Deb and I had seen last week were nowhere to be found; however, a juvenile Bald Eagle flying around the mouth of the bay was my best bird yet! It didn’t land, but instead kept moving in an easterly direction. Unlike the previous week, the water of the bay was completely open, and seemed much higher. It was a blustery day, so perhaps the ducks had found some place a little more sheltered. I didn’t walk all the way to the first island to check the small bay between the two islands.

As I was leaving, I was thrilled when a bunch of Bohemian Waxwings landed in a tree near the entrance to the dyke, and a Common Raven flew over as well.

The last place I went was March Valley Road. I had no raptors on my list yet, other than the Bald Eagle, and it is a fairly reliable spot for hawks and shrikes in the winter. I found a Red-tailed Hawk and at least two Rough-legged Hawks (one light and one dark) hunting over the fields. Although the day was dark and overcast, I attempted to take a few pictures as the Rough-legged Hawk hovered above the field:

Rough-legged Hawk

Rough-legged Hawk

Although I was hoping to stop at one of the trails of Stony Swamp to look for some forest species, I ran out of time and went home after the stop at March Valley Road. As such, my winter list had reached only 23 species by the end of the day, of which the juvenile Bald Eagle was definitely the best! Hopefully I’ll be able to get out next weekend and check the places I hadn’t managed to get to this weekend, such as Jack Pine Trail, the Moodie Drive quarry pond – if it hasn’t completely frozen over – and the agricultural fields around Richmond.

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