Doran and I flew to Las Vegas on Saturday, February 1st for a week in the desert. This was our second time there, but our flights did not go smoothly. Our 7:00 am flight was supposed to land in Toronto at 8:15, then our second flight was supposed to leave Toronto at 9:30. However our plane in Ottawa had been sitting at the gate all night, and we needed to some time to de-ice it. This took about 20 minutes. Then, when we arrived in Toronto we needed to wait a another 20 minutes on the tarmac as another plane had taken our gate because of a medical emergency. We worried about not having time to clear customs before our second flight boarded, but as it turns out this plane was late, too, due to a “mechanical issue.” Then that plane, too, needed de-icing, so it wasn’t until after 12:00 that we got airborne. The strangest part was, after we showed our passports and boarding passes to the flight attendants at the gate, we were quizzed by US security people before entering the jet bridge – where were we going? Did we know the limits on how much cash we could bring into the country? How much were we bringing? When did we book our flights? We hadn’t encountered anything like this before; even my boss who had recently traveled to the U.S. thought it was weird. In any event, this is the third Air Canada trip in a row where we’ve had annoying delays, so I don’t think I will book with them again anytime soon.
The temperature dropped by the time Saturday rolled around, and it was only -19°C when I headed out birding. I was eager to add some more birds to my brand new year list, and started off the morning with a walk at Old Quarry Trail, hoping that the trails would be much quieter first thing in the morning given the frigid cold. I still needed Pileated Woodpecker for my list, and was hoping to find a few other surprises such as Ruffed Grouse, Northern Goshawk, an owl, some winter finches, or even a Black-backed Woodpecker. Any mammals would be welcome, too, as Old Quarry Trail is a good spot to see White-tailed Deer and porcupines. When I arrived I set off on my usual walk along the northern-most trail. There were only two other cars in the parking lot, and for most of my walk I saw no one on the trail.
New Year’s Eve. A time to think back on our accomplishments of the past twelve months, to remember the highlights, and look ahead to what we hope the new year will bring. For many birders, New Year’s Eve is a time to turn the page and begin a brand new year list. This is one of the highlights of winter for me, because on January 1st every bird is new again…even the pigeons and starlings, even the crows. As I start the year I wonder what new life birds I will see in 2013. Will any rarities show up in Ottawa, and will they be as long-staying as the Razorbill last year? Or will they merely be a one-day wonder like the Ivory Gull this year? Will I see any new life birds in Point Pelee in May? Will I reach 200 species in the Ottawa study area in 2013, or 300 species on my life list?
The weather forecast looks promising for tomorrow: cold, but sunny. Although I plan to stay up until midnight tonight to ring in the new year, I also plan to wake up early tomorrow morning to start my new year list. My last new bird for December (and my winter list) was a Northern Shrike seen along Barnsdale Road. Hopefully both the shrike and the Rough-legged Hawk on Brownlee Road will still be around tomorrow.
Northern Shrike – my best photo yet of this species, despite the overcast conditions
The last weekend of February was a beautiful one for going out and looking for those last few species to add to my winter list. Although both Saturday and Sunday morning started out cloudy, the sun came out each day not long after I headed out. The temperature was decent, too, with the highs in the -7°C range.
On Saturday I drove out to the Richmond Nursery to look for seeds to start my spring garden. Since I had some time to kill before the nursery opened, I decided to spend some time at the Richmond Lagoons and driving the back roads around Richmond.