As I have mentioned elsewhere, including on the 250 Bird Challenge Main Page (which you should bookmark!), during the course of 2023, I want to spot 250 different species of bird. It will be a challenge because the most I have previously seen in one year is 206 species. That was last year, in 2022. I have plans to travel to California, which will help, as there are many more species located there. I was in The UK last year, but I plan to travel again this year, so I will need to try to repeat my birding success.
Well, it is January 1st. So what better way to start the year than to go birding! I decided to visit Lynde Shores with The Missus in order to get the challenge underway at a location that pretty much guarantees some success. While there aren’t usually may rarities here, you will almost always see a good number of common birds.
We are members of The Central Lakes of Ontario Conservation Authority, so we get to park at the prime car park, although many people who aren’t members and don’t support the conservation area just seem to please themselves and park here, anyway. As many as half the cars parked there early this morning matched this description. Anyway, entering the park we were immediately greeted by dozens of Canada Geese with many more flying over-head throughout the day. Rather an apt “First of The Year” bird, I suppose. As usual, there were tons of mallards, too.
It got a little quiet after this, as we made our way along the trail, eventually heading towards Lake Ontario. The Chickadee Trail is usually quite fruitful, in part because so many people feed the birds here. We’d arrived quite early, just after sunrise, so decided that we would come back to this area once it was a little lighter and the birds were more active. A few Mourning Doves were seen with little else happening until we pushed further.
As my wife and I have become more adept birders, we have gotten better at identifying birds by their calls and songs, so we were aware that Black-capped Chickadees were nearby, but we decided that in order to record a bird for the first time, we have to see it and not just hear it. No problem, though! A few hundred feet later and plenty of hungry Black-capped Chickadees followed us for quite some time, making assertive (aggressive?!) dives for our attention. One even landed on the edge of my camera.
There is a look-out over Cranberry Marsh, though it was quite muddy and we did not see much besides a Ring-billed Gull. We continued towards Lake Ontario. Out on the lake were distant ducks. They were too far out to identify all of them, but we did confirm several Buffleheads. My wife Sara is tempted to buy a scope for occasions such as this. But for a decent quality one, that will perform better than my Nikon 500mm super-telephoto lens, comes with a hefty four-figure price tag. So, Nikon? Are you looking to sponsor some brand ambassadors?!!
With the sun now shining on the trees, bird life sprung into a little more action and we saw Cardinals, a Northern Flicker, Blue Jays, both varieties of Nuthatch, European Starlings and several more including a run-in with lots of American Tree Sparrows that were feasting on whatever was left of the Goldenrod. I was pleased to see the American Tree Sparrows, as they are a bird that winters in Southern Ontario and they will leave in, perhaps, late March. There are several other species of winter bird that we did not see today, mostly ducks, but other examples would be Snow Buntings and Snowy Owls. It would be good to see as many of these as possible in the next few weeks so that we’re not left scrambling at the end of 2023.
In total we saw 17 species!
We then drove a short distance to Halls Road South where there is access to the other side of Cranberry Marsh, further access to Lake Ontario and free parking for all of you people reading this that aren’t CLOCA Members 🙂
There is a short trail to another marsh lookout, where we saw tons of Mallards and Canada Geese. But hiding amongst them and obscured by dried reeds and cattails were some Gadwalls and…. a bird neither of us had ever seen before (a new “Lifer”) a pair of Northern Pintails. A couple of Song Sparrows flitted around and a couple of American Crows flew over.
Back into the wooded area between the marsh lookout and the lake we saw a female Red-bellied Woodpecker (my favourite Eastern woodpecker species) and a female Downy Woodpecker (sorry, no offence Miss Downy). We also saw White-throated Sparrows, Dark-eyed Juncos, more Blue Jays, Mourning Doves, Chickadees and Cardinals and then… we were at the shore of Lake Ontario.
A woman ran hurriedly past us carrying a camera and super-telephoto lens asking us if we had seen the Mandarin Duck. I was aware of a Mandarin Duck in the Ashbridge’s Bay area (East Toronto), but wasn’t aware of one in the Durham area. She assured me that this was a different individual, a male (which are more colourful). There is a chatroom/messageboard for talking about bird sightings in Ontario and she asked if I was on there, which I am. But I tend to only check the Toronto section. Sure enough, the Durham Region chat throughout the morning had been actively discussing a Mandarin Duck that was traveling Westwards.
The woman we encountered was hardcore. She had brought her own stool to stake out the small beach area. We, however, had plans for the afternoon. We looked out over the lake for several minutes. Again, a scope would have been handy. We struggled to identify every single bird we saw, but there were Red-breasted Mergansers and Common Goldeneye bobbing around and we gratefully added them to our list.
Time to leave. With an additional 19 species for a days total of 25 species towards our 250 goal. Now… 10% of our goal in one day sounds pretty impressive. But the majority of these birds are very common and we will be seeing a lot of them over the next 12 months. It’s still a good number, though, and I would have been happy with anything above 20 during a period of what has otherwise been recently poor weather. The highlight was the pair of Northern Pintails. Some pretty easy birds that we will almost certainly see soon but were absent today… American Robin, House Sparrow, Trumpeter Swan and, amongst others, perhaps a Red-tailed or Coopers Hawk.
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Here is the video from the trip:
Here is a full list of the species seen today:
1. Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)
2. Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
3. Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)
4. Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola)
5. Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)
6. Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis
7. Downy Woodpecker (Dryobates pubescens)
8. Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)
9. Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)
10. Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)
11. Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis)
12. White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis)
13. European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)
14. American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)
15. American Tree Sparrow (Spizelloides arborea)
16. Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)
17. Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)
18. Gadwall (Mareca strepera)
19. Northern Pintail (Anas acuta) NEW LIFER
20. Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula)
21. Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator)
22. Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus)
23. American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)
24. White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis)
25. Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)
Thanks a lot for reading this and, if you’re interested in following this challenge, I’d urge you to consider subscribing to the BritHikesOntario YouTube Channel where videos of these trips will follow a few days after I write about them – and Subscribing to this blog for updates, below, will ensure you catch new posts.