My sister was going to spend a few days visiting here in Strathroy. However, due to the weather, she did not feel comfortable tackling a 5 hour drive (each way). I understand, sis.
Yet, I figured that this snow might make for some interesting birding. Today the sun was shining bright. There was hardly wind. So I jumped in the van this morning and headed out to drive the back roads south west of Strathroy. I drove down Springfield Road to Hyndman Drive and then back up Mayfair. I thought I might encounter one or more large flocks of SNOW BUNTINGS in the fields. That would not be unusual considering the conditions. I did find buntings, but not in large flocks. Instead, I came across a number small groups along the road. Likewise, I saw small groups on HORNED LARKS. Some of the groups contained both buntings and larks. And mixed in with these birds, I also found a few LAPLAND LONGSPURS. I took this picture from my van.
Larks, buntings and longspurs are more or less expected. But I also found a couple of other species scratching in the dirt, ice, snow and bare ground along side the road. An AMERICAN PIPIT was hanging loosely with a group of larks. I was able to observe it an fairly close range. This species has a habit of wagging it tail feather up and down. For the most part they are found to breed in the arctic, but also in mountainous areas in the west. They feed on insects, spiders, mites, etc, often finding these food items frozen in un-melted snow-banks. In the winter, they migrate to the southern portions of the United States and throughout Mexico.
A kilometer or so down the road, I saw another bird that can be a bit hard to find here in the winter. HERMIT THRUSH. I have seen HERMIT THRUSH in the winter before. But this one was very active and again it was foraging in the dirt, grass, snow and ice at the side of the road. For the most part, these thrushes breed throughout most of Canada and also in the western part of the United States. Like the pipit, they spend the winter in the southern part of the United States and in Mexico. There are, however, a few stragglers that remain behind and don’t make that journey all the way down south.
I encountered quite a number of DARK-EYED JUNCOS, AMERICAN TREE SPARROWS and even one WHITE-THROATED SPARROW. Hawks were not all the plentiful today. They are often present is good numbers. But today I saw, 2 NORTHERN HARRIERS, 3 ROUGH-LEGGED HAWKS, just 1 RED-TAILED HAWK and 1 AMERICAN KESTREL and 1 BALD EAGLE. I was pretty happy with this picture of the RED-TAILED HAWK.
This weekend and Monday are busy days. But I am hopeful that at some point middle of next week, I can get out again to prowl those back roads.