Opinion Column

BIRDWATCH: Record number of Owling Night participants

Ken Hooles

By Ken Hooles, Daily Observer




The second Pembroke Area Field Naturalists' Owling Night Excursion held on Saturday, March 25, was very successful. Although somewhat marred by cold winds and temperatures, a record number of 40 people participated in the event.

This year, the excursion was broken into two segments. The first segment consisted of a visit to the Eganville area to observe a resident Great Horned Owl. After a cold wait, the Great Horned Owl did make an appearance, but just for a brief period. The owl is in the midst of its breeding season and only appeared to take some food back to its nesting site.

The second part of the excursion concentrated on the area around the Shaw Woods in search of Saw- whet and Barred Owls. While no Saw- whet Owls were heard or seen, the group was able to locate five Barred Owls.

The only blip of the excursion occurred after the Eganville portion of the event, when four cars somehow were separated from the main body of the car convoy. However, after several attempts to locate the main group, some of the breakaway group were able to rejoin the convoy in time to observe two Barred Owls at once. The club apologizes to those that were not able to rejoin the group and will review their procedures for next year.

In all, despite the frigid weather, the Owling Night event was a success in both the number of participants and the Owls found. The Pembroke Area Field Naturalists extend thanks to Christian Renault and Ted Hiscock for leading this year's excursion and to the other club members who also assisted with this event. The club extends a special thanks to Grant Dobson for opening up the Shaw Woods Center for a warm start to the excursion.

On the local scene, the spring migration, despite the recent cold weather, continues to progress with the arrival of more bird species. This includes several first waves of spring birds such as Turkey Vultures, Great Blue Herons, Eastern Meadowlarks, Killdeer, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, and thousands of Song Sparrows. During the next little while, expect to find Merlin, Brown-headed Cowbirds, Savannah Sparrows, American Woodcock, Eastern Bluebirds, and Tree Sparrows.

On our lakes and rivers, the waterfowl migration continues with the arrival of thousands of Canada Geese, a few Cackling Geese, Mallards, Black Ducks, Hooded Mergansers, and most recently, Bufflehead and Ring-necked Ducks.

I suspect that with the first seasonal warm weather, the area will be inundated with many bird species all at once.

Back on March 28, Christian Renault of Forest Lea Road located several migrant birds on his travels around the county. These included Sandhill Cranes, American Kestrel, Northern Harrier, and Rough-legged Hawk. He was also pleased to observe four Evening Grosbeaks at his feeder.

Around this same period, John Meadows of Westmeath observed four Cackling Geese flying over his deck, and more recently, a Ring-necked Duck on the Ottawa River.

On March 3, John MacGillilivray of Pembroke informed me that he had Common Grackles, Dark-eyed Juncos, Common Redpoll, and a possible Eastern Kingbird in his yard.

Finally, it is time to update you on the rare bird sightings across our province during the month of March. These included Tundra Swans (Elmwood), Eared Grebe (Pt Pelee), Harlequin Duck (Toronto), Western Grebe (Mississauga), White Pelicans (Holiday Beach), Gyrfalcon (Warwick), Red Knot (Hillman Marsh), Trumpeter Swans (Rideau River), Great White-fronted Goose (Carp), Eurasian Widgeon (Toronto), Peregrine Falcon (Oshawa), Golden Eagle (long Point) and Barrow's Goldeneye (Hamilton).

Please call me with your bird sightings at 613-735-4430, or email me at hooles@bell.net. For more information on upcoming nature events and other links to nature, just Google the Pembroke Area Field Naturalists' website.

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