In Search of Winter Raptors

The weather forecast for March 9 was not auspicious: rain, wind, and cold. There was a suggestion that Saugeen Nature’s outing to drive the open areas of Bruce County seeking winter raptors such as Snowy Owls and Rough-legged Hawks should be cancelled.

A few people, however, wanted to go despite the forecast, and that is what happened. The half-dozen individuals involved were aware of the reported scarcity of the usual winter raptors, which had simply not been seen this year, and were also aware that the unusually mild winter was giving way to an early spring migration.

The outing, in consequence, changed to be more about water fowl than raptors; the route included flooded areas along the Sauble River and other wetlands and shores from Chesley to north of Highway 21 and from Southampton to Baie du Dore. In spite of some complaints about the biting wind it became quite a good outing.

There were ten species of duck spotted plus Tundra and Mute swans, Canada Geese, and three species of gull. There were also spring migrants such as Red-winged Blackbirds, Kildeer, Sandhill Cranes, and Northern Harrier. The cranes favoured us with a glimpse of their courtship display. There were even a few raptors: plenty of Bald Eagles which regularly congregate at Baiedu Dore in winter, a Northern Shrike which is a small predator around Grey and Bruce counties in the winter months, and a lone Rough-legged Hawk seen on the homeward leg of the journey. Altogether a satisfying few hours of birding.

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