Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Winter 2017- Eastern Towhee and CBCs

Although I sometimes complain about frozen toes and fingers, I actually don't mind winters in Northern Ontario. This year, our first snow started early (late October) and the ground has been snow covered since the first week of November. The weather in November wasn't bad but the last 2 weeks of December were very cold, like most other places in Canada.

This year, our lakes and rivers have been frozen since the second week of November.  The last waterfowl seen in the Timmins area were these Long-tailed Ducks on November 17 - they were taking advantage of the very last tiny patch of open water. (last year, the last LTDU were seen on December 4th, 2016)

Long-tailed Duck / Harelde Kakawi
Little Pearl Lake, Timmins (17 November 2017)

Bald Eagles have been overwintering in our area for a few years and their numbers seem to be increasing. On December 2nd, we saw 43 Bald Eagles (a record high count for me) at the Timmins Landfill and on December 9th, there were 31 left.  On the day of the Timmins Christmas Bird Count (Dec 23), someone counted around 20.

Bald Eagles / Pygargues à tête blanche
Timmins (2 December 2017)

Iroquois Falls Christmas Bird Count
This year, Gary and I participated in the Iroquois Falls Christmas Bird Count as well as the Timmins CBC.  It was only the second year of the Iroquois Falls CBC revival (Iroquois Falls had a CBC before but it was stopped until Rhonda Donley re-started it in December 2016) We saw mostly regular winter birds.  However, we did observe this White-crowned Sparrow, a very unusual bird for winter in Northern Ontario. I believe it was the first White-crowned Sparrow recorded in the Iroquois Falls CBC.

White-crowned Sparrow / Bruant à couronne blanche
Iroquois Falls (16 December 2017)

Timmins Christmas Bird Count
The Timmins Christmas Bird Count was held on December 23, 2017. Unlike the rest of December, the count day was warm for Timmins: -10°C (-14°C with the wind chill) The data is not final and still being compiled but we were around 21 participants and we counted 24 species which is a regular average for the Timmins Area winter count.  Although the data hasn't been finalized, I believe we added 3 new species for the Timmins CBC: an American Robin, a Brown Creeper and an Eastern Towhee.

American Robin / Merle d'Amérique
Photo by: Andrew Warren
Porcupine (December 2017)

Eastern Towhee / Tohi à flancs roux
Photo by: Andrew Warren
Porcupine (December 2017)

The Eastern Towhee is a rare visitor for the Timmins area in any season. The bird arrived in Porcupine on December 8, 2017 (found by Andrew Warren) and is still around today, surviving more than 10 consecutive days of temperatures around -30°C and many nights where the wind chill was -40°C.  I observed the Eastern Towhee on December 10th but was unable to take photos. These photos were generously provided by Andrew Warren who is doing a great job at hosting the bird since its arrival; he keeps his feeders full for the Eastern Towhee and for the overwintering American Robin. Andrew has been very helpful in documenting this sighting, participating in the Timmins CBC and letting birders view the Eastern Towhee in his yard.  

Eastern Towhee / Tohi à flancs roux
Photo by: Andrew Warren
Porcupine (December 2017)

Known records of Eastern Towhee in Cochrane District - Notice that most are in winter.
  1. July 1984 in Cochrane
  2. November to December 1991 in Hunta - (near Cochrane)
  3. November 2006 in Timmins 
  4. January 2016 near Hearst (I just found out about this sighting)
  5. December 2016 to March 2017 in Dugwal - 29 km NE of Timmins  (This female survived the winter but died in March after a cold spell)
  6. December 8 - Continuing - in Porcupine (near Timmins)

I would like to wish all my readers a Happy New Year; I hope 2018 will bring you health, peace and many great bird sightings!

Boreal Chickadee / Mésange à tête brune
South Porcupine (28 December 2017)

Gray Jay / Mésangeai du Canada
South Porcupine (29 December 2017)

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