Snowy Owls, Tundra Swans, and Dunlin at Presqu’ile

Dec 9, 2012
As John “Hannibal” Smith would say, “I love it when a plan comes together!” :) Despite the weather man’s best efforts to put a damper on today’s birding, I still managed to achieve my target of adding ten more birds to my ‘winter list’!

My plan was to spend this morning at Presqu’ile Provincial Park, and I was determined to be the first birder to get there! :) I was up and out so early today that I reached Brighton before sun up – and I was so glad I did. There on a telephone wire on the edge of town sat a Barred Owl – the first I’ve seen this winter. It was too dark to get any usable photos, but it was a great thrill just the same, and an outstanding way to start the day!

The owl swooped into a field and out of sight, and I continued on to Presqu’ile. My first stop inside the park was the Owen Point Trail. The sky was still very overcast, but the light was improving. My destination was Gull Island (just west of Owen Point – and with the water levels so low, I was able to walk over to the ‘island’ without getting my boots wet). I knew there were Snowy Owls around, and being the first to arrive this morning, I was greeted by this beauty.

(click on the picture for a closer look)
I couldn’t have wished for more. Its perch was only six feet off the ground, right on the main island, and the magnificent bird just sat patiently while I took dozens of photos. The setting was perfect. The sky, bare branches, and dry weeds bending before the cold wind leave no doubt about the stark pre-winter conditions. I didn’t want the owl to fly off, so I took the widest path I could around it, but I guess it wasn’t wide enough.

Off it went, and once it was out of sight I continued on my trek.

In the waters around the island there were Long-tailed Ducks, Mallards, Buffleheads, Mute Swans, ¬†and Canada Geese. I also spotted two more Snowy Owls, but it wasn’t until I had almost circled the island completely that I saw the only shorebirds of the day. Here’s a video I took of the three Dunlin that I discovered on the windward side of the island feeding near some large flat rocks.

The next stop on my itinerary was Bayshore Road. I was looking for some Tundra Swans, and I found one right behind a house at the west end of the street.

The Tundra Swan is a little smaller than the ubiquitous Mute Swans, and it has a black bill with a small yellow patch near its eye.

Next stop was the lighthouse where I saw several good birds including some Bonaparte’s Gulls. The morning was turning out to be everything I had hoped it would. By noon, I had seen and captured a lot of great images. I phoned Elaine to tell her I was on my way – but to expect me to take a bit longer than estimated because I would almost certainly see something along the way that would cause me to stop and take a few more photos. For example, this Red-tailed Hawk.

I saw three hawks along Highway 2, but I only stopped once. The cold morning had left me chilled to the bone, and I was in need of a hot chocolate and a hug! :)

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4 Responses to Snowy Owls, Tundra Swans, and Dunlin at Presqu’ile

  1. Sai Potaraju says:

    That’s some incredible committment you have Garry! I love the picture of the perched snowy owl!

  2. Chelsea says:

    Before sunrise??!! That’s dedication haha and it definitely paid off! All of the pictures are really really good

  3. Wonderful captures on your outing. The snowy owl is amazing.

  4. Barry says:

    Well done Garry. For a guy I remember telling me he never does well at Presqu’ile, I guess that is all in the past now….Beautiful shots; I guess we can say now that the early bird got the birds…not the worm……Did you get your hug….

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