This was some of the hardest birding any of us have done.  A beautiful day, white, white snow, good company and that dead gap between the winter birds having left to go north while the early spring arrivals have not, as it were, arrived. Charming the birds out of the forest was like getting blood from a stone – but at the end of the day we totted up a not too bad (in the circumstances) 19 species, including some real stars.  When we planned this field trip we foolishly assumed it would be like last year with almost no snow, mild temperatures and plenty of mud and early returning birds.  Hah, the birding gods thought otherwise.

No owls seen, but an owl pellet was dissected for the audience by Chris – much to the delight of a young lad who is going to grow up to be a great birder one day if he can keep up the enthusiasm he showed this morning.

We started with a remarkable 39 birders which gradually, as is the way of these things, whittled itself down to 18 by the time we finished our walk around noon. The trails were well walkable for the most part but narrow and looking back at one point seeing the single file troop Wayne commented that it was reminiscent of Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow.  The bodies of those who did not stay the course will emerge from the snow in the next couple of weeks.

We started the day well with a Cooper’s Hawk perched in a tree overlooking the conservation centre and patiently waiting for us to depart so it could get on with stalking the Mourning Doves.  This was shortly followed by a high and twittering flock of Redpolls and we thought we were on a roll but that’s when it got tough and every bird seen or heard was a triumph.  Huge thanks to Wayne and Chris in particular for helping to make sure that our large group was kept up with what was being seen at one or other end of the line.

In Pullin’s Pasture some of us saw a small flock of Bohemian Waxwings who got nervous and departed when the rest of the party arrived. Two pairs of these birds were performing pairing actions such as mutual beak-rubbing etc so maybe the next generation is assured.

About 10:45 the party split, with some heading back along the main trail to the car park while the rest set out along the snowshoe trail (sans snowshoes). The first group reportedly had great sightings of a Pileated Woodpecker near the trail ripping huge splinters off a dead tree while the latter group found a couple of Brown Creepers and across the fields at the southern end of the arboretum enjoyed lengthy views of a circling Red-tailed Hawk and a pair of Peregrine Falcons in the air above the Veteran’s Hospital. It was not clear if they were looking for a home on the concrete “cliff” it presents or just checking out the Pigeons for lunch.

The species recorded were American Crow, Common Redpoll, White-breasted Nuthatch, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Black-capped Chickadee, Red-tailed Hawk, Mourning Dove, Peregrine Falcon, Cooper’s Hawk, Northern Cardinal, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, brown Creeper, Red-winged Blackbird, Bohemian Waxwing, American Goldfinch, Rock Pigeon, Ring-billed Gulls.

Altogether, an excellent morning in the snowy forest.

(Click on the photo thumbnails to see them in all their glory)