Spent most of the weekend birding the Kingston area including Wolfe and Amherst Island. The Snowy Owls continue to dominant the winter birding scene with 15+ on February 8th on Wolfe Island, mainly the west end of the island and 11 on February 9th on Amherst Island, with at least 5 out on the ice along the south shore. There were very few hawks observed, 2 American Kestrel on Wolfe and 3 Red-tailed Hawks on Amherst Island. One Northern Shrike was observed at the east end ( Martin Edwards Reserve) of Amherst Island. Overall very few land birds on either island but did see a couple of small flocks of Snow Bunting on Wolfe Island. There was virtually no water birds due to the ice conditions except a small number in the ice chocked ferry channels. At the Kingston ferry dock a flock of 110+ Greater Scaup, 3 Lesser Scaup,1 Red-breasted Merganser,6 Common Merganser, and 2 Common Goldeneye were crammed into the limited open water. At the Millhaven dock a flock of 6 Red-breasted Mergansers were dealing with a similar situation. Watch for Snowy Owls on the ice when crossings.
The road into the "Owl Woods" is impassable with amazingly high snow drifts but there is a well packed path you can follow to the woods. I haven't seen snow banks so high on Amherst Island in years! Interestingly we observed a group of 4 Ring-necked Pheasant (3 male,1 female) and 1 female feeding on the remaining Wild Grapes that were still on the vine in a Hawthorne tree. This is likely due to the deep snow this winter. I've only observed pheasants in trees once, back in 1972 at the Arboretum in Ottawa. The warm water lagoon at the Invista/DuPont Plant had 200+ Mallard,15+ American Black Duck, 7 Gadwall, and 6 American Coot.
Please review the OFO Birding code of ethics at http://www.ofo.ca/ofo-docs/Code_of_Ethics.pdf
Directions: Amherst Island: Located 18 km. west of Kingston. Exit off Hwy. 401 at exit 593 (County Rd. 4, Camden East) and drive south to the very end (Millhaven). Turn right on Hwy. 33 and drive 100 meters until you see the sign for the Amherst Island ferry. The ferry (20 minute trip) leaves the mainland on the half hour and leaves the island on the hour. Cost is $9.00 Canadian round trip. There are no gas stations on the island. There are restrooms on the ferry, and at the island ferry dock. The East End K.F.N. property ( Martin Edwards Reserve) is at the easternmost part of the island on the east side of the Lower Forty Foot Road. To reach the Owl Woods, turn left (east) at the four-way stop sign by the general store and drive 3.4 km along Front Rd. to the (seasonal) Marshall Forty-Foot Rd. Marshall Forty-Foot Rd. is across the road from house #2320. Drive along Marshall Rd. to the mid-way point, where there is an "S" in the road (1.2 km, look for the K.F.N. kiosk which had owl observing ethics). Park in the gravel lane or off the road edge.
Directions: Wolfe Island ferry is located along the waterfront in down town Kingston. Check ferry schedule at http://www.wolfeisland.com/ferry.php
Because of liability issues, visitors to the Kingston Field Naturalists' property at the east end of Amherst Island MUST be accompanied by a KFN member. For KFN contact information or how to become a member, please visit http://kingstonfieldnaturalists.org/ ."
The Snowy Owl continues to be the STAR of winter birding.
After last years invasion of Great Gray Owls in eastern Ontario is was nice to see them again.
On Amherst Island most Snowy Owls were observed sitting on the ice or along the shoreline. This individual decided the best vantage point was from a roof of a home along the shore.
An unusual sight was a group of 4 Ring-necked Pheasant feeding on Wild Grapes on a vine up in a tree.
By chance I was able to capture a flight shot of the pheasant as it flew to another tree to feed.
The heavy ice conditions along the ferry route made it difficult for these Red-breasted Mergansers to find an open area of water.
There is lots of snow on Amherst Island and the road into the Owl Woods Preserve is impassible due to very high snow drifts.
The Amherst Island ferry pushes through the ice chocked channel.