Saturday, January 5, 2013

Snowy Owl Mobbed by Crows & Overwintering Red-headed Woodpecker

Snowy Owl being mobbed by a 'murder' of Crows
Snowy Owl trying to lose the Crow mob. (Heavily Cropped)

A recent Ontbirds posting from Paul Pratt mentioned that a Snowy Owl was seen in Chatham. Having some time off (Jan 2nd), I ventured off to see it while checking out some other hotspots. Upon arriving at the intersection described in the posting, I did not see anything. So I got out of the car and really scanned every telephone post/tree etc but no Owl. With a fresh recent snowfall, I realized that there is probably no way I'm going to find this owl if its sitting in a snowy field. As I was about to give up,  I pointed my scope to a  large group of American Crows in the corn-stubble field Paul described and noticed a white creature in the middle of the pack of Crows. I felt bad for the Owl... but - Chatham is like the capital of Winter-roosting Crows in North America (this is un-official and off-the-cuff but I have heard similar statements from media etc). The Owl was distant in the field (200m) and very isolated from any roads allowing only scoped views. Then I noticed the Owl was trying to lose the Crows but they followed close behind. Seconds later, I lost the Owl as it went over a cedar hedge along the southern perimeter of this field.

Can you find a Glaucous Gull in this photo?? *
Prior to seeing the Snowy Owl, I stopped at Lighthouse Cove to try and get better views of Glaucous Gulls, and sure enough, I was able to find one. The lighting was better than on New Year's Eve and one was much closer. The water had really frozen up and there seemed to be fewer birds to look at. Two Great Blue Herons were present, noteworthy considering they were absent from the St Clair NWA CBC.

Later at Wheatley Harbor, I followed up on another recent Ontbirds posting about a long-staying Iceland Gull. Upon arriving at the Harbor, I saw another birder with scope, Richard Carr.  We both made an effort to find "white-winged gulls", and one that we found seemed to have a dual-toned bill, so I 'ignored it' until I found one with with a solid black bill (which is consistent with a first year Iceland Gull). So I believe the leftmost gull in the photo above is an Iceland Gull.  In hindsight, could the other white-winged gull have been a second-year Iceland or a first year Glaucous? I did not really make size comparisons of this second gull we found so I guess its not worth deliberating over. I had to call it a day so I did not have time to re-find the other gull for further study.

Today, the family went out to Colasanti's in Leamington, so after we left, we took a quick detour through the Onion Fields to see a recently reported owl. I dipped on the owl, but found an overwintering Red-headed Woodpecker! Its undulating flight caught my eye as I was driving and it landed in a tree right next to the road. I was in total amazement!

Good birding,

Lifer Summary:
Iceland Gull #316

Bonus: A few random photos from the last week of 2012...Just for fun...


  1. Hi Dwayne! Thanks for sharing the pics of the Red-headed woodpecker - so cool! Good birding :)

  2. What an exciting day!
    We were just up in Chatham and were flabbergasted by all the crows. I had no idea they were so numerous up there.
    The Red-headed WP would've made my day. :)
    What a great start to the year, Dwayne.

  3. Are we going to see another Snowy Owl invasion again? There is one in St. Catherine's and I think one in TO already too. Lots of Commoon Redpolls around too... I have some at my bird feeder last few days. Nice Red Shouldered Hawk photo Dwayne! Happy New Year to you and your family.

  4. Congrats on the life bird! I really need to learn gulls....they still all look the same to me :). Nice shots of the Red-headed Woodpecker and Red-shouldered hawk!



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