Today I spent a few hours at Ojibway Park in Lasalle, near Windsor. This is one of the main areas I bird watch, as I visit this park at least a few days per week, rain, snow, or shine. It was pretty sunny all day, making for great photography opportunities, and naturally, I took full advantage of this. I started at the Ojibway Prairie Heritage Forest (across the street from Ojibway Park Nature Centre) and got very close to singing Northern Cardinals, Blue Jays, a Carolina Wren, and a Red-winged Blackbird; so close in fact that I took video of a few birds singing away. Singing birds are surely a sign of spring coming, finally! It was so refreshing that I sat down on a camping chair and watched/listened for a while. To the right is a video of a Northern Cardinal singing and below is a photo of a Carolina Wren:
I then took a short drive to the West side of the Ojibway Tallgrass Prairie Reserve, where I have been seeing a Northern Shrike (first found by Brad Hamel on my birthday, December 10), and found it across the street, hunting from some abandoned hydro lines behind the closed Windsor Raceway. I watched it dive down a number of times, but like usual, return empty-handed. I know it is successfully hunting in the area because it has stayed for over 2 months, and a friend of mine saw it `butcher` a small rodent. The Northern Shrike, Lanius excubitor, is a species of songbird that evolved into a predator, so it cannot use powerful talons the way that raptors and owls do. After making a kill using only its beak, it impales its dead prey on a barb or thorn to be tenderized by the sun for easy dismemberment and eating later on. Thus, the Northern Shrike is nicknamed `The Butcher Bird` because of the way it 'butchers' its meal. Sure, at first thought this seems disgusting, but isn`t the this bird's food preparation closer to our own food prep than any animal you know of? The Northern Shrike is probably my favourite species of bird because of its unique and intelligent method of hunting and eating! I captured some pretty interesting video of the shrike looking for prey and taking off from its perch. Also, I am pretty sure that I saw one of the local pairs of Red-tailed Hawks copulate today. They were far away so it is tough to say for sure, especially since copulation only takes seconds and I am not sure if it is late enough into the season yet, but they sure seemed to 'land' in the way that songbirds do when they copulate. "Get a room you two!"
My third stop in the Ojibway Park Complex was at the main woods and visitor centre, where I routinely check the feeders for birds. There was nothing particularly noteworthy (although I love looking at any/all birds) so I ventured into the forest, where I saw an Eastern Screech Owl in a known tree that usually houses it for the spring. This was nice because it was only my second time this year seeing it there. Here is a photo I captured today of the owl:
Call me crazy, but I tried something today that many would call extreme: I went for a walk barefoot! Ah, it was only a few degrees below zero and it was only about 500m of walking haha. I did this a number of times in the summer and fall, but figured my coat, sweaters, and four pairs of pants would keep me warm enough, and they did! It was a rather comfortable walk actually. The only uncomfortable part was walking through puddles and muddy gravel right at the end. I hear 'barefoot backpacking' is a growing trend in hiking, so I figured I'd join in. I really felt more connected to the forest while walking barefoot (okay, so maybe I'm a bit of a nature-hippy, but I'm a birder! Aren't we all sort-of hippies and/or geeks in our own way?).
I left Ojibway and picked up Nadia, my girlfriend, and we went birding along the Detroit River in Windsor. We stopped at our favourite viewing spot downtown by Casino Windsor, Alexander Park, Reaume Park, Abars Bar, and Lake View Park Marina. Between the first two stops, we tallied 5 Glaucous Gulls, which we normally do not see at all on the Detroit River! For the most part, each of these locations had Canada Geese, Mallards, a variety of diving ducks, and of course, Bald Eagles! Today we counted 32 Bald Eagles all visible at once from Lake View Marina, which beats my high score last week of 31! There were also a number of Mute Swans and Great Blue Herons at this location, and we watched a Red Fox run around on the ice on Peche Island, which is always a nice treat. I was hoping we would get to watch the local Peregrine Falcons put on a show like they did yesterday at Lake View Marina, but we did not see them today. The photo shows 2 male and 1 female Hooded Merganser:
Overall, it was a fantastic day of birding, like usual!