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A Lanark Big Year – January 1st – Land of the Snowy Owls

“A Lanark Big Year – January 1st – Land of the Snowy Owls”

New Year ’s Day and we didn’t get up until after 9 AM. A very quiet evening and a long sleep before day 1 of my Lanark big year. The sun is up, it is very cold (-21) and very clear. It is at least 30 minutes before any birds arrive at our feeders. A lone Pigeon claims the honour of Bird #1 followed by Starlings, Goldfinch and Blue Jay. Zaza and I are planning a couple of hours searching the fields on the east end of the county for Snowy Owls. Of course being an engineer I just had to reduce the year to numbers. So I created a spreadsheet checklist for Lanark. There are 279 species possible but the total could be more depending on how many super rarities you wish to include. Next I divided them into three groups; Common = 157, Occasional (usually a few are seen each year) = 47, and rarities =75. This means a target of 200 is a tall order but I believe in tall orders so here we go. After that I created a 3 month target list for January through March which has 61 birds which I intend to concentrate on. Of course the real enjoyment is to forget the numbers and wander the county enjoying whatever presents itself.

Steaming cups of tea (640x385)

Zaza and I packed up tea and Christmas goodies and headed out for a 3 hour foray. We wandered through the side streets of Carleton Place looking for the Coopers Hawk in town to no avail so we headed down Cavanagh to Appleton Side Road. A small flock of 10 Snow Buntings were on the road near the intersection which seems to be a locale where I often see them. We headed north to farm fields on the east side of Appleton Side Road north of Hamilton Side Road. This is the western edge of the Ottawa Valley and after this the large open fields drop off dramatically. I had one Snowy here both on Dec 30 and 31st but today nothing. We circled the area 3 times with no luck. So onto to Almonte, where we enjoyed a Raven gliding effortlessly with its large wedge tail. We headed for the open water near the Barley Mow where we found one Common Merganser. A local stopped to ask if it was a duck and said “Now – Will it be alright out there!” I assured her it would.

Common Merganser Almonte (640x585)

From there we headed west along Wolf Grove Road hoping to spot any Grosbeaks or Crossbills with no luck. Turning north onto Union Hall Road we picked up a couple of Robins and an ambitious Black Squirrel dragging a corn cob across the road to his lair. It is a well treed area with the occasional majestic eastern White Pine looking like it could be in a “Group of Seven” painting.

White Pine Union Hall Road (640x617)

Hoping against hope we headed back to the Appleton Side Road fields for one last ditch attempt at finding a Snowy but with no luck. Discouraged we pulled into the old feed store lot at Hwy 7 and Ashton Side Road, parked and settled down for tea and biscotti. A flurry of emails from Arnie Simpson alerted us to Snowy Owls on the south side of Hwy 7 less than a kilometer away. After three tries up and down Hwy 7, I started pulling away from the shoulder to go home when Zaza spotted one flying and it landing atop a light standard close by. A beautiful first year female by colouration. Arnie saw three Snowy in all. Zaza and I returned home to end a successful first day.

Snowy Owl Hwy 7 (640x633)

I next expect to post around the third week of January before we go south for a week.

Adios amigos

Iain and Zaza