Winter Birding 2013-2014

AN5A1498This is a short post to give you an update on my winter birding so far this winter and to give you (and me) a break from Peru 🙂  In my post from October 19, 2013, I had written that each year I look forward to Ron Pittaway’s prediction for finches and other boreal species to move south in search for food.  This winter has kept many of the finches and other winter birds that I look forward to photographing away from our immediate area for the time being at least.  The food crops up north seem to be sufficient to keep everyone well fed, leaving this intrepid photographer looking for images of our more typical feathered friends.

I traveled in early December to the Minesing Wetlands which is surrounded by extensive flat agricultural land similar to that in the arctic tundra, perfect winter habitat for the Snowy Owl.  This winter has turned out to be an irruption year for the Snowy Owl and there are various theories what has driven the Snowies to move south.  This link will provide you to the live map of the Snowy Owl irruption as recorded by the website, eBird.  I often refer to this website, for planning photography trips or merely to look at sightings of specific species.  eBird is an online database of bird observations entered by bird watchers throughout the world and the data is immediately retrievable in the field with the smartphone app, BirdsEye.  I did see 2 Snowies that day but was unable to get one on a natural perch, just telephone poles.  During my trip there I also saw Snow Buntings that easily numbered over 1,000, a few Horned Larks and 3 lingering Sandhill Cranes.  On a trip to the same area a couple of weeks later, we found Snowy Owls sitting on poles once again and a Northern Shrike, a songbird that eats small rodents and other songbirds.

Snowy OwlSnow BuntingHorned LarkSandhill CranesNorthern Shrike

The Stinnissen aviary is well-known amongst the local birds and those from the north, well at least I would like to think so 🙂  This year, the Stinnissen aviary population is drastically down from previous years.  We have the usual Black-capped Chickadees, Blue Jays, Northern Cardinals, Downy Woodpeckers and Mourning Doves.  Only recently, a single White-breasted Nuthatch has returned along with Dark-eyed Juncos and American Tree Sparrows.  One of the reasons for temporary absences is Mr. Cooper, aka Cooper’s Hawk, which visits each day to try and take an unwary visitor which is usually a Mourning Dove.


Even though the danger of being eaten is ever looming, the need to eat outweighs the risks and eventually the locals sneak out for a quick bite.

Northern Cardinal - maleNorthern Cardinal - femaleDark-eyed Junco

The City of Orillia is located on two lakes, Couchiching and Simcoe.  The two lakes are joined by a single watercourse locally known as the narrows which has a rich history dating back over 4,000 years.  The swift flowing water is ice-free most of the winter and as a result, it is a source of food for many waterfowl that have chosen not to migrate or winter-hardy birds such as the Bald Eagle.  This particular Bald Eagle is estimated to be 2.5 years of age as determined by one of my naturalist friends.  Adults acquire the distinctive white head and tail in about 5 years.

sub-adult Bald Eagle1sub-adult Bald Eagle2

Finally, Dianne and I usually make a trip to Algonquin over the Christmas holidays and this year was no different, well except for the weather.  This has been quite a winter so far with ice storms, plenty of snow and lately arctic-like temperatures.  On this particular day, it was -25˚C and by the time we got to Algonquin it warmed up to a balmy -24.  Nonetheless we braved the outside for short periods of time and I was able to get a few images including the Evening Grosbeak, Gray Jay, Purple Finch and the perennial favourite, the Blue Jay.

Evening Grosbeak-femaleEvening Grosbeak-maleGray JayPurple FinchBlue Jay

Thanks for dropping by!

This entry was posted in Algonquin, Birds, blog, Nature, Nature Photography, Orillia, Photos and tagged , , , , , , , , , .


  1. Rob Smith January 6, 2014 at 5:52 am #

    Very, Very nice Mate! You certainly had a great time with these. The eyes on the Owl are gorgeous and the colour in the little guys is fantastic. Really enjoyed seeing these guys. Trust the weather is not having a really bad effect on you guys. Take Care

    • Arni January 6, 2014 at 8:43 am #

      Thank you Rob. It has been an interesting winter for sure and finding local birds has been a bit of a challenge. We are under a blizzard warning now after another 8 inches of snow last night, spring seems so far away 😉

  2. Scott Martin January 8, 2014 at 1:03 am #

    You’ve got to get excited seeing Eagles at such close range in Orillia Arni and the intense yellow eyes of the Snowy are classic. That little shrike has great claws to perch on the ice covered perch!

    • Arni January 8, 2014 at 8:59 am #

      It was pretty neat to see the Eagles right here in town, I only wish that it didn’t get so cold so fast so I could have enjoyed them longer 😉 We have to find a Snowy on another perch though.

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  1. By Ducks, Owls and a VATH on February 13, 2014 at 10:17 pm

    […] 2014.  Even though I have seen Snowy Owls earlier this year and posted an image in my post ‘Winter Birding‘ I needed a more natural image instead of the typical ‘Snowy Owl on a telephone […]