January 16 2018. Hendrie valley, Burlington, ON. Canadians like to think of themselves as winter-hardy. I doubt that many of us really are, most of us are urbanites and live in cosseted comfort; no wood to hew or water to draw. I sure felt un-hardy today when I took two heavy falls on ice. Both times I landed hard and gracelessly with disconcerting cracks and bangs heard from my binoculars and camera.
I had decided to take a mid-winter birding walk along a lightly used and rough but nevertheless favourite valley trail; in fact its name, Creekside Walk, pretty much describes it. The problem, if you can call it that, is that within the past week or so: we’ve had a sudden and complete thaw followed by a day of heavy rain, a quick and hard freeze and finally last night a few inches of light fluffy snow. So while this riverbank trail looked clean, white and inviting, under the snow were scattered and randomly tilted (!) slabs of ice. Thick ice groaning under your weight can be fun especially if every now and then you feel the ice give a little (being generally sensible of course). The ice along the trail didn’t need to give to alarm me, it was just plain treacherous. But although the fun went out of the slipping and sliding, against my better judgment I kept going; this was supposed to be a birding walk.
Well the truth of the matter is that I saw maybe four birds, two Black-capped Chickadees looking for a handout, a Carolina Wren dashing for cover and a soaring Red-tailed Hawk. This is in the valley where I have spent so many rewarding birding hours, where I’ve almost seen enough Blue-headed Vireos, Ospreys and Green Herons to last a lifetime; yet today just four birds.
So Bird of the Day? I’d like to think it was the Carolina Wren, but the birds that really made me think wow were twenty Bald Eagles hanging around on the wide ice of our industrial harbour, waiting for duck dinner. A congregation, which this cosseted Canadian was able to view from his heated car.