The first two weeks of March in York Region (north of Toronto/ south of Lake Simcoe) have been busy ornithologically. There are still some winter visitors lingering while an influx of spring arrivals has steadily swelled the bird population.
Craig Corcoran had the region's first KILLDEER west of King City on March 6, then the flood gates opened and Killdeer seem to be all over the place now. I had over a dozen during a bike ride west of Newmarket on Monday. Similarly, RW Blackbirds and Cm Grackles have flooded into the region since the first reported arrivals March 3rd. SONG SPARROWS have moved into several locations since last Friday. HORNED LARKS have been singing their beautiful tinkling songs in many local fields since late February. Brenda Near had a pair of EASTERN BLUEBIRDS east of Mount Albert on Tuesday.
The open area along the river between Holland Landing and Bradford is always worth checking in March (at least for York Region birders) as it yields many waterfowl species each spring. Bruce Brydon observed the first confirmed TUNDRA SWANS March 8 when he counted 35 in the fields on the west side of Bathurst St. N. He also had the first flock of NORTHERN PINTAIL that day. Tundra Swan numbers grew to 400+ by Saturday when Denise Potter was birding the area and the total swelled to 600+ by Tuesday noon. Lev Frid checked the Bathurst St. fields this afternoon and found 128 TUNDRA SWANS, ten SNOW GEESE (including a blue one), and over 100 Pintail.
Last Friday nine SNOW GEESE (with one dark morph) were present at this location. Between the flooded fields on Bathurst St. N. and nearby Soldier's Bay on the north side of Queensville Sdrd. there was a good selection of ducks Wednesday including GADWALL (2), AM. WIGEON (3), N. SHOVELER (2), BUFFLEHEAD (6), COMMON MERGANSER (30), HOODED MERGANSER (3), RING-NECKED DUCK (12), MALLARD, BLACK, and REDHEAD (3).
In the "lingering winter birds" department, Denise Potter had three SNOWY OWLS in the Ravenshoe Road area Saturday while Sue Menzies had three more in the Holland Marsh vegetable fields south of Bradford the same day. I had one Snowy in the latter location as recently as Tuesday. These northern visitors will likely depart soon if they have not gone already. I'll be checking this weekend. On Friday I observed a large flock of SNOW BUNTINGS south of Ravenshoe Road and west of Yonge St. in SW Keswick. Denise counted 200 of them when she visited the same location Saturday. One NORTHERN SHRIKE was still present along Bathurst St. N. on Wednesday.
On Tuesday Kevin Shackleton had a flock of 20 WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILLS at #18580 Dufferin Street west of Newmarket and I had a dozen or more PINE SISKINS in the nearby Cawthra Mulock reserve that same day. The sweet sounds of a BROWN CREEPER singing and several GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLETS doing likewise was a pleasure to hear as I hiked through the property. Near the reserve entrance at Bathurst I watched a COOPER'S HAWK flashing its white undertail coverts in a courtship display over the first conifer stand.
NORTHERN HARRIERS are moving back into their territories in the Holland Marsh. I observed two males in the Ravenshoe Road area on Friday and one in the Bradford vegetable fields on Wednesday. Denise Potter had the first TURKEY VULTURE of the spring on Bathurst St. N. on Saturday. Another interesting raptor was a MERLIN that my wife and I observed at the Willow Beach Wharf along Lake Drive northeast of Keswick on Sunday afternoon.
York Region is north of Toronto and south of Lake Simcoe. If anyone requires specific directions to any of the places mentioned above, please email me privately. Many thanks to all who contacted me with their local sightings - if I forgot to mention some in this report, sorry!