Today turned out to be a good birding day, but not for the reasons I had expected. After yesterday's all day long rain/freezing rain, I expected to see lots of ducks on the local ponds, and a Snow Goose had been reported at the nearby King Family Vineyards. I started off watching five Chipping Sparrows at my feeder here in Old Trail. It was cold and wet when I started my hike near the lodge and Western Park, and I saw a few different common winter species.
My next stop was at the pond along Old Trail Drive where I had seen 22 Lesser Scaups a few days ago. This morning, there were a few Canada Geese, and a small number of Lesser Scaups and Ring-necked Ducks.
Lesser Scaup and Ring-necked Ducks
I went over to the golf course pond, heard a Belted Kingfisher, and saw a few sparrows. I decided to try King Family Vineyards (KFV). On the way back to my car, I saw a Hermit Thrush. This species is always neat to see, and I hadn't seen one for a few weeks. I left Old Trail with 16 avian species so far this morning.
I took Jarmins Gap Road to KFV, and along the way, heard Blue Jays, making it 17 species, and as I neared KFV, I saw some waterfowl in a small pond across the road from there. I turned into KFV, and was amazed to see the entire parking lot full. I finally found the last open parking space at the east end of the lot. Police and other rescue personnel were having some sort of meeting there, and a drone was flying overhead. I saw a few Canada Geese in the grass near one of the KFV ponds, but did not see the Snow Goose, so I decided to walk over to the pond across the street where I had seen some birds on my way there. As I approached the pond, I saw more Canada Geese, and a Great Blue Heron (species #18) flew from the bank.
Canada Geese and Great Blue Heron
All I saw were Canada Geese, so I headed back to my car. When I got to my car, I looked back across the road, and saw a medium sized bird in a tree above the pond that I had just left. I thought that it might be a Crow, but raised my camera lens just to be sure. I was looking at the back of an adult male Merlin! So I once again, made my way to the street for a few more photos.
After a few minutes, the Merlin flew to the east in the direction of Old Trail. I decided to see it was there. I know of a few trees near the golf course green #1 and tee box #2 where I had seen Merlins (and a Peregrine Falcon) in previous winters, so I hiked on the trail past the golf course pond and up the trail to that location. But I didn't see the Merlin, and headed back to my car. Along the way, I added three more species to my morning list, including one of our two resident Red-shouldered Hawks.
My last stop was on the trail near my house along Slabtown Branch Creek. As soon as I got there, I heard one of the Red-shouldered Hawks calling, and its mate flew by.
I added three more species there, including a Red-tailed Hawk.
Although I only logged 25 avian species this morning, any morning when I can see and photograph a Merlin is a good birding day!