Amherst Island, Ontario
Amherst Island, Ontario – birding outing
Amherst Island is a popular spot for birders to visit especially in the winter months and early Spring (Location)
Getting there requires a short ferry trip on a ferry that runs on the 1/2 hour. In the winter follows a cleared channel though the ice often followed by ring-billed gulls looking for a tidbit of food either from the ferry passengers or churned up to the surface by the passage of the ferry. It is interesting to see how the chunky ice comes back in to fill up the channel behind us as we pass along.
Amherst Island is a popular spot for birders to visit especially in the winter months and early Spring.
The pasture land of the island supports a large mouse/vole population and owls and hawks are often present in significant numbers. Many other bird species live on the island or pass through during peak Spring and Fall migration periods but it is the large raptor populations especially owls that generally act as a magnet for interested birders.
This day, I was on Amherst Island with my birder friend, Gerhard as he had heard there was a good population of owl species on the island. Based on our viewings during the day and anecdotal reports, we apparently missed the real raptor fun by just a couple of days.
There were lots of birds to see though and as we drove along the dusty little road, large flocks of starlings would fly out of the fields and cause a flurry of excitement as we squinted into the sun or peered through binoculars to see if any other species might be among their numbers.
On previous visits to Amherst Island I had successfully photographed Snowy Owls. On this occasion we didn’t see any Snowy Owls. However, Gerhard did discover this lovely Saw-Whet Owl sitting far back in a spruce tree. It was sitting at my shoulder height, though and, as luck would have it, I was able to find a spot to shoot unhindered through the foliage. As I walked around the tree, the owl rotated its head without moving its body so this close-up shot of its eyes is actually a shot of him looking backwards at me with the rest of its body pointing in the opposite direction.
At the end of our day we caught the ferry, enjoyed the trip back through the chunky ice and then headed home. We had a bit of time to spare so took the more leisurely route that hugged the shoreline. The ice on the river was still solid but had thawed earlier and then refrozen as smooth as glass without any snow cover. Locals were making good use of this opportunity to try out one very large natural skating rink.