2008 was a fantastic bird year. With multiple trips to Texas, I managed 23 new life birds. During my trip to Muskegon, I managed a new state bird that had been nagging me for years. So, I thought about the possibility of one more birding trip to knock down either a state bird, or perhaps even a lifer.
After looking over my checklist and getting a handle on what was realistic, the options narrowed quickly and one bird became the target - Boreal Owl. So did we head to Michigan's Upper Peninsula? Nah. Amherst Island in eastern Ontario (not too far from Kingston) was the better bet. It is quickly becoming one of the major owling meccas of eastern North America. The internet reports looking juicy and I had a few days off strung together at the New Year.
Driving out after work on the 29th was pretty uneventful. The night was in Ajax.
The destination on the 30th was not Amherst Island. We opted, instead, to continue past Kingston and head on to Perth, specifically the intersection of Cameron Side Road and Highway 7. As we approached the intersection, we saw the road sign confirming Cameron Side Road. Before we even finished saying the road's name, we saw it - "Okay, here's Cameron Side Ro.....there's the bird!" - Northern Hawk Owl. Totally oblivious to our presence, it sat while we were a good 100 yards away eating Subway subs. Without warning, it bolted from the perch and flew. At first, it appeared to be heading away from us, but we quickly realized it was heading directly at us! It passed just to the right of the car (not 6 feet!) and only a few feet off the ground! Landing in the new spot, we re-positioned the car and took some photos. After a good 20 minutes or so, we pressed on with the day (it was already getting late). Aside from some crows and such, the day was pretty light for birds in general.
The drive to (and from) Perth, by the way, is awesome. The lakes, the rocks, the winding road - very cool. Perth itself is quite old (the original settlement dates to 1816). Old towns often have old stuff, right? A quick stop at the antique mall turned up three new coffee tins for the 'ole collection (one with words in French).
Dinner was at the Merchant in Kingston. Imagine having a dinner in a 300-year old tavern and your not even close. I am not saying it is that old, but it certainly felt like it. Huge beams. Dark atmosphere. Fireplace. Very very neat. Alexander Keith's Stout (#524) was on tap. In my opinion, it was not creamy enough and the over-carbonation ruined the finish. Otherwise, it could have been good. 3 out of 5. The night was in Kingston.