Ontario: Winter 2021–2022

Winter 2021–2022: 1 Dec–28 Feb

Adam Capparelli

Aaron Rusak

Recommended citation: 

Capparelli, A., and A. Rusak. 2022. Winter 2021-2022: Ontario. <https://wp.me/p8iY2g-dya> North American Birds.

We would like to extend our gratitude to Blake A. Mann, Maureen Riggs, and Brian Ratcliff for regional reporting, Andrew Keaveney for assistance in data logistics, and Joshua D. Vandermeulen, Elias Joshi, and Dinu Bandyopadhyay for contributing the photo highlights for this report.

The theme for Winter 2021-2022 was a changeable one, with fluctuating temperatures and messy storms that dumped large amounts of sometimes mixed precipitation across the province. Although the first week of December saw seasonal temperatures, things quickly changed, as the rest of the month into the first few days of January saw warmer than average temperatures across almost the entire province. Throughout the rest of January and into February, temperatures shifted back to normal, with some areas, such as the Great Lakes region, recording colder than average temperatures. Much of February saw rapidly shifting temperatures creating a freeze-thaw cycle in Southern Ontario for much of the month. From a precipitation standpoint, the northwest of the province experienced near normal precipitation, while the rest of the region was above average. Several of the winter storms were a mix of rain, snow, and ice pellets.

The mild weather at the start of the winter period allowed several lingering fall birds to persist and has resulted in the most species-diverse winter in recent years. This is especially evident in the number of warblers seen this winter, with an impressive 13 species recorded: Ovenbird, Black-and-white Warbler, Tennessee Warbler, Orange-crowned Warbler, Nashville Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Cape May Warbler, Northern Parula, Blackpoll Warbler, Palm Warbler, Pine Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, and Black-throated Gray Warbler. For the most part, winter finches remained around central Ontario, with a few scattered reports towards the end of the winter farther south.

Notable rarities included Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Eurasian Green-winged Teal, Razorbill, Glaucous-winged Gull, Great Cormorant, Burrowing Owl, Prairie Falcon, and Golden-crowned Sparrow.

Note: Sensitive species are not included in this report.

Waterfowl through Rails

The long-staying Black-bellied Whistling-Duck from the fall continued up until 26 Jan in Niagara Falls, Niagara RM (m. obs.). One Eurasian Wigeon was seen this winter on 23 Feb in Sarnia, Lambton Co (Lance Allin). A “Eurasian” Green-winged Teal found in Nov stayed until 19 Dec in the City of Toronto (m. obs.). Two Tufted Ducks were discovered in the winter with one on 31 Dec in Kingston, Frontenac Co (Rick Beaudon) and one on 6–7 Jan in Pickering, Durham RM (Luke Berg). Several Scaup hybrids were found throughout Ontario this winter. A Redhead x Greater Scaup was seen on 18 Feb in Sombra, Lambton Co (Mike Bouman) and a Tufted Duck x Lesser Scaup was seen for several days from 24–29 Jan in the City of Hamilton (Barry Cherriere). Three Redhead x scaup sp. were seen, with one on 17 Jan in Sombra, Lambton Co (Mike Bouman), a long staying bird seen from 21 Jan–26 Feb in the City of Toronto (Gavin Platt), and one seen on 23 Jan in Corunna, Lambton Co (Mike Bouman and James T. Burk).

Two Harlequin Ducks were seen this winter in northern Ontario, with one sticking around from November and continuing past March in Sault Ste. Marie, Algoma Dist (Sheri B. Minardi) and one from October sticking around until 29 Jan in Terrace Bay, Thunder Bay Dist (Pegg L. Campbell and Mark Campbell). There was a Bufflehead x Common Goldeneye (hybrid) seen on 24 Jan in Leamington, Essex Co (Jeremy M. Bensette). Many Barrow’s Goldeneyes were also seen this winter west of the Ottawa area with one continuing from Nov into Mar in Owen Sound, Grey Co (m.obs.), one seen from 5 Dec–Mar in Whitby, Durham RM (Dave Worthington), one seen from 30 Jan–7 Feb in Corunna, Lambton Co (James M. Holdsworth and Matt Parsons), and one seen 21 Feb into Mar in Lakefield, Peterborough Co (Dave Milsom). A Common x Barrow’s Goldeneye hybrid was also seen from 12–13 Feb in Presqu’ile Provincial Park, Northumberland Co (Stuart Williams). Two records of Eared Grebe were reported, one on 15 Dec in Innisfil, Simcoe Co (Henrique Pacheco) and one 5 Feb continuing into Mar in Kemble, Grey Co (Peter Baker).

A long-staying Eurasian Collared-Dove from May was last seen on 4 Dec in Shrewsbury, Chatham-Kent Co (Ian Richards). Two Rufous Hummingbirds continuing since Nov offered very close views for many birders with one staying until 3 Jan in Oakville, Halton RM (m. obs.) and one staying until 4 Dec in Watford, Lambton Co (m. obs.). Several late Sora were also seen, with records on 12 Dec in Ostrander, Oxford Co (Scott Gillingwater), 19–24 Dec in the City of Toronto (Owen Strickland), and an exceptionally late record on 1 Jan in St. Clair National Wildlife Area, Chatham-Kent Co (Blake A. Mann, Donald Pye, and Peter S. Read). A late Common Gallinule was also seen right before year end on 31 Dec in Point Pelee National Park, Essex Co (Andrew Interisiano).

Shorebirds through Falcons

A late and long-staying Least Sandpiper persisted from 3 Dec–5 Jan in Rondeau, Chatham-Kent Co (Geoff Carpentier). The only other notable shorebird record this winter was a late Red Phalarope on 6 Jan in Cobourg, Northumberland Co (Simone Merey). A Pomarine Jaeger was seen on 2 Dec in Rock Point Provincial Park, Haldimand Co (Luke Berg and Matthew Tobey). The long-staying Razorbill in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Niagara RM continued from Nov until 31 Jan (m. obs.). Nearby, there was also a Black-legged Kittiwake from 2 Dec–21 Jan on the Niagara River, Niagara RM (m. obs.). A Slaty-backed Gull was also seen from 27–31 Jan in Thorold, Niagara RM (Ryan Griffiths). The Glaucous-winged Gull in Barrie, Simcoe Co continued until 20 Dec (m. obs); the same bird was later seen on 6–7 Jan in the City of Hamilton (Alvan Buckley) and from 7–14 Jan in Brantford, Brant Co (Sarah Lamond and Kathleen Gardiner).

Several Pacific Loons were identified in the winter with a continuing bird from Sep to 1 Dec in Barrie, Simcoe Co (m. obs.), a record on 1 Dec in Thorah, Durham RM (Mike Ferguson), another on 9 Dec in Sarnia, Lambton Co (J. Peter Chapman), and the final record on 28 Dec in Christie Beach, Grey Co (David Turner). A notable Great Cormorant originally seen in the US was seen on 2–5 Feb from Fort Erie, Niagara RM (Marcie L. Jacklin). Late American Bitterns were recorded on 10–17 Dec in Whitby, Durham RM (Martha Miller) and 19 Jan in South Bay, Prince Edward Co (Steve Plaskos).

For raptors, a single Black Vulture was seen on 28 Feb in Harrow, Essex Co (Donny Moore). A few Red-shouldered x Red-tailed Hawk hybrids were seen with records from early Dec to Mar in the City of Ottawa (Joshua McCullough), 11–22 Dec in the City of Ottawa (fide iNaturalist), and 31 Jan in the City of Ottawa (Al Caughey). The bird of the season was a Burrowing Owl seen sporadically from 1 Dec–12 Jan in the city of Toronto (m. obs.). Two Prairie Falcons were also seen: 17 Dec in Alvinston, Middlesex Co (Michele Carniere) and 28–29 Dec in Clarington, Durham RM (Dave and Mary Beth Worthington).

Flycatchers through Finches

The continuing Say’s Phoebe from the fall was last seen on 4 Dec in the City of Ottawa (m. obs.). A White-eyed Vireo was an excellent winter find on 1 Dec at Sandbanks Provincial Park, Prince Edward Co (James Barber, Mike V. A. Burrell). A Blue-headed Vireo seen briefly on 2 Dec in Windsor, Essex Co, was also an unusual winter find (Mike St. Pierre). The long-staying Black-billed Magpie at Echo Lake, Algoma Dist was still present this winter. Notable Fish Crow reports were: 30 Dec near Langton, Norfolk Co (Kathryn Boothby), 12 Jan near Bridgenorth, Peterborough Co (Zach Wile, Dolan Bohnert, Kevin Gevaert, Henrique Pacheco), and 13 Jan in Port Burwell, Elgin Co (Aaron Allensen). The Tufted Titmouse first seen in October in Little Rapids, Algoma Dist was present until at least 30 Dec (m. obs.). A Tree Swallow seen 1 Dec in Brigden, Lambton Co just made it onto the winter list (Roberta Buchanan). A Carolina Wren present at a feeder in Shuniah, Thunder Bay Dist from November to 11 Feb was an excellent record for northwestern Ontario (Peter Tracz). 

A Mountain Bluebird was viewed by many from 19 Dec–7 Feb in Guelph, Wellington Co (m. obs.). There were several records of Townsend’s Solitaire this winter, mostly in northwestern Ontario: from November to 17 Jan in Thunder Bay, Thunder Bay Dist (Calvin Knorr), 9 Dec in Superior Junction, Kenora Dist (Jess Crawford), 10–28 Dec in Tobermory, Bruce Co (John Read), 27 Dec in Neebing, Thunder Bay Dist (Lisa Loiselle), 12–25 Jan in Thunder Bay, Thunder Bay Dist (K. Hillary Nalezyty), likely the same bird as the previous record from 16–20 Jan in Thunder Bay, Thunder Bay Dist (Janice M. Rusnak, Ken Rusnak), 10–17 Feb in Thunder Bay, Thunder Bay Dist (Gregg Kendall), and 14 Feb into March near Washago, Simcoe Co (John Challis). A few Varied Thrushes showed up at feeders in northern Ontario: 20 Dec to at least 10 Jan in Elk Lake, Timiskaming Dist (Robert Deadman), 24–29 Dec in Michipicoten, Algoma Dist (Bob Elliott), and 4 Jan into March in Thunder Bay, Thunder Bay Dist (Joan Stone). There were two reports of Veery this winter: 27 Dec in Waubaushene, Simcoe Co (Toby Rowland) and 2 Jan on Amherst Island, Lennox and Addington Co (Bruce M. Di Labio). A Gray-cheeked Thrush present from at least 6–16 Jan in the City of Toronto was an exceptional winter find (m. obs.). A Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch was photographed on 13 Dec near Sioux Lookout, Kenora Dist (Ari Wantoro). The resident House Finches in Thunder Bay, Thunder Bay Dist were present until at least 20 Feb (Troy Balec et al.), 2 pairs were seen from 3 Jan–21 Feb at a different feeder in Thunder Bay (Bruce Thacker) and another was seen 22 Feb at a third location in Thunder Bay (James Barber).

Sparrows through Buntings

A Clay-colored Sparrow, rarely seen in winter, was reported from 3–10 Dec in Mississauga, Peel RM (Peter Landry). The continuing Golden-crowned Sparrow in Scarborough, City of Toronto successfully overwintered (m. obs.) and a second bird was present from 7 Jan into March near Bannister Lake, Waterloo RM (Georg Hentsch). There were several Harris’s Sparrows in the province this winter: the continuing bird near Copetown, City of Hamilton which successfully overwintered (m. obs.), from 14–21 Dec in Thessalon, Algoma Dist (Tony Ward), from 6 Jan into March near Vankleek Hill, Prescott and Russell Co (A. Beyeler), 27 Jan near Uxbridge, Durham RM (Karen Bochmann), and from 13 Feb into March near Charing Cross, Chatham-Kent Co (Keith J. Burk). A Nelson’s Sparrow seen from 8 Dec–9 Jan in Rondeau, Chatham-Kent Co was an excellent winter record (Craig Anderson). A Spotted Towhee visited a feeder in Terrace Bay, Thunder Bay Dist from 6 Dec into March (Craig R. Heibert). All the winter records of Yellow-headed Blackbird were from Ontario’s southwest counties: 27 Dec on Walpole Island, Lambton Co (James T. Burk, Keith J. Burk, Hemmo Luimes), 2 Jan in Kingsville, Essex Co (Jeremy L. Hatt), 21 Jan at the Moore Wildlife Habitat Management Area, Lambton Co (Blake A. Mann), 6 Feb at Rondeau, Chatham-Kent Co (Craig Anderson), and 20 Feb near Mossley, Middlesex Co (Carl Hearn). 

The continuing Western Meadowlark in Oakville, Halton RM was last seen 12 Dec; another was seen from 24–26 Jan near Hay Bay, Lennox and Addington Co (Bruce Ripley). Both winter records of Black-and-white Warbler were only seen for a single day: 7 Dec in Kingston, Frontenac Co (Chris Boccia) and 19 Dec in St. Williams, Norfolk Co (Evan Sinclair). Tennessee Warblers were reported 5 Dec from Oakville, Halton RM (Mark Jennings) and 9 Dec from Rock Point Provincial Park, Haldimand Co (Matthew Timpf). A Northern Parula lingered from the fall to 14 Dec in Oakville, Halton RM (m. obs.). At the same location in Oakville, Halton RM as the Parula was a Blackpoll Warbler, which was last seen 4 Dec (m. obs). A Black-throated Gray Warbler, certainly the same bird from the end of fall, was seen 1 Dec (Tim Logan), and then again from 4–9 Jan (Jason Milson) in Pickering, Durham RM. The continuing Summer Tanager from the fall was seen to at least 19 Dec in Simcoe, Norfolk Co (Lynda Kosalle). A male Painted Bunting was present at a feeder near Quadeville, Renfrew Co from the last week of December into early January (Dodie Bailey). 

Photos–Ontario: Winter 2021–2022

This long-staying Rufous Hummingbird was originally found by the landowners in November of 2021. Thanks to the gracious landowners, many birders got to enjoy this rarity as it persisted for two months. Photo © Josh Vandermeulen.

This Burrowing Owl, photographed here on 5 December in the City of Toronto, was a shocking winter find. Despite being present for over a month, it was only seen on a few days and was missed by many birders. Photo © Elias Joshi.

There were two observations of Prairie Falcon this winter, marking only the 6th and 7th records ever; this bird, photographed here on 28 December in Clarington, Durham RM, was seen by several during the two days it was present, but eluded most of the hopeful searchers. Photo © Dinu Bandyopadhyay.

One of two Golden-crowned Sparrows seen this winter, this bird was enjoyed by many birders, as it stuck around for a very long time, with the breeding plumage being visible near the end of its stay. Photographed here on 22 December. Photo © Josh Vandermeulen.