Ontario: Winter 2022–2023

Winter 2022–2023: 1 Dec–28 Feb

Adam Capparelli

Aaron Rusak

Recommended citation:

Capparelli, A., and A. Rusak. 2023. Winter 2022–2023: Ontario. <https://wp.me/p8iY2g-gsG> North American Birds.

We would like to extend our gratitude to Blake A. Mann for regional reporting and Andrew Keaveney for assistance in data logistics.

Winter got off to a strong start in early December with colder than normal weather dominating most of the province up until the end of month. After that, things switched with mild weather settling in for the rest of the winter period aside from a brief return to more typical winter weather near the end of January and end of February. Northern Ontario saw near-normal precipitation throughout the season, with southern and eastern Ontario seeing above-normal precipitation that was sometimes a mix of snow, rain, and ice.

The mild weather meant it was another good winter for unusual winter birds; 12 species of warblers and 10 species of shorebirds are on this season’s winter list. Winter finches were a mixed bag. Some, like Pine Grosbeaks, moved south in larger than normal numbers, while others, notably redpolls, were largely absent from south-central Ontario. However, there were southward movements of other boreal species to make up for this, specifically Boreal Chickadee, Great Gray Owl, Black-backed Woodpecker, and American Three-toed Woodpecker.

Notable rarities included “Eurasian” Green-winged Teal, Dovekie, Razorbill, Glaucous-winged Gull, Great Cormorant, Lewis’s Woodpecker, and Bullock’s Oriole.

Waterfowl through Gulls

The “Eurasian” Green-winged Teal in the City of Toronto has returned for another season; it was first seen on 21 Feb and continued into March (Margaret Hough). Two hybrid Redhead x Lesser Scaup were seen on Wolfe Island, Frontenac Co on 27 Jan (Jon P. Ruddy). A Tufted Duck x Scaup sp. hybrid, first found on 28 Jan in the City of Toronto, continued into March (Makail Johannesson). The continuing Harlequin Ducks from the fall in Sault Ste. Marie, Algoma Dist were last reported on 23 Dec (m. ob.). Barrow’s Goldeneye were widespread this winter, with notable birds seen in Grey, Leeds and Grenville, Chatham-Kent, and Hastings Cos, Durham and Niagara RMs, Algoma Dist, and the City of Hamilton. A hybrid Common x Barrow’s Goldeneye was seen from 6–8 Feb in Corunna, Lambton Co (Joshua Bouman). The Eared Grebe first seen in November in Ipperwash, Lambton Co continued until 12 Dec when it was unfortunately found dead (Matt Parsons). Winter Sora were seen on 17 Dec in Woodstock, Oxford Co (Scott Gillingwater) and 28 Feb in Point Pelee National Park, Essex Co (Michael McAllister). Several species of shorebird were recorded on this season’s winter list; particularly notable birds were: two Sanderling from 1–21 Dec at Turkey Point, Norfolk Co (Mike Hallett), a White-rumped Sandpiper continuing from November until 4 Dec also at Turkey Point, Norfolk Co (George Prieksaitis, Markus Legzdins), a Pectoral Sandpiper on 2 Dec in Ajax, Durham RM (Joe Lucas), the continuing Western Sandpiper from November which remained until 18 Dec at Erieau and Rondeau Provincial Park, Chatham-Kent Co (Stephen R. Charbonneau), a Spotted Sandpiper from 11–18 Dec at Erieau and Rondeau Provincial Park, Chatham-Kent Co (Stephen R. Charbonneau), and a very early Lesser Yellowlegs from 15 Feb into March at Erieau, Chatham-Kent Co (Stephen R. Charbonneau).

Jaegers are rarely seen in winter, so a Pomarine Jaeger seen on 10 Dec in the City of Hamilton (m. ob.) and a Parasitic Jaeger on 3 Dec in Ipperwash, Lambton Co (James M. Holdsworth) were good additions to the winter list. The first live record of Dovekie in Ontario since 2015 was seen on 10 Dec in the City of Toronto and was fortunately extremely cooperative, allowing many birders to see it and get excellent photos (Brian Stahls). In a repeat of last winter, two Razorbills reappeared at Niagara-on-the-Lake, Niagara RM and were present from 4–30 Dec (Alessandra Wilcox). Black-legged Kittiwakes were widespread with reports from Lambton, Essex, Huron, Simcoe, and Leeds and Grenville Cos, Niagara RM and the City of Hamilton. A Laughing Gull seen on 1 Jan in the City of Ottawa was an excellent winter bird, especially for the national capital region (Mark Gawn). A California Gull was photographed on 7 Dec in Port Franks, Lambton Co, but was never seen again (James M. Holdsworth). What is likely the same Glaucous-winged Gull from last year was seen again this winter in Brantford, Brant Co on 14 Dec (Sarah Lamond). Unlike last year, it was only seen the one day and may be the same bird that was later seen in Cleveland, Ohio.

Loons through Woodpeckers

Pacific Loons were seen 23 Jan in Kincardine, Bruce Co (Bob Taylor, Anne-Marie Taylor) and 24 Jan–1 Feb in Burlington, Halton RM (Richard Poort). A Great Cormorant, possibly the same bird from the fall, was found on 20 Dec in the City of Hamilton and spent the rest of the winter into March in the area, occasionally crossing into Burlington, Halton RM (Alvan Buckley). Green Herons, extremely rare in winter, were seen 8 Dec in Windsor, Essex Co (Jim Hunt) and 17 Dec at Kettle Point, Lambton Co (James M. Holdsworth, Scott Connop). Several notable Black Vultures were reported this winter: 13 Dec in Mississauga, Peel RM (Vinay Prakatoor), 17–18 Feb in Barrie, Simcoe Co (Dave Szmyr), 18–21 Feb in Point Pelee National Park, Essex Co (m. ob.), 20 Feb in Dundas, City of Hamilton (Carolyn Southward), and 20 Feb into March in Bracebridge, Muskoka DM (David Goodyear, Regan Goodyear). A Cooper’s Hawk x Northern Goshawk hybrid present from 1–6 Jan in Bluewater, Huron Co was an excellent find (Quinten Wiegersma). Red-shouldered x Red-tailed Hawk hybrids were seen 8 Dec–11 Feb in Huntsville, Muskoka DM (Theresa Schiller, Pat Schiller, Kelly Watts), 29 Dec in Greenwood, Renfrew Co (Susan Ellis), and 10 Jan in the City of Ottawa (fide eBird). This hybrid is now reported annually, if not seasonally in Ontario and is probably a result of more awareness and photographs available for study. A Red-tailed x Rough-legged Hawk hybrid in Burgessville, Oxford Co was seen from 29 Dec–15 Jan (Scott Gillingwater). This is certainly a returning bird recorded in both December 2020 and 2022, with eBird showing it to be a pretty scarce hybrid combo across the continent.

A Lewis’s Woodpecker decided to spend the winter at a private residence near Billings, Manitoulin Dist, first appearing on 11 Jan and remaining into March (Phyllis Cacciotti). Fortunately, the homeowner was amenable to visitors and over two hundred birders have been able to see this rare visitor. It was a good winter for American Three-toed Woodpecker in south-central Ontario, especially eastern Ontario, with the continuing birds from Oct overwintering into March in the City of Ottawa (m. ob.), another long-staying bird at a different location in the City of Ottawa from 12 Dec into March (Adrian Gollner), one bird photographed on 17 Dec near Davis Mills, Renfrew Co (Cathy Hamel), a third bird seen in the City of Ottawa on 18 Dec (fide Derek Dunnett), one from 20–21 Dec near Clarence-Rockland, Prescott and Russell Co (Vincent Fyson), and lastly one at Algonquin Provincial Park, Nipissing Dist from 18–22 Feb (Allanah Vokes). Black-backed Woodpeckers also made a southward push this winter, with two particularly notable individuals, both near St. Williams, Norfolk Co: 26 Jan–14 Feb (Eric Giles) and 28 Jan (Stuart A. Mackenzie).

Vireos through Finches

Two late White-eyed Vireos were discovered in early winter on 9 Dec in London, Middlesex Co (Sawyer Dawson, Gordon Payne) and 20 Dec also in London, Middlesex Co (Mike Moynihan). A lingering Warbling Vireo continued from Nov–8 Dec in the City of Toronto (m. ob.). The Black-billed Magpie has remained in Echo Lake, Algoma Dist, where it has been observed for a long period of time. A Fish Crow also has stuck around from May–Mar in Kingston, Frontenac Co (William Depew, Kathy Webb).

This winter has been a banner year for Boreal Chickadees, with significant numbers being seen in regular locations, but also several records outside their normal range including records on 6 Dec in Uxbridge, Durham RM (Charmaine Anderson), 27 Dec–23 Feb in Holiday Beach, Essex Co (Cameron Chevalier, Michael McAllister, Steve McAllister), and 22 Feb–Mar in Fraserville, Peterborough Co (Tony Barrett). A couple of Mountain Bluebirds were also found in the province, with one record continuing from Nov–5 Dec in Bailieboro, Peterborough Co (m. ob.) and another seen on 12 Dec–1 Jan in Benallen, Grey Co (William Gray). Several Townsend’s Solitaires were also seen around Ontario with records on 8 Dec–14 Jan in Wilfrid, Durham RM (Charmaine Anderson), 21 Dec in Thunder Bay, Thunder Bay Dist (Troy Balec et al.) and 2 Jan in Red Lake, Kenora Dist (Merle Nisly). A single Varied Thrush was seen in the week of Feb 3 in South Frontenac, Frontenac Co (fide Mike Burrell). There were also a couple notable thrushes that passed through Ontario quite late, with records of Swainson’s Thrush on 6 Dec in Port Franks, Lambton Co (James M. Holdsworth) and 20 Dec in the City of Ottawa (Sheila Craig) and A long-staying Wood Thrush was a welcome Winter List edition from 4–16 Dec in Walsingham, Norfolk Co (Adam Timpf). Finally, a House Finch was seen north of its expected range on 7 Feb in Thunder Bay, Thunder Bay Dist (Mirabai Alexander).

Sparrows through Buntings

A Lark Sparrow stuck around for two days from 13–14 Dec in the City of Hamilton (Alexander Darling). Two different Harris’s Sparrows stuck around from the fall, with one staying from Nov–Mar in Port Franks, Lambton Co (m. ob.) and the other from Nov–9 Dec in Cambridge, Waterloo RM (Brett Fried). Two late LeConte’s Sparrows were found in the winter with one bird seen on 1 Dec in Sarnia, Lambton Co (Deryl Nethercott, Sharon Nethercott) and the other record persisting into the new year from 5 Dec–8 Jan in Mississauga, Peel RM (Peter Landry). A lingering Spotted Towhee also stuck around from Nov–14 Jan in Thessalon, Algoma Dist (Tony Ward). A Yellow-breasted Chat was also found early in the winter period on 1 Dec in Dundas, City of Hamilton (Rob Dobos, Cheryl Edgecombe, Dave Don).

Several Yellow-headed Blackbirds were seen through the winter months, with records on 17 Dec in St. Williams, Norfolk Co (David Okines), 3–10 Feb in Leamington, Essex Co (Rick Mayos), and 5 Feb in Saint Joachim, Essex Co (Laura Foy, Andrew Campbell). A Western Meadowlark stuck around for a few days from 26–28 Dec in Port Hope, Northumberland Co (Bill Cassells). Finally, the Bullock’s Oriole found in the fall stayed from Nov–2 Dec in Dryden, Kenora Dist (Penny Ratuschniak).

Several different species of warblers made their way through the province late, starting with a Northern Waterthrush seen on 17 Dec in Kingsville, Essex Co (Keith J. Burk, James T. Burk). A Black-and-white Warbler showed up a day later on 18 Dec in the City of Toronto (Brett Leslie). A Tennessee Warbler made a one-day stop on 11 Dec in Cambridge, Waterloo RM (Nathan Hood) and was preceded by a Northern Parula on 10 Dec in Cambridge, Waterloo RM (Tim Kuntz). A Blackburnian Warbler paused for more than one day, staying from 4–6 Dec in the City of Toronto (Keith Matthieu). Another longer staying warbler was a Yellow-rumped “Audubon’s” Warbler from 17–22 Dec in the City of Hamilton (Tristan Uchida, Kevin Salemi). The last late warbler was a surprise Yellow-throated Warbler found at a private residence and stayed 14–17 Dec in Soperton, Leeds and Grenville Co (Gerard Phillips, Stew Hamill). There were also four records of late Dickcissels; Nov–3 Dec in Rondeau, Chatham-Kent Co (David Barr), Nov–24 Jan in Long Point, Norfolk Co (m. ob.), 19 Dec in Wheatley, Chatham-Kent Co (Pete Read et al.), and 22 Dec in Aylmer, Elgin Co (Michele Carniere).

Report processed by Andrew Keaveney, 25 Nov 2023.

Photos–Ontario: Winter 2022–2023

This Dovekie, though only present for the day, represented the first chaseable record for the province. It was extremely cooperative and enjoyed by anyone and everyone that could get to Ashbridges Bay Park on Toronto’s east end before dusk, 10 December. Photo © Kiah Jasper.

Extremely rare in winter, not one but two LeConte’s Sparrows were found this season. While one was only seen one day, this bird, photographed on 1 Jan in Mississauga, Peel RM, was present for over a month. Photo © Mourad Jabra.

The second winter record of a Lewis’s Woodpecker was originally found on 11 Jan in Manitoulin. This bird stuck around for a significant time, continuing into March and allowing many birders to successfully chase the bird. Photo © Corry Ziorjen.

A late Yellow-throated Warbler originally seen on 14 December in Sopertin, Leeds and Grenville Co was found on the Delta CBC. This exciting addition to the CBC stuck around for a few days, allowing a unique sight in the winter months. Photo © Christine Hough.