Owl and Purple Sandpiper at Col Sam Smith Park: Nov. 24, 2020

In Ontario, the Northern Saw-whet Owl is most often encountered in evergreens or dense willow scrub near the shores of Lake Ontario or Lake Erie during its fall migration.

Saw-whet Owl

We were fortunate to see one and it allowed very close approach.

Saw-whet Owl

This is our smallest owl (about the same length as a cowbird).

Saw-whet Owl

To “whet” a saw means to sharpen it. The high C pitch, frequently repeated call note of the Saw-whet Owl is similar to the sound of a saw being “wheted.”

Saw-whet Owl

This owl is nocturnal and roosts during the day in dense foliage.

Saw-whet Owl

At night it hunts for small mammals.

Saw-whet Owl

The little Saw-whet was not our only fortunate discovery. By the lake we found a Purple Sandpiper.

Purple Sandpiper

The Purple Sandpiper is a circumpolar Arctic breeder.

Purple Sandpiper

It winters along North Atlantic coasts.

Purple Sandpiper

In the Toronto area, it is usually seen during November days on rocky promontories or piers.

Purple Sandpiper

The dark colour, white belly and orange to yellow legs are diagnostic for this species.

Purple Sandpiper

We weren’t the only observers:

Purple Sandpiper with duck observer

Our good luck continued with the sighting of a “raft” of about 250 Greater Scaup.

Raft of Greater Scaup
Raft of Greater Scaup
Raft of Greater Scaup

At the beginning of this afternoon’s walk, an unleashed dog chased this cat up a pole:

When the cat finally descended it immediately climbed another pole:

Other birds:

Mourning Dove
American Black Duck
Red-necked Grebe
Horned Grebe
Song Sparrow
Northern Cardinal (male)
Northern Cardinals
Northern Cardinal (female)
American Robin
American Robin
American Robin
Downy Woodpecker (male)
Rig-billed Gull
Rig-billed Gull
American Wigeon (male)
Bufflehead (male)
Mute Swan
Gadwall (male)
Long-tailed Duck (female)
Red-breasted Merganser (female)
Cedar Waxwing
Cedar Waxwing

Species list: mute swan, red-necked grebe, horned grebe, Canada goose, mallard, gadwall, American black duck, American wigeon, bufflehead, red-breasted merganser, long-tailed duck, greater scaup, saw-whet owl, purple sandpiper, ring-billed gull, belted kingfisher, blue jay, downy woodpecker, black-capped chickadee, American robin, golden-crowned kinglet, cedar waxwing, white-eyed vireo, house sparrow, northern cardinal, dark-eyed junco, American goldfinch, song sparrow.  (28 species)

Park views:

Morning group:

Afternoon group:


It is winter in the valley of the vine.
The vineyards crucified on stakes suggest
War cemeteries, but the fruit is pressed,
The redwood vats are brimming in the shed,
And on the sidings stand tank cars of wine,
For which bright juice a billion grapes have bled. – Karl Shapiro

Miles Hearn

3 thoughts on “Owl and Purple Sandpiper at Col Sam Smith Park: Nov. 24, 2020

  1. Patricia Lund

    There is a wonderful story in the news recently about Rockefeller the Saw-whet Owl who was rescued from the big Xmas tree on its way to Manhattan to light up downtown NYC. Its on the internet for anyone to read by typing “Rockefeller the viral stowaway”.
    Thanks Miles for your pictures and description of this type of owl.
    Pat Lund

  2. Lisa Volkov

    Wow, what a wonderful thing, to see that beautiful owl, and everything else here (talk about “The Owl and the Pussycat”!)


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