UK birders traverse Manitoulin Island in search of snowy owls

A Canada goose out for a paddle with a trumpeter swan.

MANITOULIN—Manitoulin is famed for its unique birding and the last week of January saw the return visit of Alan and Eleanor Hine from Lincolnshire, UK by the kind invitation of Terry and Judy Land of Gore Bay. The Brits were also visiting their son and family who live in Toronto.

The Hines first met Terry when he accompanied John and Nicole Smith on a birding trip to Ecuador in February 2010. There have been further meetings since in the UK for a friend’s significant birthday, whale watching in Baja, California, Sur, Mexico, birding at the Point Pelee migration and birding in Arizona and Costa Rica—all highly successful trips resulting in successful sightings.

In both visits made to the largest freshwater island in the world, in May 2015 and January 2017, the Lands have entertained the Hines royally. On this recent visit, Terry collected them from the Porter flight to Sudbury International after he’d advised them not to attempt the hazardous Highway 400 from Toronto during winter months. 

Alan and Eleanor Hine of the United Kingdom pose for a photo while on the search for Canadian birds.
photos by Terry Land

Fielding Park near Sudbury yielded trumpeter swans, black ducks and many black-capped chickadees, some landing on the hand, in glorious sunshine. Subsequent drives around the hotspots in all the temperature and wind chill around Manitoulin produced a further 32 species notably pine grosbeak, evening grosbeak (thanks to Ginger), snow bunting (thanks to John Hoekstra ), gray jays (thanks to the Kidders), dark-eyed junco (thanks to Vivienne and Ted Eaton, also for their DVD show and central heating), sharp-tailed grouse and bald eagle (thanks to Steve Prior), horned lark (thanks to Scott and Oliver at the Pennie Farm), close-ups of red and white-breasted nuthatches (thanks to Julie and Hubert Roll). All in all a wonderful week’s birding throughout the fabulous winter landscape of Manitoulin Island. We are grateful to Chris Bell for all his suggestions on what birds are here and how to find them.

But despite Terry’s ads in both The Expositor and The Recorder and other personal requests for reports of sightings and despite his Herculean efforts throughout the five days not one owl, let alone a snowy!

The only solution—a return visit.

A horned lark in search of some food.
This black-capped chickadee was spied on the Hines travels.