Showing posts from 2014


A lady was feeding bread to the trumpeter swans, ducks and gulls at the Marina on Hamilton bay.
This ring-billed gull was dropping in for his share.
Feeding bread isn't the best idea, lots of bilk not much nutrition. Seed is always a better idea.

Larus delawarensis

Some Ring-billed Gull nests at study sites in California and Oregon contained pebbles the size and shape of gull eggs. The parents apparently pulled the pebbles into their nests from the surrounding ground, mistaking them for eggs gone astray.

Lesser Scaup (?)

Had a hard time deciding if this was a lesser or greater scaup.
Lesser have a slight bump or peak on back of head.
The greater has a more rounded head.
While this one looks rounded other photos of the birds showed the more characteristics of a lesser.
For me the definitive id is the white on the underside of the wing, the lessers white stops halfway to the wing tip and the greater goes almost to the tip.
They weren't flying so I couldn't tell.
You birders out there should feel free to add your thoughts.

Aythya affinis

Lesser Scaup chicks are capable of diving underwater on their hatching day, but they are too buoyant to stay under for more than just a moment. By the time they are 5 to 7 weeks old they are able to dive for 2-25 seconds and swim underwater for 15-18 meters (50-60 ft).

A new yard bird.

Well, for accuracy's sake it wasn't our yard, but it was a new yard bird for the homeowners when it first showed up.
This is the painted bunting that has been hanging around in Oakville Ontario for the past several weeks.
We tried for the bird a while back but didn't see it.
I managed to see it within 5 minutes but Anne missed the bird.
We waited another hour but it didn't return.

Don't feel too badly for Anne, she had a good look at one in Texas and I didn't.

Passerina ciris
With their vivid fusion of blue, green, yellow, and red, male Painted Buntings seem to have flown straight out of a child’s coloring book.
The French name of the Painted Bunting, nonpareil, means “without equal,” a reference to the bird’s dazzling plumage.

The oldest Painted Bunting on record was at least 11 years and 10 months old when it was caught and released by a Texas bird bander in 2011.

source - Cornell Lab or Ornithology.

Don't throw the cat out with the wrapping paper!!

Ozzie just loves confined spaces and if it is paper that's all good.
He crawled inside some wrapping paper and almost disappeared.

The prototype.

I made a rocking elephant for Quinn, our first grandchild.
Not overly happy with the plans so it will become the prototype for the next generation of elephant rockers.
At least there will be something under the tree.

Angry bird syndrome.

Seems quite put off that the pond isn't running. Perhaps he wanted a bath and not just a drink.

This grackle showed up in our yard two days ago. Not rare but certainly not common during the winter.
Quiscalus quiscula

Those raggedy figures out in cornfields may be called scare-crows, but grackles are the #1 threat to corn. They eat ripening corn as well as corn sprouts, and their habit of foraging in big flocks means they have a multimillion dollar impact. Some people have tried to reduce their effects by spraying a foul-tasting chemical on corn sprouts or by culling grackles at their roosts.

source - Cornell Lab of Ornithology


Wet possum is right up there with other wet animals such as dogs.
Not as bad as a young wet skunk but in the same league.

Didelphia virginiana

There are more than 60 different species of opossum, which are often called possums. The most notable is the Virginia opossum or common opossum—the only marsupial (pouched mammal) found in the United States and Canada

source - National Geographic.

Immature caracara

We saw several immature caracaras at the Brownsville dump.
This is a great birding spot in Texas.
Sewage lagoons are also good birding spots.

Birders go to the nicest places.

Caracara cheriway

A tropical falcon version of a vulture, the Crested Caracara reaches the United States only in Arizona, Texas, and Florida. It is a bird of open country, where it often is seen at carrion with vultures.

Although it looks like a long-legged hawk and associates with vultures, the Crested Caracara is actually in the same family as falcons.

source - Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
Extremely rare in Canada except for the east coast.
We found this rusty puffin near the northern end of the Welland Canal. The Falls which can be hard on ships. so they built the canal to go around them.

See Harry we do get them here.
You can't even get out of the car?

Taken through the windshield so it isn't great.

The close up

Just got my lens back from being repaired.
Ozzie was close by for a test shot.
The focus seems to be working properly now.


I don't think you are supposed to eat the whole thing at once. Maybe it is different for egrets.
Ardea alba 
Though it mainly hunts while wading, the Great Egret occasionally swims to capture prey or hovers (somewhat laboriously) over the water and dips for fish.
Great Egrets fly slowly but powerfully: with just two wingbeats per second their cruising speed is around 25 miles an hour.

Toboggan run

Wheeeee. With or without a toboggan sliding down the hill is fun.

This American Pipit slid down to the pond for a drink.

Anthus rubescens

The balancing act.

Yellow warbler from this past spring.
Going into the archives until my main lens is repaired.

Setophaga petechia
Yellow Warblers are small, evenly proportioned songbirds with medium-length tails and rounded heads. For a warbler, the straight, thin bill is relatively large.

Life can be dangerous for a small bird. Yellow Warblers have occasionally been found caught in the strands of an orb weaver spider’s web.

source -  Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

HEY! You got any seed down there.

Our mini pine siskin invasion is continuing.
This one perched above the feeders and watched the other birds on the ground.

Np more bird shots for a while, my 100-400 lens won't focus properly so it is going in for repairs. It is the long lens I use for most of my wildlife shots.

Spinus pinus

Pine Siskins protect their eggs from cold damage, too. The nest is highly insulated, and the female remains on the nest continuously, fed by the male throughout brooding.
Following a large irruptive winter flight, some individuals may stay near a dependable food source and breed far south of the normal breeding range.

source - Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Rural traffic jam

This rather large tractor had a plowing rig on the back that was as wide as both lanes.
He was courteous and pulled over once we went around the corner.
Sometimes you find an operator who is oblivious or just ornery who just keeps blocking the road.

One of the joys of country living.

Taken through the windshield. Yes I was stopped. It wasn't like I was going anywhere in a hurry.

What are you doing on the roof?

Just sitting.
Cause I don't have a fiddle.

Sometimes I enjoy being obtuse.

We have a lot of snowy owls in our area right now.
Unfortunately by the time I found this one after work the light was poor.
I'll go back out tomorrow.

Bubo scandiacus

The Snowy Owl can be found represented in cave paintings in Europe.

Christmas is coming and I'm watching.

Have you been good?

You have? Really? You can say that with a straight face.

Ozzie does like his boxes.

Eurasian tree sparrow.

We drove 3 hours to see an Eurasian tree sparrow at Niagara on the Lake at the mouth of the Niagara River.
It is a rare visitor to Canada.
There is a small population near St. Louis, Missouri.

Identifying field marks include, black throat and ear patch.
White cheeks and a rufous crown.

About 5 minutes after we arrived at the house it had been seen at, it flew in with a large number of house sparrows.

Not a great shot but it was away from the road in a private yard.

Passer montanus

Northern Shrike

We had a northern shrike come into the yard at least three times today. The first indication was the mad scramble by small birds to get away.
He made what looked like half hearted attempts to catch one of the siskins that are mobbing our feeders. At one point it called which sounds like rapid rasping "aak-aak"
Lanius excubitor
A predatory songbird, the Northern Shrike breeds in taiga and tundra and winters in southern Canada and the northern United States. It feeds on small birds, mammals, and insects, sometimes impaling them on spines or barbed wire fences.

Both male and female Northern Shrikes sing throughout year. The male sings especially in late winter and early spring.

A cage of his own choosing.

I was repairing the rungs on a kitchen chair when Ozzie came over to supervise.
He promptly climbed under the chair seat and settled in to watch the birds at the feeders.

I'm sure he felt hidden and secure.

the good and the bad

I have no idea what type of bee this is but it is busily doing its pollination work.
If you look closely you will see aphids on the stem of the flower going about their business of sucking fluids from the plant.

Beneficial and harmful, it's all nature.

The horns of a dilemma

This young male white-tailed deer wandered through the yard yesterday.
His tiny antlers looked more like tiny devil horns on a halloween costume.

Odocoileus virginianus

American pipit.

This is a new yard bird for us.
We have seen them in the general area but not at home.
We only see them during migration.

Anthus rubescens .

The American Pipit is a small, slender, drab bird of open country. Although it appears similar to sparrows, it can be distinguished by its thin bill and its habit of bobbing its tail.

Could you ask for directions?

Noooo. You knew where we were going. Now everything looks the same and we are going to be late for the hatchling party.

Apalone spinifera spinifera

The Spiny Softshell is also known as the "pancake turtle" because of its rather flat, round, leathery upper shell, or carapace. The long neck and elongated, tubular snout allow this turtle to breathe while almost fully submerged and virtually unseen. Softshells ambush prey by lying concealed in bottom mud.

source -Royal Ontario Museum

Flash Freeze

Yesterday this was open water, it froze overnight.
The far shore is about 6km, 3
+ miles, away.

The clouds represent more snow coming in.
At least we are better off than Buffalo N.Y. at the other end of Lake Erie.
They have received over 4 feet , well over a meter,of snow in two days and are expecting another two feet.
Temperatures are far below freezing and it is only November.

Bah! Humbug!

Remember to fill those bird feeders.

A winter pond.

This is our little pond in the yard where I get a lot of nature photos.
Winter arrived today with a vengeance.
The birds seem to be in shock and so am I.

I know it isn't very Canadian but I really LOATH winter.

Two toned paint job.

How do you like the colours on my bill.
Pretty cool, eh?

Ardea herodias

Despite their impressive size, Great Blue Herons weigh only 5 to 6 pounds thanks in part to their hollow bones—a feature all birds share.
The oldest Great Blue Heron, based on banding recovery, was 24 years old.

source - Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Little Bustard

We saw this bird waaayyyy off the beaten track while we were in Spain. We were so far off there wasn't a track, just a few ruts through a field.
He was doing a mating display, jumping up and spreading his wings.
Our guide was impressive, he knew exactly where to go to get virtually every bird we wanted to see.

Tetrax tetrax

Breeds in open terrain vegetation tall enough to give it cover.

Formal Attire

This great egret is in full breeding plumage and looks like he is dressed for a formal dinner

We saw it in a breeding colony
in Norfolk Virginia last spring.

Ardea alba

Great Egrets fly slowly but powerfully: with just two wingbeats per second their cruising speed is around 25 miles an hour.

The oldest known Great Egret was 22 years, 10 months old and was banded in Ohio.

source - Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Eastern kingbird

The weather here is turning into winter. The temperature is dropping rapidly and the forecast is for rain/snow.
I need a touch of summer.
This was taken last May in the middle of spring migration.

Tyrannus tyrannus

The scientific name Tyrannus means “tyrant, despot, or king,” referring to the aggression kingbirds exhibit with each other and with other species. When defending their nests they will attack much larger predators like hawks, crows, and squirrels. They have been known to knock unsuspecting Blue Jays out of trees.

The oldest Eastern Kingbird on record was 10 years, 1 month old.

source- Cornell Lab or Ornithology.

There is an alien in my backyard.

It's been there all summer and it just keeps staring at me.

This is another view of the tent/blind I use for getting photos in the backyard.

Can you touch your elbows together?

This white crowned sparrow seems to be taunting us with his casual stretch.
Can you put your elbows together?

Zonotrichia leucophrys

Scientists interested in movement and energetics have discovered that White-crowned Sparrows can run on a treadmill at a pace of about one-third of a mile an hour without tiring out.

Really? just how do you get a bird to run on a treadmill?

Source for the treadmill - Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Birds of a feather.............

mingle with others. Or something like that.

A greater scaup in the foreground and a bufflehead the back, both in beautiful plumage.

Greater Scaup -Aythya marila

Medium-sized diving duck.
Rounded head.
Bill bluish with black tip.

Bufflehead -Bucephala albeola

Bufflehead are very small, compact ducks with large, rounded heads and short, wide bills.
The Bufflehead nests almost exclusively in holes excavated by Northern Flickers and, on occasion, by Pileated Woodpeckers.

A cold and windy start to November.

Not a big storm on Lake Erie but a steady 35 km wind built up the waves.
They pounded the east shore of the park for two days.
Our living room window faces east and it is all windows.
We could feel the temperature drop, a sample of what winter will bring.

No room at the bath

We had about 70 pine siskins show up at our feeders today and then they descended on the pond.
At one point there were 10 in the two small ponds.
It was so crowded that they were hovering waiting for a space to land.

Spinus pinus

Flocks of tiny Pine Siskins may monopolize your thistle feeder one winter and be absent the next. This nomadic finch ranges widely and erratically across the continent each winter in response to seed crops.

Pine Siskins can temporarily store seeds totaling as much as 10% of their body mass in a part of their esophagus called the crop. The energy in that amount of food could get them through 5–6 nighttime hours of subzero temperatures.

source - Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Oz and the possum

Oz took a liking to a stuffed possum.
It was at our place for a little TLC, a seam had opened up and it needed a repair.
Oz seemed to think it was for him and he sat and  kneaded it for a long time.

Southward bound

A small flock of Canada geese and a few caspian terns were flying around at the end of September getting ready to head south for the winter.
Wish we could follow but we repaired the septic system this year.
I guess we will stay home and use it.

Canada goose
Branta canadensis

The oldest known wild Canada Goose was 30 years 4 months old.

Everyone has a weird neighbour.

If you don't have one, look in the mirror.

We saw this in Amsterdam a few years ago. It made me laugh.

Tree pattern baldness.

It is becoming more obvious as the trees try their leaf over that baldness is increasing.

Tongue planted firmly in cheek.

Work in progress

Come back in approximately 100,000 years and we will see if they turned into fossils.
These leaves were on a dirt road and had been pressed into the mud making an interesting design.
I wonder if this is how the fossilization process starts.

Pied-billed grebe

We went to the hawk watch at Holiday Beach in southern Ontario on the weekend.
There weren't a lot of birds passing through but we did find four pied-billed grebes in the marsh which is adjacent to the tower.

Podilymbus podiceps

These are brown birds, slightly darker above and more tawny-brown on the underparts. During spring and summer, the crown and nape are dark and the throat is black. While breeding, the bill is whitish with a black band (“pied’), but otherwise is yellow-brown. Juveniles have striped faces.

Like other grebes, the Pied-billed Grebe eats large quantities of its own feathers. Feathers may at times fill up more than half of a grebe’s stomach, and they are sometimes fed to newly hatched chicks. The ingested plumage appears to form a sieve-like plug that prevents hard, potentially harmful prey parts from passing into the intestine, and it helps form indigestible items into pellets which they can regurgitate.

The longest-lived Pied-billed Grebe on record was at least 4…

A turtle i the hand...

is a fine thing to see.
This is a hatchling eastern softshelled turtle.
They are part of the turtle recovery program at Rondeau Provincial Park.

Apalone spinifera

Unlike the hard shell of most other turtles, the shell of the spiny softshell turtle is soft and leathery, with a sandpaper-like surface.
The spiny softshell turtle spends most of its life in water, often lying buried in the sandy or muddy bottom with only its head and neck protruding.

The opportunist.

A person who exploits circumstances to gain immediate advantage rather than being guided by consistent principles or plans or maybe just a good salesman.

Do you always drool when you drink?

It is "just" a starling starling basically a nuisance bird.
First brought to North America by Shakespeare enthusiasts in the nineteenth century, European Starlings are now among the continent’s most numerous songbird
As a single bird they can be very handsome in flocks of hundreds they can clean out your feeders in the blink of an eye.

Sturnus vulgaris

Starlings are boisterous, loud, and they travel in large groups (often with blackbirds and grackles). They race across fields, beak down and probing the grass for food; or they sit high on wires or trees making a constant stream of rattles, whirrs, and whistles.

The oldest recorded wild European Starling was 15 years 9 months old.

source - Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Juvenille semipalmated sandpiper.

Another shore bird we saw from the boat before taking it out for the season.
It was on a very smelly sandbar in Rondeau Bay with some other shorebirds.

Calidris pusilla
The Semipalmated Sandpiper breeds in the Arctic and winters along the coasts of South America.
Semipalmated Sandpipers from eastern populations probably undertake nonstop transoceanic flights of 3,000 - 4,000 km (1,900 - 2,500 mi) from New England and southern Canada to South America, powered by extensive fat reserves.
The Semipalmated Sandpiper gets its common name from the short webs between its toes ("palmated" means webbed). The Western Sandpiper is the only other small sandpiper with similarly webbed toes.

A surprise visitor.

I saw an animal that I thought was a squirrel near our small pond but when I looked closely I realized it was a mink.
We have had them in the yard before but not hunting in the pond.
It dove into the pond which is not much bigger than the mink. It came out with a frog which it left on the grass. It went back several more times and caught more frogs.
I went outside to get better photos and it seemed to scent me and started taking his prizes away.

Neovison vison

Minks are a voracious predator, and they eat a wide variety of prey and will store any surplus to eat later.


Black-necked stilt.

We saw this long legged fellow in Texas a few years ago.
We had one as a rare visitor in December on the St. Clair River about 6 years ago, which is well out of its normaal range.
The St. Clair is part of the Great Lakes system in north America.

Himantopus mexicanus

Five species of rather similar-looking stilts are recognized in the genus Himantopus. They have the second-longest legs in proportion to their bodies of any bird, exceeded only by flamingos.

Where have all the peanuts gone

Long time passing
Where have all the peanuts gone?
Long time ago

Where have all the peanuts gone?
Young chipmunks have eaten them everyone
Oh, when will thye ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?

Apologies to Peter,Paul and Mary who recorded the real song.

He seems to be telling us that the peanut feeder is empty and his cheeks are empty as well.

Master peanut theifs one and all.

Tamius striatus
Average life span - Often less than 1 year, but can reach 5 years.
Their front feet have four toes and the back ones have five toes.