Showing posts from January, 2014

The standoff.

The standoff., a photo by ricmcarthur on Flickr. I don't know what caused these two downy woodpeckers to go beak to beak in a stare down, but they kept at it for about 1 minute.

Bobbing their heads, thrusting their bills forward and puffing up their wings the appeared to be trying to intimidate each other.

It was resolved peacefully when one flew off.

Picoides pubescens

In winter Downy Woodpeckers are frequent members of mixed species flocks. Advantages of flocking include having to spend less time watching out for predators and better luck finding food from having other birds around.

Downy Woodpeckers have been discovered nesting inside the walls of buildings.

Hello. I'm up here.

Hello. I'm up here., a photo by ricmcarthur on Flickr. Normally we see wild turkeys on the ground, once or twice flying down from a tree.
This is the first time I've photographed one in a grape vine.
Obviously looking for food, it was having a hard time hanging on to the vines.
Eventually he flew down and walked away. Actually it looked like it feel out of the tree, but I'm sure it would say it had done it on purpose.

.Meleagris gallopavo

Great tailed grackle

Great tailed grackle, a photo by ricmcarthur on Flickr. These birds are absolute monsters compared to the common grackle we get in our area.
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology describes them as "A big, brash blackbird, the male Great-tailed Grackle shimmers in iridescent black and purple, and trails a tail that will make you look twice."
We saw these birds at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge.
Laguna is also the place where we first was road runners.

Quiscalus mexicanus

Although you’ll usually see them feeding on land, Great-tailed Grackles may also wade into the water to grab a frog or fish.

In winter, enormous flocks of both male and female Great-tailed Grackles gather in “roost trees.” These winter roosts can contain thousands of individuals, with flocks of up to half a million occurring in sugarcane fields in Texas’s Rio Grande Valley.

All dressed up

All dressed up, a photo by ricmcarthur on Flickr. This is a cattle egret all dressed up in his breeding plumage.
We saw this one on a birding trip to Texas.

Cattle Egrets are native to Africa but somehow reached northeastern South America in 1877. They continued to spread, arriving in the United States in 1941 and nesting there by 1953. In the next 50 years they became one of the most abundant of the North American herons, showing up as far north as Alaska and Newfoundland.

The oldest Cattle Egret on record, originally banded in Maryland, was at least 17 years old when it was captured and released in Pennsylvania in 1979.

Bubulcus ibis

We've had some drifting snow here.

We've had some drifting snow here., a photo by ricmcarthur on Flickr. This is a winter that just won't quit.
Brutal cold, snow and high winds are resulting in hardship for people and animals.
Yesterday the wind whipped up massive snow drifts around houses located beside Rondeau Bay.
Drifts were over a storey high at some locations. Cars are buried and snow removal companies are having difficulty keeping up.

I would go to Florida but they are cold as well, just no snow, yet.

Stay warm and safe.

How many cats?

How many cats?, a photo by ricmcarthur on Flickr. Ten? A dozen?More?
These are semi-strays. Someone has built several small shelters around this old building and brings food on a regular basis.
I don't know who does it but it is nice that they aren't left on their own.

OPINION read this at the risk of being offended.

I'm not a fan of feral cats as I am aware of how much damage they can do to the local wildlife.
I take all "scientific" studies with a large grain of salt because there is a lot of estimating involved.

According to Peter Marra of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Washington, America’s cats, including housecats that adventure outdoors and feral cats, kill between 1.4 billion and 3.7 billion birds in a year.
This is a rather large range and the numbers can't be proved one way or another.
I don't know if this is accurate but the numbers scare this bird watcher.

There are 20 cats.

Snow turkey

Snow turkey, a photo by ricmcarthur on Flickr. Obviously the wild turkeys don't migrate as they aren't strong flyers, but it does seem odd to see them walking around in the snow.
This hen walked through our yard this afternoon but wasn't interested in the seed under the feeders.
Turkeys were extirpated from our area and were re-introduced about 12 years ago.
They are thriving and can be seen throughput the area in places like woodlots and corn fields.
Photo was taken through the Wonderful Wildlife Window.

Meleagris gallopavo

The Wild Turkey and the Muscovy Duck are the only two domesticated birds native to the New World.
When they need to, Turkeys can swim by tucking their wings in close, spreading their tails, and kicking.

Where's the polar bear?

Where's the polar bear?, a photo by ricmcarthur on Flickr.

A winter towhee.

A winter towhee., a photo by ricmcarthur on Flickr. We don't normally have towhees in our area during winter but this one is wintering at the visitor centre at Rondeau Provincial Park.

They are a summer bird that breeds in southern Ontario and migrate to warmer areas in the winter.

Towhees eat many foods: seeds, fruits, insects, spiders, millipedes, centipedes, and snails, as well as soft leaf and flower buds in spring. They also eat seeds and fruits, including ragweeds, smartweeds, grasses, acorns, blackberries, blueberries, wheat, corn, and oats.
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Pipilo erythrophthalmus

The oldest known Eastern Towhee was 12 years, 3 months old.

If you shovel your yard....

If you shovel your yard...., a photo by ricmcarthur on Flickr. instead of your driveway, so birds can get to the bird seed on the ground, you might be a birding fanatic.

A summer slough

A summer slough, a photo by ricmcarthur on Flickr. It's pronounced slew.
Rondeau Provincial Park is a geomorpholic feature known as a crescentic cuspate sandspit.
It has been formed by the transport of sand and fine gravel by two converging currents along the Lake Erie shores.

Basically it is made of sandbars with the low areas between the bars being the sloughs.

Rondeau is a major spring migration hotspot for birds, with mid-May being the peak time.

Fishing, swimming,hiking and camping are some of the other activities at Rondeau.

Do you want that super sized?

Do you want that super sized?, a photo by ricmcarthur on Flickr. If you haven't had the opportunity to watch a heron or egret eat a large fish it is like watching a teenager gobble down a super sized fast food hamburger, fries and drink in 60 seconds.
You can't quite believe your eyes.

How does the bird juggle the fish without loosing it and then swallow it whole?

This was taken on Rondeau Bay last summer.
Right now the heron has been supplanted by ice fisherpeople.
I just get my ice from the freezer, it's much easier.

Ardea herodias
Thanks to specially shaped neck vertebrae, Great Blue Herons can curl their neck into an S shape for a more aerodynamic flight profile and to quickly strike prey at a distance.

The oldest Great Blue Heron, based on banding recovery, was 24 years old.


Mask, a photo by ricmcarthur on Flickr. During the recent winter storms and brutally cold weather we had cardinals coming into the yard.
They aren't much for bird feeders and prefer to eat on the ground.
This male cardinal had been routing around in the snow for seeds before flying up to this perch.

Taken through the Wonderful Wildlife Window.

Cardinalis cardinalis
Only a few female North American songbirds sing, but the female Northern Cardinal does, and often while sitting on the nest. This may give the male information about when to bring food to the nest. A mated pair shares song phrases, but the female may sing a longer and slightly more complex song than the male.

The oldest recorded Northern Cardinal was 15 years 9 months old.

Why did the muskrat cross the road?

Why did the muskrat cross the road?, a photo by ricmcarthur on Flickr. Well, actually he didn't, he stopped half way.
Not sure what he was doing our of his burrow, in the middle of winter in freezing temperatures but he was just sitting there on the road.
I didn't try to move him as he didn't seem injured and it was a quiet back country road.
I call it a he as a she would be smarter than to sit in the road.
Muskrats are medium-sized semiaquatic rodent native to North America.
It is basically a large field mouse that has adapted to life in and around water and has large hind feet that act like paddles during swimming.

Ondatra zibethicus

The cats in the bag

The cats in the bag, a photo by ricmcarthur on Flickr. We were getting a new bed and the old one was being taken away.
The store provided large plastic bags to put the old mattress and springs into for health reasons.

A bag of any sort is an irresistible attraction for most cats and Oz is no exception.

He crawled in and climbed up to lay on top of the box springs. I'm not sure if he thought he was hidden but either way he seemed content.

He stayed in the bag for about 30 minutes before coming out.

Really? I thought squirrels were bad.

Really? I thought squirrels were bad., a photo by ricmcarthur on Flickr. You can buy feeders that are supposed to be squirrel proof and even a few that are racoon resistant but I don't think there are any commercial deer baffles.
We looked out to see a white tailed deer eating out of the platform feeder. Shins on the baffle for balance and muzzle stuck into the feeder, the tongue flicking around like an anteater's.
I know there are deer flies, I have been bitten by them often enough, but I'm not aware of a deer bird.

The deer are welcome to clean up under the bird feeders but I think this is just being greedy.

You can see a standard sized baffle on the feeder in the foreground, actually there are two baffles as our squirrels are creative.
The baffle on the platform feeder is a custom made one that even keeps racoons at bay but evidently not deer.

Odocoileus virginianus

I hear you knockin' But you can't come in

I hear you knockin' But you can't come in, a photo by ricmcarthur on Flickr. Yes another deer photo, but as long as they keep coming this close I'm going to take the photos.
This was taken through the wonderful wildlife window otherwise know as the living room window.
The deer come in to clean up under the bird feeders, then they look in to see if we are going to put out more.
She was about 2 feet from the window, the photo is not cropped.
Odocoileus virginianus

Lapland longspur

Lapland longspur, a photo by ricmcarthur on Flickr. I've been trying for several days to get a photo of this guy that wasn't blurred or cluttered with other birds.
This is a bird that breeds on the tundra and only comes our way in winter.

He has been in with snow buntings, an American pipit and horned larks.

Calcarius lapponicus

Some winter flocks of Lapland Longspurs have been estimated as large as four million birds. During snowstorms, such flocks sometimes collide with lighted structures such as radio towers, and thousands can be killed in a single night.
source: The Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

The giraffe-deer of Rondeau

The giraffe-deer of Rondeau, a photo by ricmcarthur on Flickr. Only seen in the winter, usually during snow storms when the drifts are deep, the giraffe-deer or Rondeau browse the lower edges of trees, juniper and cedars.
Here you can see a doe showing its fawn how it is done.
Standing on its rear legs it stretches to get any woody material.

Odocoileus virginianus

Serious over browsing can occur when population levels get too high for an area.
The deer is a great jumper and runner. It can reach speeds of up to 58 kilometres per hour (35mph).

Take through the Wonderful Wildlife Window.

Strutting his stuff

Strutting his stuff, a photo by ricmcarthur on Flickr. This American pipit was making his way across the compost pile.
He was in with a large number of snow buntings and a few lapland longspurs.
I haven't been able to get a clear photo of the longspur yet, but I'll keep trying.
The pipit is similar to sparrows and is a small slender bird that bobs its tail and walks rather than hopping.

Scientific stuff
Anthus rubescens

In an alpine population in the Beartooth Mountains of Wyoming, a snow storm buried 17 American Pipit nests for 24 hours. All of the nestlings that were 11 days or older survived, but only a few of the younger ones did.

King of the Hill

King of the Hill, a photo by ricmcarthur on Flickr. We found a compost pile where snow buntings, lapland longspurs, american pipit and assorted other birds were coming in to feed.
It seems every time I try to get photos of snow buntings it is snowing, which is somehow appropriate.
It is a small song bird with a lot of white in its plumage.

Scientific stuff.
Plectrophenax nivalis

The male Snow Bunting returns to its high Arctic breeding grounds in early April, when temperatures can still dip as low as -30° C (-22° F) and snow still covers most of the ground. The female does not return until four to six weeks later.

Buck buttons

Buck buttons, a photo by ricmcarthur on Flickr. The proper name for where the antlers grow from is pedicle.
Not to be confused with an icicle.

This male came into the yard to eat the bird seed under our feeders. I'm not sure why his face is so white, it isn't snow.
He was very skittish and didn't actual stay long enough to eat much of anything.

When the rut is over the antlers are shed and are regrown every year.
Photo taken through theWonderful Wildlife Window.
Odocoileus virginianus)

We are getting a bit of snow.

We are getting a bit of snow., a photo by ricmcarthur on Flickr. It started snowing sometime last night and at 8pm it is still coming down. Between 6 and 8 inches so far.
No end in sight.
We are on the north shore of Lake Erie and the storm stretches back past Chicago, a 6 hour drive west of us.

Welcome to the great lakes area in the winter.

Happy New Year, I think, maybe.
Wish I had a snow blower.

Geen on Blue

Geen on Blue, a photo by ricmcarthur on Flickr. I don't have any baby photos to post for a Happy New Year so I will give you a Vulcans greeting.

" Live Long and Prosper."

No, the photo has nothing to do with New Year but I like it.