Showing posts from July, 2014

How did you get that photo of the bird?

I have been asked, so here it is.

You sit in the equivalent of a tent with fold down flaps and wait and wait etc... for a bird to come by.
Hopefully the light is good and the bird doesn't take off as you hit the shutter.
I've gotten to know approximately when the birds tend to come which helps reduce the wait time, but there is no substitute for patience.
The pond is about 15 feet in front of the blind, or as my Scottish friends say, the hide.

Photo by Anne.

Bird on a wire

While sitting in the bird blind to photograph birds in the pond a hummer landed on the clothes line and buzzed at me.
Seeing as he was so insistent I took his photo.

The "ruby" throat was showing in all its glory.

Archilochus colubris

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are eastern North America’s only breeding hummingbird. But in terms of area, this species occupies the largest breeding range of any North American hummingbird.

The oldest known Ruby-throated Hummingbird was 9 years 1 month old.

source- Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

What do dragonflies eat?

Dragonflies are major predators that eat mosquitoes, and other small insects like flies, bees, ants, wasps, and very rarely butterflies.

I'm not sure what this one caught but it was large, much larger than what you can see as it had been eating for a while before I could get a shot.
It's red and a dragonfly so by default I am calling  it a ruby meadowhawk,but I don't know dragonflies so I'm just guessing.

Why did the turtle cross the road.

This large snapping turtle was starting to cross the road when I saw it. I was concerned it could be hit by a car as they aren't as fast as rabbits.

With the help of park staff, we "encouraged" the turtle onto a large shovel then dragged the shovel and turtle across the road and gently slid it off.

Chelydra serpentina
In Ontario, females do not begin to breed until they are 17 to 19 years old.
Snapping turtles only occasionally emerge from the water to bask. Despite their highly aquatic nature, they do not swim particularly well and are often observed simply walking on the bottom.
The snapping turtle is currently listed as Special Concern under the Ontario Endangered Species Act, 2007 and Special Concern under the federal Species at Risk Act.

The warbler and the butterfly in the shadows.

A yellow warbler and a summer azure butterfly landed at the pond at the same time.

Grainy because of the shadow but I thought it was interesting enough to post anyway.


I spooked this great blue heron while out on the pontoon this afternoon.

The flight shots didn't turn out but this one of the takeoff made me think of someone leaning a little too far forward.

Ardea herodias
Great Blue Herons can hunt day and night thanks to a high percentage of rod-type photoreceptors in their eyes that improve their night vision.

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

Flying fish with an audience.

Caspian terns seem to enjoy flaunting their catch.They often fly over or around others daring them to try to take it away.

Hydroprogne caspia

The oldest known wild Caspian Tern lived to be more than 26 years old. Average life span of Great Lakes Caspian Terns is estimated to be 12 years.

So, where's my coffee?

She(?) may be the poster child for Angry Birds or maybe she just needs his morning coffee.

The number of Barn Swallows in Ontario decreased by 65 percent between 1966 and 2009.
source Ministry of Natural Resources.

Hirundo rustica

Barn Swallows once nested in caves throughout North America, but now build their nests almost exclusively on human-made structures. Today the only North American Barn Swallow population that still regularly uses caves as nest sites occurs in the Channel Islands off the California coast.

The oldest known Barn Swallow in North America was 8 years, 1 month old.

source - Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Tasting his world.

This fox snake was about 5 feet, 175cm long.

It was captured, weighed, tagged and released in the same area all within a few hours.
Unfortunately they are a threatened species in our area.

Pantherophis gloydi

 Eastern Fox Snakes have a reddish head and a yellowish-brown body with dark blotches down the back and a row of smaller blotches along each side.
Fox snakes are good swimmers, and they have been recorded swimming over two kilometres between islands.
We have a lot of bluejays around right now as the young have fledged and are coming into our feeders.

Cyanocitta cristata

Blue Jays are known for their intelligence and complex social systems with tight family bonds. Their fondness for acorns is credited with helping spread oak trees after the last glacial period.

The pigment in Blue Jay feathers is melanin, which is brown. The blue color is caused by scattering light through modified cells on the surface of the feather barbs.

source - Cornell Lab of Ornithology.


When you were a kid could you jump over two?

Based on the spots I think they are leopard frogs.

Remember, never play leapfrog with a unicorn.


This common grackle took a break to come to the pond for a quick drink.
Much smaller than the Great Tailed Grackle I posted a few days back, this is a common summer bird around the Great Lakes.

Quiscalus quiscula

Grackles have a hard keel on the inside of the upper mandible that they use for sawing open acorns. Typically they score the outside of the narrow end, then bite the acorn open.

The oldest recorded Common Grackle was 22 years 11 months old.

source- Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

A black winged red bird.

As compared to a red winged black bird.

We had scarlet tanagers passing through earlier in the spring and, as usual I was captivated by their intense colour.
This is a bird that should make you do a double take.

Piranga olivacea

On the wintering grounds in South America the Scarlet Tanager joins mixed species foraging flocks with flycatchers, antbirds, woodcreepers, and resident tropical tanagers.

The female Scarlet Tanager sings a song similar to the male's, but softer, shorter, and less harsh. She sings in answer to the male's song and while she is gathering nesting material.

source- Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Black headed, red breasted American Thrush

Young robins can be confusing if only for a minute or two.

This one doesn't have the typical black head and red breast of an adult.
It has a disk like patch on its cheek reminiscent of several other thrushes.
Robins, like some other birds have regional variations of songs.
We once followed an odd looking bird with a some what familiar song for 30 minutes in South Carolina.
It turned out to a robin.
Well a birder can't follow a robin for 30 minutes trying to identify it so it became a black headed, red breasted American thrush

Turdus migratorius

Robins eat a lot of fruit in fall and winter. When they eat honeysuckle berries exclusively, they sometimes become intoxicated.

The oldest recorded American Robin was 13 years and 11 months old.

A Game of Stones

I’m not sure if this young Baltimore Oriole was looking for something to eat when it started picking up this stone. It picked it up and dropped it three times that I saw.

 Then it very deliberately flipped it with its bill into the shallow water of the pond.

Icterus galbula
Smaller and more slender than an American Robin, Baltimore Orioles are medium-sized, sturdy-bodied songbirds with thick necks and long legs. Look for their long, thick-based, pointed bills, a hallmark of the blackbird family they belong to.
Baltimore Orioles got their name from their bold orange-and-black plumage: they sport the same colours as the heraldic crest of England’s Baltimore family (who also gave their name to Maryland’s largest city).

Baltimore Orioles sometimes use their slender beaks to feed in an unusual way, called “gaping”: they stab the closed bill into soft fruits, then open their mouths to cut a juicy swath from which they drink with their brushy-tipped tongues.
source - Cornell Lab of Ornithol…

Some names make sense.

At least this name matches the bird in question.
Compared to its large size the tail is huge and can make you do a double take.
That combined with the penetrating stare can really grab your attention.
We saw this one in Texas a few years ago.
The males are about twice the size of the rich brown females.

Quiscalus mexicanus

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.

The oldest Great-tailed Grackle (based on banding records) was 7 years 9 months.

source - Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
There are lots of young downy woodpeckers about and they are not into sharing.
Multiples were fine when mom was doing the feeding but now that they are foraging on their own there are a few territorial disputes.

Picoides pubescens

The Downy Woodpecker eats foods that larger woodpeckers cannot reach, such as insects living on or in the stems of weeds. You may see them hammering at goldenrod galls to extract the fly larvae inside.

Woodpeckers don’t sing songs, but they drum loudly against pieces of wood or metal to achieve the same effect. People sometimes think this drumming is part of the birds’ feeding habits, but it isn’t. In fact, feeding birds make surprisingly little noise even when they’re digging vigorously into wood.

Side step

Step aside.

Careful how you step in that water.
A good first step would be to stand up.

I do know why this step ladder was here and I can assure you no turtles or humans were harmed during this photo op.

Yes it was removed.

Felt a little weird today so you get a weird photo.

In the shadows.

This northern flicker came into the shadows by the pool early in the morning before the sun lightened things up.

He didn't bathe, he just had a nice long drink.

Colaptes auratus

Although it can climb up the trunks of trees and hammer on wood like other woodpeckers, the Northern Flicker prefers to find food on the ground. Ants are its main food, and the flicker digs in the dirt to find them. It uses its long barbed tongue to lap up the ants.
Flickers also eat berries and seeds, especially in winter, including poison oak and ivy, dogwood, sumac, wild cherry and grape, bayberries, hackberries, and elderberries, and sunflower and thistle seeds

The Northern Flicker is one of the few North American woodpeckers that is strongly migratory. Flickers in the northern parts of their range move south for the winter, although a few individuals often stay rather far north.

source - Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

You know you're from a small town...

when the car beside you at the grocery store isn't a car.

Anne spotted this tractor at the local grocery store the other day. I don't know if the driver was making a delivery or doing some shopping.
Before you ask, there wasn't a parade.
I like the way parrots have a way of holding their head sideways.
This rose-breasted grosbeak is holding its head the same way.

Curious that the behaviour of to separate species is so similar.

Pheucticus ludovicianus

Rose-breasted Grosbeaks build such flimsy nests that eggs are often visible from below through the nest bottom.

Two males share the record for the oldest Rose-breasted Grosbeak. Both birds were at least 12 years, 11 months old when captured and released—one by a Vermont bird bander in 1984, and the other by a Maryland bird bander in 1987.

source - Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

On the Savannnah

When we went looking for the lark bunting the other day we saw a number of savannah sparrows in a large, open grass land area.

Fun how much it looked like a savannah.
Actually these birds are not named for the savannah like areas the live in but for a specimen collected in Savannah, Georgia.

Passerculus sandwichensis

The oldest known wild Savannah Sparrow was at least 6 years, 10 months old.

source - Cornell Lab or Ornithology.

Love this sign.

Someone has a wonderful sense of the absurd.

We saw this sign on our birding field trip to Amherst Island where we went to see the lark bunting. I always appreciate a slightly off centre sense of humour.

A long way from home.

This is a male lark  bunting a bird normally seen in the Great Plains in southern Alberta and Saskatchewan in Canada and the Dakotas, Montana,Wyoming,Nebraska and Kansas.
It is distinctive with its black body and white wings.

We made a road trip of about 6 hours each way to see this bird.
Fortunately it co-operated and perched and sang several times.
I couldn't get very close for photos as it flew several times.

Calamospiza melanocorys

It is the only sparrow that changes completely out of a bright breeding plumage into a drab winter one.

source - Cornell Lab of Ornithology.