February 28, 2015

Ice Breaking

We rarely see the big ships that travel the great lakes from our place. They usually stay much further out as there are shallows near here and the main shipping lane is towards the middle of the lake.



Today we saw what appears to be an icebreaker making a path for one of the sea going vessels that come into the great lake system.






February 25, 2015

Flyby



One of the birds we wanted to see on our Florida trip was a limpkin.
It is a marsh/wetland bird that looks similar to a heron it is more closely related to rails and cranes.

After we saw one in the marsh we saw them all over, flying by, walking on the road or chasing each other.



Aramus guarauna

An unusual bird of southern swamps and marshes, the Limpkin reaches the northern limits of its breeding range in Florida. There, it feeds almost exclusively on apple snails, which it extracts from their shells with its long bill. Its screaming cry is unmistakable and evocative.

The Limpkin's bill is uniquely adapted to foraging on apple snails. The closed bill has a gap just before the tip that makes the bill act like tweezers. The tip itself is often curved slightly to the right so it can be slipped into the right-handed chamber of the snail.
source - Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

February 19, 2015

Niagra Falls, American Bridal Falls and the Canadian Horseshoe Falls

We were in Niagara falls a few days ago.


The American Bridal Falls were mostly frozen and the Canadian Horseshoe Falls were fairly open but the Niagara River was almost entirely frozen over.



Back in 1848 the falls actually stopped running due to a huge ice dam on the river.
The falls stopped for about 30 hours before the pressure broke the jam.


February 18, 2015

You know you're in a ritzy neighbourhood when..




their signs are for an elegant bird like the sandhill crane.
The ones I usually see are for ducks and occasionally a goose.

This was down in Florida near Sarasota.

February 16, 2015

Hover



We watched this osprey hunting over a large pool.
It would fly along, dip, hover then fly on or dive.

We watched him hit the water, go under then come up empty handed, so to speak.

Sometimes they are referred to as a fish eagle, probably due to their size, their wingspan can reach 6 feet.

Pandion haliaetus

Ospreys are unusual among hawks in possessing a reversible outer toe that allows them to grasp with two toes in front and two behind. Barbed pads on the soles of the birds' feet help them grip slippery fish. When flying with prey, an Osprey lines up its catch head first for less wind resistance.

The oldest known Osprey was 25 years, 2 months old.

source - Cornell Lab of Ornithology

February 15, 2015

He tends to stand out in a crowd.



We had eleven northern cardinals in the yard yesterday.

Cardinals are common around here and tend to be overlooked just like bluejays.
Winter would be bland if it weren't for the cardinals and jays. Most of the other birds are dull during the winter.

We don't get many during the warmer months, I guess there is enough food that they don't need what we put out.
This winter has been hard on the wildlife. We have a turkey that comes to the yard regularly, 6 deer, many squirrels and several rabbits, not to mention raccoons.

Cardinalis cardinalis

Cardinals don't migrate and they don't molt into a dull plumage.

The male cardinal fiercely defends its breeding territory from other males. When a male sees its reflection in glass surfaces, it frequently will spend hours fighting the imaginary intruder.
The oldest recorded Northern Cardinal was 15 years 9 months old.

source - Cornell Lab of ornithology

February 12, 2015

From the cottage to the dunes to the great frozen lake.



It’s winter time in Canada
and the gentle breezes blow
seventy kilometres per hour
at thirty five below.

Oh, how I love Canada
when the snow’s up to your butt
you take a breath of winter
and your nose gets frozen shut.

Yes, the weather here is wonderful
I guess I’ll Stick around.
I could never leave Canada..

I’m frozen to the ground.

author unknown

February 10, 2015

Black skimmer




We saw lots of these odd birds in Florida but I wasn't able to get a photo of them skimming.

Rynchops niger

The remarkable bill of the Black Skimmer sets it apart from all other American birds. The large red and black bill is knife-thin and the lower mandible is longer than the upper. The bird drags the lower bill through the water as it flies along, hoping to catch small fish.
At hatching, the two mandibles of a young Black Skimmer are equal in length, but by fledging at four weeks, the lower mandible is already nearly 1 cm longer than the upper.

source - Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

February 09, 2015

The Karate Kid




This wood stork appeared to be doing the scene from the Karate Kid.
We were hoping to find wood storks while in florida. As we were driving to the birding festival we passed a city park that had about 50 of them standing beside the road.
Once in a while it is easy.

Mycteria americana

February 08, 2015

Violence at the marsh



It must be close to breeding time.
These common moorhens were going at each other with no holds barred.
They seemed to be trying to drown each other.
As they look alike I couldn't tell who the winner was. At the end one was chased off.
The action was to fast to get a better photo.

Gallinula galeata

The Common Gallinule has long toes that makes it possible to walk on soft mud and floating vegetation. The toes have no lobes or webbing to help in swimming, but the moorhen is a good swimmer anyway.

Newly hatched chicks of the Common Gallinule have spurs on their wings that help them climb into the nest or grab emergent vegetation

source - Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

February 05, 2015

Chest thumping





duck style.
This is a hooded merganser we saw in Florida.
It was in the company of several males and one female.
I don't know if this was a display to scare off the others or just a shake after grooming.

Lophodytes cucullatus

Along with Wood Ducks and other cavity-nesting ducks, Hooded Mergansers often lay their eggs in other females’ nests. This is called “brood parasitism” and is similar to the practice of Brown-headed Cowbirds, except that the ducks only lay eggs in nests of their own species. Female Hooded Mergansers can lay up to about 13 eggs in a clutch, but nests have been found with up to 44 eggs in them.
The oldest Hooded Merganser on record was 14 years, 6 months old.

February 03, 2015

Up a tree.





We saw this wood stork sitting on a snag as we left Cedar Key as we started our trip home.

We didn’t see any nesting activity however; breeding is late winter, which is the dry season in Florida. Fish are caught in shrinking pools of water and are easier for the storks to catch.

The wood stork is the only stork that breeds in the United States.


Mycteria americana

February 02, 2015

We don't do Walmart 'round here.



We got a Ya'llmart and that's just fine with us.

It's amazing what you can find on the back roads of Florida.

I like the sentiment.

February 01, 2015

The snail kite.



The snail kite was one of the birds we were hoping to see while in Florida as it is the only place in north america where it is found.
We had terrific direction from a fellow photographer and we saw the birds within minutes of arriving in St. Cloud Florida.
At a distance it can look like a northern harrier due to the white rump.

Rostrhamus sociabilis 


Their primary food is apple snails.