Showing posts from 2016

Sandhill cranes in flight

When we went looking for the Smith's Longspur three were a lot of sandhill cranes flying around. None came close for crisp photos so this is what you get today.
Antigone canadensis The Sandhill Crane’s call is a loud, rolling, trumpeting sound whose unique tone is a product of anatomy: Sandhill Cranes have long tracheas (windpipes) that coil into the sternum and help the sound develop a lower pitch and harmonics that add richness.

Tundra swans

Tundra swans walking/paddling/swimming in a shallow semi frozen pond in a farmers field.

Cygnus columbianus 
Lewis and Clark provided the first written description of the Tundra Swan during their expedition to the West, where the birds’ whistle-like calls prompted Meriwether Lewis to dub them “whistling swans.”

Northern Cardinal

One of our under appreciated birds. It's common here so it can't be special.
Stunning really.

Cardinalis cardinalis.
 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.

Booted Racket-tailed hummingbird.

One of the 41 species of hummingbird we saw in Ecuador. Booted Racket-tail Hummingbird.
Ocreatus underwoodii

Smith's Longspur.

We took a road trip to see the Smith's Longspur and the bird was exactly where the directions said. It was hanging out with two Lapland Longspurs and a bunch of snow buntings. A lifer for us.

We had never seen buntings on a wire before. Calcarius pictus
"Longspur" refers to the elongated claw of the hind toe.

Pied billed grebe.

We were checking to see what ducks ere in the marina at Erieau now that Rondeau Bay is frozen over.
One was a pied billed grebe eating a fish.

Podilymbus podiceps

Part bird, part submarine, the Pied-billed Grebe is common across much of North America. These small brown birds have unusually thick bills that turn silver and black in summer. These expert divers inhabit sluggish rivers, freshwater marshes, lakes, and estuaries. They use their chunky bills to kill and eat large crustaceans along with a great variety of fish, amphibians, insects, and other invertebrates. Rarely seen in flight and often hidden amid vegetation, Pied-billed Grebes announce their presence with loud, far-reaching calls.


A group of mallards were in a parking lot next to a river and crowded the car looking for a handout.

More kept flying in. We didn't have anything for them.
Anas platyrhynchos Ducks are strong fliers; migrating flocks of Mallards have been estimated traveling at 55 miles per hour.

Red-breasted nuthatch, Rondeau Provincial Park, Dec 19,2016

Our feeders are getting lots of activity in this cold weather.
Heated pet bowl is providing water for the wildlife.
Sitta canadensis Red-breasted Nuthatches migrate southward earlier than many irruptive species. They may begin in early July and may reach their southernmost point by September or October.

White tailed buck.

Not sure if this is a first year buck or not.

Small antlers, makes me think of devil horns.
In the yard today, through a window.

When the water wasn't frozen.

Map turtle hatchling at Rondeau.

You could fit three in your hand without a problem.


Redheads at Erieau before the artic blast. Dec 2016.
Aythya americana
In winter much of the Redhead population forms huge flocks in two Gulf of Mexico bays that share a name, the Laguna Madre of Texas and Laguna Madre of Mexico. Flocks numbering up to 60,000 can occur, feeding on seagrass in the bays.

Fox sparrow

The pond has one small opening where the current from the pump swirls the water.
This fox sparrow came in for  a long drink.

Shot through a window.

Passerella iliaca
Fox Sparrow fossils from the Pleistocene (about 11,000 years ago) have been found in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and at the La Brea tar pits in California.

Horned grebe at Erieau.

Horned grebe at Erieau.

Podiceps auritus 
Like most grebes, the small chicks of the Horned Grebe frequently ride on the backs of their swimming parents. The young ride between the wings on the parent's back, and may even go underwater with them during dives.

Tree sparrow at the pond

Forecast is for well below freezing temperatures starting Wednesday so the pump comes out Tuesday.
Spizelloides arborea Misleadingly named by European settlers reminded of Eurasian Tree Sparrows back home, American Tree Sparrows are ground birds. They forage on the ground, nest on the ground, and breed primarily in scrubby areas at or above the treeline.

Snow day.

Not getting as much as some places but it looks like we will have a white Christmas.
White breasted nuthatch at the suet log. Sitta carolinensis
If you see a White-breasted Nuthatch making lots of quick trips to and from your feeder – too many for it to be eating them all – it may be storing the seeds for later in the winter, by wedging them into furrows in the bark of nearby trees.

It's down to a trickle.

The pond is iced over and the stream is down to a trickle but there are still a lot of birds coming in for a drink. The heated water-bowl will be out later today. We had jays, goldfinches, sparrows and juncos at the water today.
Junco hyemalis
The Dark-eyed Junco is one of the most common birds in North America and can be found across the continent, from Alaska to Mexico, from California to New York. A recent estimate set the junco’s total population at approximately 630 million individuals

Slow freeze.

The pond and its little stream are slowly freezing up. A few more days and I will have to disconnect the pump for the year.
Blue Jay
Cyanocitta cristata 
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.

Hey, I've got a fish!

It seems Caspian terns have to show off when they catch a fish. This one was flying in the channel at Erieau, Ontario. Hydroprogne caspia The oldest recorded wild Caspian Tern was at least 29 years, 7 months old when it was found in Louisiana in 1989. It had been banded in Michigan in 1959. The average life span of Great Lakes Caspian Terns is estimated to be 12 years.

Downy woodpecker.

A common visitor to the yard.

Picoides pubescens

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.

Blue headed vireo.

An inquisitive blue headed vireo. Continuing in the pond series.
Vireo solitarius
The Blue-headed Vireo is the only vireo within its range that makes extensive use of coniferous forests, although it also occupies deciduous habitats.

Sharp shinned hawk

We had a male sharp shinned hawk buzzing around our feeders.
He spotted one bird and they swooped around the yard.
He missed nut keep coming back.
Based on its hunting skills I think it was a young bird.
Shot through a window. Accipiter striatus Female Sharp-shinned Hawks are about a third bigger and heavier than males. This is a typical pattern for many hawks and owls, but otherwise rare in the bird world.

Yellow-rumped warbler.

Another of the visitors to the yard and pond. A few minutes later he was splashing away.

Setophaga coronata

The Yellow-rumped Warbler is the only warbler able to digest the waxes found in bayberries and wax myrtles. Its ability to use these fruits allows it to winter farther north than other warblers, sometimes as far north as Newfoundland.

Chipping Sparrow

Just a little sparrow on a cool December day.
Taken October 10 in the yard.

Spizella passerina

The nest of the Chipping Sparrow is of such flimsy construction that light can be seen through it. It probably provides little insulation for the eggs and young.

Fly over

A while back, before we took the pontoon out for the year, we had a great blue heron do a fairly low fly over. Ardea herodias Great Blue Herons congregate at fish hatcheries, creating potential problems for the fish farmers. A study found that herons ate mostly diseased fish that would have died shortly anyway. Sick fish spent more time near the surface of the water where they were more vulnerable to the herons.

Death of a dragon

With the cold weather and lack of food this green darner appears to be on its last legs. It was sitting on our path covered with the morning dew.
Anax junius
The common green darner has an unusual breeding strategy, being one of very few dragonflies to migrate in spring and autumn

Hooded mergansers.

They pretend they are listening and that he is the boss.
Male and female hooded mergansers on a farm pond. A long way off. Lophodytes cucullatus
The Hooded Merganser is the second-smallest of the six living species of mergansers (only the Smew of Eurasia is smaller) and is the only one restricted to North America.

Daffier than Daffy Duck

Not sure why her tongue is sticking out but it reminded me of Daffy Duck.
This is a female lesser scaup in breeding plumage seen at Erieau Ontario a few days ago.

Aythya affinis

Lesser Scaup chicks are capable of diving under water 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).

Faster than Donald Duck.

Female red breasted merganser at Erieau, Ontario.
While we took a break from looking for the hawk Tuesday.
Mergus serrator
The fastest duck ever recorded was a red-breasted merganser that attained a top airspeed of 100 mph while being pursued by an airplane. This eclipsed the previous speed record held by a canvasback clocked at 72 mph. source ducks unlimited.

Red tailed hawk on a pole.

Fellow bird photographer David took out to see his "pet" hawk.
At first he saw a no show but finally showed up as we were heading home after photographing ducks. Buteo jamaicensis The Red-tailed Hawk has a thrilling, raspy scream that sounds exactly like a raptor should sound. At least, that’s what Hollywood directors seem to think. Whenever a hawk or eagle appears on screen, no matter what species, the shrill cry on the soundtrack is almost always a Red-tailed Hawk.

Portuguese Man-of-War

This is a Portuguese Man-of-War that we saw in texas a few years back. They are venomous and are to be avoided. Anyone unfamiliar with the biology of the venomous Portuguese man-of-war would likely mistake it for a jellyfish. Not only is it not a jellyfish, it's not even an "it," but a "they." The Portuguese man-of-war is a siphonophore, an animal made up of a colony of organisms working together. Physalia physalis

Carunculated Caracara.

Even if you don't like the bird for itself, you have to love the name.
The name's Caracara, Carunculated Caracara.
We saw this one at an elevation of about 14,000 feet in Ecuador. Phalcoboenus carunculatus

A spring time shot

A prothonotary warbler admiring himself in a slough (pronounced slew)

Protonotaria citrea

Males select at least one cavity and place moss inside prior to attracting a mate. Females then build the remainder of the nest with a foundation of mosses or liverwort. The nest cup is made of rootlets, plant down, grape plants, or cypress bark lined with grasses, sedges, tendrils, rootlets, leaves, petioles, poison ivy, and even fishing line. The nest cup is about 2 inches wide.

Golden crowned kinglet

Another pond visitor. They hang out on the "waiting" branch until the big birds leave, then hop in for a vigourous bath.

Regulus satrapa

The female feeds her first brood only up until the day after they leave the nest. She then starts laying the second set of eggs while the male takes care of the first brood. The male manages to feed eight or nine nestlings himself, and he occasionally feeds the incubating female too.

Shooting the moon

I had the wrong settings as I was set up for photographing the supermoon, was shooting through glass at dusk.
I changed setting quickly and fired off a few shots.
All in all not too bad.

Just at dusk Anne noticed a mink at the pond in our yard.

It was diving in, probably looking for frogs.
It worked its way through the upper area and then rolled in the grass.

Neovison vison

The American mink is a carnivore which feeds on rodents, fish, crustaceans, frogs, and birds.

“feet at the buttocks”

A pied billed grebe, nonbreeding plumage.
Racing away from the pontoon boat as we drifted closer.
We try not to get too close but sometimes I miscalculate.

Podilymbus podiceps

The Latin genus name for “grebe” means “feet at the buttocks”—an apt descriptor for these birds, whose feet are indeed located near their rear ends. This body plan, a common feature of many diving birds, helps grebes propel themselves through water. Lobed (not webbed) toes further assist with swimming. Pied-billed Grebes pay for their aquatic prowess on land, where they walk awkwardly.

Northern parula, fall

Another fall visitor to the water feature in our yard.
Similar to the spring plumage which means it isn't one of the confusing fall warblers.

Setophaga americana

The oldest recorded Northern Parula was a female, and at least 5 years, 11 months old, when she was recaptured and rereleased during banding operations in Maryland.

Being a Grandpa is hard work.

This is Lucas, our newest Grandchild.
Photo by Anne


We were at a nursery/activity centre and in the back they had a remote control car racing track.

The cars seemed to spend more time in the air than on the dirt.

White tailed hillstar.

One of the many species of hummingbird that we saw in Ecuador.
This one was on the eastern slopes of the Andes in the Amazon watershed.

Urochroa bougueriThe white-tailed hillstar is a species of hummingbird in the Trochilidae family, and the only member of the genus Urochroa. It is found in humid montane forest in southern Colombia, Ecuador, and northern Peru.

Red breasted nuthatch

From October at the pond.

We have several red breasted nuthatches coming into the feeders. Not using the pond much now.

Sitta canadensis

Red-breasted Nuthatches migrate southward earlier than many irruptive species. They may begin in early July and may reach their southernmost point by September or October.

American wigeon, juvenille

Another from the marsh edge.

This may be an injured bird as it remained as we slowly approached.
Although we backed away to try to avoid stressing the bird it did fly away.

Anas americana

The American Wigeon's short bill enables it to exert more force at the bill tip than other dabbling ducks, thus permitting efficient dislodging and plucking of vegetation.

Hang on Buddy, I've got you.

You never know when you'll need a friend to lend a helping hand.

Map turtles on Rondeau Bay. We have been seeing about 20 each day we are out. Still mild.

Graptemys geographica

The northern map turtle gets both its common and scientific names from the marking on the skin and carapace. The light markings resemble contour lines on a map or chart.

Wilson's Snipe

Anne worked her magic again today and found this snipe tucked into the shoreline.
Last cruise of the year. Boat comes out on Tuesday.

Gallinago delicata

The word “sniper” originated in the 1770s among British soldiers in India who hunted snipe as game. The birds are still hunted in many countries, including the U.S., though their fast, erratic flight style means they are difficult targets.

On the bay.

Hen Hooded Merganser, Rondeau Bay, Rondeau Provincial Park, Nov 3, 2016
The drake hooded is spectacular but the hen is beautiful in her own right.
Cool on the bay today, 60F, stiff breeze/wind and only partially sunny. Then again it is the 3rd of November and the boat should be out of the water.
Lophodytes cucullatus Hooded Mergansers find their prey underwater by sight. They can actually change the refractive properties of their eyes to improve their underwater vision. In addition, they have an extra eyelid, called a “nictitating membrane,” which is transparent and helps protect the eye during swimming, like a pair of goggles.

Falling leaf

Sounds like a pretentious winery doesn't it.

As I saw it, not staged. Look very closely.  1/400 second f5.0
Lakeshore Rd, Rondeau

An unexpected bird.

We were out in the magnificent 75 degree sunny weather on the pontoon on Rondeau Bay. Great birding and the most unexpected bird, snow buntings were on a weed mat close to the shore of the marsh.
Started with 6 species of ducks, two eagles, both yellowlegs, dunlin,
American bittern, Sandhill cranes, lots of rusty blackbirds, night herons, northern harrier and more. Those photos later. 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.
Smart females.

Fly away

Female mallard in flight near the Thames in London, Ontario.

Anas platyrhynchos 

Mallard pairs form long before the spring breeding season. Pairing takes place in the fall, but courtship can be seen all winter. Only the female incubates the eggs and takes care of the ducklings.

Little Brown Job

We were at the Blenheim sewage lagoons the other day looking for the cattle egrets, which we found.

We checked the sprinkler cells for other species and among others, we found American Pipits.
He was the ultimate LBJ in brown dirt.

Birders go to the nicest places.

Anthus rubescens 

The American Pipit was long known as the Water Pipit (Anthus spinoletta ), a wide ranging species with seven subspecies occurring from the shores of Great Britain and Scandinavia, and the high mountains of Europe and central Asia, to North America. Recent taxonomic studies, however, have shown that the three North American subspecies, along with the most eastern Asiatic one, are best regarded as a distinct species.

Lift off

Caspian tern taking off from Rondeau Bay.

Hydroprogne caspia 
The world's largest breeding colony is on a small, artificial island in the Columbia River between Oregon and Washington, home to more than 6,000 breeding pairs each year.