December 29, 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.

December 28, 2016

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.”

December 27, 2016

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.

December 23, 2016

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.

December 22, 2016

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.

December 21, 2016


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.

December 19, 2016

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.

December 18, 2016

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.

December 17, 2016

December 16, 2016


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.

December 15, 2016

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.

December 14, 2016

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.

December 12, 2016

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.

December 11, 2016

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.

December 10, 2016

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

December 09, 2016

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.

December 08, 2016

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.

December 07, 2016

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.

December 06, 2016

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.

December 05, 2016

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.

December 04, 2016

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.

December 03, 2016

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.

December 01, 2016

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.