Tuesday, November 20, 2012

How I spent my Day Off...

I have this entire week off for vacation, so today, I decided to spend the day outside, birding.  With both Dwayne and Karen finding White-winged Crossbills at Holiday Beach Memorial Forest, I thought I would check there since I missed them on Saturday.  While I was there, I thought I would try looking for an owl on my own too.  Well, I didn't see any Crossbills and the closest glimpse I got of an owl (possibly) was flying away from me.  Oh well. 

The Pines
From there, I headed to Holiday Beach, hoping some raptors were flying today.  Again, no such luck.
I did manage to get a really good look at a Belted Kingfisher.  I watched it for quite some time hoping I would get to see it fish...wasn't meant to be. I did see a couple flocks of Common Redpolls (life bird!) fly over...thanks to the hawk counter (Jason, I beleive) for pointing them out.  The Wilson's Snipe were still around, so on my way back to my car, I tried to sneak up on them to get a picture, but all I managed to do was flush them.

From there, I drove County Rd. 20, stopping a couple of times (Memorial Forest, Big Creek Site and Pettite Cote) but didn't see anything noteworthy.  I decided I would stop in at Ojibway and at least check the feeders since I didn't have a lot of time left before needing to be home.  I am so glad I did!  I didn't see anything new, but I got some great pictures...

Northern Cardinal, female

Black-capped Chickadee...not in my hand, although I did have a few eating from my hand today :D

American Tree Sparrow

White-breasted Nuthatch...I could have a whole post just from this one bird...so many great shots of this one!

Same bird..with some corn.
I managed to see a lot of birds today...this is what I remember:

Mallard Duck (lot of them!)
Great Blue Heron
Bald Eagle
Northern Shoveler
American Coot
Belted Kingfisher
Carolina Wren
Wilson's Snipe
Mute Swan
Common Redpoll (2 flocks!)
Red-tailed Hawk
Fox Sparrow
Black-capped Chickadee
American Tree Sparrow
White-breasted Nuthatch
Red-breased Nuthatch
Northern Cardinal
Tufted Titmouse
Downy Woodpecker
Mourning Dove
Blue Jay
House Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco (slate coloured)
Cooper's Hawk

Not a bad day off if you ask me :)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Backyard Fun and Four Life Birds!

DISCLAIMER:  If you are hoping to see some great pictures of birds on this post, you will be sadly mistaken...the pictures included are not the best I have taken, but I felt like sharing them anyway :)

I wasn`t able to get out this week and bird, but I did enjoy watching some birds in my backyard.  I added a few birds to my Backyard List...White-breasted Nuthatch, Red-breasted Nuthatch and Pine Siskin.  That was cool.  I watched a Red-breasted Nuthatch hide seeds all around my patio, including tucking a seed into the liner of a pair of running shoes sitting right outside the door :)

On Wednesday, I was looking out at the back feeder and noticed this guy on the fence...I think it is a Sharpie.  I included a picture of just its tail too...you will see why in a moment...
Don`t look at the ugly fence...it belongs to my neighbour.

The white tip looks quite narrow to me.
After it left, the birds came back and went I back to doing what I was doing around the house.  A couple hours later, I heard Blue Jays making a racket outside and when to go to the spare room window (where I have a better view of the feeder) and upon opening the door, I was eye-to-eye with this bird...
Look at the wider looking white tip
The "second" bird on the fence.
I am not sure if this is a Sharpie or a Coop...the tail tip looks much wider in the second bird....could be my imagination and the angle of the picture.  For all I know, it is the same bird that visited earlier.  Either way, it was cool to see them in my backyard and get pictures of them.

On Saturday (today), I went out to Holiday Beach for my last day of banding for the fall.  It was a really slow day (read...1 bird banded, a Winter Wren).  During the time between a couple of net runs, we headed over to the Tower to see what was flying and met up with Paul Pratt's birding group.  While on the tower, I spotted my first Green-winged Teal!  Paul pointed out a Wilson's Snipe and a Northern Shrike to everyone on the tower...how cool are those birds??  When it was time to go back and check the nets (and still had no birds), we started to take down the nets for the season.  During this period, Caroline called Bob and said that the birding group had found five Long-eared owls in the pines across from Holiday Beach.  Bob said he would go check it out, so I tagged along.  After looking for about an hour, Bob spotted one of the Long-eared Owls and I tried my best to get a picture of it while craning my neck to the canopy of the trees while trying to steady my camera...here is what I managed to capture...
Long-eared Owl....so cool!!!
What a thrill to see four life birds today when I had no intention of birding...gotta love when that happens :)

Monday, November 5, 2012

Ojibway Park

I woke up this morning at 5am and couldn`t get back to sleep, so I did the housework that HAD to be done and headed to Ojibway.  I had never walked through the Tallgrass Prairie or the Woodlot on the south side of Matchette, so I went there first.  I almost didn`t walk through the Tallgrass Prairie area because of warning signs for Massassauga Rattlesnakes.  I really don`t like snakes!  A man walking his dogs assured me he has never seen them before.  I decided to walk through the wood instead.  Didn`t see much...Bluejays, Chickadees, Red-bellied Woodpeckers and Downy Woodpeckers.  On the way back, I walked through the prairie and thankfully didn`t see any snakes, but I also didn`t see any birds.

I walked back across the street to walk the pond and savannah loop.  I managed to flush a Great Blue Heron before I even knew he was there.  Walking along this trail, I saw more Red-bellied Woodpeckers and some Dark-eyed Juncos (Slate-coloured).
Red-bellied Woodpecker

You can see a bit of the red belly this bird is named for.
Walking through the woods, past the pond, I heard a rustle in the distance and was shocked to see a deer with a large rack!  I fumbled to grab my camera and got this horrible shot before it darted out of sight.
Looks a bit ghost-like, in the centre of the shot.
Once I looped back around, I could see the feeders at the back of the visitor centre and managed to capture a horrible shot of an Eastern Bluebird...in my defence, it was fairly far away and I obeyed the regeneration signs.
The one on the rights is a Bluebird...not sure about the one on the left.
I then went to the feeders by the shed....if I had started there, it would have saved me a lot of time!    There were a lot of birds at the feeders...here are a few pictures of some of what was there...
American Tree Sparrow

Black-capped Chickadee...love this shot!  Not even cropped :)

Fox Sparrow...life bird!!

White-throated Sparrow

Pine Siskin...life bird!!

Snobby Tufted Titmouse
Since it was still early, I decided to walk the Pin Oak Trail...another first for me.  Well, I got lost!  It took me what felt like an eternity to get back to the parking lot!  Just a few minutes shy of the parking lot, I spotted this bird....

I am really hoping this is a Hairy....it was much larger than the Downy Woodpeckers I had seen earlier and the bill looks about the length of its head....please let me know what you think.  Here is another shot at a different angle of the same bird.
What do you think?
Well, aside from these birds, I also saw Mourning Doves, House Sparrows, White-breasted Nuthatch,  and lots of American Goldfinches.  It was a nice morning with a slow start.

Oh...on another note, I have decided to take Nashville Warbler off my life list...I keep going back and looking at those pictures (and others I captured but haven't posted).  This bird has been haunting me!  Those little dark patches on the cheek (visible in one of the shots) just calls the whole ID into question.  My goal in keeping this blog is not a competition or to mislead everyone, so I am taking it off my list.  Maybe now it won't haunt me :s

I almost forgot!  I went to the Blenheim Lagoons last Thursday and got a few shots of birds I have seen before, but better pictures than I had captured before.  Here are a few...
Female Ruddy Duck

Pair of Bufflehead

Northern Shovellers

Sparrow of some sort...but I liked the shot.  I was surprised to see it turned out clear :)

Saturday, November 3, 2012

A Slow Day Banding is Still a Great Day!

As pêr my usual (as of late) Saturday routine, I headed out to HBMO to help band songbirds.  Bob usually gets out there while still dark, hoping to capture any Northern Sawhets that may be passing through.  He has been successful the past couple of Sunday`s, so I put on my owl earrings for an extra little bit of "luck" and left extra early hoping to get a Sawhet on a Saturday morning for a change.  I got to the banding station at 6:20am and for our first net run at 6:30, we had a Sawhet!!!  So glad I didn't hit snooze this morning...I would have missed it!
Banded and in Bob`s hand.

Banded and on the ledge...he visited for a few minutes :)
It was a slow day at the Passerine station, so Bob suggested if our 10:00 net run didn`t produce any birds, we would close up and open up the Raptor banding station.  So, at 10:00, we had no birds and by 10:30 we were opening up the Raptor station.  This was my first trip to the Raptor banding station.  Rob (another banding apprentice) and I headed over first with the lure birds (a couple of pigeons) and began to open the nets.  Bob "dressed" the pigeons when he got there and attached them to the lures.  It wasn't long before we had a very, very large bird in the net.  Bob and Claude (who joined us during set up) sprinted for the bird.  I was watching in binoculars and saw that it was a falcon.  At about the time I yelled "It's a falcon!", Bob and Claude where yelling "It's a Gyr!!!  It's a Gyr!!!"  It got itself free from the net, flew right toward me, up and gone!  Claude quickly radioed the Hawk Tower to be on the look out for it, but they didn't see it....it was flying quite low and most likely those on the tower had their necks craned to the sky!  How amazing!  Of course, my point and shoot was in my pocket :(

Shortly after this, we caught a Red-tailed Hawk that managed to get Bob pretty good in the thumb. Here is a picture of it as Bob was removing it from the net...
The hawk was making itself big and scary.
After it was banded, I got to release it...as usual, horrible picture of me, not so bad of the bird.
First time handling a Red-tail....big change from songbirds :D
What a big bird!  The small songbirds we have been banding are generally under 10 grams (a few weigh more) and this bird was 1123 grams!  Its wing chord was something like 225mm and many of the bigger songbirds wing chords are less than 90mm!  Seeing them in the hand really gives some perspective to their sizes.  We caught, banded and released two more Red-tails shortly after this one.  When I left, Bob was still holding out for a Golden Eagle :)  One flew past the tower today but we didn't see it.  I hope Bob gets his eagle this year but will be really ticked to get a report of him getting one today.  It was a slow day for banding but an amazing one for me :)