Evicted?

We aren’t certain when or how it happened, but the Horned Owls are no longer occupying the Osprey nest. We stopped one morning to have a look at how the little ones were doing, and we were shocked to see the Ospreys enjoying their old home. All kinds of emotions ran through us; fear that the owlets were tossed over the side when mommy wasn’t there, and shock when we considered that maybe they were eaten! We were happy of course for the Osprey, seeing as how they seemed to be clueless as to how to build a new nest.

Cleaning up the nest after the squatters left

A few days later, we stopped again to check out the nest, and just as we were leaving, my lady noticed what looked like a plastic bag in a nearby tree. When we put our binoculars on it, we realized that it was one of the fledged owls! Big sigh of relief. After posting it to our local birding group, we learned that the owls actually come in early in order to use other bird’s nests, and then leave before the residents arrive (usually).

Fledged Horned Owl

Point Pelee is closed. Hillman Marsh is closed. Provincial parks are closed. Fortunately for us, our local conservation area is still open for walking in, but there are no facilities available. The birds don’t care, they are coming in bit by bit. So far we’ve see the Yellow Warblers, Yellow Rumps, Black and White Warblers, Blue Grey Gnatcatchers, Flycatchers, Cowbirds, Catbirds, Herons and Egrets, a couple of Sandhill Cranes are hanging out nearby, a pair of Prothonetary Warblers are trying to get into the Tree Swallow nests, the hummingbird and Baltimore Oriole have returned to our backyard, and we have seen some Warbling Vireos around as well.

We had a pretty nice day late last week, we were over at our favourite spot, and met a couple of our birding friends who brought us some extra luck. We were able to see a few Summer Tanagers, a Female Scarlet Tanager, and even a Woodcock out in the daytime.

The weather is getting warmer, but we are all still under physical distancing restrictions. The area we live in is pretty close knit, so lately a few of us have been having “end of the driveway” meet ups. We sit around, at a safe distance, and shoot the breeze with each other. Such is the new normal I guess.

So, once again this is a short one and hopefully we can get this pandemic over with and return to some semblance of real life once more.

In the meantime, stay safe, stay healthy, and we’ll talk again soon.

Till then.

No Paparazzi !

Welcome to all of my new readers, and thanks again for everyone who continues to follow our little escapades.

Point Pelee is closed, and as of May so is Hillman Marsh, effectively shutting down the local birding season for this year. The birds are coming in, and they are going to have the parks to themselves without all the paparazzi. This is just so sad. How are we going to know when the Cerulean Warbler comes in?

Fortunately a couple of conservation areas near to us are still open (for now) as long as people follow the distancing rules, so we can get out once in a while to check things out. Likely won’t get as many photos as last year, but hey, I can hope can’t I?

We have been keeping an eye on the Horned Owls squatting in the Osprey nest, and there are now 2 young fluffballs keeping their eyes on us. We were watching them one afternoon, and noticed an Osprey sitting in a tree a short distance away. As we waited, it took off and started circling around and rising up to the height of the tower, before finally doing a strafing run showing off its talons. As quickly as it started, it ended with the Osprey flying away right after.

On another day, we watched as the 3 original occupants flew in, and we got excited for some real action, but the same damn thing happened. What a letdown. Couldn’t even get all 3 Ospreys together.

Now 2 of the Osprey are thinking of setting up house on top of the light stand at a ballpark across the road from their old home. Sadly, for every 2 twigs they bring in, 1 falls down to the ground. At this rate, it will take a couple of years before they can bring up a family there.

The little ones are starting to come in now. We’ve seen Kinglets flitting gingerly in the trees, as well as an Eastern Towhee, Yellow Rump, Carolina Wren, a couple of Wood Ducks in the trees, Coopers Hawks building a nest, a Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker, as well as some of the bigger guys returning, such as Cormorants, Herons and Egrets.

Eagles have been plentiful this spring and we have a couple hanging out pretty close to our home.

As for the Astrophotography, it’s taking a little while to learn what part of the night sky to take photos of, and how to get worthwhile shots, so this time I have nothing new. Hopefully in the next couple of months I might be able to get some Milky Way shots, and maybe the Andromeda Galaxy.

Well, that’s all for now.

Till next time, just stay safe and healthy, and let’s get through these interesting times that we are currently cursed with, and look forward to brighter times soon.

So, is this the end of the world?

Let’s hope not. Sure it’s a lot of frustration for almost everyone, but eventually this virus will be tamed, and the world will slowly get back to normal. Hopefully we will all learn to be a bit nicer to each other after having to stay locked up for a while, and socially distant as well.

And now it is Spring with all the good stuff that comes with it. The days are getting longer, the temperature is getting warmer, the snow has melted (at least in our area), and the birds are starting to return.

Before we were all asked to stay in, we had heard that a Horned Owl had taken over our local Osprey Nest, so of course we had to go and check it out. The questions now are; what will happen when the Ospreys return, and will anyone be able to get out to see the action? We’ll have to try to let you know who wins possession of the nest.

Great Horned Owl on the Osprey Nest

One evening we were at Holiday Beach trying to get some photos of the Orion Nebula (amateur astrophotography now?) when we heard the little Buzz sound of a Woodcock. These guys are night birds that hide out in the underbrush during the daytime, so you will hear them more than ever see them. I couldn’t get any photos of them that night, so we went back a couple of days later and I had to use a flashlight to be able to see it with the camera.

The Orion Nebula.
Woodcock

One morning the fog had started to roll in upriver so I rushed over to the Navy Yard to get a few photos of the mist. It was a bit cold and damp of course, but I ended up spending over an hour in the enchanted morning light (or lack thereof).

This is a short one for now, with any luck we’ll be able to get back out in time for the May inbound migration rush, and I’ll have more to talk about next time.

In the meantime, everyone stay safe, stay healthy, and if at all possible, stay home when we are asked to.

Till next time.

Once Every 4 Years

Hey guess what! Winter is almost over!

Overall, it has been a fairly gentle one down here, other than the constant cloud cover, and the occasional snowfall that we have to sweep away. But hey, the sun has actually been making an appearance a little more often nowadays. We have even had the front and back doors open a few days, and the freshness of the air is exhilarating.

Just had a silly thought, if 1 year in human time, is equal to 7 years in dog time, how old is the dog if it celebrates its birthday on February 29. Since it only comes around every 4 years, that dog could live forever!

And what about cats? If they have 9 lives, and are born on Leap Day, do they automatically get 4 times as many?

My brain hurts.

And now for something completely different ,,,  Birds. You knew it was coming.

We had a Snow Goose hanging out with all of the Canada Geese in a field across the road. Then one day we were driving alongside the river into town, and my Lady says to stop, there’s something different on someone’s riverfront yard. Sure enough, there’s our little Snow Goose, up nice and close.

Snow Goose hanging out with a flock of Canada Geese

Then we got word of some Snow Buntings out near Point Pelee. Into the car we go and eventually find them out distant in the field where we first saw the Black Bellied Whistling Duck in the summer. It was beautiful to see a few hundred of these little birds dancing from spot to spot.

Snow Bunting

We also got word of 6 Meadowlark sticking around a field about 20 minutes away, so we packed up a cup of tea and headed over to see if we could find them. As we approached the area, they flew out of the trees on the left and into the field on the right. Of course, they flew a good way out into the field, but a bit of patience allowed us to get a couple of good photos.  Not only that, we had some Snow Buntings playing around nice and close. Not close enough to get single birds, but a wonderful display of them flying.

Eastern Meadowlarks
Meadowlarks in flight. Vibrant yellow in a grey season
Female Snow Buntings
Part of the large flock of Snow Buntings

We wandered over to Wheatley harbor a week or so ago, and we were graced with a beautiful display from some Bald Eagles. They mostly paired off and did their aerial gymnastics, but at one point we counted 7 spread out across the lakefront.

I almost forgot, we were out for a walk at Holiday Beach last week, and as we were passing an area where we had seen deer before, my Lady stops me and looks through her binoculars. I look through my camera, and get off a couple of shots of a little Fox out sunning itself. It didn’t like the fact that we had stopped, so it quickly got up and moved further into the trees.

Little Fox trying to get some rest

As for everything else, we are going through photos of the birds from last year’s migration, and are trying to be able to identify them quickly, just in case we get put on a spot, or maybe even tested.

Sorry for the long time between posts, but it’s been a bit hard to sit down and put my mind into writing, when there has been so much wildlife outside to keep us busy.

Thanks for reading.

Till Next Time.

And now for 2020

Welcome to 2020. I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and New Year’s.

So, I didn’t make any resolutions for this year. I suppose one of them would have been to get this blog updated every week, but based on the current date, I would have blown that one already.

First off, how about some bird sightings. There still seem to be a lot of Kestrels and Red-Tailed Hawks hanging around these parts. We see a lot of them as we are out and about. Went over to Holiday Beach a couple days ago and actually saw about 4 Carolina Wrens searching for food in some brush on the ground. Went to the tower there the next day and there were some Goldfinches bouncing around from tree to tree. When we were in Toronto we would only see these little ones in the spring and summer.

There have been a couple of Egrets still visiting the waters nearby, and the Eagles are making their way back in as well.

Have you ever on the spur of the moment thrown some clothes into a bag, jumped in the car and just go somewhere, without knowing where you will end up. A few days before Christmas, we did just that. Since we are fairly close to the border, we crossed the bridge and made our way south on I75. Ended up spending the night just south of Dayton, and the next morning pointed the car southwest and eventually ended up in Nashville. We made sure to stop at the visitors info centre and made our plans for the next few days.

Honky Tonks – check
Belle Mead – check
Hop On Hop Off – check
Country Music Hall Of Fame – check
and of course The Grand Ole Opry – check

We also visited some other sites around the city, and eventually worked our way back home for Christmas. What’s nice about travelling on Christmas Day is that there is hardly anyone on the road, and the border crossing is pretty fast.

We did the same spur of the moment thing, and visited Sarnia the weekend before New Year’s and found out that there was a Snowy Owl being spotted occasionally in the fields nearby. We decided to take a walk along one of the trails, and sure enough, way out in a field we saw a white blob. I tried to take a couple of photos to see what it was, and couldn’t really tell. I ran back to the car and grabbed my stronger binoculars, and walked quickly back to my Lady who was keeping an eye on the blob. After a few moments of trying to catch my breath (hey I’m an old guy now you know), I was able to confirm it was indeed a Snowy Owl, and it was actually facing our direction. I placed my lens on my Lady’s shoulder and fired off a number of shots, hoping that at least one would come out (this is called spray and pray). It took a bit of cropping in but I feel this might be the best shot.

Snowy Owl quite a way out in the field.

We had also heard that a Harlequin Duck had been seen by the Bluewater Bridge that morning, so we zipped over there, but the water was running so fast, nothing was sitting around. We then wandered over to the Sarnia harbor, and checked out the waterfowl taking refuge in the docks area. Sadly, the Harlequin wasn’t around, but this little guy came over to see if I had any food for him.

1 of only 2 white ducks in Sarnia Harbour

There were also a few Long Tail Ducks out on the river.

Male Long Tailed Ducks

As we were getting ready to move on, this Eagle came to harass some of the ducks, before flying off to a tree out on an island in the river.

Bald Eagle buzzing the ducks

So the weather here has been on and off lately. Sometimes cool, sometimes a bit warmer, but you can tell the seasons have changed. Hey, we even had snow for an hour. Then, within 30 minutes, it was gone. We had some ice cover on the marsh for a few days, but it too has melted again.

The sky though has been a different matter. It feels like weeks have gone by where there is either cloud cover, or just overall grey. The sky has been covered in some way for so long, that when I looked outside the other day, I was almost blinded by a strange bright light shining down from a weird coloured sky. Believe it or not, the sky was BLUE!  I went online to see what that light was, and found out that it was The SUN!  What a day for celebration!  Sadly, it has disappeared again though.

Anyhooo, it’s only a few months before the season changes, and the birds start to make their way back north, and we are out traipsing around our favourite birding areas again.

In the meantime, please leave me a comment below and let me know what you like or don’t like about my verbal meanderings, and don’t forget to click Follow to get email notifications when I put up another post.

And if you aren’t getting notifications, please be sure to check your Junk mail. You might have to put me as Not Junk.

I’ll try to get another post out sooner, rather than later, but until then, thanks for reading.

Till next time.

Winding Down The Year

So, once again time rampaged through another month, and now November is done, and we are counting down the days until Christmas.

We spent some time helping out with the raptor count at Holiday Beach, and that too has come to an end for the year. We had some days when almost nothing went through the area, but a couple of days when it was extremely busy. One day was so busy in fact that there was an urgent request for assistant counters to help out.

It just so happened that morning when my Lady and I woke up, I opened the blinds and watched as thousands of crows traveled past our house and made their way up river. It literally went on for over an hour. Then, just after the crows, the raptors started going by. It was not as busy as the crows, but it was an amazing sight none the less.

Steady stream of Crows flying past our back yard, just over by the river.

I made a point to go to the tower in the early afternoon, and arrived just as the request for help was going out. I got to the tower and just stood dumbfounded as the birds just kept coming by in waves. I am still not confident enough to call out what I was seeing, but I know that most were Red Tailed Hawks. I tried to count the crows that mixed in, since I was fairly certain of what they were.

At the end of the day, it turned out to be the 3rd largest Red Tail Hawk migration day on record at Holiday Beach, with 2,414 Red Tails. Total number was 3,069 various raptors, and around 15,000 crows. All I remember saying was “Oh My God” as they kept flying overhead. Truly awesome to see. A multitude of ducks and other waterfowl were counted as well that day.

Now here it is, early December, and the skies have been pretty gloomy and cloud covered for at least a week or so. Not too many larger birds visible in the sky and most of the waterfowl have left the area. Our little egret roost just up the road sits empty.

We did get a nice view of a large group of Swans in a field a couple of days ago, and just this afternoon we had 2 Bald Eagles fly almost 50 feet directly overhead.

The snows have started blowing through. We had a couple of inches fall a few weeks back, but within a day or two, it was all gone. Nothing like what it sounds like Toronto is getting. Thank goodness for moving down to the “Banana Belt”. I guess we’ll see what this winter brings.

Anyhow, this might be the last entry for 2019, unless something really interesting comes up.

We hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a safe and Happy New Year.

Thanks for reading, and we’ll talk again next year.

How was your Halloween?

So, did you get out and vote?

We had a very busy day during the election, starting at 8:00 in the morning, right through to 1:00 the next morning. We spent our day locked up in a school gym, working with Elections Canada, confirming voters, giving the ballots, and eventually counting the ballots. Really a very interesting process.

Funny thing, when we were in Toronto, my Lady often said that she would like to work an election one day. Sure enough, the first election to come around in our new place, and we get asked to work it. Kind of bizarre if you ask me.

Yup, it’s Fall. The trees have almost lost all of their leaves, the weather is cooler, the birds are on their way to somewhere warm, and the days are getting short.

Speaking of birds, we had a really cool sighting recently. It was reported that there was a Nelson’s Sparrow hanging around the Holiday Beach Hawk Tower. We were able to get over to see it, and after some time it showed itself to us. This was exciting as we learned that it was a very rare bird in our area. So of course, I start taking photographs from the top of the tower, into the grass at the base, and was fortunate to get at least a couple of good photos.

Le Conte’s Sparrow

After cropping and sending them to one of our very knowledgeable friends, he confirmed with the original spotter, that it actually wasn’t a Nelson’s, but in fact something even more rare, a Le Conte’s Sparrow. It’s strange to think that my photos helped to determine an extremely rare bird in our area.

We have had a Snowy Egret hanging out in our little Egret roost just a couple minutes walk from our place. Much smaller than a Great Egret, it comes in every night before the big ones arrive, and it seems to have claimed it’s own little spot.

Went for a drive a couple weeks ago and came across a large flock of Starlings on the road. They started off on a sideroad, and then moved to a paved road. We stopped and opened the windows and listened to them as they talked to each other and flew off. I forgot my camera so had to use the cell phone.

 The hunters have been out recently. We can hear the guns going off in the morning and even at Holiday Beach there are duck hunters around. We would be at the tower, and suddenly, Bang Bang. All the wildlife on the marsh suddenly take to wing and fly off to a different area. Even going for a walk can be restricted on some trails. There are signs out in some areas, warning not to hike during certain times and days due to hunters in the area. Personally, I prefer to hunt with a camera, so I try to stay far away from the guys with the guns. Mind you though, since moving down, we have learned that the most common colour to wear is Camouflage.

How was Halloween in your area? We live on a small street where there are still a few homes up for sale, and only a few people have children. We didn’t have any idea how many kids would come around, and this year the weather really sucked. It was wet all day, stopped for a couple hours during trick or treat time, but that’s when the cold winds blew in strong. As such, we had a total of 12 visitors. Oh well, I guess there’s still more chips and chocolates for me to eat.

So, that’s what we have for this episode.

Thanks for reading, and if you like, don’t forget to tell your friends about this little blog, and get them to sign up too.

Till next time.