OH MY GOD… IT’S A SNOWY!!!

January 2, 2020

Happy New Year everyone. Let’s hope we kicked 2020 out and slammed the door on that vile creature. Who needs to watch horror movies when we’ve been living through one for almost a year.

Well, we didn’t expect December to be quite like it was.

Of course we had lockdowns in the GTA, but also here in Essex County, and then the whole Province joined in with the fun. What a way to screw up the Christmas Holidays.

On the birding front, it was fairly quiet for the most part, but we still managed to get out and see a few things.

First snowfall at Holiday Beach

December started off with a beautiful snowfall, which brought in some Snow Buntings that came close enough to get some photos of. These little birds seem to follow the snow storms and pig out on the seeds in the fields. Always moving makes it difficult to photograph, and every few moments the whole flock flies into the air and land a few paces away. They are often found with Horned Larks and Lapland Longspur. We found the Lark but not the Longspur.

Shortly after that day we hung out with one of our birding friends and we were very fortunate to watch a number of Sandhill Cranes making their way along Lake Erie shores. These beautiful birds must have decided they don’t want to stick around for the snow. One flock that flew just north of our viewing area had almost 100 birds in it. We counted 35 in one flock and another 20 plus in a second flock as they passed overhead.

By the middle of the month we were hearing of some Common Redpolls that were hanging around at Point Pelee. If we hadn’t been made aware of what we were looking at, we might have misidentified them as another type of Finch or Sparrow, but these little ones are much prettier. The day we found them, they were enjoying themselves in the grasses on the west side of Point Pelee, with the winds blasting cold air straight across the lake, making it not only brutal for us humans to be standing in, but buffeting our cameras sideways as we tried to take photos.

Then we found out that everyone was trying to find the Common Redpoll’s elusive cousin, the Hoaries. After a few days of searching, we finally spotted a couple fly from the ground to a tree just as we arrived in the area. I quickly blasted a couple of blurred photos of them and they were gone over the trees. A few people have seen them afterwards, but they have evaded My Lady and I ever since.

Hoary Redpoll

As we went for a walk one day at Holiday Beach, I noticed a large bird fly into the trees across the way from where we were. Immediately the binos went up and we were very happy to see that it was a Great Horned Owl. Wonder if it was one of the little ones from our Osprey nest this spring.

Great Horned Owl at Holiday Beach

Just before the end of the month My Lady and I were standing in line at Costco and I noticed a light coloured bird land on the lamp post ahead of us. Initially I thought it was a mature male Northern Harrier, so I wandered over to have a closer look. As I came around the proper side, I was Gobsmacked to see that it was the one bird that we had been searching 2 years for a close-up of. When I told My Lady, she rushed me off to get my camera out of the car, and I started firing off shots while moving all around the area for the best light and position.

A SNOWY OWL!!!

Not way out in a corn field allowing for tiny little dot photos that crop in terribly. This one came to visit US!

Just imagine seeing some crazy guy run out of line at Costco, who grabs a big long lens and camera out of his car and starts moving between parked cars, passing in front of people in line to get against the building, running back to his Lady, all the while smiling like a kid in a candy store (behind a mask, so no one could see that anyway) and taking photos.

I sent a blast out to our bird group and unfortunately just as we got to the front of the line, and one of our birding friends pulled in; it flies off and hasn’t been found since.

I got some great shots that I am very happy with, but we are going to keep on looking, hoping to get the classic perfect lighting while it sits on a fence post (or a stump), looking at me with wide open eyes (preferably a full white male, but the female is beautiful as well) photo. Am I asking too much? Might take a few more years, but we will keep on trying.

It was brought to my attention that on my last posting I misidentified a sparrow on a photo. Thank you Rick for pointing out that the White Throated Sparrow is actually a White Crowned Sparrow. It’s going to take a while for me to get these little ones right, even with the app.

Ok, how about my resolutions? Yup, More posts, More often.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA… …hahahahahaaaa… (wiping away tears from laughing so hard).Who am I trying to kid? Ok, maybe I should at least say that I’ll do my best.

Thanks for continuing to read this little bloggy thing. I will keep trying to improve the pictures, and change up the stories, especially if any really rare birds happen to show up in front of my lens.

Till next time, Stay Safe, Stay Heathy.

Hold on tight folks, this is a long one!

December 1, 2020

What a whirlwind the past couple of months have been for birding.

Just imagine, starting in mid to late April, and through the month of May, a huge number of birds fly into Canada on their northbound migration, and many of them funnel through our little area in Southwestern Ontario as they hunt for food and a place to mate and bring up their young. Thousands of people from around the world come here to observe this spectacle. Sadly this year was a no-go for the visitors, but the birds still came anyway.

The outbound migration is usually not as frantic for either birds or people, and takes a lot longer to happen.

The annual Raptor Count started at the beginning of September and ran right through until the end of November. During these 3 months there is a person on the top of the Holiday Beach Hawk Tower every day, keeping a count on all of the different raptors that fly by our area. Usually there are a good number of people helping out, but unfortunately with Covid-19 screwing everything up this year, only 3 people at a time were allowed on the tower, and that was restricted to the official counter and observers. To make matters worse, the Conservation Authority had blocked off physical access to the tower, so we had to climb over the barrier any time we wanted to go up or down. This was very difficult for my lady to do, so she would often stay at the bottom, or wander the park looking for the smaller birds. Fortunately, I was allowed up as one of the observers, so I spent quite a few hours helping out.

September was an amazing time for birdwatching this year.

My Lady and I got an alert about 2 Swallowtail Kites hanging out near Point Pelee National Park, and within minutes we were in the car and on our way. Once we got there and one of our friends told us where it was, we were entertained by 1 of them for 45 minutes as it flew back and forth over the fields looking for insects to eat.

Swallowtail Kite

One morning I was up the Hawk Tower helping to count the Raptors going by, when all of a sudden the young lady doing the official count got very excited and asked me to take some photos of one particular hawk. We were able to confirm that it was a Swainson’s Hawk, which is normally found in the prairies, and is considered a Provincial Rarity here. We were extremely lucky to see it, and I was even luckier to have gotten a few good photos of it.

Swainsons Hawk. Rare in this part of Ontario

The Broadwing Hawks made their grand exit over a few days mid-September. Initially we only had a few going by either by itself or with a few extras, then the next day it was as if a switch had been turned on and great kettles of the birds were forming over our area, and streaming out across the marsh on their way out. At times it was difficult to count with so many at one time. Over 44,000 Broadwings passed from September 11 to the 19th. I left the counting to the professionals and for the most part I just stood there in awe, and taking a few photos along the way.

Broad Wing Hawk Kettle

A Woodcock made an appearance right at the base of the tower one morning while I was there. It had been spotted the day before, and this time it had startled a lady walking along the path. It was much easier to get a good photo this time, than the ones I took in the spring

Woodcock out in the daytime. Usually out at night.

I guess the Blue Jays had a good year, because over the course of 4 or 5 weeks, they created steady streams in the sky as they flew out of the east and onward towards the USA. They had the counters on the tower working furiously with their clickers, with a final count of well over 1 million Jays. And this was only the ones we could see during the counting hours. It’s amazing to see the sky filled with birds like this.

Near the end of the September we had a couple of friends visit the area, giving us a chance to show them around. While we wandered through Holiday Beach we observed more Jays flocking through, along with a number of warblers and a pair of Green Heron. We were lucky enough to watch one of the herons catch and eat a fish from the marsh.

The warblers are also outbound during September through November, but sadly their colouring is much duller than in the spring. This makes it harder for the untrained eye to be able to determine what bird it is. I was snapping photos, but could only identify a few of them.

Not to be outdone by the birds, September is also when the Monarch Butterflies start their journey down to Mexico, with a short stop at Point Pelee. One evening over 4500 butterflies were resting on a single tree right near the tip. We got there in time to see them, but it was too dark to get a photo, so we came back in the morning to observe them leaving, but by the time we arrived most had already taken off.

And a bit of good news, the Ospreys on their communication tower successfully raised their young, and they fledged during September. Mom and Dad stuck around to teach them about life all through October.

Into October the Starlings begin to gather in large numbers and make wonderful patterns as they fly over the fields. Eventually they too make their way past the counters on the tower, but are not included in the counting. Often many other birds fly at the same time as the Starlings, such as Red Wing Blackbirds, Cedar Waxwings, Rusty Blackbirds, and Crows. It all becomes an Avian Frenzy.

The Turkey Vultures come through in October. It’s cool to watch them slowly rise over the trees to the east of the tower, and as they find the lifting thermals, they circle higher and gather into large kettles before one decides to peel off and head west, and the remainder follow.

Small portion of a large kettle of Turkey Vultures

October finds the Golden Eagles making their appearance, usually just beyond camera range, but this year we had a few fly close enough to be able to get reasonable photos with a long enough lens. Although we have a number of Bald Eagles in the area, everyone loves to see the Goldens, and there are often a number of people hanging around the tower watching for them. Unfortunately this year the restrictions forced most people to watch for them from the bottom of the tower.

Red Wing Hawks and Red Shoulder Hawks came by in good numbers, along with Kestrels, Merlins, Coopers Hawks, Peregrine Falcons, Sharp-Shinned Hawks and Northern Harriers. Each has a different shape and flight style. It takes a while to learn how to tell them apart, and I often get them confused (Good thing I am an Observer and not a Counter).

Things seem to settle a bit come November, so we began visiting Point Pelee more often.

This year we had some Pelicans in the area, and we even saw them a couple of times but never had the chance to photograph them, until one morning in early November when we had gone to the Tip to see a Cave Swallow (missed it). One of our birding friends had seen the Pelican just off the east side, so we trudged over and as we were looking he texted me with a simple “Look Up”, and sure enough, it was passing directly overhead. We are very thankful to have great birding friends.

As we wandered one of the trails I noticed some birds at the top of a tree. Took a few photos and once I chimped the shot I saw that they were the Evening Grosbeaks that we had been trying to see for a couple of weeks. I pointed them out to my Lady and she was very happy to see them. Within a few moments, they all took off, and we haven’t seen them since.

Another evening we were settling down to watch some television and got an alert about a Frigate Bird hanging out near Leamington. Within the hour we were standing with a number of birders watching this bird that must have been blown up from the Caribbean or southern US by one of the hurricanes. After an hour or so, it was getting dark, so we decided to leave, only to find out that a few minutes later it flew off its perch and headed south to Point Pelee, and was not seen again.

The ducks are starting to show up on the lake and waters in the area. We had a visit from a Ross’s Goose at Jack Miners near Kingsville. Not usually found in this area.

Another thing found at Jack Miners was a small group of Cackling Geese hanging out with the Canada Geese. Up until last year we might have just thought they were young Canada Geese, but thanks again to our friends, we have learned there are some differences between the Cackling and Canada Geese, with the Cackling being much smaller, with a shorter neck and smaller bill. I wonder if we have seen these in Toronto, and never took notice of them before.

Cackling Goose is much smaller than the Canada Goose behind

We have had a few female Long Tailed Ducks off the Point Pelee tip. Haven’t heard of any males around, but the last time we saw them they were a bit north in Sarnia. Maybe we’ll get lucky this year to have both hang out this far south.

At the end of November My Lady and I were out for a drive near Point Pelee and as we went up one of the small roads to the east we had a very close encounter with an adult male Northern Harrier, also known as a Grey Ghost. It flew past us going the other way, hunting low and slow over the ditch by the road, so I swung the car around and buzzed past it to get ahead, parked the car, jumped out and grabbed the camera and started trying to get photos. Thankfully it somewhat cooperated and gave us enough of a show that I was able to get a few worthwhile shots. It eventually wandered up another road and we lost sight of it shortly after.

Finally wrapping up the Hawk Count on November 30, I went up the tower again to help out and wish our counter a safe drive back home. We spent a few hours looking into a grey sky filled with wind driven snow and sleet, with not a single raptor flying.

What started off with such a blur of activity, ended as it should, a dwindling down to shorter days, colder winds, snow, and the satisfaction of a job well done. Overall, the official count was over 115,000 raptors, taking 4th place for the highest season.

Not sure if I will have another post this year, seeing as how it’s been a few months since the last time.

I will leave you with a bunch more photos and wish you a very Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year. May 2021 bring us all better times.

Till next time, stay safe and healthy.

Hey, Guess who’s late (again)

September 14, 2020

Wasps. They end up spoiling picnics, pool parties, barbeques, baseball games, and almost anything else you want to do outside in the late summer.

In our case, they are really harassing our hummingbirds. It’s gotten so bad that we have had to set up wasp traps near each of our 3 hummingbird feeders, just to try and give the hummies a little bit of a fighting chance. It’s helping, but the wasps seem to be in an endless supply and just keep coming.

As mentioned last time, August was HOT. We had a really intense day of thunderstorms right near the end of the month, and we are expecting a cooldown over the next couple of weeks.

We caught sight of a couple more ships coming along the river that looked interesting. This time it was a Tug pulling a barge.

One day at Holiday Beach our resident fox put on a bit of a show for us. It looked like it might have been playing with something it had caught, while still keeping a close eye on us to make sure we didn’t get any closer (not that we were going to).

So August has seen the return of a lot of various Sandpipers, such as Yellowlegs, Solitary, Spotted, Stilt, White-Rumped, and others that I just have no idea about yet. Some are small, some larger, some have long necks, others don’t, some have long straight beaks, some have short beaks, and some have long beaks that dip at the end, the plumage is similar but slightly different, and so on. Give me time to really be able to identify the warblers, and maybe I can learn some of the myriad shorebirds that drop by. Don’t ask me who any of these are yet.

The butterflies and dragonflies were still putting on a show, with the Monarchs hopefully coming by in numbers soon.

We found out that late August is not the best time to go to the tip at Point Pelee. Unfortunately, we learned the hard way. This is the time when all of the Stable Flies decide to have their babies, and need to fill up on blood. Dogs, cats, farm animals and people are high on their list of best things to bite. And it HURTS! Note to self, try to remember to stay away during that time.

So, other than that, we are looking forward to the outbound migration of the warblers, and the real push out of the Raptors (no not the sports team, the birds). Last year we had some amazing days and if we see that again, it would be fantastic.

So long Summer, hopefully Autumn will be kind.

Till next time, thanks for reading. Stay safe.

Let’s get Sirius (get it?)

Welcome to the Dog Days of Summer, the time when Sirius (the Dog Star) shines brightly in the sky, marking the hottest days of summer.

We thought it was hot before, it’s getting even hotter right now. Believe it or not, we have taken up staying in the house with the windows closed for now, and only going out when it’s a bit more comfortable.

As for going out, we still want to see the birds, and thankfully there are a few still around nearby. The Pelicans made a really quick flight by our place a week or so ago, but of course I didn’t have my camera ready, and by the time I saw them they were already going behind the tree. Sadly my lady didn’t get a chance this time.

We have had a couple of courting Northern Flickers and a family of Cedar Waxwings hanging out in the trees behind our house over the past month or so. The Flickers start off with a couple of loud squeak calls, then settle into a bit of a dance while kind of murmuring to each other, then off they go to do it all over again in another tree. The Waxwings just seem to softly whistle to each other as if to say “here I am”.

One morning we were out and found a couple of bunnies that didn’t mind us being near them. These guys are all over the place. They breed like rabbits.

Last year we had a House Wren hanging around, and this year we have a Carolina Wren waking us up by hopping around, looking for bugs, and singing just outside our window. Truly a sweet sound from such a tiny little bird, except when we want to sleep in.

Carolina Wren

That doesn’t mean the House Wren hasn’t been visiting, it just hasn’t tried setting up a love nest.

House Wren

It looks like our Hummingbirds might have had their babies, and have begun bringing them around, showing them the best food spots. Fortunately our place has a couple of feeders for them to visit, and they seem to like our sugar water.

We sometimes get Canadian and US Air Force aircraft buzzing our area, not at the same time though. Often I’ll hear the sound of fighter jets in the sky, and by the time I run to the back deck, they are just passing overhead, and of course I’m not able to get a good photo. But I’ll keep trying anyway. Sometimes though, I get lucky and fire off some photos of the slower ones.

Easier to photograph slower moving birds

The neighbours cat often walks across our back fence (along the catwalk), and jumps up onto their garage roof. I was lucky one day as I got this photo of it grooming itself, kind of looking like a Playboy model.

Striking a pose

Of course, who hasn’t heard of Comet Neowise. We had very few nights when we were able to see it, but my lady and I tried the best we could while battling the mosquito hordes. As it turned out, the best shot I could get was from my neighbours  driveway, but this time I had to battle extra lighting from our streetlight. Not the greatest photo, but maybe I can get a better one when it comes back around in 6800 years or so.

Neowise. If you look carefully you can see a bit of the tail

Did you know there’s such a thing as Shipspotting? Kind of like Trainspotting, but with ships instead. Living right near the Detroit River, we get a great chance to see all kinds of vessels moving up and down river. I don’t actually track online to see who’s coming by, but when I get a chance to see something and get a photo, it feels pretty good, and if it’s something other than the standard lake freighter, it’s even better.

So I’ll finish up with the local Ospreys. They are still on the tower, and we have seen a youngster’s head pop up from inside the nest, but sadly we haven’t been able to get a photo yet. Gonna keep trying though and I’ll let you know.

Once again, thanks for reading. I hope to have more stories within a couple of weeks.

Till next time, stay safe.

June was a bit Cuckoo

July 13, 2020

What an interesting month June was.

Point Pelee and Hillman Marsh opened up, with Pelee being open weekends only for a bit, and although we haven’t been yet, we have heard that a good number of American Pelicans have been spotted down near the tip. We have seen a few flying by our little piece of heaven, but haven’t been able to get any photos of them.

A bit of good news with our tower Ospreys. They are still around and it looks like they may have babies, but they are staying low in the nest right now. So the ones that we saw flying around last month weren’t ours. The only way we can figure that they might have babies is that we have seen the parents on the nest, or bringing more nesting materials up to it.

We went to Holiday Beach one evening and as we wandered the road we heard a strange sound. At first I thought it might have been a Heron, but after a couple moments it made a Tok-Tok-Tok type of sound and we realized it was a Yellow Billed Cuckoo. Sure enough after a few minutes of searching, it showed itself to us and we got a couple of reasonable photos. We have gone back a few times and have heard it in the area, but it seems to be a bit camera shy now.

Although the Orioles are still in the area, they have stopped stealing from our Hummingbird feeder. Unfortunately our Hummies have been only making infrequent stops right now, and we rarely see them.

The Fish Flies came in for about a week, and they are pretty well gone now, and the Fireflies have started their nightly fireworks displays. We expect them to be gone soon as well.

Speaking of Fireworks, we heard a couple of houses shooting some off in our area, but due to COVID-19 the town cancelled all of the real Canada Day celebrations, and instead had virtual stuff online.

So what’s a birder to do when the majority of birds have moved along?

It seems bugs and Butterflies are a reasonable distraction. Unfortunately, the really good ones are so damn hard to photograph because like the birds, they just don’t stay still very long.

So, how’s the heat treating you? We had a string of Heat Alerts here with the temperatures feeling up in the 40’s due to the humidity. Let’s just say it was STINKING HOT some days.

Went out a couple of nights ago to watch the moon rise over Big Creek. The mosquitoes were trying to have me for dinner but they didn’t like the stuff I sprayed on my body. They still whispered into my ears but I tried to ignore them.

One morning we were out for a short drive (best time to see wildlife is around sunrise and sunset), and my Lady spotted what we thought were deer in the field, but when we had a closer look, it was a pair of Sandhill Cranes dancing around. They would normally be gone north by now, so it was nice to see them here.

Other than that, there’s not a ton more to talk about, so all we can say is, stay safe, stay healthy, wear a mask, and we’ll all get through this.

Till next time.

Thank You COVID-19

So ends another inbound migration. This time not with a bang, but a whimper. Thank you COVID-19.

I was just about to put this post up, but Windows Update decided I need to do some reworking on my hard drive. So, finally after a few days of struggling, and moving my data to a different computer, here it is. I don’t think I can actually blame this one on COVID.

I guess you could say it was pretty quiet on the bird watching side this year. With Point Pelee and Hillman Marsh both closed, and nobody getting inside, all the birds that funneled through there must have enjoyed the peace and quiet.

We were still able to get out to Holiday Beach, but since all the facilities were closed, we only spent about 3 hours at a time there before we had to go home and get some lunch, and go to the washroom. We had to get to the park early enough, because it has a small parking lot and by 9:00 it was usually full.

There were also a couple of smaller areas that we checked out, but for the most part Holiday Beach was our favourite stomping grounds. Some days it became our favourite Sloshing grounds due to bad weather pushing the marsh waters right over some of the trails. Without high water boots, some areas were impassable.

One good thing though, without taking the few extra thousand photos, I have been able to keep up with the editing pretty well. Some of the highlights;

Lots of Yellow Warblers, a couple of Black and Whites, a Wilsons Warbler, Hermit Thrush, Grey Cheeked Thrush, Swainson’s Thrush, Indigo Bunting, Palm Warblers, lots of Warbling Verios (I don’t recall any from last year), our friendly Woodcock poked about a few times, Scarlet Tanagers, Summer Tanagers, Magnolia Warblers, Northern Perula, Prothonotary Warblers, Nashville Warbler (hey, we didn’t see them when we went to Nashville!), different types of Sparrows. We even went to Hillman Marsh before it was closed off, and were lucky enough to find the Black Throated Stilt close to shore.

We expect the next couple of months to be fairly quiet bird-wise. Of course if anything really special shows up, you will hear about it.

Our Osprey nest is sitting empty again. One day we saw a few Osprey flying near the tower, and wondered if the babies had fledged, and it appears to be the case. Wow, kids grow up so fast don’t they?

Osprey. Perhaps looking for its nest?

Interestingly, our local Oriole couple have stopped eating the oranges and grape jelly that we have been leaving out for them, and are just stopping by once in a while to check out the hummingbird feeder. They aren’t even going to their own feeder, even though it’s the exact same sugar water from the same batch. We are surprised that they are even still around. Last year they were gone by now.

Male Oriole by the Hummingbird feeder

Funny thing, we were supposed to go to Iceland a couple years ago, but held off so that our son could come with us. This year, we were all set to spend 10 days in Iceland, beginning June 3. Guess what. Yup, cancelled. Better yet, let’s just say Postponed. I guess when we do get to go it’ll be the 3rd times a charm trip. I really was hoping to get some Puffin photos. Ah well, thanks COVID-19.

How is your Honey-Do list coming along. Most of our neighbours have turned theirs into Honey-Done lists. Thankfully my Lady doesn’t set up big tasks for me to do, so we are able to spend a lot of our time enjoying each other as we go birding.

Been to Costco or Walmart lately? How was your line-up? Isn’t wearing a mask so much fun? How about going to parties with friends and family. That was a thing not too long ago, remember. It’s funny how we are all learning how far 6 feet is. Have you noticed that it’s a bit inconsistent – some stores say 1 shopping cart, others say 2 shopping carts, and some even have lines almost 10 feet apart, and staff telling you which checkout to go to. Social and Physical Distancing. Thanks COVID-19.

I wonder how many stores and businesses will keep the plexiglass partitions up after all this is over. I’m sure some of what we are seeing now will become the new norm. Wash your hands. Use sanitizers. Video Meetings. Working from home. Gloves, masks, face shields. Temperature checks entering Long Term Care or Health Care facilities.

Come to think of it, what will our Long Term Care facilities even be like, once the government brings in all the changes, whatever they will be. Will loved ones be able to get back inside and help look after their families? God that situation is so heartbreaking. Thanks COVID-19

Yup, so many things will change, but I guess the question is, will we?

Oops sorry, fell off the deep end there.

Anyway, it’s just about June, and shortly after that, summer and all the sunshine funshine. Enjoy yourselves, and if we ever get the go ahead to get together with family, give them all a big hug, but remember to stay safe, and stay healthy. If you feel sick, stay home.

Hey, just a thought, do you think the hospitals will be ready for the maternity wards to be filled starting in November or December? After all, if you have to stay home, you might as well have some fun, right?

Till next time.

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.