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.

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.

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

Till next time.

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.

Has it really been a month already?

I guess every month might be the new norm for getting posts out.

It’s going to be hard to try to catch up nowadays.

The Tall Ships made their way through a few weeks ago. We had a small number of them in Kingsville for the weekend. Had a chance to go out and see them. I’m definitely not a sailor, but there’s something about the smell of the canvas sails, the strength of the wooden masts, and the thought of being out on the ocean travelling to new lands, that makes visiting the ships an enjoyable experience.

We had a friend down with us recently and showed her around our little slice of paradise. First night she arrived, we boogied on over to the Tecumseh Corn Festival. Nice little country fair. Enjoyed some corn on the cob, watched some people try to hang by their arms for 2 minutes to win a prize. Sadly nobody could. Checked out the vendors, wandered the midway and made our way back home. Next morning, it was off to some of our local birding sites. She was very lucky to have been able to see some of our feathered friends; Eagle, Ospreys, Green Heron, Snowy Egrets, and a rare Black Bellied Whistling Duck.

Soon we were on our way to Point Pelee. Took the tram to the tip and walked the path to the most southern end of mainland Canada. As we started back to the tram stop, we found ourselves in the middle of hundreds of dragonflies, of all sizes and colours. A couple allowed me to take their photos, but most of the time they just buzzed around all over the place.

Too soon, our friend had to return home, but not before visiting Fort Malden for the Arts by the River in Amherstburg. We spent a couple hours wandering through the vendors. It’s quite a large event, especially for a small town, and even though we hadn’t planned on spending any money, I ended up making a couple of purchases.

The following week, my lady and I went to the Harrow Fair. This seemed bigger than the Corn Fest, and offered much more to see. Of course there’s the midway, vendors and food, but we spent a fair time wandering through the buildings looking at all the contests, including; quilting, baking, photography, livestock and vegetables. And let’s not forget the Tractor Pull.

Harrow Fair Tractor Pull

As it turns out, the beginning of September is also the start of the Raptor Watch at Holiday Beach. Even though the Hawk Festival happens on the 14-15 and 21-22 weekends, the counting has already started. We have been to the tower a number of days already and have learned quite a bit about how to identify various raptors (not the Toronto Raptors, or the dinosaur). We all watch the sky for any movement, and even though it is a Raptor Watch, anything that seems to be migrating gets counted. Butterflies, dragonflies, hummingbirds, various warblers, starlings, ducks, geese, swans, and so on, along with the kestrel, falcon, merlin, red-tail hawk, sharp-shinned hawk, vulture, harrier, osprey (quite a few locals who aren’t moving out yet) and eagles (also not moving out yet), plus many more.

Our backyard birds are changing as well. The House Wren is gone, but we have seen and heard the Carolina Wren once in a while. The Hummingbirds have left and the Orioles were only back for a very short time. The Starlings are starting to gather in the trees, and we have seen flocks moving through the fields. The Egret roost just a couple of minutes’ walk away is filling up each evening, the Blue Jays are slowly moving in and will be here for a couple of weeks, before they too go quiet.

Egret Roost

Soon, the season will change again, and if I am really lucky, or just diligent, I can start moving the pace of this blog up a bit, depending on what’s happening. But based on what I see on the Events Calendar, we are going to be pretty busy right through Christmas.

By the way, if you are in Amherstburg during September 14-15 or 21-22, try to stop by the Festival of Hawks at Holiday Beach. And on the weekend of September 27-29 we have The Uncommon Festival, Museum Ghost Tours, and the Essex County War of 1812. Not far down the road is the 40th Anniversary of the Ruthven Apple Festival on the 28-29, and what’s even better is that admission is FREE.

Thanks for reading and I’m glad you made it this far.

Don’t forget, if you haven’t already, click follow at the bottom right of the first page, and enter your email address so you get notifications when a new post goes up.

Well, so much for weekly blogs.

But hey, it’s only been a few weeks since the last one, right?

Gotta admit, Summer is busy.

We went to Ohio for a few days, ended up being in the middle of a heat wave, and yes, it was too hot. I hate using the car AC, but we really needed it then.

Went out to the car in the morning, and saw this little baby parked nearby. Reminded us of when our son was younger and took similar photos. Can’t help humming the jingle every time I see this.

Oh I’d love to be an Oscar Mayer Wiener …

We spent a day at the Columbus Zoo. Funny thing is we didn’t really want to go back to a zoo after seeing animals in their own environment during our travels. But here we are at the Columbus Zoo, during a heat wave, and looking at all the animals. Let’s just say that the midday sun, in the middle of a heat wave, when the animals just want to rest somewhere cool, is not conducive to any good action photos. None-the-less, we were able to grab a few of the following.

Just for information, two Bonobos Monkeys were en-route to the Columbus Zoo during 9/11. Although we didn’t get a chance to see them as they were in the back and not on display at the time, we did see one of Unga’s children. Gander, named after the city that provided a home for his mother during the airspace shutdown of 9/11.

On our way home, we found some short term relief from the heat, by way of the Ohio Caverns. They offered a combo pack of 2 tours for a reduced price, and we figured why not. The initial tour is a history based tour into the caverns, explaining how it was found, cleared out of mud, damaged by graffiti, or by souvenir collectors, and preservation techniques. The second tour shows more of the real beauty, and if you only go for 1 tour, this is the one to do.  It remains a constant 54 degrees Fahrenheit in the cavern and each tour is about 50 minutes long. Caution if you plan on taking pictures, flash is allowed, but no additional equipment such as monopod or tripod is permitted, and you can’t rest against the wall, so everything is handheld.

After returning home, life just seemed to catch up and pull us along at blinding speeds.

I did a slideshow presentation of one of our trips, to a wonderful group of people where my lady volunteers. This was my second time there and thankfully they are asking for more. Even though the presentation is only 1 hour, it takes such a long time to put it all together and come up with the condensed story.

Amherstburg has been having an annual car show for some time now, and we spent a few hours walking around there. Over 700 classic and antique cars were being shown by people from all across the county, and as far away as Florida.

While we were wandering the streets during the show, we met up briefly with former East York Mayor, MPP Beaches-East York, and Toronto City Councilor, Michael Prue. He moved from Toronto a few years ago, and is now a councilor for our area down here. Small world.

A couple of our friends visited us over the past weekend, and after the initial shock of being out so far in the country, they quickly came to understand why we live here. The people are so nice, the area is fantastic for birding, the weather is generally comfortable due to the proximity of both the Detroit River and Lake Erie, and the town is big enough to have most of the amenities that we need.

It was really nice that when we were showing our friends around, we found a few deer wandering in a field, and even a Green Heron that came to check us out. First one we have seen.

And now for an update on our local birds. The House Wren seems to have resigned himself to the fact that the ladies are not interested. He is still here, but his call is not as happy as before, and he’s not hanging around the nest that much. Our little hummingbirds have successfully brought us at least 2 young ones. We have seen a small male and female coming to the feeder, at times with the adults flittering nearby. The Orioles had left for a little while, but appear to be on their way back through. One male Oriole came to the Hummy feeder last weekend, and we had to quickly put out some food for them.

We had a really special sighting last week. We were up around dawn and went for a little drive, and just a few hundred yards away from our house, we saw about 10 Night Herons sitting it the trees. I had forgotten my camera, and by the time I turned around and came back, most had already left. We’ve gone back out a few times since, but haven’t seen them there again. They may be on their way back out early.

Thanks for reading and hope you made it this far.

Don’t forget, if you haven’t already, click follow at the bottom right of the first page, and enter your email address so you get notifications when a new post goes up.

And yes, I’ll try to get them out a bit more regularly.