Monday, May 30, 2011

A Little Closer?

Sometimes, you just can't get close enough to what you would like to get a nice shot of... chipmunk in the backyard is too timid and too quick (not the provincial park variation!).  Too bad, wish I could get closer....
Eastern Chipmunk - at a distance

Be careful what you wish for.   About an hour later, our cat did what cat's do, and proudly bring home their catch.  We have a cat door on the screen door.  Asher (cat) brought home a chipmunk - can't say if it was the same one.
This adds to the list of mice, birds, baby rabbits he's brought as trophies to us.  Of course, these are never dead, and he thinks it's great to let them loose in the house to show off and chase for a while.
Well, along the wall and up the screen on the window the chipmunk went.  Thankfully it stayed on the window screen and I was able to put a container over it and slide in some cardboard.  Nice close up opportunity for the kids.

The boys think it's great!

Maƫlle is not too sure about it.
I let it go, and it was a little frazzled from the ordeal.  It lay there, so I thought I might as well, get some close-ups - the ones I had hoped for earlier -  before it ran away.  Well, unfortunately, Asher had no intention of the last part, and came round again, and well... the last picture tells the story.

Eastern Chipmunk

Sorry chipmunk!

Sunday, May 29, 2011


From time to time, I'll take a break from the wildlife, to include the wild life of boys.
We went out for a walk in some woods by our house... the boys found some bmx tracks and decided to try and jump as well... Here are a few compilations of the series for fun.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Gray Catbird in the Backyard

I chased this Gray Catbird around behind our backyard for awhile without a camera trying to figure out what bird it was, then out came the neighbour's riding mower to end that pursuit.  Only a short while later, as I was  taking pictures of my rascals on the trampoline... who's sitting only 15m from me in our current bush - the same bird.  I didn't know what it was till searching for a while on the internet, I finally figured it out: Gray Catbird.

Gray Catbird
It was being true to it's usual habits; its song was almost constant, and quite varied.  The Gray Catbird is a relative to the mocking birds and thrashers. It also mimics songs of other birds in a varied mix of its own. You can distinguish it from mocking birds and others by its darker crown stripe, a rusty coloured under-tail section.  It likes to forage off the ground, but likes to sing from the tops of bushes or trees.  But it gets its name from it's pretty good imitation of a cat's meow, which apparently you can use to draw it out of denser brush where it will hide.

Gray Catbird
If you look closely, you can see the rusty coloured under-tail.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Myrtle Beach - March 2011 Part 1

In March, Holly and I and kids joined good friends Kevin and Carole for a vacation in Myrtle Beach, SC.  It was a great time with lots of games, swimming at the water park, and once for me in the ocean on the boogie board.  Pretty cool and rainy a lot of the time, but we had a great time.

There were many different birds down south to try and capture.  I'll split it up into two posts: one around the hotel and the other on a trip I made to Huntington Beach State Park.

Northern Mocking Bird,
Mocking birds are quite common in the southern states.  We have them here in Southern Ontario too - I see one by my office every year - but not nearly as common.  It's amazing how they will sing, on and on.  Mocking birds are famous for their ability to learn other bird's short songs and repeat them, often learning as many as 200 different melodies.  They have even been known to copy car alarms and other insect sounds.

Northern Mocking Bird

Laughing Gull

These Laughing Gulls are different from the usual Ring-billed gull which we are used to seeing in Southern Ontario.  They are smaller, and seem to stay in much larger groups.  One unique thing God created gulls able to do is to be able to drink sea water.  They're able to do this because they have glands which extract the salt. The salt is eliminated through their nostrils.

Jostling - Laughing Gulls

As with a most gulls, they can be quite vocal - these are no different.  They have bright orange-red interiors to their mouths.

Laughing Gulls

Flock of Laughing Gulls

Ring-billed Gull

Ring-billed Gull

I have not been able to figure out what kind these birds are. Their flight reminded me of a tern's, and they way they were cruising the waves trolling for fish, then diving in was also similar to a terns.  But their shape wasn't what I'm used to seeing in Southern Ontario for terns, and more gull like.

Turns out they are Bonaparte's Gulls in winter plumage.  I had assumed not as the rest of the huge group was in normal plumage.  Thanks for the help Karen.

Bonaparte Gulls in Winter plumage

Bonaparte Gulls in Winter plumage

Bonaparte Gulls in Winter plumage

House Finch, Yellow variant

Carolina Wren
These little wrens are hard to capture on camera.  They are a quick little bird that likes to stick in the thickety part of bushes and trees.  They love to sing and are known to have the loudest song per size of the bird.  Below is the only shot I could get of one singing.

Carolina Wren in full song.

More coming in the future of my remaining shots... shore birds and alligators...

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Hendrie Valley Marsh, RBG, Burlington, ON - February 19, 2011

I was supposed to meet Dave (the gentlemen I met at Dufferin Islands Park) for a Saturday morning at Hendrie Valley Marsh at Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington, but the winds were very high, so he thought better of it.  I ended up still going and glad I did - the valley was rather calm, and I ended up seeing lots of different birds.  My first birding on my own and had a lot of fun.

"The Lady"   Female Cardinal
"Close-up"  Male Cardinal

White Breasted Nuthatch

"Saving for Another Day" - White Breasted Nuthatch
"Just Going Down the Hatch" - White Breasted Nutchatch

"Keepin' Warm on a Cold Day" - Blue Jay

Male Downy Wood Pecker
Woodpeckers are a marvelously designed bird.  In order to survive the brutal onslaught on their brains (roughly 1000 times the force of gravity), a woodpecker has a number of things which protects the pursuit of a bug from killing them:
 - They have a long tongue which actually curls up behind and around their brain, acting partially as a cushion.
- They have spongy bones in their head to help absorb the impact
- They have a sponge-like absorber between their beak and their skull to reduce the impact.
- They have muscles which contract to protect the brain while they are pecking.
 These special characteristics are parts of what is called irreducible complexity - meaning important characteristics of an animal that all need to be present for the creature to survive.
Beautifully designed.

This little muskrat was making lots of noise under the boardwalk cracking through the ice.  Their eyesight is quite poor, so I was able to drop down and get quite close to get this shot.

I was on my way home, and saw this Red-tailed Hawk in a farmer's field.  I thought I'd try and see how close I could get - usually they won't let you get too near, however this time this one let me get in quite a ways, flew a bit, let me approach again, repeat.  My favourite birds are hawks and it's not that often you get this close.

Red-tailed Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk

I thought I'd try and get some flight shots which I find hard to do, and this was the best one I got.  Not quite in focus as well is I'd have liked, but I like the setting of the picture.  A beautiful creature.

Red-tailed Hawk
All in all, a great 3 hours of freezing my fingers off!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Dufferin Islands, Niagara Falls, ON - December 29, 2010

I've always enjoyed the wildlife of the world we live in.  I was raised to appreciate it, and am thankful to know the God who's handiwork it is.  I ran into a very nice guy in Niagara Falls while there on a get-a-way with Holly.  Holly was nice enough to let me spend an hour shooting with him while she read a book in the van.  This was my first serious shooting with our new Sony A-33 DSLR camera.

These pictures were taken at Dufferin Islands Park, Niagara Falls, ON

Black-capped Chickadee  -  Handheld 1/400s at f5.6  250mm  ISO 1000

White-breasted Nuthatch  -  Handheld 1/500s at f5.6  300mm  ISO 1600

Tufted Titmouse  -  Handheld 1/400s at F5.6  250mm  ISO 1250

Black-capped Chickadee  -  Handheld 1/500s at F16  300mm  ISO 640
The gentleman who shared the birds with me.