Sunday, December 23, 2012

Valley Inn Road

For the first time in many weeks, I headed out for a lunch hour with my camera and binoculars for a quick trip to Valley Inn Road.  I didn't end up seeing anything new, but did get some nice opportunities for pictures.  It was quite heavily overcast, so the lighting wasn't great, forcing me to bump the ISO on the camera up to 400 for most shots... I was actually quite pleased with the results considering.

There were lots of Chickadees and Juncos there.  The Chickadees were literally landing on both me and my camera hoping for a handout. The Juncos though avoided me, scurrying away on the ground into the goldenrod, or winging into the brush with their characteristic flash of white from their outside tail feathers.  I never even got one shot of them.  Some day.

Black-capped Chickadee feeding on Sumac fruit.

Black-capped Chickadee perched on Sumac.

There were three Downy Woodpeckers playing a game of tag in the trees along the pond's edge.  They were hiding on opposite sides of trees and then skittering around the trunks, trying to catch the other off guard - quite amusing to watch and hard to capture in picture!

Downy Woodpeckers playing.

Male Downy Woodpecker

I skirted around a pond to see if I could get a better view of a small group of ducks including Mallards, Northern Shovellers, and a single Hooded Merganser, but I ran out of time.  Along the way, the Chickadees followed me, and I saw a Sparrow which I'm sure if a Song Sparrow, possibly a first winter bird.  I also saw a White-throated Sparrow.  Isn't it odd how you can go forever without seeing a bird, and then once you've found it (last post), you see it again soon after?  Odd.

Black-capped Chickadee

1st Winter Song Sparrow?

White-throated Sparrow

Following me also were the Downy Woodpeckers.  They were surprisingly bold and not at all shy.

Female Downy Woodpecker

Male Downy Woodpecker

There were about three or four female Cardinals eating some sort of berries in the trees.  I'm not used to seeing that many cardinals together.  And often when you see a female, a male is present somewhere - not this time.

Female Northern Cardinal

I stopped in at Woodland Cemetery on may way out, hoping that this would finally be my day to see the Red Morph Screech Owl that lives there.  I've stopped many times and never seen it.  I had met a gentleman on my way out from Valley Inn and he had mentioned he had seen again recently, so I had to give it another try. Nothing again.  However, looking over the inlet of Grindstone Creek to Hamilton Harbour (where the Valley Inn area is) I noticed some Great Black-backed gulls.  They weren't close, but I thought it was still an improvement on an earlier, distant picture from back in December, 2011 - almost exactly a year ago.  Turns out, my previous shot is closer. 

Great Black-backed Gulls (left)

I hope to do some more birding and outings over the next while... that was the longest stretch I've gone in a long while but home, work, and church had been very busy lately.  I have a huge pile of firewood on my driveway that has to get split this Christmas holidays, so not sure what will happen this week.  I am still trying to debate whether to go on the Christmas Bird Count on Boxing Day.  I've been down with a cold this weekend so we'll have to see how that figures into the mix as well.

To end this point, here's wishing you all a very Blessed Christmas.  I hope you're all enjoying some time off with family and friends!  We'll see if I get a reason to post again before the New Year.

Monday, November 19, 2012

A Raccoon's Sunday Nap

Two weeks ago on our way home from church, we passed a Raccoon napping in a tree not far the road. We stopped on the shoulder to let the kids get a good look, and it didn't even stir. Unfortunately, my usual experience with seeing a Raccoon is dead at the side of the road. By then they are often bloated with decay, making them look huge. Although un-moving, this one was quite alive, and as far as I could tell, a pretty large Raccoon.

The view from the road.

I headed back there with the camera once the family was dropped off at home. I parked a little ways off, not wanting to startle it awake. That was not necessary. At first I quietly approached, but the Raccoon was either so sound asleep or unconcerned with my presence that it didn't stir a bit.

Sleeping Raccoon

I couldn't figure out how this Raccoon was sleeping in that position... aside from seeming rather uncomfortable, it looked like it was depending on holding on with its front legs. I'd think it would be hard to sleep holding on to something. What I didn't do to stir the Raccoon, a dog from the adjacent home did. It must have been alerted to my movement and came noisily barking at me. This did stir the Raccoon enough to stare it down for a bit, albeit rather slowly and groggily. He paid me no attention until the dog headed its master's call, even though I was a short distance away compared to the dog that was kept further at bay, likely by an invisible fence evidenced by the flags and collar.

Raccoon woken by a dog.

After that he settled down on a branch again and casually eyed me from his perch in the tree above me. So casually, although I'd walk to the other side of the tree, it seemed unconcerned and refused to turn around to allow the sun to light his face. So almost all my shots had to be back lit.

Raccoon keeping an eye on me.

Raccoon lounging in the tree.

One interesting thing I learned about Raccoons while doing this post, is that they have whisker like hairs on top of their paws which allow them to sense and identify objects without even making direct contact with their skin.

Intelligent eyes of  a Raccoon

Getting pictures of birds is nice, but the wildlife around us is less often seen and more a challenge to see and photograph. So this was a welcome variation in the picture subjects.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

On the Way to a Meeting

About two weeks ago, I took my lunch hour very late in the day, adding it to a trip I had to make to City Hall in Burlington for a project meeting.  I first made a quick stop at Valley Inn Road.  There weren't a lot of birds, but the welcome sunshine and balmy temperature made a quick stop there enjoyable.  A new bird (life bird #102) made the stop very worthwhile.

A Golden-crowned Kinglet was meandering its way through the wildflower greenery that bordered a walking path.  It was very comfortable with me being quite close, meaning a number of almost full frame shots.  At that range though, it was hard to stay ahead the little bird and I struggled to get more than just rear end shots.

Golden-crowned Kinglet

More rear views.
Golden-crowned Kinglet foraging through the wildflowers

Golden-crowned Kinglet eating wildflower seeds.

Golden-crowned Kinglet eating a fly.
A few other birds were there as well, my first Hooded Mergansers of the fall mixed in with the usual Mallards and gulls. A Black-capped Chickadee landed close in front of me to pull a few seeds from the goldenrod which were changing from their summer, bright yellow to fall, soft white.

Mallard Duck in flight.

Black-capped Chickadee feeding on Goldenrod seeds.

A lone Double-crested Cormorant was sunning on the shore one of the Valley Inn Road ponds, and with a  closer look, I noticed that sadly, it had a deformed wing.  Unless it's a mild winter, I'm not sure it will survive.

Double-crested Cormorant with deformed wing.

After my meeting, I headed to LaSalle Park in Burlington with the remainder of my "lunch hour" time.  To be clear, regularly my lunch hours often disappear into work hours at the office.  So I'm not advocating shifty use of my work day hours at the expense of my employer!

View from LaSalle Park across Hamilton Harbour looking
at the Industrial shore of Hamilton.

There were lots of Mallard Ducks, and a gather of Swans.  People regularly feed the waterfowl there by the bucket full.

Mallard Duck drake.

Mallard Duck

There is a small tail there which starts from the parking lot and splits to a short boardwalk through the forest or heads along the shore of the harbour.  With the sun out after a number of gloomy days, the birds were active.  A few Downy Woodpeckers were drumming the trees.

Downy Woodpecker

There were also a number of Golden-crowned Kinglets flitting about through the trees.  Their movement is similar to Chickadees, though their foraging calls are a softened, higher pitched peeping call, almost monotone.  They will often hover trying to pick off bugs that are at the end of leaves or that have tried to escape the little birds.  Similar to Chickadees, these birds are constantly moving.  With a straight on view, they have a comical looking face as thy have two dark lines that trail down from their beaks.

Golden-crowned Kinglet

Golden-crowned Kinglet

I met another photographer gentleman (Rey, please email me if you read this) there and talked for a while.  During our chat, I first thought I was being distracted by a nuthatch.  But it was well camouflaged to the tree, and was going up, not down as is typical of the former.  It was quite far up in a huge, beautiful, old Oak tree.  The best picture I could capture was the one below.  Upon looking at a zoomed in few on my camera screen, and checking my Sibley's app on my phone, realized it was a Brown Creeper.  I've never even seen or heard of this bird before so it was kind of an exciting moment.  (Life bird #102)  The shot below is heavily cropped with lots of sharpening!

Brown Creeper
(in this picture, actually moving down the
tree rather than its characteristic movement up)

On my wayback, I chased a small flock of Dark-eyed Juncos that have moved into the area for the winter. Along with them was one lone White-throated Sparrow which was life bird #103 for me.  Not sure why, but I had never seen one of these before till now.  The light was really getting low and I was badly in need of heading home for the night.

White-throated Sparrow with
Dark-eyed Juncos (male (right) and female (left))

So, I was thankful to be able to combine being outside on a beautiful day with a work errand, and got three new life birds to boot!

Late afternoon sun shining through fall
colours of Oak Trees at LaSalle Park

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Nursery Tails

Fall is here, and the Mountain Ash in our front yard has become its usual attraction for Robins and Cedar Waxwings.  Though this year, there seem to be much fewer of the latter.  Then again, we've been outside less with all the rain we've had.

American Robin in  Mountain Ash

There were only about five Waxwings in our front yard, and they are much more skittish than the robins.  This was the only one that looked like an adult.  The others still had mottled looking juvenile feathers.

Cedar Waxwing in the neighbour's
Cedar tree.

But I was headed to the nursery for the morning to get some shrubs, replacing the ones from our recent garden renovation that didn't make it during the "drought" this summer.  As I headed over to the nursery, I saw a number of Red-tailed hawks.  This one was perched in a small tree on the opposite side of the road.  Birds are designed with so many features to allow them to achieve flight.  The large size of a hawk like this is deceiving in relation to weight, and seeing them on a small branch at the top of a tree would seem that it would end up breaking its perch.

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

It flew to a Spruce tree nearby and displayed the red tail it is named for.

Red tail of a Red-tailed Hawk.

Red-tailed Hawk
At the nursery, I discovered a few birds enjoying the dense groupings of plant stock as cover to search for food.  A few Yellow-rumped Warblers were there, and after my first introduction to them in waning light, I was glad to be able to run back to the car and grab my camera and get some pictures at ISO 400 instead of 3200!  This one perched nicely on top of the greenhouse hoops.  Once down in the plants, it was impossible to get a picture with a more natural looking setting. The foliage was too dense and they were too quick.

Yellow-rumped Warbler.

When they fly, you can see why they are called what they are... the bright flash of yellow is more obvious from the rear as their wings move to take flight.

Yellow-rumped Warbler.

Not a bad day... got an errand done and saw a few birds along the way.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

New Binos

Just a quick post to say a big thanks! to my Mom and Dad for my recent b-day binoculars.  After reviewing the Canadian Tire flyer one day, I guess I had remarked to Holly that there were some nice binoculars on a really good half price sale.  But, I was going to be content with the $8 pair I had bought earlier in the year with the boys.  Both the boys and I had all bought an inexpensive pair of binoculars which CT had had on a crazy sale.  I ended up not really using them because, well... really didn't work very well.

new Bushnell binoculars beside the old Tasco

I guess a little birdie told my parents my comment, because I had not passed on any suggestions to anyone.  The new binoculars are a a huge improvement. They're Bushnell's Banner model.  Aside from the obvious difference in quality, one big difference is the size of the optics. The old ones were 10 x 25mm (10x power, and 25mm diameter lenses). The new ones are also 10x power, but 42mm diameter lenses.  The old ones felt like I was looking down big straws and only the centre of the view was really ever clearly in focus. They're significantly larger, but worth that inconvenience given I can actually see through them.  So, thanks very much Dad and Mom.  I'm enjoying them!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Thanksgiving with a Bunch of Nuts

This year was my side of the family's turn to have us around for Thanksgiving.  We try to alternate back and forth between the two, and this year we were at my parent's house.  We headed to the park for some fun with all the nephews and nieces.  The kids got all the uncles and Grandparent involved in a game of tag - boy, all I distinctly remember about that is that I'm out of shape!  I'm sure the neighbours were wondering why a bunch of grown men were climbing all over the playground.  Yes, us brothers are a bunch of nuts when we get back together.  But I always say, "I hope I never grow up all the way."  I think I was balancing out some of my other "too serious" moments.

My brother Dan had his camera there too and we spent some time wandering the park afterwards, trying to capture some creative pictures.

Dandelion seed ball.

Fall coloured Maple leaves.

Soft Maple leaves.

Mom and Dad have a couple of nice feeders in the back yard, and a couple Nuthatches and Chickadees were having a festive feast as well.  Nuthatches take a seed, and then fly over to a tree with bark that has crevices or enough relief in it to place the seed.  Then they split the shell and remove the tasty "meat" inside for a meal.

Red-breasted Nuthatch placing
a seed in a bark crevice.

Red-breasted Nuthatch

And my two favourite shots of the day...

White-breasted Nuthatch

So Dan, when are you going to post any of your pictures?!? :)

We gathered inside that evening for the usual feast prepared by all our wives and enjoyed great food, visiting, and wrapped up with some hearty singing.

And a quick note tucked at the end here... my Blogger page counter ticked over 10,000 views about a week ago.  Seems kind of strange that so many people have visited the blog.  On May 13, 2011 I made my first post on this blog.  I had intended to share pictures with some friends who had been on a trip with us and were interested to see some of my pictures, and thought maybe a few other people might bump across the site. 

I've enjoyed sharing the pictures I've taken and rambling about my outings.  But one thing I never anticipated was the opportunity of getting to know a number of other people across Southern Ontario who also enjoy wildlife and capturing it on camera.  I've ended up emailing some of you for helps with bird IDs.  Posting comments on each other's sites is a nice way of sharing in the excitement of a new bird or telling of an interesting experience had while out enjoying the beauty of creation. I've even met a few of you in person, bumping into you on trails. I would count it a privilege to meet others from further away that I've not yet met in person (Dwayne, Tiffanie to name two).  Some day.

I'm still somewhat surprised that that many people have wandered by these pages, but I hope you're inspired to either get out and enjoy the marvelous diversity and beauty He's created for us to enjoy, or at the least, you are able to get little glimpses of it all through these pictures.

Take care,