Saturday, June 23, 2012

Drive-by Birding

On Tuesday I enjoyed seeing more birds than I had every expected, and it all turned out to be within a few paces from the same road - Hwy 5 between work and home. I had my camera along and ended up making lots of stops all with birds making an appearance.

Spotted Sandpiper reclaiming a caterpillar.

In the morning, I had to stop at a client's development site to check out where existing drainage ultimately is collected to.  I popped up an embankment to review the topography of the neighbouring Lafarge Gravel Pit which is being reclaimed with fill slowly being brought in.  A Spotted Sandpiper noisily protested my appearance and flitted away from a marshy area with its stuttering wingbeats.  When standing still, which is not often, their tail bobs down and up.  I had my camera with me that day and the bird dropped to the stony ground to reclaim a caterpillar I must have startled it into dropping.  Shortly later, it let me approach while pacing back and forth along a dead tree branch.  These Sandpipers don't follow the traditional roles in the animal kingdom with the female being the leader and the male assuming the responsibility of raising the young.

Spotted Sandpiper

I know I just shared a post about these beautiful butterflies, but I liked them enough to include here anyways.

Canadian Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly

Canadian Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly

A song sparrow was cheerfully singing a tall Ash tree overhead.

Song Sparrow

Our office was part of a Habitat for Humanity house project and sodded the yard and cleaned the house for an afternoon.  Only thing - the afternoon only took about an hour once we got going with the gang we brought.  The boss was generous and said he certainly didn't expect all us dirty sweaty folk to return to the office after working in the hot sun.  So I headed home, but decided to take the opportunity to stop at a few locations along the way home that I'd been eyeing.  Time for that hadn't been available when trying to get to work on time or home to a wife eager for relief from the crazy kids.

My first location was unplanned as I saw a Turkey Vulture in a field just west of Rock Chapel Road.  

Turkey Vulture
It was drinking at a shrinking puddle and warily let me approach somewhat closer than my road's edge vantage point.  It nicely stretched its wings which typically range five to six feet across.  When I tried to approach closer, it took off and headed for the hills.

Turkey Vulture wing stretch.

Interesting fact: If they think they are danger, Turkey Vultures will throw up, leaving an incredibly foul smelling deterrent (not surprising considering they eat rotting animal flesh) which makes the predator hesitate long enough for the vulture to make its get away.

Turkey Vulture

My next stopped was a planned location - a bird box on a hydro pole just west of Peter's Corners (intersection of Hwys 8, 52 and 5).  Early one morning I spotted a bird atop a nesting box and actually had wondered if it was a small owl.  It was quite "plump" and larger than I expected for a Kestrel.  However, watching the location on the drive to and from work, I confirmed it was in fact a rather large American Kestrel and I would see it almost once a day at this location.  (Peter Scholtens - you were right.)

This was the sight that I was might by as I stopped the car a fair distance away, planning to quietly walk closer.

American Kestrel peaking from its next box.

Not surprisingly, as I approached the bird retreated inside for protection.  I spent the next 20 minutes or so patiently using the passing cars to cover my advance in the roadside grass, and then waiting patiently with camera cocked for what I anticipated would be a brief appearance and disappearance when it sighted me closer by.  But nothing happened and my arms wearied.  Once I decided to head out, and with nothing to lose, I squeaked a few "kissing" sounds expecting nothing of a reaction.  However, I was pleasantly surprised and rewarded with an immediate appearance of the little falcon on its doorstep.  And it didn't disappear either.  It bobbed and weaved its head, seemingly trying to figure out the strange guest clicking away in its front yard.

female (I think) American Kestrel

American Kestrel

My last planned stop was to visit a Bluebird box where I had seen Eastern Bluebirds resting on the fence wire nearby.  When I arrived, a pair was nicely perched in a nearby tree, watching for bugs on the ground to fly down and catch.  Generally, this is their hunting style, dropping down from a perch to capture unsuspecting insects on the ground, though I did see them snatch the odd one out of the air as well.

male Eastern Bluebird

I'm not sure if this box is put up by them, but I met one of the organizers of the Ontario Eastern Bluebird Society at Ruthven and the have a number of boxes up in the area around St. George.  I hope to make it out to one of their events in the future to see their work with this beautiful little bird more closely.

female Eastern Bluebird

At one point while I was sitting on the roadside in the grass with my back against a road sign post, out of the corner of my eye I caught movement and saw the unmistakable, brilliantly crimson red head of the aptly named Red-headed Woodpecker.  My twisting attempt to quickly capture a picture resulted with the picture below as the best I could get.  Shutter speed being too slow and my less than optimal position didn't help with a clear shot, but I was excited to see this bird for the second time in my life, and so close to home at that.  It was certainly the highlight of my afternoon and a nice way to end my unanticipated birding afternoon.

Red-headed Woodpecker

1 comment:

  1. Brian, great posting! Nice mix of birds... I know that bluebirds, red headed woodpeckers and American keatrels have had declining populations so all three are special to see. Good birding!


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