Sunday, August 19, 2012

Shots from the Lodge Part 3

This is my last post of three (part 1, part 2) from our family vacation up north at the cottage.  This time I am going to keep my commentary short and just let you enjoy more pictures than my ramblings.  I have a few other posts in the queue from a couple other picture taking opportunities... and I don't have a lot of time to type up something long here.

American Bullfrog

Ant carrying grasshopper leg.

I wonder what the weight ratio is of cargo to carrier?

Eastern Chipmunk

The next two pictures aren't the clearest, but I managed to capture this Chickadee hanging on a leaf which had been modified into a home by some insect.  It got the bug (larvae?) out and you can just see it in the second picture.  (click on the picture to see it larger)

Black-capped Chickadee -
foraging in rolled up leaf 

Black-capped Chickadee with bug

Life bird # 96 was found in the same Birch tree as the chickadees, busy searching not the leaves, but the crevices and crannies of the rough bark.  I've seen many White-breasted Nuthatches since starting this hobby, and it was nice to finally see its cousin.

Red-breasted Nuthatch 

Here's life bird #97, last of the cottage birds... a Hermit Thrush.  I'm quite sure that is what it is anyway.  The side shots weren't clear enough for posting, but from them I believe I have the right ID.

Hermit Thrush

This Red Squirrel wasn't shy - once it noticed me, it set up a ruckus and came directly for me through the trees, and stopped about 4m away and scolded me soundly!

Red Squirrel

Right around the lodge, the grounds are very sandy and there were many, many little excavated holes from these little Sand Wasps.  They dig their holes in the sand like a dog, flinging the sand quite a distance between their legs.  They are digging burrows where they will bring prey (other bugs) which will be come the food for the larvae from eggs they lay underground.

Sand Wasp digging a burrow - you can just see the sand flying.

Slaty Skimmer Dragonfly

The next picture represents some fun, but also the loss of some Uncle points with some of my nieces.  My nephew John-Michael and I were wandering around the edge of the land and noticed a large Smallmouth Bass protecting a whole school of its young.  We caught a Leopard frog and I tried to take some pictures of it.  Unfortunately, that's easier said than done, and more than few frogs gave their lives for the cause.  My conscience was appeased by the small dent in the frog population this would make, but my nieces did not agree with this.

Smallmouth Bass catching Leopard Frog

Just an interesting shot showing how waves (the physics ones too!)
actually bend around an obstruction.

Fuzzy juvenile Loons with parent in the background.

Tawny Crescent Butterfly

Eyed  Brown Butterfly

One thing I added to my wildlife list was a beaver.  There have been beavers on the lake in the past, but this time we were able to follow one in the canoe.  I was out with the boys sans camera, so never got any pictures.  He seemed to almost be enjoying the game and popped up either side of the canoe numerous times.

That ends the summer version of the Lodge shots.  We hope to go back there in the fall with some friends and family and we'll see what we see then.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Shots from the Lodge Part 2

Last year at the Lodge, a pair of Merlins were nesting just across the lake from the Lodge, and the klee-klee-klee call of the adults and two juveniles were heard often.  We saw them wheeling in the sky and saw them a number of times, once close enough for pictures once we found the nest.  This year I was hoping to see them again, but the sky was empty of their cries.

However, at the end of my Monday trip out by Tait Lake I suddenly heard the distinct calls of Merlin.  I tracked them down to a stick nest in a huge White Pine in the backyard of a cottage of someone who lives, ironically, not more than 10 minutes from our place.  Though they had heard the birds all summer (and from the residents, sounds like they've nested there three years now), they didn't know what it was and had never spotted the nest, so they gladly gave me permission to hang out there for a short while in exchange for my service of information.  This nest is about 3.5km (as the crow flies) from the nest site by the Lodge.  I wonder if one of the Merlin from these either of the nests is an offspring from the other.  I was surprised to find active (at the very least last year they would have been active together) nests that close.

This was my first sighting -
Juvenile Merlin close to getting its first year plumage.

While taking pictures, I noticed the wing of a woodpecker (compared to the pine needles, likely a Downy Woodpecker), the only remains of a meal.  The male, who does most of the food provision during nesting period and before the young fledge, probably surprised the prey using its characteristic attack from above hunting style.

A Merlin's supper remains of a woodpecker.

Adult Merlin

I think there was still another juvenile in the nest as the adult paid a good deal of attention to it.  Possibly one or more of the birds hadn't fledged yet as that time of year would be right around the time they normally would do so.

Adult Merlin watching nest.

Later in the week, I took an early evening cruise in the canoe around Lily Lake, the shallower lakes by the Lodge.  This lake has more gradual topography along its edges with swampy fringes and gradual banks.  That is in contrast to Rock Lake (the connected lake where the Lodge is) which is rimmed with rock cliffs and steep banks.

Sunset on Lilly Lake showing the
Lake's typical surroundings.

While doing my slow circuit of the Lake's perimeter, I saw and heard a conversation between, what sounded like two Chipping Sparrows.  Approaching it from the water, I managed to get relatively close, and get a few pictures.  Later, when looking through the pictures, I was pleased to discover that it was a Swamp Sparrow though.  That is life bird #92.  Its pulsing chip is very similar to that of the Chipping Sparrow, and from a distance, its appearance is too.  But the habitat of swampy areas rather than grassy openings was a good clue, and from some research, found out that the "chipping" rate of the Swamp Sparrow's call is somewhat slower.

Swamp Sparrow

Through out my circuit of the lake I had heard the raspy grate of a Raven calling continuously.  I couldn't see it anywhere, though at one point I thought I saw a dark spot in a tree and took the picture shown below, but figured it was nothing.  Later I found out it was... a little later I approached the closest shore and got out to see if the boggy plant material on the edge would support my weight for a better vantage point.  The Raven flew out of the spot I had wondered about.  I hadn't added this bird to my life list earlier, but figured I'd insert it at the bottom as this is really when I saw it first - up north when I worked in Northern Ontario for a summer during university)  It then bumps my list numbers up.  But this was the first photograph opportunity, if you can call a black blob in a picture a photographed bird?

Common Raven
(look for the black blob 1/3 of the way up)
(and this is a cropped view at that!)

With the light waning with the sun already behind the trees, I headed back to Rock Lake to join the rest of the gang for and evening of games and snacks.  As I canoed along the edge of Rock Lake, I noticed a bird foraging along the ground, moving across fallen tree trunks and through the low brush.  I never got a close look but it looked like a thrush of some sort.  By the time I slowed the canoe, put my paddle down, and camera up, I had no chance for a picture as the bird soon headed for cover. Right after that I noticed what I figured were Chickadees busy higher up in the Cedars and Pine branches, flitting from little branch to little branch.  But thankfully, I lingered and a flash of yellow made it obvious this was not the common bird I had assumed.  Quickly switching to ISO 3200! and shutter speed of 1/50, I hoped I could capture enough light for a picture to at least ID the bird.  As I clicked away, a second bird appeared, and I'm assuming it was a pair I saw as the markings are somewhat different - the angles of the pictures on the birds are different so hard to be sure.  The pictures below is what I got with some lighting, cropping and sharpening editing. It's obvious enough from the pictures though that they were Yellow-rumped Warblers, Myrtle variety.  Another life bird - #93!

Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) - female?

Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) - male?

Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) - female?

I must say, this bird was one of the most exciting finds of the week.  It took me a little while to ID it up at the lodge - all I had was my Android version of Sybley's on my phone, though later in the night I did go on the internet (on my phone) and peruse through Cornell's website (a resource I love to use) and finally figured it out. 

So that left my week, so far, at 4 life birds if I count the Raven given it did change my list.  And I saw more...  So, I'm going to leave the rest for a third post so I don't bore you with a long drawn out one here.

I hope you are all enjoying the nice summer weather, and if you live in Southern Ontario, finally some significant rainfall.  I'm off to a wedding tomorrow of a girl from church who's dad is a farmer.  I'm sure they're having mixed feelings about the desire for rain for the crops and no rain for the wedding!

Till next time...

JoyAnna is here!

I'm excited to share some news... no life bird or great shot - better! Holly and I were blessed with a healthy baby on Sunday!  JoyAnna was born healthy and well and my dear wife who is sick for her entire pregnancies is "back".  Although not easy for the rest of the family while she struggled with feeling sick all the time, she is the amazing one who still did as much as she could around the house and often remained more cheerful than I. I'm so thankful for her and how she's done this 5 times over.  Sorry guys, but I have the best wife in the world!

JoyAnna and Holly


It sure is exciting to make a find of a new bird or finally get close enough to see and photograph wildlife, but this sure tops it all.  Aside from getting to finally meet the little girl we'd been eagerly awaiting for all those months, it's another chance to marvel at the amazing miracle of life.  God has been so good to give us 5 of these gifts and we're humbled, thankful but also sobered with the responsibility!

Peaceful sleep....

Friday, August 3, 2012

Shots from the Lodge - Part 1

It's already been almost 2 weeks since we returned from the Lodge up north... seems like a long time ago already. It was a great week with hot weather made easily bearable by the always perfect temperature of the lake to dip into. There is never a dull moment up at the in-law's "cottage" with 23 kids running around, repair jobs, and tournaments, never mind fishing, boating and swimming to do. Oh, and some time for picture taking too!

I believe (one uncertain still) found 6 new life birds, and got pictures of new butterflies, and other wildlife as well. It was quite a fun week in the photography department too. Seeing as this post is due to come out further and further from the actual week, I'm going to keep my commentary shorter and let you enjoy the pictures. It took a while to weed out the good ones and do my slight editing (I try to only do minimal tweaking).

The first excitement for the week came with two of the older nephews (thanks Nate and John-Michael) reporting they had come quite close upon, and then been momentarily challenged by a deer buck in the woods. They were still willing to go back up with me to try and re-locate it, and after some hunting around, we found it out by Lilly Lake (for those of you who have been there before and know where that is).  With the low lake levels, I was able to follow it for a little ways into what is usually a wet, swampy area.

White-tailed Deer buck

I'm no authority on deer, but it looks like a three pointer buck. From my reading online, I discovered that the number of points on the antlers does not represent the buck's age. This buck looks like it will have three points and it is likely 1 1/2 years old getting it's first rack. Each year they do get more points, till they are about 7 years old and then the number of points will act decrease as it looses health in its age.

White-tailed Deer buck with velvety antlers.
They have huge ears and have very good hearing, with the ability to hear higher frequencies than we can. Their eye sight is very sensitive to movement, but they can't focus on one thing very well because of how their eyes are placed on the sides of their heads, and because they don't have a sensitive centre focus like we do. Their night vision is better than ours though.

White-tailed Deer buck ears.

A new bird for me spent a lot of time along the driveway of the lodge, eating wild raspberries and aspen leaves. An adult and young Ruffed Grouse was life bird number 90, though I have heard its distinctive drumming in the past. The adult bird was not afraid at all. On more than one occasion it slowly ambled over to where I was laying in the sand, jumping up to reach the top berries it wanted, and walking within a couple meters of me. Once it flew down from it's perch in an aspen tree where it had been shredding leaves and landed almost right at my feed.

Ruffed Grouse

Ruffed Grouse

Ruffed Grouse eating Aspen leaves.
The younger, smaller bird was more skittsh and stayed almost always hidden in the raspberry bushes. On the last night, it finally came out once to check me out, and with the clicks of my camera shutter, took off with a flurry of wings and legs, running for cover. I just got a few shots, the one below with the adult being the only non blurred one. I was shooting at ISO 1600 and a shutter speed of 1/60, so any movement meant the bird was just a blur. I was pretty happy to see this bird, as they are usually thick in the brush of the woods, with only its deep, chest beating throb the only indication its in the same woods as you.

Curious young Ruffed Grouse.

Adult and young Ruffed Grouse just before taking off for cover again.

A lake close by has a nesting pair of Common Loons every year, and it often is seen feeding near the edge in a shallow little bay. I headed out there one morning and was rewarded with some nice close shots. I can never tire of seeing these beautiful birds.

Common Loon

Common Loon

Common Loon taking a look-see under
water before diving.

Common Loon.

Just as I was leaving the lake, I noticed this snake swimming across from the other side of the small bay. Researching to find out what kind it was, E-Nature stated that it "glides across water surface instead of diving in like aquatic snakes". That seemed to fit pretty well, including the pattern and identifying marks. It could be a Common Garter Snake too, but I don't think so the way it swam, and the distance it came from.

Eastern Ribbon Snake (I'm pretty sure)

Well, I'm going to split this up into another post. There are more pictures and life birds to share, but you'll have to wait. I'll leave you with this nice Orange Hawkweek shot from near the the lake.

Orange Hawkweed