Sunday, September 29, 2013

Catching up from the Summer - Valley Inn Road

I'm home from church with JoyAnna who is wrapping up her chicken pox experience, and thought I'd try and catch up on post from this summer.  I've been making fewer and fewer lunch outings these days. Possibly laziness, but maybe also a bit of needing to find a couple new spots to visit.  Though this time I went back to a often visited location, Valley Inn Road, to see if there were any signs of the Northern Flicker fledglings.

When I headed to the nest hole I had found earlier in the spring, there was no sign of the birds.  However, through a gap in the trees there, I could see a Great Blue Heron which had landed down in the Grind Stone Creek ponds.

Great Blue Heron

After landing, it had plumped up its feathers and was displaying its breeding plumage, wispy feathers on its back, breast and back of its head.  The next shot shows how tightly it can compress its feathers to minimize its profile while hunting.

Great Blue Heron

More recently I saw a bird at this same location and with help, got a pretty firm ID as a Warbling Vireo.  I briefly saw a bird with similar characteristics again in roughly the location that day and got two pictures.  I'm pretty sure it's the Warbling Vireo again.  The black tip on the beak, hints of the markings by the eyes contributed to my tentative ID.  I'm hoping for a good view and some clear pictures some day.

poor views of a Warbling Vireo??

I headed a bit further along the trail from the Flicker nest and walked down to the Grindstone Creek bank.  As I approached I flushed what was probably one of the adults from the nest and it warily eyed me from a sapling across the water.

Northern Flicker
As I turned around and walked back along the trail, the familiar song of the Carolina Wren let me know a little bird would be perched on a prominent branch out in open somewhere, head thrown back and its little beak wide open singing the tune God gave it to boast.  It was.

Carolina Wren

The treat of the afternoon though was a little fledgling, alone on a branch of a dead tree, that was fluttering and periodically chirping away a call for attention in the way of food.  I didn't have to wait long for the parent to come, bringing a meal fit for a young Tree Swallow.  These two series are the result of a number of attempts to get on the right side of the action and the mid day sun.

Tree Swallow fledgling anticipating a meal.

Tree Swallow fledgling and parent.

Tree Swallow fledgling and parent.
Tree Swallow fledgling and parent.

I was also trying out the RAW file format on my camera.  I'm glad I did for this series, as the JPG pictures were somewhat over exposed.  Recording in RAW means there is more data recorded without the compression and "finalization" done for the JPG file format.  However, it means there is more noise in the pictures as the camera also automatically does its own noise reduction before finalizing the JPG file.  Amazing what all goes on in the little machine that clicks away, processes and records reams of data in split seconds. But as I've mentioned before, it begs that we notice the meager comparison to the amazing gift of sight, comprehension, decision abilities we've been created with.  Scientists are only coming close to just replicating the type of processing power simple neuron networks have.  And our brains contain more than 100 billion.

Tree Swallow fledgling.

Tree Swallow fledgling being fed.

Tree Swallow fledgling being fed.

Tree Swallow fledgling being fed.

Tree Swallow fledgling being fed.

By the time I had to go, this little guy was still sitting there awaiting the next load of freshly caught bugs.

Tree Swallow fledgling.

It is now later in the evening and I'll finish this post and head to bed to ready myself for another week of work.

Till next time,
Keep enjoying HIS handiwork.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Sunday Evening at Grass Lake

A warm Sunday evening... sounds nice, especially talking about it as we approach the cooler weather of fall.  Fall is actually my favourite season, but warm summer nights are great too.

With a reasonable amount of light left in a July night, I headed to Grass Lake for an evening outing.  I've only ever been there between services on Sundays and was very interested to see what the lighting and creature activity would be like at that hour.  I met a couple who have been driving there many a Sunday evening, setting out their lawn chairs, and with their backs to the sun enjoying the scene and sounds .  I can see why they say they have missed few weekly evening visits.

There wasn't really any activity at the water, so I headed up the road to the grassy field and saw this Savannah Sparrow nicely lit in the evening light.

Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

Heading back towards the lake, a pair of Eastern Kingbirds were patrolling the warm evening air busily catching the many insects that were circling higher up in the sky.  The Kingbirds were efficiently launching from one tree which had a dead portion and with repeated success capturing what seemed like large flying beetles or something similar.

Eastern Kingbird pair

Eastern Kingbird

Eastern Kingbird
Eastern Kingbird

Eastern Kingbird with dragonfly catch.

Eastern Kingbird pair in the orange glow of evening sunlight.

I was able to get quite close to the pair as they kept returning to the same tree.  A section of dead branches reached to the evening sky, while the healthy portion of the tree below apparently was host to new life.  I guess after a while they trusted me and betrayed the location of their nest that until then, unaware to me was right ahead.  That was a nice surprise.  With the fading light, I was able to get a few pictures with my ISO setting maxed out as far as I dared and shutter speed set low enough to make me hope my hands would hold steady.  The nest was up high enough that I wished I could gain a couple feet of better viewing angle.  I realized my sunroof might let me stand in the car and get a better view.  I backed up the car, leaving a comfortable distance and popped up through the car roof.  Soon a realized with socked feet, it would be even better just standing on the roof.

Eastern Kingbird chicks

Eastern Kingbird chicks hear a parent approaching.

Eastern Kingbird chicks being fed.
While I was photographing the Kingbirds, I heard the consistent flapping of wings across the roadway.  Looking over I saw three Mourning Doves a top of the fence and one was constantly "pestering" one or the other.  Being so late in the summer, I'm not sure if they would still be courting for another brood anymore?  They do have a number of broods a summer, so I guess it is possible.

Mourning Doves

As the sun set to the west, the moon was rising in the south and I quickly captured the overlap of the birds and the second light that was created to shine on this world.

Eastern Kingbird against the rising moon.

Eastern Kingbird silhouetted against the moon.

As I drove home for the night, a glance over the field yielded my eye just catching sight of someone eying me as I drove by.

White-tailed Deer

White-tailed Deer
White-tailed Deer

Till next summer arrives, we'll enjoy the crisp temperatures, beautiful colours, and crunching sounds of fall.

Keep enjoying HIS handiwork!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

I'm Back - Wier and Burt Road Outings

Where have I been?  Yes, I've been silent for almost two months with no post and very little visiting myself to the blogs I usually frequent.  It's a combination of having been quite busy (funny, I can't really remember any more with what), and having been away on three separate vacation outings. Two were with family, and one was a week chaperoning at a church youth conference with 175 young people - that was a huge privilege and a growing experience for me. Summer was full and went by very fast.  I just got back from a four day camping trip with just my boys up at Arrowhead Provincial Park.  I'll put a post up on that in the near future.

I'm going to condense my summer pictures into a couple of compressed/combined posts or I'll never catch up, and the details of the outings is quickly slipping into oblivion.

Back at the end of June, I made two Sunday trips to two different country roads close to home - one a previously visited place on the rail trail off Wier Road.  The walk, with Justin as my trail-mate looked like it was going to become strictly a butterfly adventure rather than birding. We walked along the treed path and then into an old, overgrown apple orchard where we saw a Common Wood Nymph Butterfly.

Common Wood Nymph butterfly

As we rejoined the trail, a Eastern Comma was hanging upside down on tree trunk, nicely contrasted against the greenery behind.

Eastern Comma butterfly

Further down the trail, we noticed a small beam of sun lighting up a Mourning Cloak.

Mourning Cloak butterfly

But, though there weren't a lot of birds, quality made up for quantity as my notice of bird in the branches above us turned up a lifer! A Chestnut-sided Warbler!! (#131).  It was hard to get a clear shot of, especially since, although it didn't seem terribly afraid of me, it stayed behind the foliage. It actually seemed quite curious, moving all around us. Made it hard to get a clear shot.  Exciting find though!

Chestnut-sided Warbler

Chestnut-sided Warbler


A Sunday or so later, I headed out alone to the east of St. George to Burt Road, a closed country road.  It was a hot, humid summer afternoon so there was not a lot of activity.

Like my previous outing, my first sighting was a butterfly - a very tired, frazzled looking Northern Crescent butterfly showing only part of the glory it was given by its Maker.

Northern Crescent butterfly

An oh so common Song Sparrow was singing its heart out on top of a bush topped with wild grape vine.

Song Sparrow

A group of Turkey Vultures had just taken off from somewhere close and caught the thermals, slowly rising above me and on to the east.

soaring Turkey Vulture
As I was heading back to the car, I noticed an American Robin with white streaked colouring on its back instead of the slatey black.  It's a condition called Leucism.  It's similar to an albino, but only the bird's feathers are affected and not their skin or eyes.  It's usually a patchy appearance as well. It is not very common condition.

Leucistic American Robin

When I got home, a pair of young squirrels were having quite the game of tag beside our house.  In the low light, I only managed to get a couple presentable pictures of the action.

Rambunctious squirrel youth.


Well, hopefully this breaks the dam and the post will follow a bit more regularly again! 
Till then...
Keep enjoying His handiwork!