Monday, October 28, 2013

The Annual Summer Lodge Post

Well, I'm doing this post about two and a half months after actually taking most of the pictures on our annual summer vacation up north with my wife's family.  I'm getting further behind and taking less pictures than ever these days! Oh well...

One of the first things I do when we get there, well birding wise anyway, is to listen and look for the Merlins which nest and raise young every year on the opposite edge of lake where my in-law's cottage is.  Last year I noticed, with significant chagrin that the new owners of the cottage with the big old white pine tree which hosted the Merlin nest had been cut down.  I wondered if this year they'd still be around.  I was happy to notice them quite soon, and even more pleased that they seem to be spending more time on "our" side of the lake.  In the morning one day, one of the young ones spent a few moments in a snag not far from our beach.  It tolerated me for long enough to get a couple picture from a bad angle below, and headed out with its trademark "kalee kalee" call.

juvenile Merlin against blue sky.

My dear wife is agreeable to me heading out for a good chunk of a day that week, and I made a circuit of a few spots I've started to have success with over the years.  Tait Lake almost always gives good views of a Loon pair that nests there yearly.  I wasn't disappointed this trip either. 

Common Loon on Tait Lake

Common Loon

Common Loon

I only got one short bit of time though with some close up shots and the loon decided I was not good company and dove to a more distant section of the lake. While wandering around after, the calm morning water doubled the presence of some Mallard females.  They were different sizes, so I wonder if some were juveniles that hatched early in the spring and gotten all their adult plumage already.

female Mallard ducks

As I stood along the bank, I noticed something foraging right along the water's edge, hidden by the foilage growing in a short little undercut the water had made in the sandy bank.  At first I didn't really pay it much attention, but as it continued slowly along, I got curious, for some reason expecting it to be a Starling or something of that sort.  But as I approached, I saw it wasn't a bird at all.  Two black little beady eyes met mine on a dark furry face that froze as I did.  We both looked at each other wondering what would be next.  I knew if I moved it would be gone, but longed to get my camera up.  The weasel moved first and dove into the water for a getaway.  I had to clear some scrub and by the time I got my camera on it, it had made a surprising amount of headway meaning more distant picture. 

Weasel swimming across the lake.

A new mammal on the animal list though!  Because I didn't get more than a partially hidden view on land, and only the view of a wet back in the water, I can't say which of the two larger, darker species it was.  We have three weasels here in Southern Ontario, but I believe it was either a Long-tailed or Short-tailed Weasel. It was too dark and large to be a Least Weasel.

I headed on to Eagle's Nest to walk the Christie Trail loop. (I recently found a better link to a map for the park)  I didn't see a lot this time, but still got a few pictures. My first sighting along the trail to the Hawk Lookout was a Flicker.  Usually, you hear their scolding call first before you have a chance to see them.  However, this one seemed to eye me carefully first, let me take a partially impaired photo, and then beat a noisy retreat.

Yellow-shafted Northern Flicker

A teasing Hermit Thrush stayed just a head of me as headed to the Christie Trail and gave me only a few chances for an partial view for a picture.

Hermit Thrush

As I finished the walk along the trail which winds through the lower elevations and more open forest, a White-breasted Nuthatch was foraging along the tree bark and caught a caterpillar for a meal.

White-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatch

On my way back to the lodge, I stopped one more time at Tait Lake and this time both the loons were back in the small bay by the road.  I stopped and flushed one of the loons into the air as I got out.  That is strange as their preferred method is to dive as they do not get airborne easily. It made a long, running takeoff necessary to get this water loving bird out of the water.  They are actually very fast flyers, reaching speeds faster than most birds, but they need a very long takeoff to get into the air, "running" on the water's top for quite a ways to aid in gaining speed.  The first loon circled back over me again and I managed to get one half decent shot as it zipped by.

Common Loon fly by.

Not long after its mate took off, the other decided to follow suit, too quick for me to change my camera settings leaving me with only a few salvageable shots.

Common Loon takeoff

Common Loon takeoff

Common Loon take off

Although quite blurry, I kind of like this shot from right at the beginning of the takeoff.

Common Loon takeoff

Back at the Lodge there were other sights to see too.  Almost every summer, we experience one night when there is a emerging of flying ants.  They dig out of their underground habitations and take wing.  There to capitalize on the event are hundreds of dragon flies.  It's quite a sight.  Some years are more intense than others, and this year the numbers were not quite as big as other years.

Flying ants emerging and taking to the skies.

A nephew and I rigged a net and caught of few of the dragonflies to look at up close.


Other insects inhabit the lodge grounds as well... I couldn't determine what type of grasshopper this was.

Grasshopper species.

A new butterfly landed just long enough to let me take a blurry picture while it took a quick "sip" from the sand.  I also could not tell what type it was for sure.  It think it is a Duskywing Butterfly.  Dwayne, do you know which one it is?

Juvenal's Duskywing Butterly (thanks Dwayne!)

Later that week, visiting our former Pastor and his wife who were vacationing on the opposite side of the lake the same week, I spotted one of the Merlin again. 



Don't hold your breath till the next post... my track record would prove to put you on the floor passed out.  But we'll see if I can't close the gap a bit.

Till then...
Keep enjoying HIS handiwork!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Other Side of the Pond

Nope, I didn't make a birding trip to Europe.  I simply walked to the other side of the pond.  Almost every time I got to Valley Inn Road ponds, I make my way towards the walking path which heads along the Grindstone Creek.  Good intentions to visit "the other side" are usually unfulfilled by the time I'm realizing lunch hour is going to be over and I better head back to the car and office. But this time I decided finally go to the rarely visited side where there is some good habitat for herons.  I had been told by others as well that they were often found there.

Just before heading to the water's edge, there is a small trail feature which has wild flowers along the edges.  I found a Hummingbird Moth feeding there.

Hummingbird Moth

Hummingbird Moth

I walked along the pond edge and looked through and along the cover of the green growth spilling over the banks - perfect habitat for Nigh Herons which like to perch there.  I didn't see anything and enjoyed just waiting quietly to see what might come by.

Caspian Tern

A dragonfly also popped by to visit while I waited.

Eastern Pondhawk

Then out of the corner of my eye, I caught movement in the shadows, and maybe after a nap, a juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron made an appearance, balancing on a fallen branch.  It settled in the shelter of the

juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron

The first year bird was going after bugs on the top of the water, and at one attempt to retrieve something on the top of the water, slipped off the branch and fell in the water.  Good thing there was no snapping turtle lurking under the duck weed.

juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron spill into the pond.

Alert juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron.

On the way home from work that day, I was able to capture the Wild Turkeys I often see in the morning or evening.  They are hard to get close to though.  They seem completely oblivious when the cars are driving by, but walking even quietly and seeming under cover of ditch and hedge lines doesn't seem to cut. They have excellent vision as well as hearing and are quite cautious birds.  Once they notice you, they start moving quickly.

Wild Turkeys

Wild Turkey wing stretch
Wild Turkeys heading for the cover of the bush.

Till next time,
Keep enjoying HIS handiwork.