Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Costa Rica Bird Book for sale

Things have been quiet on the blog here... my lens just came back from Sigma where it underwent a warranty covered tuneup. I haven't had a chance to use it yet.

In the mean time, I have a great bird book I bought while on our Costa Rica trip this past winter. It's a well done book and if you or someone you know is planning a trip there and hopes to bird, I'd recommend it. I'm selling it on eBay here.

As mentioned in the ad, the book is in good condition, but the thin plastic film on the front is bubbling.

Hopefully I'll have something to post in the near future - looking forward to getting out again soon.

Till next time...
Keep enjoying HIS handiwork.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Rock Lake Lodge

With this post I will, for the first time in months (likely years), have no more photos on the hard drive waiting to be edited and posted.  I've not done any birding since August when our family joined Holly's side at the great family vacation spot up north.  Work continues to be very busy and we are in the process of seeing what senior management has planned to improve things.  I'm either working through lunches, or too tired/not motivated enough to get out for the lunch hour to my favourite spots local to the office.  I've got to change that.

Having said that, I'm planning to send my big lens in for maintenance. Sigma has a 7 year warranty period and I finally tracked down the receipt of the original purchase (I bought it used) to prove the seven years is still in effect.  I should have sent it in long ago as then I'd have it back by now. Sigma plans to take a look at why the lens' focus seems to be quite soft on the far end of the zoom. I'm hoping they can improve it a bit, and that it's not just the actual limitation of this lens at it's farthest reaches of the zoom - I know this is an unavoidable limitation of large zoom lenses to some degree.

While up north, I took my usual half day outing by myself earlier in the week and headed out in the morning. I was disappointed on my first stop that there were no signs of the loons on Tait Lake. I did see a young family of Green Herons which I flushed into a nearby Willow Tree.  I wish I had seen them earlier to be able to get a picture of about 4 of them all perched on a dead branch over the water... it would have been a great shot.

hatch year Green Heron

Along the same lake shore I was able to slowly approach a Brown Thrasher perched on a stump in the long grasses. It was watching me closely with its bright yellow eye.  Finally it flew up into a nearby tree and let me get surprisingly close for some nice pictures in the morning sun!

Brown Thrasher

Brown Thrasher

I headed out to Eagle's Nest trail in Bancroft, but didn't see a lot of birds there.  In some sections of the trail it was very quiet and I thought I'd try some bird calls to see if it truly was as devoid of birds as it sounded.  I played a Hermit Thrush call briefly, and from not far away, a first year bird came scrambling through the leaf litter on the ground.  The poor bird was trembling like crazy so I stopped the bird song as soon as I noticed. But it continued to approach to see where the mystery bird was. I'm not sure what the dynamic of the short bird call on a young bird like this would be.  Being late fall, I wouldn't have thought it would be of any more than a curiosity to another bird given it's not breeding season.

hatch year Hermit Thrush

hatch year Hermit Thrush

I did manage to see a few other birds busy moving through the higher leaves of the tree tops looking for bugs to eat.  I figured they were the most common Yellow-rumped Warblers that I usually see in that location, setting, and time.  But, a lesson was learned as I looked at the pictures later and discovered that at least one of the birds was actually a female Cape May Warbler.  Who knows what else I missed.

female Cape May Warbler

Later in the week I wandered down the roadway and actually saw the most exciting birds of the week. A Ruby-throated Hummingbird was fueling up for its amazing migration south.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Up in the Aspen leaves, there were lots of warblers constantly feeding, also putting on fat for their migration trip. A pair of Red-eyed Vireos (a lifer) were feeding on what bugs and caterpillars they could find under leaves.

Red-eyed Vireo

Red-eyed Vireo
You can actually see the red eye in this picture.

Along the roadside, there was one patch of trees where there was a whole mix of birds slowly moving along gleaning what food they could find.  It held a number of different birds and I added a couple more lifers including a Nashville Warbler, a female Magnolia Warbler (which looks somewhat similar with its grey head and white eye ring, but the streaked sides made me keep researching), the beautiful Black-and-white Warbler.

Nashville Warbler

female Magnolia Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler

Black-and-white Warbler

At the same location I saw what I'm pretty sure is a 1st winter Blackburnian Warbler. The only picture I got was this top view shot.

1st Winter Blackburnian Warbler

A female Common Yellowthroat was not shy and checked me out from just the other side of the fence that I was standing on.  It was so close I thought I was going to miss a picture while my lens protested at bringing the focus from about 20 meters to 3m.

female Common Yellowthroat

Back by the lodge later that week I saw another female Cape May Warbler with its striped flanks.

female Cape May Warbler

The highlight of the week though was a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers that were noisily calling all through the week as they frequented the forests lodge.  At first I only heard them calling with their loud, almost laughing sounding calls. But with a hunt up the hills into the mixed cedar, pine and deciduous forests, I finally tracked one down.  The  heavy woodwork with its big bill gave its location as it tunneled into an old cedar tree. But it soon noticed me as I tried to get closer for pictures. Later I saw them a number of times as they were flew over the lodge yard moving to different areas.

female Pileated Woodpecker

While trying to track them down later in the week, I was nicely surprised to find another woodpecker instead. We don't see many Hairy Woodpeckers around home and I've never gotten a picture of one. This one was very busy eating out of a dead branch so I could try and move around to find this one small hole in the foliage to get a few clear shots.

male Hairy Woodpecker

male Hairy Woodpecker
Finally on our last day before leaving, I heard the Pileated Woodpeckers another time and thought I'd make one more try at getting a closer picture.  We were mostly packed up and ready to go, but I had to give it one more try. My persistence paid off and with some great care and strategy in my approach, I got close enough for a few pictures before it skittered around the tree with its big claws and noisily flew away. Success! Such a beautiful bird though.

male (you can just detect the red bar under it's bill) Pileated Woodpecker

As I followed the woodpecker thinking I might get another chance, I noticed a small dark bird (in the already muted light of the forest on a drizzly day). As it hopped about the ground and lower branches, I noticed a bright white patch on its side.  From the few poor pictures I got, later determined it was a Black-throated Blue Warbler. Another lifer.  Not a bad way to end the week!

Black-throated Blue Warbler

So another summer came to an end and I added five new birds to my list.  I'm not sure when I'll get out birding again.  I still haven't sent in the lens so that will affect when I get back at it again. As I write this, I realize if I send it soon, I'm sure I'll be motivated to get out an try the tuned up lens.  I think I'll send it soon for that very reason.

Till next time, 
Keep enjoying HIS handiwork!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

A Compressed Post

No, I did not migrate early and disappear, but I've no hardly bird watched, done any blogging, or much else for that matter in he last couple months. That isn't completely true, but my life has become quite busy and unfortunately a bit unsettled at work in the last few months. We're in a re-building stage at the moment and that means more of my time, focus and energy has had to be directed there. I'm hoping it will only be for a season (both metaphorically speaking and literally).

This summer I had the fun of bumping into a family of House Wrens around our place during late summer.  They've nested somewhere nearby and I kept hearing their scolding call, primarily in the evenings, and in our hedge and in the church gardens behind us.  I finally got found the fledglings in the gardens one afternoon and got a few pictures.

Fledgling House Wren

Adult House Wren keeping close eye on me.

Fledgling House Wren

While visiting a great older couple in our church for supper one night, I also got a few minute to take a few low light pictures in the evening light of some of the residents of the many bird houses they have around their property... again House Wrens.  These young ones were not as old as they had not fledged yet.

House Wren with food.

Perturbed House Wren

It finally trusted me and fed its young.

One Sunday afternoon I quickly called my brother after church and we met for a walk at Sudden Tract trail.  We saw pretty much nothing there.  It was strangely quiet except or the many many mosquitoes - we were glad for a very generous couple who actually just gave us their bottle of repellent as they left.  We were not far from Grass Lake and decided to stop there.  Glad we did as someone else alerted us to a pair of Sandhill Cranes feeding in a nearby field with a mature colt.  We were able to walk into the soy bean field and get very close for some pictures.  We were surprised at how tolerant they were of us!

Sandhill Crane family

brother Dan.
Sandhill Crane colt in the soy beans.

adult Sandhill Crane checking me out.
Sandhill Crane colt.

Eye nicitating membrane - translation: protective eye membrane.

Sandhill Crane profile shot.

While working around the yard at home some time later, a young/small Mourning Dove flew and crash landed in the front yard.  I really have no idea where it came from, nor the circumstances, it was not acting normally.  Any approach was met with a delayed and very short, incomplete flights with the same ungraceful crash landing.  It seemed strange given its size and fully feathered condition - it didn't seem like a recent fledgling just learning to fly.  It was trembling and twitching quite uncontrollably though.  I finally picked it up and it perched wobbly on my hand for a while.

Mourning Dove

It eventually did fly away with a lot of encouragement and a few more botched departures.

Well, that catches me up for all but my annual Lodge vacation post which I hope to get to some time - don't hold your breath though! I believe I've used that phrase a number of times in this blog, with greater frequency lately!  Oh well, a time and season for everything.

Till next time...
Keep enjoying HIS handiwork.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

My Father-in-law and Bob White

My father-in-law is a polite man. From time to time, I forget that not everyone else is interested in my latest bird find, and I'm pretty sure there have been occasions where I've bored him by pointing out a bird or two while our family joins them on their regular neighbourhood walks when we visit. He usually politely nods, shows polite interest, and then politely changes the topic.  I don't blame him. It's not that he doesn't enjoy seeing the nature around him - his more concentrated interests lay elsewhere.

But he surprised me the other day with a phone call, and after getting through the polite niceties that starting a phone call requires, he had a question... about a bird they were seeing regularly around the yard! I honestly thought he was taking a moment to poke fun at me a bit, but no, he had details of shape, size, where they were seeing it, what it's call sounded like.  And he did a good job of describing the bird, because I quickly had a guess.  My response with additional corresponding details clinched it, and for sure, they were enjoying a rather uncommon sighting of a Northern Bobwhite!

Northern Bobwhite

Apparently this bird has become quite the local, interest for the neighbourhood.  Although not tame (there's question as to whether it could have been a pet), it surely isn't shy either, even to the point of chasing smaller children in the backyard.

Add caption

Well, I finally had to make my way out to Grimsby to visit and try and see Mr. White given he was regularly being seen on a daily basis and it's characteristic call made it easy to track down in it's pretty predictable territory of a neighbourhood block or so.  I headed out really early from home before work and before long, heard the clear notes of the plump little bird.  My mother-in-law had given me tips on where it had been seen last, and her helpful tips were correct.  It was perched on a fence preening and calling regularly in the bright morning sun.

Preening Northern Bobwhite

Not the most natural of perches for pictures, but I was glad for the morning light to show off the beautiful plumage of this bird.  So far as I know, Northern Bobwhites are not typically an urban bird, so this regular appearance is a bit strange.

Northern Bobwhite

Up until somewhat recently, I understand the bird is still there... It has been seen mostly on the eastern blocks off of Balharbour Drive in Grimsby. If you have a bird app, all it will probably take is one call from your bird app to get a response.

Till next time...
Keep enjoying His handiwork!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

European Starlings

Back on Father's Day (Yes, way back then!) we went to Holly's parents to be with them for the day.  It was a beautiful day with typical early summer weather - seems we've pretty been receiving the same weather pattern ever since, save a few hotter days here and there.

young European Starlings being fed.

At some point I was out watching the kids ride around in the court beside my in-law's house and happened to noticed two little head's just in the shadow of a knot hole in a tree right beside the road.  I waited a bit, and despite the heavy kid traffic of bikes, scooters, and go-karts right below, a parent soon arrived and two young starlings rivaled the noise of the kids demanding to be fed first.

Quiet down there kids!

You've had enough, now quiet down!

European Starlings have likely replaced the Passenger Pigeon as one of the most numerous birds on the North American continent.  Passenger Pigeons used to be by far the most numerous but are now extinct. Some might wish for the same plight of this bird such as farmers whose crops can be devoured by the huge flocks of Starlings.

Little remnants of baby fuzz left.

An interesting fact I found on the Cornell Bird Site is that the entire NA population of these birds comes from 100 birds that were let go in New York in the early 1890's. Apparently someone thought that we explorers should benefit from all the birds Shakespeare had mentioned.  Hmmm...

And to end off this Father's post, a very belated note of thanks for my Dad.  Don't fear, I did thank him that day, but belated in relation to this blog post.  I'm thankful God has blessed me with a great Dad. One thing that comes to mind at the moment is his example of diligence and patient persistence at his job of 41 years (and counting... did I get the time right Dad?).  That's an accomplishment!  Thanks for bein' my dad Dad!

And while I'm on the topic, I'm thankful for my Father-in-law too (we were at their place!). :)  Seriously though, I think back to a few months ago when I was asked to attend an optional work function of a client of mine who really wanted me to come.  I declined, letting them know that my in-laws were over for supper that night.  I was quickly reminded this would be a perfect opportunity to skip out... after all he couldn't stand his in-laws and would jump at the opportunity. It made me realize I have a lot to be thankful for as my in-laws are great and I deeply appreciate them too.  I definitely was home that night.

Till next time,
Keep enjoying HIS handiwork!

P.S. I must note that one of my dear sister-in-laws (who I don't half mind either) pointed out that day, that I had spent more time taking pictures of these birds than I had spent with the family, or even the Father-in-law, it being Father's Day and all.  I prefer to think her sense of time is slightly off. :)

My brother-in-law reminded me of this photo during our vacation this week... I had forgotten to share it with you. ;)  I should have taken a picture of the ground below the tree... what a mess.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Grass Lake and West Shore of Hamilton Harbour

The very first day of June was a Sunday and I went to Grass Lake for a quiet afternoon. I started out walking on the south side of the 570 AM antenna field where five huge metal spires send the radio signal at the KW Cambridge area.  I met one of the technicians there one evening last summer and chatted with him for hours into the darkness. It was a very interesting chat as he explained lots of the technical information about the antennas and system. The first two (southern) towers actually cancel out background signals, the middle one sends out the radio signal, and then the last two (northern) towers repeat and boost the signal.

Being early afternoon, there wasn't a lot of bird activity, but a Tree Swallow perched for a picture for me not far from its nest box in the radio field.

male Tree Swallow

There were a few pairs of Bobolinks flying around, but not as many as I've seen in the past. I hope that's only because they were all attending nests or young.  But I finally saw as well as got a half decent photo of a female. I'd only ever seen the males before. I still love hearing the completely unique call of these birds. It is such a un-birdlike sound. I've noticed recently though, that Red-winged Blackbirds share slightly in that very different sound characteristic. Has anyone else noticed or heard it too?

female Bobolink

Along the same fence line, you are always sure to see some of the Savannah Sparrow pairs.  They, of all the birds in this area will allow you to get closest.  Moving slowly but surely, they often let me get quite close. It's interesting how different birds characteristically allow approximately the same distance until they are no longer comfortable with your approach.

Savannah Sparrow

Walking towards Grass Lake, a House wren was signing heartily in a small patch of mostly dead Pine Trees.

House Wren

As I walked along the dirt road which sweeps around the water's edge of the shallow, grassy lake, a pair of Sandhill Cranes quietly glided in. I was too slow on the draw and missed getting any pictures.  They landed quite far back in where the deeper, open water is and proceeded to make their presence known to the rest of the lake with their loud calls and comical head movements.

distant Sandhill Cranes

I got startled as I walked along the road edge when suddenly, something large enough to move a significant amount of the long grass at the top of the bank moved quickly towards the water's edge.  The creature turned out to be a large snapping turtle and made a mad slide down the bank, crashing into small trees and branches as it headed for the cover of the water. I went back to the spot and noticed a circular track it had made in the grass with an untouched area of grass left in the middle about a foot and half in diameter. Being early June, it's possible it was looking for a nest site, though it didn't seem like a prime location given a hard packed gravel shoulder with grass roots reinforcing it all.  Then again, those stocky legs and sharp claws would likely suit that task well.

I had heard that there was a Brown Thrasher nesting on the north west end of the lake, but saw no sign of the nest nor the bird. I headed home and decided to leave the opposite directly I usually do, and though not intentionally, past the supposed Thrasher location.  Just as I passed, a big Brown Thrasher flew right in front of me and swept up and landed in a dead tree.  Quickly stopping and trying to get my window down and camera up and ready was too long for the bird to get wary and it flew. I got out and after some searching finally found it way up in a big tree.  I climbed a bank for a better view and still got some nice pictures of life bird #204.

Brown Thrasher

Later that week, I headed out early in the morning before work to the east shore of Hamilton Harbour close 1to the Canadian Centre for Inland Waters on the west side of the QEW.  There had been reports of American Pelicans regularly visiting the man made islands for a number of days and I thought I'd see if I could get some pictures in the early morning sun. Turns out I waited too long and they were not reported again.  But I got to see the large colony of Caspian Terns nesting there mixed among the Ring-billed Gulls doing the same.  You can just make out the fuzzy, well camouflaged young of both species in the pictures.  I'm not sure what the Tern in the middle was doing. It had caught a nice little fish, but was just standing in the same spot for quite a while.  I'm surprised it was not attacked by the other birds around it and either forced to down it quickly, fly away to protect his catch, or drop it and flee. But none of those things happened and I'm not sure what it was waiting for.

nesting Caspian Terns and Ring-billed Gulls

Sharing the same island, but perched on the trees that are barely surviving the acidic anointing they are receiving are the Double-crested Cormorants also attending to young.

nesting Double-crested Cormorant
I was standing on a narrow beach that was just beside a flight path where, over and over again, Cormorants were swooping down from just crossing the QEW bridge for a short, low approach over the water to the island. Many were still bringing nesting material and after many pictures I finally got a half decent one.

Double-crested Cormorant with nesting material

Until next time...
Keep enjoying HIS handiwork!