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.