Totally captivated in 2007 by the live camera feed of the Hornby Island nesting Bald Eagles in B.C., I was drawn into birding and have never looked back. Thus begins my account of what I'm fortunate enough to discover each day and perhaps capture with my camera.

Unless otherwise stated, all images were taken by and are the property of Janice Melendez

Species Counts:

2014 Final Year List: 255; 2015 Year List a/o June 5, 2015: 235; Life List: 327

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Scarborough Red-tailed Hawk Nest with Ann- Saturday, May 29

Ann and I met up with each other in the morning where we spent a few hours watching the family outside of her office building. This was the first time I had been there since the Eyas had hatched, for further information on it, I highly recommend Ann's Blog, here's the link:

Here they are, after mom's first food-drop for the morning, a stunning butt shot of Miss Piggy chowing down while her smaller and younger siblings observe:

The eggs are laid days apart and therefore hatch accordingly, so if you're the last one to arrive on the scene, it's a tough go, and frequently they may starve to death if they're unable to keep up with the food intake. Usually mom will help with this, but if the eldest is too agressive, it may not work out that well in the end for the younger one(s)...not to mention sibling cannibalism that can occur at any age, eeeeeeeeeeew...

As Ann indicates in her Blog, they have begun to do their "wing-ercise" as they prepare to leave the nest, and it's always humorous to see them discover their wings and eventually practise flapping as they increase in size almost daily and overtake the nest. Here's a sequence of one on the left stretching its wings, he's not quite sure yet what to do with them:

The head of the youngest one can be seen between the legs of the one on the right-hand side:

Check out the wingspan, even at this early age:

A family portrait of the three Eyas after feeding, and just like small children, you can never get all of them looking at the camera at the same time:

In Ann's Blog she mentions me crying out several times when watching them when they back up to the edge of the nest (usually to relieve themselves after eating, like clockwork, again, just like puppies and children- huh). It's worrisome at this age as they're unable to fly, and can easily fall out of the nest if they misjudge the distance to its edge:

Mom arrived later with her prize catch of a rat, Ann saw its tail dangling as the mom flew in with it.  Here are some random feeding shots, they did not start in on it immediately, it was almost as if the mother (on the LH side of the nest) was teaching the Eyas what to do with it for future reference, much to miss Piggy's chagrin who no doubt wanted to dispense with the lessons as well as "grace" before the meal:

Tug-of-war between two of them:

It doesn't get any fresher than this, check out the pink piece-du-rat:

Mom's got a tasty morsel in her beak:

Stretching to help with the digestion??

OK, I admit that it may just be the camera angle, but doesn't it look like mom is nuzzling (as much as a raptor can nuzzle!) one of her Eyas???

We waited for mom to leave the nest in the hopes of some flight shots, but she decided to rest for a while with her young, so Ann and I left for the day. I hope to return to see them again over the next few weeks when they begin branching and will eventually fledge!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Wed May 26- Presqu'ile PP and Brighton Wetlands with John

Instead of totally ending up melting ourselves (like the Wicked Witch in "The Wizard of Oz") in the predicted humidex temps in the mid-thirties (whassup with that, it's still MAY, for cryin' out loud, am soooo not ready for this yet!!), John and I made the wise decision to stay closer to the lake, so we headed off for Presqu'ile Provincial Park, an hour's drive away from home:

Our target bird was the Piping Plover, which had been reported there earlier this week, but we didn't know whether the Shorebird Gods would be smiling down on us or not... I confess to still being less-than-comfortable with shorebirds, but am eager to learn how to better identify them and will take them over GULLS any day, so off we went along the Owen Point Trail to check out the beaches:

Here's John-on-a-Mission here along the beach, he hadn't started to melt in the heat quite yet:

Unfortunately in the end, we dipped on the Piping Plover(s), but saw a Black-bellied Plover, Kildeer, both Semipalmated and Least Sandpipers, both Caspian and Common Terns, Semipalmated Plovers (another Lifer for me this week!) and Dunlin, here's a less-than-stellar shot of both those latter species together. With shorebirds, it's more of a challenge to get close to them, especially when the beaches are closed off during breeding season:

Dunlin are also known as "Red-backed Sandpipers", and we had a few dozen flying in and around the shorelines in their usual spectacular form:

My first significant encounter with these medium-sized shorebirds was last November at Boundary Bay, Delta, B.C., where I came across a few- THOUSAND, that is!!


I totally fell in love with them back then, mesmerized by their amazing synchronized flight patterns where they're like a massive swarm of bees all flying in the same direction and then they would quickly change direction en masse and their colour would go from light to dark as they made their turns in unison. It was truly a magical day for me, I easily spent an hour at Boundary Bay just watching them with my mouth hanging open in awe...I know, I'm such a nerd..

Anyway, back to Ontario reality now: we also had several Short-billed Dowitchers, my second Lifer for the day:


Here's a view of Owen Point, this was as far as we could get on the beach:

As John continues his other quest to convert me over to the Dark Side by learning about Butterflies, I am including a pic of a Red Admiral to humour him (even had to ask him what it was). But hey, it is rather pretty, n'est-ce pas??

We continued along the inner trail to see what we could find in the way of passerines and were not disappointed, I had my best views ever of Great-crested Flycatchers, which until now had been perched way up on the tops of trees, but this time I was able to see just how attractive they are:


The contrast between the lemon yellow belly and reddish tail was beautiful, I've never been able to see this before:

Here he's doing some sort of Avian Yoga move:

This Swainson's Thrush played coy with us for a while:

Other birds included Baltimore Orioles, Downy Woodpecker, Warbling Vireo, Yellow and Yellow-rumped Warblers, Common Yellowthroat, Song Sparrows, and Cedar Waxwings, high up in the treetops:

But for sure the BOTD (and Lifer) for me was this Blackpoll Warbler that John first heard and eventually tracked down in a cedar. When I first became interested in birding, I still recall hearing about their amazing long-distance migration, as they winter in South America, just think about THAT! Unfortunately this was the best shot I could manage, his head is tucked down as he preens himself:


From Presqu'ile we stopped in at Brighton for lunch to celebrate our finds- naaah, who am I kidding, we were starving and yearned for food and central air-conditioning! Then we continued on to the Brighton Constructed Wetlands:


We were greeted by an Osprey on the nest, as well as several skittish Common Moorhens:

A few families of Mute Swans (one with an all-white cygnet) added an "awwwwww" factor for Juanita, much to John's chagrin:

Sora and Virginia Rails constantly mocked us, taunted us, teased us, as we made our way around the perimeter of the wetlands, unable to ever get a visual on them, and by now it was far too hot and humid for us to continue playing their game. We succumbed to Mother Nature's heat-wave and headed back to the comfort of the car's A/C and returned home for the day.

My species count for the day came in at 43, and for the week I've added five Lifers, thanks to John once again:

  • Gray-cheeked Thrush

  • Swainson's Thrush

  • Semipalmated Plover

  • Short-billed Dowitcher

  • Blackpoll Warbler

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Tuesday May 25: Lindsay Sewage Lagoons, Thickson's Woods

Before returning home to Whitby, I went to the Sewage Lagoons to see if the Yellow-headed Blackbird had stayed around but unfortunately could not re-locate him, perhaps he had been driven off in the end by the marauding Red-winged Blackbirds.

As I drove into the area, I was greeted on the road by two families of Canada Geese with probably two dozen goslings, here they are out on the water now in one of the cells:

I searched in vain for the Yellow-headed Blackbird, but instead was astonished by the annoying insect population that had hatched since my last visit there on Friday, is now time to bring out the Watkins, arghhhhhhhhhh.

I found this baby Red-winged Blackbird alll hunkered down, doing a pretty good Friar Tuck impersonation as far as his "lid" goes, check out the round pattern of downie feathers on its head, he/she broke my heart as it just sat there, not moving an inch, I almost missed him/her:

The Black Terns were on the move over the water, but they really must get some voice lessons, as their squeaky calls are far too insipid for birds that are so graceful with their aerial displays:

On the way out, this Song Sparrow made me proud, the first one was showing off her latest catch:

The Tree Swallow was basking in the morning sun in a tree above me:

I returned home to Whitby and unexpectedly ended up meeting John at Thickson's Woods, with the lure of a reported Prothonotary Warbler dangling in front of us, but it was not to be (today). Instead, we found two new Lifer Thrushes (for me), a Swainson's Thrush, and a Gray-cheeked Thrush, sweeeeeeeeet!  

Cottage Yardbirds on the Victoria Day Long Week-end

I continued to pace aimlessly around the cottage sans internet, and reluctantly ended up dismantling most of my cottage bird-feeders. This I did after being woken up at 4 a.m. on Saturday morning by the sound of god-knows-how many raccoons screaming like banshees as they attacked my latest feeder addition, located three feet away from the bedroom window. Even our two German Shepherds were silenced and lay there trembling by the sounds of these cute-and-cuddly mammals ripping each other's throats out as they battled for my "songbird seed collection", I shuddered to think at the time what the body count was going to be once daylight arrived. There was none, in fact, but I still took down the feeders, as they also apparently attract bears, it just kept getting better...

However, to cheer myself up and stop sobbing about any new species that might now totally bypass our place, I decided to keep a count of my YARDBIRDS, ie any species that could be seen from within the property, so here goes, in no particular order, without even trying all that hard:
  • Great-crested Flycatcher
  • Black-capped Chickadee
  • European Starlings (family on neighbour's lot, grrrrr)
  • Canada Goose
  • Common Loon
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Osprey
  • Mourning Dove
  • Eastern Phoebe (audio only)
  • Blue Jay
  • American Crow
  • Winter Wren (audio only)
  • House Wren (audio only)
  • American Robin
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • Black-and-white Warbler (audio only)
  • Common Grackle
  • White-breasted Nuthatch
  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • Mallard
  • Merlin
  • Wood Duck
  • Pileated Woodpecker
  • Red-eyed Vireo (audio only)

On Saturday evening as we were BBQ'g, a female Wood Duck flew up into a tree next to us, a first for me to see one of these darlin's up so high. Then on Monday night, at what I call that wonderful "golden hour" time just before sunset, I saw this male do the same, I never realized how much larger they appear to be when seen from below!

I also saw this Merlin fly in just before sunset, I had been hearing him the whole time I was there (mostly in the morning first thing) but had yet to get a visual on him. My field guide tells me that they are "mostly silent, except at or from the nest site", so I guess that means I have to track down a nest next time, I'm now working on booking a cherry-picker! The photo angle is admittedly awkward but was the best I could do:

So here it comes, didn't you just know it was coming, that sunset-at-the-cottage shot??? blahblahblah, zzzzzzzzzzzz:

What a difference a day makes, the following one was taken the next day, check out the treeline to see how much further to the "right" the sun is setting, as it continues its cycle towards summer solstice next month:

An astronomical mood hit me, so for fun I tried a shot of the moon, after seeing Ann's great success with it:

OKfine, I digress, back to birds now: here's a Mallard at last night's Golden Hour, she was celebrating (as was I) the departure of all the cottagers returning back to the city last evening:

The Pileated Woodpecker was initially my week-end Nemesis bird, and it took me three days to finally get a visual on him, as he taunted me incessantly with his "jungle calls". In fact last night at sunset I tracked him down by his drumming on a tree that overlooked the shoreline, I was a mere ten feet from him without his knowledge but he was not well-placed for a photo, so these earlier ones in the day will have to suffice:

Let's see what new additions will be added to my Yardbird List next time!