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

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Oshawa Harbour... and NOT Your Grandmother's Fur Stole

Today as the forecasted rain held off, I returned to Oshawa harbour for the Pacific Loon that was still in the area and was fortunate to briefly see it again, one of two now, in fact!!

There were still numerous Common Loons on the lake and in the canal along the pier...

...but by far the most common bird today was the Red-breasted Merganser, just hundreds of them were seen:

They frequently changed locations on the lake:

What a difference in numbers compared to mid-day yesterday afternoon when there were only a few there, but this trio certainly enjoyed their body-surfing sessions in the northwest winds:

On my way out, this beautiful little mink caught my attention! This was not the first time I've seen one, as they're common around Humber Bay Park in the winter on the rocks and ice, but for sure today's encounter was my closest ever, with minimal cropping needed on these photos below, and at times it was too close for my lens:

It's checking me out here, as I tried making those ridiculous sounds that bring squirrels and chippies in close, with great success, who knew??!!

The white patch on the lower lip is seen quite well here (as was a reflection of myself in its left eye, seen when I was editing the photo!!):

The body is long, with compact legs and partially webbed feet:


Their diet consists of fish and other aquatic life, small mammals (rabbits especially), and birds, particularly waterfowl (nooooooooooooo, as long as it's not one of our target birds!):

I left for Second Marsh and followed the west side trail for a bit, but it was fairly quiet, other than Black-capped Chickadees, Golden-crowned Kinglets, Downy Woodpecker, Belted Kingfisher, Mallards, Hermit Thrush, Northern Harrier, a Great Blue Heron...

...and American Tree, White-throated, and Song Sparrows:

Presqu'ile, Rosetta, and Yardbirds

John and I decided to chase the reported Eurasian Wigeon at Presqu'ile on Thursday, but dipped on it in the end, despite reaaaally giving it our best shot.

And speaking of shots, we were pleased that it was not a hunting day in the park, as the platform we spent our time on searching for our bird would have been reserved for and no doubt occupied by hunters, grrrr. At one point out of frustration, I wondered out loud if perhaps our Target Bird had been shot the day before...........but not so, as it was reported again on Friday. When we were NOT there, how dare they, arghhhh. Other species seen, though, were Green-winged Teal, Wood Ducks, Northern Pintails, Mallards, American Black Ducks, Gadwall, American Wigeon, Mute Swans, Pied-billed Grebe, American Coots, Bufflehead, American Robins, Black-capped Chickadees, Dark-eyed Juncos, and Eastern Bluebirds.

On early Friday morning at Thickson's Woods  I tested the water-resistant properties of my nerding jacket as we listened to Jim Flaherty's (our Minister of Finance) announcement of regulatory changes that will help encourage American residents to donate real property in Canada for use in the public interest of Canadians, a very good thing!!! 

After drying off at the nearest Timmie's with the gang, I left for the hawk watch at Rosetta McLain Gardens, my first time there in a while, with the northwest winds being an encouraging sign for a good number of birds. Ann had arrived just ahead of me, so it was great to see her again after a few months, as well as to meet Frank, Walter, Carol, and others that I've heard so much about. 

The view of Lake Ontario was spectacular...

...but unfortunately, the numbers of raptors were not, and most of what we saw was quite a distance out on the lake, but we still enjoyed seeing several Red-tailed and Red-shouldered Hawks, Northern Harriers...

...a Sharpie...

...and a female House Finch:

On my way home I made a quick stop at the Cranberry Marsh Raptor Watch, just in time to see this Northern Goshawk swoop over the platform, by no means a good photo, but it was my first one ever of this species:

Dan and Charlie told me that the Pacific Loon had been spotted again back in the 'Shwa, so I dashed over there, but had no luck finding it, the winds were brutal by this time, as were the rain showers that were coming in bands off of Lake Huron.

In the end, ironically, I saw more birds species in my backyard late in the afternoon than all day, including Fox, House, and White-throated Sparrows, Dark-eyed Juncos, Northern Cardinals, House Finches, American Goldfinches, and my first "yard bird" Pine Siskins in two years:

I ran upstairs to hang out the bathroom window for the second time this week to check out the flock of Waxwings feeding in our junipers, all Cedar, no Bohemians yet:

And speaking of yard birds, I have now been given clearance to release the names of both the perp and vic from Monday's brutal attack in my backyard:

The vic has been confirmed as a female House Sparrow, may she rest in pieces peace.

The perp has been confirmed as a Sharp-shinned Hawk, thanks to both John and Geoff, phew, that was a tough one!!!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Another Year Bird Today at Thickson's Woods

After visiting Doug in Unionville this morning (and a few drive-by's of Reesor Pond), I stopped in briefly at Cranberry Marsh for the hawk watch, but the wrong winds meant few birds, so I headed over to Thickson's Woods and ran into John. We were both in need of the reported Pine Siskins for our lists, and in fact it turned out to be a year bird for me, as last winter tanked. The numbers of these dark, striped finches vary from year to year, as they will move around depending upon the conifer crops. The prediction for this coming season is promising, so we were pleased to find them high up in a tree thanks, John!, feeding away with some American Goldfinches. My lesson for the day is to never assume that when a single Goldfinch is seen, all the other birds around it are the same species.

Here's one of the American Goldfinches feeding high up:

Now here's the Pine Siskin, with heavy streaking, a sharply pointed bill, and some yellow markings on the wings:

There are four of them in this next photo:

Other good birds for the day in the woods included a Hermit Thrush, a Purple Finch, a Red-bellied Woodpecker, Golden-crowned Kinglets, and American Robins.

As we were leaving, a beautiful Common Buckeye unexpectedly landed in a bush next to our parked cars. Perhaps this image will compensate for the preceding ones...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

How Long Does it Take to Eat a Feeder Bird??

Yesterday's afternoon visitor, either a Sharpie or Cooper's Hawk, swooped in at 5:15 p.m. and departed at 5:38 p.m. sharp, so you do the math, not very long. 

I also erred yesterday, as the menu was not a Chickadee, yet I was unable to identify it, as by the end of the feeding frenzy, there wasn't much left to look for in the diagnostics department :-(

So here goes, in chronological order, the first photo was taken through our kitchen window, with the best view of our poor vic:

It then flew up into one of our ash trees, so I ran upstairs, slid open the bathroom window, removed the screen, and literally hung out of the window for the next twenty minutes hoping no neighbours would call the cops on me. The hawk was so focused on its meal that it didn't pay any attention to me:

...a juicy morsel in its mouth:

It now has one of the vic's feet in its beak, ewwwwwww....

...and down the hatch it goes, no one can say it leaves anything behind:

...can't get any fresher than this, see the flesh in its beak:

All birds do is try to survive each and every day- end of story.

Not a happy ending for my feeder bird, though.

Check out some stray feathers, such a sloppy eater:

All of a sudden, a dumbass brave Black Squirrel below the tree caught the hawk's attention.

I held my breath as well as my grip on the window frame.

The hawk had fought too hard for this meal, so continued to hold fast with its prey: 

...but it eventually returned to feeding, there's not much left to consume now:

The buffet winds down:

...but now it gets gruesome. Remember: the hawk's only trying to stay alive for another day:

...hardly anything left now:

Surprisingly, another hawk flew into the same tree and then they both flew off together, so that was the end of that!!

As for our visiting Pacific Loon, I returned to Oshawa harbour this morning but was unsuccessful in re-locating him. However, a group of us did find the winter plumage Red-throated Loon bobbing up and down on the lake visible from Bonnie Brae Point, just west of the harbour. I managed to find a way down to the beach to get a closer view of it in the surf to truly validate Sunday's "tick" for my Life List, and then left for Thickson's Woods to chase some reported Boreal Chickadees with no luck, though. BTW, I'm sooo far over to the Dark Side now that I'm not only scaring my family, but myself now, as well....

As for the balance of yesterday, a few bizarre things are worth sharing, beginning with meeting Lev Frid, a birder who frequently posts on Ontbirds. We had all assumed he was a older, retired chap, but were totally gobsmacked when we realized he was a young kid in his twenties who's working on a Big Year! Even more bizarre was listening to Richard Pope converse with young Lev at great length in Russian on the pier in Oshawa!

A direct reply back to me on e-mail from David Sibley (for my non-birding friends: a highly respected author and illustrator of books about birds and birding and now trees) was unexpected too. I had written him for fun with a query about his new eguide birding application, as I unsuccessfully tried to look up "Pacific Loon" yesterday on my iTouch. He replied back within an hour, saying that it indeed was missing from the Ontario list, but would be corrected and added to the database the next time around. How cool was that??!!