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, November 6, 2011

Can You Believe They Put Out an APB on Me???

So here's the deal, a few weeks ago I decided I needed a break so I became a runflyaway from the family. C'mon, think about it, having nine brothers and sisters is incredibly tough, not to mention all of these humans making such a fuss over us as we hung out on Sturgeon Lake. This cuckoo or loon, I'm not sure which,  named "Janice" was the first one who went silly for us around Thanksgiving week-end, she even took some pics of us when we were still one big happy family in the back swamp:

But little did she know that I really wanted to have some "alone" time, so I decided to run fly away from dad, aka #902, mom, and my nine sibs. To this day, no one knows where I went, and I wish it to remain that way. As they say, "What happens in the Kawarthas stays in the Kawarthas", right? But did those human freaks really have to put out an APB on me??? They were all doing a lot of hand-wringing when my family was seen without me, I just don't get it. And rumour has it that this guy named Dan put out the APB on me through his Kawartha Naturalists club, talk about a violation of privacy!!! There were even rumours of my demise, too, yikes, I was only gone for a few weeks, for crying out loud !

But these humans were tenacious, so last Monday I decided to re-join the family and I was eventually spotted by this nice couple named The Corns, aka Sharon and Joe, who then contacted this Trumpeter Swan Lady in Burlington named Bev to share the news of my return.

But things weren't going so well for me, I was positive that mom and dad and my sibs would welcome me back with open wings. So on Tuesday, I arrived back again at that little swamp near Janice's cottage with the family around 8:45 a.m. I knew it was a big deal because this guy called Jimmy ran inside to make a quick phone call when he saw us all back together again. What he didn't realize at the time, though, was that mom was still really ticked off at me, and was chasing me away. Harumph, whassup with that??? And it wasn't going so well with the rest of the family, either. Before I knew it, the family took off to the other side of the lake without me, so I followed them. As we came in for a landing at The Corn's cafeteria, I heard this black car slam on its brakes and saw cuckoo swamp lady Janice holding on to the steering wheel with one hand, and taking a really bad pic of us all with her other hand. Sheeesh, another one who was in on that APB!

It took her a while to find us on the lake, though, as apparently they needed photos of me to compare to my "MISSING" poster:

Cuckoo lady seemed quite overjoyed to see me again as, after all, I had been presumed dead, so I put on one of my better poses for her:

But deep down I was mortified, as my dirty little secret would soon be discovered. I had made a really bad judgment call by ditching the family and was now a total OUTCAST. That's me, way off in the distance, the shame, the shame!!! Cuckoo lady's tears of joy soon turned to tears of sadness:

Mrs. Corn fed the rest of the family this awesome corn delicacy, while I was relegated to staying away:

Any time I tried to get closer to the family to ask for mercy and their forgiveness, I was shunned, but mom's hatred of me was the worst. Cuckoo lady gets an action shot of mom's take-off:

Then I had to suffer the indignity of a public banishment by mom, as I apparently got too close to the family:

I hid behind the cattails as mom returned to the family, acting as if nothing had happened:

And here I was, all alone, all by myself, totally humiliated:

So Mr. Corn tried to quietly slip me some nibblies on the side without the family knowing:

But that didn't go so well for me either, as I was forced to make a hasty retreat when mom chased me off, that's me, aka OUTCAST, swimming away from everyone:

I still stuck around in the distance, but it sure was tough watching everyone else enjoy the meal without me. Ahhhh, if I could do it all over again...

Cuckoo lady was ooo-ing and awww-ing over how much my sibs' feathers had changed, although there really was no need to, as our gray-brown plumage stays that way into our first summer:

Cuckoo lady even got caught up in the feeding frenzy and thanked Mrs. Corn for taking this pic of her feeding the rest of my family, while I'm still way, way off in the distance:

The Swan Lady in Burlington has since told Cuckoo lady and the Corns that if they get to know the rest of my family well enough, they'll eventually be able to recognize the hairy  feathery eyeball or evil eye that is cast my way if I get too close to them. This may well be one of those looks:

And so it goes with my sad life, I now know that I've made a huge mistake by leaving my family and find myself wondering if I'll ever be accepted back by them. Sometimes I still hang out with my family, trying to make amends and patch things up, but other times I choose to stay away. I'm a nobody, an avis non grata. I'm way below the bottom of the pecking order, I'm off the grid.  

I'm all by myself.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Back to my Kawarthan Autumn

An early return trip to the cottage on Thursday, October 6th meant a chilly fall morning where Mother Nature was seen sucking the warmth out of our mist-covered lake:

A Great Blue Heron took flight, perhaps to keep warm?? 

I wandered down to the swamp and  saw heard numerous Golden-crowned Kinglets dining on insects as the morning sunshine warmed up the cedars, but a pair of female (!) Pileated Woodpeckers caught my attention in the woods at the end of our point:

I was keen to visit the Altberg Wildlife Sanctuary Nature Reserve (now that's a mouthful!) before cottage season ended, so as  Dan successfully discouraged me from making a solo trip there, I arranged to meet Ginny at noon, so off I went (past an empty Osprey nest, hooray!), stopping to enjoy a bit of scenery along the way:

Altberg Nature Reserve is eleven hundred and sixty-three acres of woodland and wetland in the Kawarthas, and the Kawartha Field Naturalists are the property stewards: 

Ginny greeted me at the gate, wisely wearing red so as not to become the target of any local hunters:

Ginny adeptly guided me through the nature reserve for the next two and a half hours, which admittedly would have been virtually impossible for me to do on my own, thanks again, Ginny! 

The trail map at the entrance made it all look so easy...

...but once inside, the autumn leaves on the ground along the trails made navigation a challenge:

There's no way I could have coped on my own!

On the critter and birding front it was extremely quiet, but admittedly it was the dead zone of the day. Our BOTD was a Red-shouldered Hawk that we heard calling, but were unable to ever get a visual on it. Regardless, I was content to visit this beautiful location so close to the cottage and will definitely make a return trip there (consider yourself forewarned), the Kawartha Field Naturalists have done a fabulous job there, congrats! 

Look closely at the nick marks on this tree. Some are made by Sapsuckers, but most of them are made by BEAR CLAWS! We looked higher up in the tree to make sure that one wasn't looking down at us:


Ginny and I said our farewells back at the parking lot and I made my way home to the cottage via assorted scenic routes to check out the fall colours in my stomping grounds. There was virtually no colour here, with dead trees in the foreground and coniferous trees in the background... why not try a black and white version??

But as Golden Hour approached, I knew exactly where to go to next, on the outskirts of Bobcaygeon:

Yes, folks, I was admittedly out of control, this is what happens now when wildlife is MIA:

I arrived back at a chilly cottage (yup, past an empty Osprey nest, hooray!), just in time to turn on the heaters for the night, it really was not only looking, but now also feeling like autumn in the Kawarthas!

A Milestone for Mom

It was time to introduce my mother to my latest love, Algonquin, especially when she confessed that she had never been there before in her entire eighty-seven years on the planet! The only family connection to Algonquin that mom is aware of was a sad one that dates back to 1909: my grandfather's youngest brother Bryce (who my Vancouver uncle is named after) was presumed drowned during a canoe trip in Algonquin at the young age of nineteen...

Mom's summers as a child were for the most part spent exclusively at the family cottage, a tradition which continued into her adult life. The commute from Toronto to the cottage back then took an entire day, so the thought of travelling further away from the cottage was no doubt quite daunting for the family.

But that was all about to change, she and I arrived at the cottage late in the day on Monday, October 3rd, but not before ensuring that my Osprey nest was now vacated for the season, after all, it was October. To my horror,  one of the babies was still there!

Dad was still around though, too, doing yet another one of his endless food drops:

I followed up with one of my local Osprey experts, and admittedly it was getting rather late for them to still be loitering around. Dad would know when it was time to head south, but as for the baby, we weren't too sure, and I feared that I was about to witness the process of natural selection first-hand. Over the next few days I made frequent visits to the nest and eventually was able to heave a massive sigh of relief when I determined that the nest was indeed empty for this season, phew! 

Mom and I departed for Algonquin at the crack of dawn the next morning (past an empty Osprey nest) and saw first light by the time we reached the Haliburton Highlands:

The autumn colours had progressed since my visit a week earlier:


We arrived at the West Gate to Algonquin at 8:30 a.m., mom's first time ever in The Park!!!

A mandatory stop at Peck Lake for the distressed juvenile Common Loon came up empty yet again, but the colours were spectacular:

We made frequent stops at any lookouts along the highway to take in the colours, even if it was past its peak:

An interesting "time-lapse" colour comparison was evident here. Two and a half weeks prior to this visit with mom, there was no apparent colour change yet....

...but nine days later, there it was!

And a week later with mom, it was past its prime, but still glorious to enjoy:

Mom truly enjoyed her first time at the Visitor Centre:

We learned more specific details about the trees that we were seeing:

The spectacular views from the Centre were breath-taking:

Our final stop for the day was a leisurely drive along Opeongo Road:

The rugged rocky terrain of The Park was still offset by the dwindling autumn colours of the foliage:

And so ended our trip to Algonquin, mom heartily approved of my new love as she thoroughly enjoyed the day. We both suffered culture shock as we left the wilderness of Algonquin to return back home (past an empty Osprey nest) to the city, though, but our shared memories of the day together will stay with us forever!