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, January 29, 2011

Whitby Wonders for the Week

I admittedly don't like gulls but a thoughtful phone call from Skip yesterday morning from Whitby harbour was a potential Lifer for me, so I sucked it up and headed south for the lake. I knew I was in the right spot when I was momentarily blinded by John's bright red baseball cap Go, Leafs, Go! as I neared the harbour.

This dark-mantled gull was the possible candidate for a Slaty-backed Gull, a definite rarity for this side of the country:

But alas, after extensive analysis of photos by North American gull expert Jean Iron, it was deemed to be a Lesser Black-backed Gull, a semi-decent bird in its own right, as well as both a Winter and Year bird for me:

The other treat this week was the return of a male Harlequin Duck to our harbour, could this be the same handsome bird we saw here back in early December??

Here's this week's boy under despicable lighting conditions on Thursday, so his colours are totally washed out:

My Winter List at the end of the week now stands at eighty-seven species, and my Year List at seventy-eight. 

Friday, January 28, 2011

More Surprises in the Kawarthas

On Tuesday morning Ann and I ventured back to the Kawarthas once again, despite slippery roads. We almost turned back a few times, but stayed the course for some excellent birds by the end of the day. 

Our first detour was to the village of Kendal where some Evening Grosbeaks had been reported the day before, but no luck. The winter scenery was spectacular, though, with this amazing ice fog hanging over the evergreens, but my death-grip on the steering wheel prevented us from safely stopping to capture the moment but imagine Ann hanging out of the car window like a true paparazzi snapping away!!

We arrived at the Lindsay airport and drove around the area looking for raptors, but were distracted by Dan's phone call telling us about some good must-see feeders in the area, so we forgave him kidding, Dan, you totally rock!!

We checked out the ice edges on Cameron Lake at Fenelon Falls for Bald Eagles, but no luck, so by now we were both starting to twitch a bit, but BOOM, that all changed as we drove around some country back roads and stumbled upon this handsome Barred Owl:

The take-off:

...a bait-free flight shot showing that yes, indeed, it is possible:

Relaxing in a tree with a great vantage point:

We were thrilled to watch this beautiful owl in the wild, it was Ann's second for the day, and my second for the week!

Our next stop was at Dan's suggestion, and what a good one it was. Kawarthan hospitality at its best, as the gentleman who owned the feeders came outside to greet us, inviting us to not only park in his driveway but to use his backyard to watch the birds, what a kind and generous fellow!

Oh, and did I mention that he was also armed with a huge hunk of pig fat (!!!) and a staple gun?

He stapled the pig fat to the tree, thus opening the doors to The Restaurant for the birds. Both Downey and Hairy Woodpeckers literally chewed the fat I'm sorry, I just couldn't resist that one, as did Black-capped Chickadees:

Ann and I watched the Downey Woodpeckers get downey and dirty wink wink nudge nudge in the trees, somuchso that Dan is now referring to us as Pornithologists- huh.

A Rusty Blackbird, no doubt the same one that had been included in their Christmas Bird Count last month, made an appearance too, what a great winter bird for my list:

But back to the pig fat on the tree: here's the Pig Big Momma that certainly knew how to clear the place when she came in to chow down, a female Pileated Woodpecker:

...down the hatch:

We hit the road again after she stopped coming back to the fat my theory is that she found her boyfriend in the woods and was taking the lead from the Downeys, and our next stop was in the middle of nowhere, as per Dan's precise directions. We noticed an inordinate amount of Ravens in the area, but we were also hoping for eagles, Bald or Golden, Ann and I weren't choosy. Ann was out of the car ahead of me when another car pulled up beside her and it was Dan, who graciously arrived to help us locate anything of interest more of that Kawarthan hospitality!

The three of us drove around more back roads looking for eagles but no luck, and our final feeder stop with him was at another birder's home, but as it was getting on in the day, it was quiet, so Dan left for his appointment while Ann and I headed back for one final look at the Barred Owl. On our way there, this beautiful, nasty little Northern Shrike posed for us, neither of us had ever noticed the scaly marking on its breast, just beautiful:

For the benefit of my non-birding friends: when I say "nasty", it's for a very good reason, as this bird, with its hook-tipped bill, will take out insects, mice or small birds. I'll never forget the first time I saw one at the Leslie Street Spit attacking an American Robin, it was ugly! So don't be fooled by that innocent puffball look it has, it's hunting from that perch...

Further along the road, I saw the Barred Owl move out of the corner of my eye, what a great bird to end our day with before heading back home:

Many thanks to Dan and John, as well as the "pig fat" feeder gentleman for sharing your special birds with Ann and I. In fact we enjoyed it so much that we're carrying out our threat to return back up there next week, so brace yourselves!!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Frozen Part Deux

I began Day Two of our brutal winter temperatures feeling quite sorry for these Canada Geese and Mallards that were all huddled together in some open water:

The frozen feathers of these Canada Geese makes one think that they've been sprinkled with a bit of icing sugar! hey, it's the baker in me, what can I say??:

A Barred Owl sits on a branch as the snow comes in off the lake:

Sweet! sorry, Les

I then met up with Skip and John in Brooklin where they both put me under enormous pressure to find Bohemian Waxwings for them- or should I say Waxwing singular, as that's all we saw, in exactly the same spot as yesterday, mixed in with American Robins:

From there we drove around the various concessions and didn't see very much else, other than House Finches, American Goldfinches, American Tree Sparrows, Black-capped Chickadees, American Crows, Common Ravens, and Snow Buntings. 

As we returned back south to "central" Pickering, we saw a Red-tailed Hawk soaring over us, giving its wonderful "keeer-r-r" cry, what better way to end our day together!

FOOTNOTE: this posting may be brief, but be aware that it took forever for me to complete due to certain individuals distracting me with e-mails that went on and on ad nauseum, grrrrrrrrrrrr 

...kidding! I love you guys :-)  

Sunday, January 23, 2011

I Froze my - - - - off for These!

With a windchill of -30ยบ this afternoon thank GOD we weren't at Amherst this week-end, I slipped out for a bit because Robert had gone to the gym, shhhh to look for the Bohemian Waxwings that had been reported yesterday close to home. It wasn't so easy, though! As their name implies, they will wander the planet looking for food, so they may not necessarily be readily found again. 

As I was about to pack it in at the north end of Pickering, I finally spotted a flock of American Robins feeding on berries, and for a while I checked each and every one of them out, hoping that the motley crew of Bohemians that they'd been associating with yesterday would make an appearance. Not so.

Would this be my BOTD??

I was just about to get back into my car when suddenly I heard them, the motley crew of Bohemian Waxwings was movin' back in! Now bear in mind that I've only just re-located my toes from my bird-banding experience ten days ago, so I had zero tolerance for no-shows in these kind of Arctic temperatures.

The following is the best I could do under the circumstances before packing it in and adding another year bird, John, sorry, enjoy!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Back to the Kawarthas AGAIN on Thursday, January 20

I've been up here birding so much in the past several weeks that I almost wish our ninety-four year old cottage was winterized so it could be used as a Base Camp!!

Doug, John, Jim and I met Dan at the Lindsay airport and our first stop was in Coboconk to check out some open water, the highlight of which was a pair of Rock Eagles  a White-winged Scoter off in the distance. We continued on to Ginny's place in Uphill and her birds were all present, enjoying the freshly-scattered birdseed.

Common Redpolls were beautiful in the sunshine:

So how bad is it that I'm already jaded by these pretty little things that eluded me all of last year??!!! I found it tough to stay focused on them when Ginny's Evening Grosbeaks were the main event. As soon as we opened the car doors, we heard their noisy chatter that I liken to House Sparrows on steroids:

Lots of seed on the ground turned it into a feeding frenzy:

Dan visits with Ginny, while Doug and John can't decide which way to look, there are so many Evening Grosbeaks!

This silvery gray female landed on one of the feeders next to me, there's no doubt whatsoever as to why they're called Grosbeaks:

Now here's a bill that can crack seeds, yikes!

The yellow male with his dark head and yellow eyebrow stripe is stunning:

...and the yellow is accentuated by his striking black-and-white wings:

Ginny was persuaded to join us as we continued birding in the area, and we successfully located one of the two reported Gray Jays southeast of Uphill, what a treat to see it outside of Algonquin for a change:

Everyone humoured me celebrated our Gray Jay find by posing for the mandatory group shot on the road:

From there, we drove through the Carden area, checking out other feeder spots that Dan knew about, while I gave Jim and John an unexpected opportunity to see their lives flash before their eyes. 

We had to turn this patriotic guy down when he tried to join our party, his cold personality just didn't appeal to any of us:

We briefly saw the Belted Kingfisher in the village of Victoria Road before enjoying another great lunch together in Kirkfield, despite Dan hitting me up yet again for the Carden Alvar Point Counts in May and June  BTW, DAN: "You had me at CARDEN" ;-)  

We dipped on the Northern Hawk Owl on the outskirts of Dalrymple, though, and felt like total losers as every other birder there that day had apparently seen it, as we found out later after Dan's ontbirds posting of a non-sighting.

We bade farewell to the Kawarthans and returned home as Jim silently wept in the car for dipping on the Hawk Owl, sorry Jim! Maybe the dark morph Rough-legged Hawk we spotted in a tree made it a bit better for you, though?? 

Perhaps next time....