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

Monday, February 28, 2011

Confessions of an Incredibly Lazy Blogger

Okfine, I've been off the radar for the past few weeks, but hopefully that's about to change as I'm getting caught up with some odds 'n' sods, so here goes with some birds from a few weeks ago in the Kawarthas, beginning with some Wild Turkeys:

A Hairy Woodpecker enjoying a tasty meal:

A Common Redpoll. Is it possible as we're now into March that this may be one of the last times I'll see one of these beauties for the year??

Admittedly it was a slow day, but these frisky Mallards in some open water made Ann and I stop to "smell the roses", as they really are quite lovely ducks and are frequently overlooked. Courtship and more was going on with males and females as Ann and I lived up to our "pornithologist" reputations by watching them primp and preen and mate. The female's fanned-out tail feathers must be a come-hither signal to the males:  

A very special Boreal Chickadee indeed was seen at a private feeder, as were several others of this species in Algonquin Park this winter by other birders:

And last, but certainly not least, Ann and I were privileged to be included in the release of a local Mallard Duck a few weeks ago, thanks to Chris, a highly-respected volunteer at the Toronto Wildlife Centre. This Mallard was rescued before Christmas due to a severe bill injury, and after successful surgery, it was to be released back into the wild.

Here goes with what took place, Chris opens the door to the cage and he makes his way out...

...he's still not sure what the deal is, but waddles his way down to the shoreline- or should I say "iceline"??

...and then it's his first flight in the wild after several weeks in captivity for rehab:

It all happened within a minute, but we were so pleased to see him safely back on his home turf again!

I confess that I'm not sure if these these next two photos are of him, or another Mallard, this is what happens when one delays editing photos on a timely basis, sorry Chris!! :-(

Thanks again to Chris for sharing this special moment with Ann and I. Here's a link to the Toronto Wildlife Centre (as well as my new home-away-from-home as I've just begun to volunteer there too also a reason for my delayed posting as my TWC training took priority!)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Enraptured by Raptors

Last week Ann and I did the mandatory annual Nanticoke and Fisherville trip looking for raptors, specifically Bald Eagles and Short-eared Owls and we were thrilled with the results for the day. 

Our first stop was at a private feeder in Cayuga where the kind homeowner graciously offered us closer access to his backyard birds. We enjoyed a Red-bellied Woodpecker, a Red-breasted Nuthatch, American Tree Sparrows, Dark-eyed Juncos, Northern Cardinals, and a lone White-throated Sparrow:

I was also pleasantly surprised to see my second Carolina Wren for the week:

Our next stop was at Fisherville for Short-eared Owls, which we found after much patience and perseverance. Thanks go to Ann for breaking my losing streak for seeing Shorties at Fisherville, as my two prior visits there both yielded nothing! ...for a while there, I even thought I was a victim of  Les' Owl Plague!

These photos are all tightly cropped as the owls were out in the middle of a field, so I'd recommend double-clicking on them for better views, then hit the "back" button to return to the blog:

The owl, much to my surprise, was regurgitating a pellet in this next photo:

In flight their markings are just gorgeous:

A second Short-eared Owl makes a landing on the left-hand side of the wood pile:

They're so well camouflaged that had we not seen it fly in, we never would have noticed it there!

Other raptors for the day included Red-tailed and Rough-legged Hawks:

Around the Nanticoke power plant on Lake Erie, we saw at least three different adult Bald Eagles, this one is a subadult, based on the dark tips on the tail feathers:

We we thrilled when we watched six of them soaring overhead as they slowly drifted across the sky, Ann and I were almost screaming with joy to see so many of them. For me, it was an all-time high to see this many together in Ontario, admittedly I'm spoiled by my Bald Eagle adventures in Surrey, British Columbia! I was only able to get two of them in the same field of view here:

It takes four to five years for them to acquire their adult plumage, ie white heads, tail coverts, and tails, so all of these next photos are of young eagles:

We also saw a few Horned Larks in some fields, but they took a back seat to these spectacular Bald Eagles: 

Things began to wind down here, though, so on our way home we returned to Fisherville in the middle of a snowsquall what was to be the first of many on the drive home, arghhhhhh  to see the Short-eared Owls one last time:

They were much more active this time, and were oblivious to the snowy conditions. Can you spot one on the left-hand side, while another one comes in for a landing??

On a negative note, though, the white-out road conditions were pretty brutal for the first part of the drive home. Anyone who knows me well is already aware of my fear aversion to winter driving at the first sign of a snowflake, let alone what we drove through, but we managed to safely do so and live to tell the tale, phew! 

Certainly the number of raptors made the day totally worthwhile, though, it was a day we'll never forget.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

West Lakeshore Waterfowl Wonders

Yesterday eight hardy members of the Pickering Naturalists ventured out to the west end of Lake Ontario for our annual outing, with John once again leading the troops. Admittedly, our species count was low coming in at a meagre thirty-two, but a great time was had by all regardless of the numbers!

Our first stop was at Bronte Harbour where we enjoyed good views of Canada Geese, both Common and Red-breasted Mergansers, Long-tailed Ducks, Mute Swans, and Greater Scaup, to name a few.

After resisting the challenge of my birding companions to order a serving of Cold Stone Creamery ice cream in the dead of winter at the nearest Timmie's (hah!), we forged ahead to Sioux Lookout in Burlington where we scored two of the three target Scoters for the day, both White-winged and Surf Scoters.

Further west along the lakeshore at Spencer Smith Park (formerly known as the Travelodge, which yet again is no longer a Travelodge this hotel has changed ownership more times than Elizabeth Taylor has changed husbands), we were pleased to add Ruddy Ducks, Gadwall, Trumpeter Swans, and American Coots to our day list, seen below among some Mallards, Mute Swans, and Canada Geese:

Then it was off to Windermere Basin for some more new species, including Lesser Scaup, a few Hooded Mergansers, dozens of Northern Shovelers, and a few Northern Pintails. I caved and actually made a concerted effort to look at a gull it was, after all, a tick, so I sucked it up , as Steve spied an Iceland Gull on the wing, adding to our gull list so far of Herring, Ring-billed, and  Great Black-backed. 

We re-energized ourselves at Hutch's restaurant on the beach, consuming copious amounts of unhealthy burgers, fries, and battered fish. Glenda's halo blinded us all as she ate a healthy meal, although she was corrupted in the end as she indulged in some of my baking, mwahahaha! Between sugar fixes, John saw a lone Black-capped Chickadee being blown past our window by the high winds, which was a new species for us.  

We made a hasty visit to Gray's Road in the Stoney Creek area where only three Long-tailed Ducks were seen out on the lake, so we retreated back to Burlington for our final stop at La Salle Park. As expected, this area that historically is fabulous at this time of year for waterfowl was frozen up solid, so we had to be satisfied with more Canada Geese and Trumpeter Swans. Any hopes of seeing a Bald Eagle were dashed, even when the geese and swans took to the air, which is usually a good indicator of an eagle on the wing. Instead, we were disappointed to see that a snowmobiler on the ice was responsible for flushing them:

The Canada Geese gradually returned, despite low visibility on the ice due to blowing snow:

It was time to pack it in at thirty-two species. Noticeably absent from our list were Peregrine Falcons and Double-crested Cormorants, usually visible from the lift bridge, but major construction prevented us from accessing this area. We also dipped on American Wigeons, usually present at La Salle Park, as well as Black Scoters, any finches whatsoever (!), and any sparrows, with the exception of House Sparrows. 

Thanks again to John for leading us around the area, and both John's for driving us around, too.  

Note to Carolyn: psssst! if Steve arrived home with no baking in hand, it means that they consumed the chocolate truffles and pineapple cake themselves on the way home!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Another Varied Road Trip

...with Heather, Doug, and John on Friday to a private home outside of Waterloo to see the reported Varied Thrush. Once we heard about the pecking order of the feeding birds (right after the Blue Jays), we knew when we could expect her to land and sure enough, that's what happened!

The female Varied Thrush has a wide gray breast-band...

...versus a black breast-band on the male. For comparison, here's last year's male Varied Thrush:

A nice rear view of her boldly patterned wings, as an American Tree Sparrow looks on:

She didn't linger for very long, though, so we tried waiting for a second appearance but ended up vacating our front row seat as other birders arrived. Many thanks to the Ewart's for sharing their special bird with us all!

After the mandatory Timmie's stop our second, actually!, we headed to the outskirts of Kitchener to another local birder's home that Heather had a connection with. Our gracious hosts were Titia and Neil, who welcomed us into their beautiful home where we watched their feeders and surrounding woods:

Their main customers were Black-capped Chickadees, House and American Goldfinches, and Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers, but by far their largest were these Wild Turkeys:

When all else fails, take the path less trodden and go for the platform feeder!

An unexpected surprise was a Brown Creeper in the woods, and my best views ever of a Carolina Wren at one of the feeders:

Doug, Heather, Neil, and John huddle up before heading back out on the highways:

Thanks again to both Titia and Neil for their warm hospitality, as well as to Heather for suggesting we stop!

My 2011 Year List is now at eighty-two species, and my Winter List sits at ninety tick tock, February's flying by...