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, June 25, 2011

An Early Morning Carden Trek

Still savouring the magic of my Goatsuckering trip from the week before, I drove back to Carden last Monday morning.

This endangered Loggerhead Shrike was seen right away in a tree at the roadside, before flying further back into the bushes, in fact I heard it before seeing it, this being the first time that I've ever heard their call:

Continuing north, a Wilson's Snipe chilled on a fence post:

Much to my surprise, a single Common Nighthawk was flying overhead, I had no idea that they were also daylight hunters, but I suppose you eat when you can, depending upon your diet, right?

I dipped on the Golden-winged Warbler by the marsh, but this male Red-winged Blackbird reminded me of why I do not miss the big-shouldered look from The Eighties although he does look quite dapper, I must say:

You know the birding day has slowed down when I attempt artsy photos of butterflies, in this case a Tiger Swallowtail...

...the underside of its wings are covered in pollen, better seen if you double-click on the photo:

So all in all it wasn't a bad hit-and-run Carden trip that saw both a butcher-bird and a daytime goatsucker!

Goatsucker Alley

I just knew that Thursday, June 16th would be a great day when I awoke to this beautiful sunrise off the dock, one of the few that can be seen only as summer solstice approaches:


Another trip to Carden beckoned, but this time in the evening as we hoped to see some Goatsuckers like Nighthawks, Whip-poor-wills, and perhaps even a Chuck-will's widow like last year.

As I waited for John, a Brown Thrasher brought home an extremely good haul of yummy critters for the family:

Further along Wylie Road, a Northern Harrier was mobbed by several Red-winged Blackbirds. At first I thought the Harrier would leave the area, but I soon realized that in fact this was their Golden Hour game, as it went on for at least half an hour, with all of them calling and screaming at each other, what great entertainment for me!!

John and I checked out Cameron Ranch for Loggerhead Shrikes with no success, so we returned to Wylie Road at sunset...

 ...where we soon heard the familiar "boom" of Common Nighthawks as they soared over the open alvar, feeding on flying insects. Sadly, this species is declining, so it was truly wonderful to see them again, a first for me this year.

From there, we met up with Dan and Susan for some more serious goatsuckering in the area. John headed home around 10 p.m., but Susan, Dan, and I continued on for a few more hours until the rain set in, what a magical night!

Barred Owl: 1
Nighthawks: 2
Whip-poor-wills: 17
Fireflies: 100
Mosquitoes: millions
Constellations: billions and billions

Night time road trip to Carden? PRICELESS.

Friday, June 24, 2011

"Ever Been to Sea, Billy?"

Deciding to kick it up a notch, I ventured out in my kayak for the first time ever with my camera gear to check out some local weed beds for possible herons, warblers, and the like. After confirming my insurance coverage getting myself organized, I hit the high seas of our lake and headed west.

My first bird for the day on the water was a feasting Osprey high up in a tree, but a Great Blue Heron statue caught my eye:

Here it is again, all fluffed up after coming in for a landing:

As you can see, the conditions of the lake were just perfect, with no winds and minimal boat traffic, but it got even better when I spotted a Common Loon:

Imagine my delight when I next saw mom and a chick, yet another first for me, I was hard-pressed to stay upright in my kayak!!!

They even cooperated enough for a family portrait, as I struggled to keep my balance and get some acceptable shots of this amazing moment for me:

I was hooked, in the end spending a couple of hours observing them from a safe distance as they paddled around their territory, what a thrill!  

Late in the day on Sunday as both the breeze and boat traffic simmered down, I ventured out onto the high seas once again, after analyzing Friday's photos and determining necessary revisions for my camera settings, as it really is a different kind of photography when one is tucked away into a kayak. There's not much room to manoeuvre around in the cockpit, and even though it may seem like there's no breeze, the currents still move you around. First and foremost, though, I was always respectful of the Loon family's space, maintaining a safe distance from them, even if it meant paddling backwards, with my unprotected camera in my lap.

Sure enough, off in the distance I could see them again in the very same spot, so I stopped paddling and waited and watched for the next few hours.

Dad checked me out right away...

...and eventually began to preen himself:

The mother and baby were a bit further away, but the views of them from my kayak were spectacular:

Mom does a leg stretch...

...and baby follows:

...and wing stretches were part of the regime too:

Spawning carp distracted the pair (as they did me, the last thing I wanted to have happen was to capsize because of a carp!) every so often.

Double-click on this to see the looks on their faces, hopefully the baby will learn from mom that this kind of fish is too big to eat!

Once again, it was family portrait time, but first one of the parents had to re-arrange its feathers:

So it certainly has been the Year of the Loon this year on our lake, never have we seen or heard so many.

But I now find myself frequently checking the marine forecast, as I know my days are limited to see this beautiful family again. And I know that secretly my frenemies Ann, Chris, Murray, and gang look forward to my future misadventures on the high seas if I continue with this kind of "marine" photography. "Arghhhh, Billy!!"  

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Harlequin ♥ Peregrines, as do I !

My first views ever of the Peregrine Falcon pair that have taken up residence across from the Head Office of Harlequin Enterprises in Don Mills were in early May with Ann.

"Quest" is an American female Peregrine Falcon from Rochester, New York, and "Kendal" is her young Canadian male of choice, born two years ago in downtown Toronto. This cross-border match was definitely made in heaven, as they have successfully hatched one of three eggs laid. The Canadian Peregrine Foundation was contacted by Ms. Donna Hayes, the hawk-eyed CEO of Harlequin who first spotted the falcon from her office window back in April. Between both organizations, these lovebirds falcons who are new to parenting have had the best support ever, and it's been a thrill to watch them all!

"Kendal", the male, was having a feast the first time I saw him back in May:

I think the "special of the day" on the menu was perhaps a Rock Pigeon (waaaah, one of my favorite species at the Toronto Wildlife Centre!!):

...he's a messy eater, though, as there's blood on his right foot:

His bride "Quest" arrived later with her take-out for the day:

"Quest" had been fitted with a satellite transmitter almost four years ago by Mark Nash, Director of the Canadian Peregrine Foundation, clearly visible here on her back, allowing her movements along the shores of Lake Ontario to be tracked:

Just over three weeks ago, a baby chick, aptly named "Harlequin", hatched and in Ann's absence, I had the honour and privilege of being invited to the banding event held on the first day of summer, and what a great way to kick it off!

Arriving in advance of the event, we had the opportunity to see the mother and baby together. This is not for the faint of heart as we watched baby "Harlequin" occasionally venture out to the edge of the ledge, yikes!!

As guests arrived, there were banding displays and literature available for all of us to learn more about this species at risk.

The Canadian Peregrine Foundation were accompanied by some of their educational raptors, including two gorgeous Peregrine Falcons...

...and this delectable Barn Owl....

....that was really a cuddle bear enjoying a day at the spa, just look at that mug!!

But I digress, back to the Main Event:

I had decided to do most of my photography from outside, so unfortunately that meant forfeiting a portion of the presentation, but it was a thrill to see how they manage to capture the chick without getting killed. The humans, that is:

With the mother right there.
A mother that can dive at speeds of 160 kilometres per hour.
With pointy not-so-little-talons.
With a pointy, not-so-small, hooked bill.

Murray challenged me to join the MNR fellow on the "swing set" journey to the nest, as he knew my affinity for danger reputation for being an inquisitive birder, but I declined as my safety gear was at home (yeah, right, NO WAY!!!)

So off they go (better you guys than me, that's all I had to say about it, were they nuts??):

Now I should mention that the dad was MIA all day, so at least these brave fellows only had to contend with one irate parent. As soon as they began their ascent, she began to cry and scream at them incessantly, but once she saw that they continued with their approach to her baby, she took to the air:

...on the defensive!

They remained there in place for about ten minutes, which seemed like an eternity to me, and no doubt for the mother and baby too. They do so to distract the mother, and eventually a holding box for the baby is lowered down to them from the roof by the bander:

The MNR fellow finally and swiftly (but still nowhere as swift as a Peregrine can fly!!) makes his move and places the baby in the box which is returned to the bander on the roof.


Safely back inside at the Harlequin office, the baby is weighed and determined to be a female:

And here she is, baby "HARLEQUIN", a little girl!

As Mark said, perhaps she's screaming after her first-ever close-up view of the human race?? And look at those sharp talons, at only three weeks of age! 

Resistance is futile:

A newly-banded "Harlequin" is held by The Honourable Linda Jeffrey, Minister of Natural Resources, as Harlequin CEO Donna Hayes and an unidentified woman (to me, my fault, shame on me!) look on with glowing pride:

But time has run our for us humans, as "Harlequin" must be returned to her nest, so the rooftop process is reversed.

The bands on her legs can be seen here, if you double-click on the photo (then hit the BACK button to return to the blog):

Mother "Quest" continues her attack does spins of joy and delight in the air when she sees her baby back home again, she knows she definitely made the right call to pay that ransom amount, especially as she had no input whatsoever from her missing mate "Kendal", grrrrr: 

But suddenly, right out of nowhere, swoops in "Kendal" (aka D², or Deadbeat Dad), after all of the excitment is over for mom and the baby. Those of us down on the street cheered in unison when he appeared, it was an unbelievable moment! 

So here's your proof positive that Harlequin Peregrines, as do I, and especially the Canadian Peregrine Foundation.

Please check them out at

Many thanks to both Ann (I now forgive you for your trip out west!) and Mark Nash for including me in this amazing event, what an honour to be a part of it!

And my kudos and go out to all of those dedicated CPF volunteers who missed Tuesday's event because of their fledge-watch duty, as they keep a watchful eye on those young babies that may venture too far off their ledges and need rescuing!