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

Friday, September 30, 2011

Straggler Catch-up: Warbler Hell was Upon Me

Back to the reality of my cottage critters before Ann's arrival on September 13th: today I find myself back in Warbler Hell, but it's a kill me   shoot me now  welcome break from scary Moose and whining Osprey. Well, not quite re the Osprey, but at least this post has some other goodies in it for a change, beginning with our resident Otter who made another one of his visits at dawn off the dock, he was actually snorting when he came up out of the lake with a crayfish in tow:

My spidergirl friend Laura called me about this beautiful Monarch Butterfly chrysalis she found on her garage door. Look carefully and you will see the orange and black wings!

I returned a few days later to find it gone, but did find this Monarch Butterfly in all its glory nearby:

On Friday, September 9th, I inadvertently entered Warbler Hell while taking a walk along the back road towards the swamp, beginning with this first year male Common Yellowthroat:

It seemed like only the young ones were out and about, always intrigued by the sound of my camera (and not put off by my groans as I struggled to identify them). This young male Black-throated Green's wobbly song was a dead giveaway, though, he would need to put some more effort into that for the gals, as acrobatic moves on their own just won't cut it:

A first year male Magnolia Warbler was a pleasant surprise:

By Golden Hour on the Saturday night, I was twitching for the Osprey nest, so off I went and while watching the babies, what is either a Song or a Swamp Sparrow landed on the wire fence next to me. I'm going with a Song, thanks to Master John as he's got more years of experience than I, plus the angle of the shot is limiting any other field markings:

Meanwhile, up in the nest, one of the Osprey babies was snoozing in the sunshine:

...and he's out cold, head drops down, zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz:

But not for long, as this one made his way over to one of their preferred spots in time for Golden Hour:

Early the next morning, after this gorgeous sunrise...

...a silent but curious young male Rose-breasted Grosbeak watched me from above along the back road towards the swamp:

And yup, again that night I found myself back at the nest at the Golden Hour, observing a gagging Osprey:

...a fluffy Osprey:

...a regal Osprey:

...a headless Osprey:

...and an itchy Osprey (can you begin to imagine what this would look like if those talons scratched out an eye??? Major OUCH!) :

By the morning of Monday, September 12th, I had been totally swallowed up by Warbler Hell. I'm only just now reviewing my photos today to identify these suckers, and granted, some were readily identifiable on the same day (wow, what a difference a year makes!), but others were still a challenge, and I even discovered some new species that I'd missed as my eyes no doubt glazed over them all. 

So here goes, in order of appearance that day down at the swamp, wheeeee!

Not a warbler at all, grrrr, a $#%^ Warbling Vireo!

A first year female Northern Parula:

Yellow-rumped Warbler:

Cape May Warbler:

First fall female Yellow-rumped Warbler:

At times she was too close for me to focus on her!

A female adult Blackburnian Warbler, my surprise photo find of the day and a toughie, thanks to Master John for agreeing with me!

A first year male Black-throated Green Warbler, with its same wobbly song from before:

And lastly PHEW! , a handsome first year male Northern Parula:

It was time for me to retreat back to the comfort zone of the Osprey nest that night as I was exhausted by all of those warblers. I tried to stay away, I really did, but I only stayed for half an hour, but what an unusual time it was that evening! Both babies were quite feisty and irritable with each other:

Dad flew in with his usual Golden Hour food drop...

...and all hell breaks loose with the babies, more so than usual. The one on the right has won the fish fight:

As I was checking my camera settings, the babies got into yet another skirmish and I heard a loud "SNAP". I immediately feared that it was an injury to one of their wings, but in the end figured out it was a breaking branch in the nest. They were extremely snarky and aggressive towards each other so maybe the father was weaning them off his food drops to encourage them to do it themselves. 

The baby eventually left the nest with the fish, making a brief fly-by around the area, and I fully expected it to land in one of their usual feeding trees. Instead it returned to the nest with the fish and stayed put, occasionally just looking at it, as the poor fish was still flapping around every so often. Here was proof that dad does not always remove the head for them, but the baby soon began to eat, putting the fish out of its misery.

With a tight grip on its meal,  the baby Osprey fluffed itself up, I just love the beauty of these magnificent birds:


It continued to contemplate its next move with its meal, always wary of its hungry sibling up in the nest:

I left them alone for another day, but was thrilled to have seen different behaviour during this visit, as this was the first time that I had seen such nasty battles. Perhaps they were finally figuring out that it was time for them to part company and head south? 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Moose Encounters of the OMG Kind

A day trip to Algonquin with Ann on Thursday, September 15th will stay in my mind forever for various reasons, beginning with this beautiful early morning view of Little Silver Lake as we left the Kawarthas for Algonquin:

We arrived at the park in good time, fuelled by lots of caffeine:

Our first stop was along Arowhon Road, and the poster bird for the park put in its first appearance for us that day, those feisty Gray Jays:

The rugged scenery was breath-taking along the trail:

Birds were somewhat scarce, though, with lots of noisy blue Jays and Northern Flickers in the area, but a tail-pumpin' Palm Warbler was also seen along the way...

But not to worry, our target critter for this trip was...

During our miserable wintry OFO trip back in April, we had failed to see any Moose along the highway, so we were determined to see one (only one, please, that's all we asked for!!) on this trip. The signs of their presence was everywhere, though, as fresh prints were on the trail... was fresh poop:

Ann attempts to hide her tears of disappointment that we've not yet seen one:

But our luck quickly changed as she spotted a Moose on the far side of a marsh as we made our way back along the trail! At precisely 12:16 p.m., this young male bull silently grazed at the water's edge, what a magnificent creature!

And off he goes into the woods, two minutes later at 12:18 p.m.:

Ann and I were thrilled beyond words, we both thanked the Moose gods for smiling down upon us that day, whoohooo!!! The timepiece gods momentarily smiled down on me as well, but sadly only for a brief moment :-(

We made our way back to the main highway looking for any other critters along the way, including this swimming Beaver:

But it was the landscape views in the park that we enjoyed the most after the Moose sighting, as the crisp, clean air and blue skies dominated the day: 

But we also had obligations back at the cottage, so on a whim we decided to go back to the marsh where the moose had been seen for one last possible look for him. After all, it was late-afternoon, with not too many other people around, and also a good feeding time for them, so off we went.

I had secretly timed the walk from the parking lot back to the marsh, so knew it would take me less than seven minutes to arrive there. Ann wanted to remain behind at the parking lot to play with the Gray Jays some more, so it was decided that I would head off to the marsh solo. But don't think we were total dummies  as we were knowledgeable and wise, outdoorsy types, I armed myself and Ann with those new geeky walkie talkies from Costco. That way, I could radio Ann to come join me if the Moose was still around am I smart or what, huh??? I scare myself sometimes.   

Here's what happened next:

4:09 p.m.: I leave for the marsh, with an ETA of 4:16 p.m. latest. Do a walkie talkie practice run with Ann, and all's good on that count.

4:10 p.m.: I'm flying along the trail on my mission to get to that marsh, and anyone who knows me well knows that I'm a speed demon when I walk on my own...

4:11 p.m.: I do a time check, and yup, am actually ahead of schedule to arrive at the marsh, probably only another four minutes to go as I'm making such good time. Then as I look up from my watch, ahead of me on the left hand side of the trail I see THIS:

4:11 p.m.: it's entirely possible that at this time, a few OMG's, along with few other  totally inappropriate words choice words came out of my mouth. What the heck, he was supposed to be in the marsh, not right on the TRAIL. 

4:12 p.m.: My photographer instinct to "get-the-shot-before- it-disappears" dwindled (although my shaking did not). Common sense finally prevailed and  I radio'd Ann back at the parking lot, telling her in a frantic whisper that "the #$^& moose was right on the trail."

4:13 p.m.: Still NO ANSWER from Ann. I'm gonna die alone. But at least when they recover my camera card, they'll know that I was trying different camera settings to get the best shot!

4:14 p.m.: I finally see Ann coming towards me, scurrying along the trail, phew! She arrives and I feel better already.

4:16 p.m.: (the time I was supposed to have arrived at the marsh!) We both photograph this young male Moose as he continues to calmly graze and wander out of sight off the path, but then he wanders back out onto it, always just a smidge closer to us. We're also doing the same, moving in a bit closer as he really didn't seem particularly concerned about us.

4:17 p.m.: Our little cream puff checks us out. I had no idea how shaken up I was at the time LIAR, you know exactly how scared you were!!!     until editing my photos, only to find that not one of them was even close to straight, my heart was racing and the adrenaline was pumping!

4:18 p.m.: Closer and closer we all get to one another....

4:19 p.m.: To our horror delight, we realize that there are, in fact, TWO young bulls on the trail, but if you double-click on these next two photos, the second one can be seen through the leaves on the right hand side of the first one, but at the time that I took these photos, I hadn't even seen him yet!!

4:19 p.m., a few seconds later: Both are revealed, OMG OMG OMG:

 4:22 p.m.: They now both continue to meander back and forth, in and out of the bushes on both sides of the trail, getting closer and closer to us. But now they're messing with us, as only one is visible- huh. We wonder where the other one is....

4:23 p.m.: Suddenly both have come back out to the middle of the trail, almost as if they've gone off in the bushes to consult with each other...

4:24 p.m.: We have no photographic proof of what happened next, but suffice it to say that we saw both of these magnificent beasts (whose shoulder height runs at about seven feet) slowly turn to face us head on, and begin to break into a TROT straight at us.

Ann and I both learned about the "fight or flee" instinct. Opting for the latter while screaming "we're gonna die", "start the car, start the car!!", we indeed made it safely back to the car, only to look back to see these two bulls chuckling away to themselves, but they were also apparently disappointed that their ruse to see human scat on the trail failed. 

4:41 p.m.: My last view of one of them. Yeah, I know, I know, we were idiots to go back even for a moment, but they continued to graze along the trail.

This was one of the most exhilarating thirty minutes ever in my life that I'll never forget, and even now as I relive it again while writing this post and reviewing the pictures, my heart still races like mad. These sightings that day are even more special to me now as I lived to tell the tale  Ann and I didn't have any more Moose encounters in the park.

Thank goodness, I say, as I really don't think we could have handled it! until the next time, that is