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

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Rescue Rockstars!

Andrew and Alex are my Toronto Wildlife Centre Rescue Rockstars, as I spent the last day of 2012 as an "on call" rescue volunteer with them both in south Whitby.

The Centre had been alerted to the plight of a Common Loon (!!) that had been trapped for a week in a small bit of open water in a frozen man-made pond without enough runway to take off:

During Fall migration we see hundreds of Loons along the shores of Lake Ontario, but rarely are they seen this late in the season. Arriving ahead of Andrew and Alex, I observed the Loon from a distance as it slowly swam back and forth in its small area, occasionally snoozing, but not diving.


Loons are one of the most challenging birds to catch up as they are phenomenal divers and are able to stay under water for ten minutes at a time should they so choose, so I was intrigued to learn what the rescue strategy would be. 

They soon arrived and after carefully assessing the situation, Alex donned his ice rescue suit...


...and the three of us headed down to the pond armed with assorted rescue and safety gear that included nets, lifelines, a dinghy and paddle, along with the standard drop sheets to cover the Loon up once captured. This was my first Loon rescue so I was eager to watch and learn and help wherever possible, so I followed Andrew and Alex's instructions every step of the way.

The Loon had already disappeared into the icy waters, but right before that, I admit to an eerie feeling when I heard its plaintive call that was so bizarre to hear with ice and snow on the ground! Alex slowly and carefully (hence the ice rescue suit!) made his way towards the open water with a large net:

Alex continued along the ice, while Andrew and I watched and waited from the shore:

The Loon kept resurfacing every so often, but was still underwater while Andrew helped Alex get the other end of the net in place...

What happened next was pure genius: the net was lowered down into the open water with some slack and then we all waited for the Loon to swim up into it when resurfacing! The first few times it evaded capture by wisely resurfacing into a net-free zone of the open water, but eventually an error in judgment resulted in its capture in the net. 

Andrew and Alex swiftly pulled the captured Loon out of the water and once freed from the net, immediately brought it over to be covered up with the drop sheet. Already well aware of the Loons' best line of defence, its killer beak, I carried it up to the van where Alex helped me place it in the kennel cab which was immediately covered with a drop sheet as the Loon was randomly spearing its beak in self-defence.

The reality of nature is that not all of our wildlife rescues have a happy ending, and this was one of those instances, which is the reason for my delay in sharing my experience that day.

But I wait no longer, as I wish to recognize Andrew and Alex for their resourcefulness, initiative, caring and compassion towards wildlife each and every day.

I also wish to thank Andrew and Alex for the opportunity they gave me that day to help with the rescue, as it's my very small way of giving back to those creatures that have given me so much pleasure in nature.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Back Roading in Pickering

On Saturday, January 5th, eighteen Pickering Naturalists enjoyed thirty-two different species of birds while back roading in Pickering for our annual Feeder Tour, one of our most popular outings.

Forget the Year of the Dragon or Snake, this certainly is the Year of the Finch as one of our best feeder stops was in Greenwood where we enjoyed numerous Common Redpolls, such pretty little finches with their red caps and varying degrees of streaking:

Although photographic proof eluded me, we were fairly certain of a Hoary Redpoll amongst the Commons.  Pine Siskins and American Goldfinches were plentiful with the occasional House Finch, and along the same road we even encountered an American Robin.

The Pine Siskins outnumbered the Redpolls on the feeder at times:

I recall Redpoll droughts on prior years' outings, but for sure this year, everyone enjoyed excellent views of Common Redpolls:

Whitevale Road was another rewarding area for us where an impromptu stop to get better views of an American Kestrel resulted in a bonus pair of Red-bellied Woodpeckers, as were some unexpected Eastern Bluebirds that moved back and forth from the hydro lines to a thicket below.

We stopped in at Betty Pegg's home in Claremont for a visit where warm beverages and baking greeted us...

...followed by a visit to Brouwer's for the most colourful and exotic and uncountable species of the day:

As always, the highlight of the day was our final stop at Rosemary and Jonathan Oliver's beautiful home overlooking the Rouge River. Talk about stocked feeders with plenty of feathered and furry visitors! Their Red-bellied, Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers were frequently seen coming in and out to the feeders, as were American Goldfinches, House Finches, White-throated and American Tree Sparrows, Dark-eyed Juncos, Northern Cardinals, a plump Eastern Grey Squirrel, a Red-tailed Hawk that surveyed the area every so often, along with a Sharp-shinned Hawk that knew how to break up a party as it whipped through the area, retuning later to perch on a snag checking out the menu at the feeders:

A Northern Flicker was a major coup for the Winter Listers amongst us as we cheered in unison when it appeared we scare ourselves sometimes :

There was even an unexpected discovery of a Jones glendaialis species (aka "Glenda")  late in the day at the Oliver's! Truth be known, she was there for the view, the birds, the hospitality, the home baked sweets, treats and fresh soup, and of course the camaraderie of nature lovers.

Many thanks to Rosemary and Jonathan for once again opening up their elegant doors to us, as I suspect it's what kept all of us motivated throughout the wintry day, knowing exactly where we would wrap up our tour for the day. 

It's always a challenge each year to find worthwhile feeders that are well-stocked with seed to bring in the birds, so a huge thanks to John and Doug for scouting out the back roads ahead of the day to streamline the route for us.