A quick overnight run to Algonquin this week made for some interesting sightings along the way, starting with this glorious female Snowy Owl on her usual perch with commanding views of the Kawarthas:
Do they or don't they have ear tufts?
The second edition of The Sibley Guide to Birds mentions the "small head and no "ear" tufts" of the Snowy Owl, but indeed they do have them, they're just not always visible.
This beauty's ear tufts were ridiculously apparent, for an even better view, please double-click on the photo:
I recalled reading about this subject on Jean Iron's website, and with her permission (many thanks, Jean!) I'm including the link to her website, and then Ron Pittaway's imbedded article here:
(and who knew the Great Horned Owl is the Snowy Owl's closest living relative??!!)
Off she goes, giving great views of a web of sharp talons:
The sunlight reflecting off a distant Northern Shrike caught my attention outside of Bobcaygeon. This is considered to be a rare sighting this winter:
Algonquin never disappoints, even if wasn't especially "birdy" during my first visit there for the year. Thankfully three of my target species were seen, beginning with a pair of Boreal Chickadees:
Several Black-capped Chickadees outnumbered the Boreal Chickadee pair, but even in poor lighting the dull brown cap and brown flanks of the Boreal Chickadees easily differentiated them.
The Boreal Chickadees were mostly silent, except when I briefly recognized their wheezy calls from high up in some evergreens while searching (in vain) for a Spruce Grouse
(one would have sufficed, please, just one, grrrr) .
A paltry pair of Common Redpolls came into the feeders at the Visitor Centre:
A pair of Gray Jays greeted me at the parking lot at the Spruce Bog Boardwalk:
Wintry views from the bridge overlooking Smoke Creek was chillingly beautiful, thanks to swirling snow in the distance:
My consolation prize for the lack of birds revealed itself to me when odd noises were heard from high up in a tree:
An American Marten, also known as Pine Marten!
This inquisitive darling seemed equally curious about me as I was about it:
My sightings of Pine Martens are few, and this was the first time I've ever heard one, as it continued with its chuckles and growls while watching me. For those of you familiar with the Audubon Mammals app, the forty second voice recording of the American Marten is exactly what I heard!
Martens are weasel-like mammals, with a long, bushy tail, pointed snout, and small ears. To better see their large feet, double-click on the photo:
This Marten was brown, with a paler head and underparts, an orange chest, and darker legs:
Snow fell on both of us as it moved around in the tree, magic!
(best viewed by double-clicking on these photos to enlarge)
Pine Martens use branches, tree hollows, and squirrel nests as resting sites...
...falling asleep (or as my uncle used to say, "resting one's eyes):
Martens frequent the suet feeders in Algonquin, but also feed on squirrels, which might explain why a few Red Squirrels in an adjacent tree were quite noisy:
We said our farewells when I continued on my way, and it was gone when I returned an hour later...
And how wonderful that my last bird for the trip on my way home was my spark bird, a spectacular subadult Bald Eagle: