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

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Tracking the Tundras

The annual spring migration of Tundra Swans through Southern Ontario was underway this week, so it was time for me to return to the Long Point area along Lake Erie. 

But it wasn't only for the swans. This was my first of a few Bald Eagles seen that day: 

I later stumbled upon a very distant Bald Eagle nest with a parent on it! 

A red morph Eastern Screech-owl was snoozing in the sun:

Something dark on the ice caught my eye: a coyote was testing his math skills by demonstrating that the shortest distance between two points was a straight line. 

He must have heard me on the pier as he stopped and looked right at me!

A mink quickly and silently crawled beneath a boathouse: 

A lot of Turkey Vultures were on the move, but several were also seen resting during their long journey back to the north (I wonder if any of these sweeties will end up by the cottage again this year!!):

Open water was still at a premium which meant waterfowl concentrations were good. Tundra Swans were in the background, with dozens of Redheads and Canvasbacks in the foreground:

Sandhill Cranes were both seen and heard from a distance, but watching Redheads in flight (thanks to a Bald Eagle!) was a treat:

What a sight to see so many elegant Canvasbacks: 

Their beautiful profile was unmistakable, the female is in front of the male:

Even in flight they were gorgeous! 

But the stars of the day were the Tundra Swans, hundreds if not thousands of them were out on the water...

...and on the wing:

Birders always know it's spring when Tundra Swans reliably move through this part of the province from their wintering grounds on the Atlantic coast as they return to their arctic breeding grounds. The timing can vary a bit depending upon the weather but once they begin to arrive in good numbers it's time to make the long drive to see and hear them before they continue on with their journey.

Most of them remained on the water that day, although I was able to find a few hundred in the fields. 

But it didn't matter as their mellow bugle calls filled the air with music: 


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Ring-billed, errr, I mean Ring-NECKED Duck!

My recent close encounters with winter ducks have brought back fond memories of time well spent a year ago along the Toronto lakeshore with a cooperative male Ring-necked Duck. 

He was easily recognized by the white ring around his bill rather than the cinnamon ring around his neck that is difficult to see:

I was shocked to see him parading  around on the ice during my first visit!

Not overly graceful, he made his way back into the water:

Needless to say, I returned a couple of weeks later and this time he came right up to me:

His cinnamon ring around the neck can be easily seen now: 

A very brief preening session ended almost as soon as it began:


Again, his cinnamon collar is visible but from a distance it's almost always a challenge to see:

His yellow-orange eye reflected nicely in the water: 

Taking a sip of Lake Ontario water, eeek!

The white shoulder spurs in front of his wings are another distinguishing field mark: 

Another sip of water:

Water droplets fall from his bill:

But it wasn't only about this handsome boy ACTUALLY, IT WAS, WHO ARE YOU KIDDING , there were other back-up birds for the day, including a pretty Mallard:

A dripping Mute Swan:

My only flight shot, to date, of an American Wigeon:

The Red-winged Blackbirds were back in full force (remember that this was a year ago):

The Toronto skyline, which no doubt has changed over the past year:

A bouncy Bufflehead:

A Gadwall on land:

But for sure the star of the day, and perhaps even for all of last winter was this Ring-billed necked Duck, I've missed him this year!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

I Can't Help Myself....

My time with the Long-tailed Ducks earlier last week was so much fun that it was impossible for me to stay away, so a few days later I returned to the harbour at sunrise. This time it was much colder, resulting in less open water which worked to my advantage as the male and female Long-tailed Ducks were now even closer to me. I crawled across the boulders and wedged myself in place to spend an hour with them:

The water on the back of the male at times sparkled like beautiful diamonds in the early light:

Considering a dive:

The female always dove first, followed by the male:

Yet the male always swam in closer to me after re-surfacing:

...and he'd be gone:


My patience paid off as the male began a spectacular preening session, just look at that tail!

Hard work, this is serious stuff!

Taking the plunge:

The fine couple are together for a change...

...but not for long, the ripples from the female's dive can be seen on the right:

...and the male follows her:

A few minutes later, their diving routine continues:

The male moves in closer to me yet again:

Another dive:

Suddenly another male swims into the area from under the pier: 

The first one isn't impressed...

...and he makes his way closer to the female:

A scuffle breaks out between the three of them:

...and the intruding male is banished. 

Until a third male appears from under the pier!

Notice the plumage difference between the two males:

The new male was also interested in the clicks of my camera but eventually moved on:

My last looks at the diving male, as it was time for me to crawl out from between the boulders:

I continued on my way and was successful in finding a sunbathing Eastern Screech-Owl for my Year List:

Interesting reflections in the canal reminded me of autumn golds and bronzes in Algonquin six months earlier: 

Even though I was further away from the Long-tails at my next stop, I was very pleased with the images I captured:  

A preening male:


Calm waters with reflections:

Textured backdrop:

Black and white beauty:

A sip of water:


Yes, there's a Long-tail in them thar waters!


And it wasn't all about Long-tailed Ducks NO, REALLY??!!, as a few White-winged Scoters were close to the pier as well:

So ended another memorable trip to Lake Ontario for Long-tailed Ducks, I just couldn't help myself! 

Speaking of which, perhaps the Snowy Owls I encountered today will be my last good views for the season? 

This is one wretched flight shot of the first one I saw this morning. I have to say, without a doubt, that she is the most massive female I've seen all winter. She was huge, as in don't-mess-with-me huge. I pity her prey, if they were to see her coming at them:

The next female was tiny by comparison, and therefore a lot less frightening: 

And just when you thought there'd be no more Snowy Owl pics, heheheeee. I can't help myself. 

Bring on migration.