Five Birding Days

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A relatively uncommon red squirrel has its place among a host of greys

From April 15 to 19 we’ve been walking in the early-ish morning to witness the spring migration. The black-crowned night heron has been here for several days and we saw the great blue heron on Saturday and Sunday. The kinglets, golden and ruby-crowned are still here, having arrived a few days later than usual.

I’ve put up a few photos:

***

Wednesday, April 15

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

 

Sunday

We saw a male yellow-bellied sapsucker and only one ruby-crowned kinglet, spent quality time with the night herons and spooked the great blue heron, who has eluded my still camera thus far this year.

Bye for now.

April 8…Kinglets!

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Golden-crowned Kinglet – April 8

The kinglets are here, a little late. Most were golden-crowned. The earliest we’ve ever seen them in Our Woods is March 31. All photos are from Laurelcrest Park except the crocuses – they’re from our front garden.

But first, a poem…

Unnatural Selection

The robins and grackles are back from the Gulf
The latter I chase from the feeders
Five cardinal couples we welcome with speed
And everything smaller is welcome, indeed!
And one pair of blue jays partakes of our seed.
Sans grackles Big Blues are the leaders
 ***

 

 

Rain-assisted Birding Bonanza

 

 

This spring we have had some lousy weather, not much fun for us until the spring migration of birds through “Our Woods.”

The bad weather (wind and rain and cold) has turned into a blessing, since the warblers, kinglets and other migrating species that fly north through our back yard and the park with a stream behind us have been forced to sleep over a few days more than usual. A frequent walk north by the two small lakes is great, but we can see them from our dining room bay and master bedroom windows because they like to visit our back yard.

This year we have been paying extra attention and had several first sightings, including the northern goshawk, canvasback duck and pied-billed grebe (see previous post.)

Anita saw a black-throated green warbler last week – a first for this year.

May 10 was a birding bonanza! A spectacular first-ever sighting of a male Scarlet Tanager, and in OUR back yard! Our Spotter saw at the bay window the Tanager, a catbird, Nashville warblers, a female yellow warbler, a palm warbler, a black throated blue warbler, female, then male rose-breasted grosbeaks, white throated and white crowned sparrows, a song sparrow, and a brown thrasher.

On May 13, with the aid of my Spotter’s keen eye and my SONY 200 mm zoom lens we were able to clearly identify a Philadelphia vireo, vireo species being very difficult to distinguish from each other. See last photo above.

The grosbeaks stayed from the 10th to the 14th, departing this morning before 7 A.M. on a rare fair weather day. The white-throated sparrows stayed over a week and the white-crowned since Friday. They haven’t left yet!

Today an American Redstart was finally seen after being heard for a few days.

We are still hoping for an indigo bunting, having seen one in 1996 on the back lawn and in 2011 at the sunflower seed feeder.

The hummingbird feeder went up today. My target was May 3…

My SONY alpha A-6000 mirrorless SLR has come in handy for getting enough detail on birds that don’t wait around for me to take notes. I’ve used it mainly set up for quick action: continuous shooting medium or high (important for quick-moving subjects like warblers and swallows feeding over water). I was able to confirm the rough-winged swallow from its shape and colour with the very blurry photo above. I have been playing with DMF auto focus with manual assist to fine tune or rapidly and crudely adjust focus. Perfection is impossible in some situations.

First Sightings For Us

 

 

Early April is the time when those birding juices start flowing in “Our Woods.” I started keeping records in April, 1994.

The earliest date for the migrating Kinglets: March 31, 1998. On this date we saw both Golden- and Ruby-Crowned Kinglets.

Here’s a list of what we’ve seen so far in 2019:

March 23: We saw our first-ever Northern goshawk at our feeder. It may have been after birds that were feeding there. A few days later there was a Great Blue Heron on the Parr Lakes.

Robins and red-winged blackbirds have been here since late March.

April 7: We first noticed  golden-crowned kinglets. As of April 13 we haven’t seen the ruby-crowned variety for certain.

A first-ever sighting of the canvasback duck. Four on the south end of Lower Parr Lake.

Several crows gathering noisily in Laurelcrest Park.

Bufflehead ducks on Lower and Upper Parr Lake in Laurelcrest Park. Only other time we have seen them was on April 14, 1995. They were diving for food, staying down for short (13 s to 45 s) times. As of April 13 the two are still here.

April 11: I spotted a brown creeper and cormorants and identified the call of a white-throated sparrow for the first time this year.

April 13: A first ever sighting of a Pied-billed Grebe diving for food on Upper Parr Lake. This bird stays under for well over a minute. This photo helped ID the bird from a distance. Taken with my Alpha A-6000 using a 200 mm zoom when 130 yards away.

 

 

 

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

 

 

After a 20 cm (8 “) snowfall yesterday I glimpsed the red-bellied woodpecker at the feeder today.

We regularly get cardinals, chickadees, juncos, house sparrows, winter-faded American goldfinches, rose-breasted and white-breasted nuthatches, downy and hairy woodpeckers. A few blue jays this year have been around and the “red-bellied” seems to appear after snowstorms mainly.

I didn’t dare open the patio door (that scared it last time) or run for a bigger lens and patiently waited, while others like the female cardinal took turns. for less than ten minutes for it to come back while smaller birds had their turn.

I had the A-6000 and used the old 18-55 zoom from my old NEX-5N set on continuous shooting (mid speed) and captured the last two as it flew away:

 

All photos were taken at f/8, ISO 100 and 1/125.

Blue Jay

 

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Blue Jay with sunflower seed in back yard Jan 12

During the spring and fall we often see lots of Blue Jays passing through “Our Woods.” Sometimes a few, like this one, hang around in winter and feed from the old feeder off our deck landing. This one has been coming regularly this winter, causing my wife and I to talk about their seemingly weird migration pattern. So I checked our National Geographic “Field Guide to the Birds of North America,” which we bought last year to replace our old Peterson guide that went missing. I like this one because it puts Range Maps next to the bird photos, but descriptive info is on the brief side and it includes so many species that it’s also heavier to lug around than the more area-specialized Peterson Guide we had. For Birds of Canada we have a large coffee table size book. And there’s always the Internet and, if we’re out for a walk, the Audubon app on my iPad mini.

Classified as ‘year round’ in southern Ontario, Blue Jays actually fly further north than the GTA in spring to breed. That explains why we rarely see them in the summer.

The above photo was opportunistically taken with my SONY Alpha A-6000 using the old 18-55 mm SONY E-mount lens fully-zoomed. I was using spot focus and mid speed continuous shooting drive mode.

A Glorious Potted Hibiscus

 

We were given this potted hibiscus in January and put it out on the deck in the spring. I think I fertilized once with soluble 15-30-15 in a fertilizer sprayer.

I decided after listening to an expert on tomatoes who suggested strongly to someone who hadn’t seen any flowers: “Don’t feed them.”

I decided not to feed this plant again and it began to flower prolifically in late August and you can see that the early September photo on the right has at least three more blooms to come. I wonder if this plant wouldn’t have done as well if it had been fed more often. What do you think?

Also we have seen ruby-throated hummingbirds passing through our yards in late August and on September 1. I read that the males leave Ontario in July, the females follow in August and this summers’ babies migrate south to Mexico and Central America in September. How cool is that?

Ducks On Our Front Lawn??

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A pair of Mallards in our front garden near our Magnolia check me out.

At the beginning of an ice storm, as the trees start to collect ice on their branches, my spotter noticed these two on the lawn. The female’s beak gives her away and this is only a crop of a low resolution photo taken by my old iPad Air.

Made me think how important the male colouring is to attract a female but, once the important job is done, her camouflage becomes vital and his perhaps less so. A new insight for me perhaps…

But the appearance of these two on our front lawn is something we don’t remember ever seeing. A few in the creek behind our house are common, and the two small subdivision “lakes” have plenty because folks, yep…, feed both them and the plentiful geese that like to be fed the easy way.

Anyway, it’s worth noting.