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Nature in it's glory

Nature in it's glory

Nov 24, 2011

Alberta winter birds

Today's outing brought home both a surprise and new knowledge about winter and birds in Alberta.  In fact, the day brought more than one surprise.  Starting with the temperature outside, which being -4 this morning, is not typical for Alberta at this time of the year.  In fact that's almost balmy for Albertans.  I said hoora to that and unpacked my camera, having packed it away for winter because it doesn't do well in extremely cold weather.  I will admit that I didn't go far and I was hoping to see some Common Redpolls at the very least, but I really wasn't expecting to see much more than the usual neighborhood birds such as Blue Jays, Chickadees, Merlins, Owls and one, or both species of nuthatch, just to name a few.

Goldfinch female

The first of the birds I heard was not one of those, in fact it had me moving right quickly to locate it.  It's song sounded much like that of the Pine Grosbeak, but that, I realized when I saw it, was the wrong id, since those birds are definitely not yellow.  The photos I got aren't very clear because the bird is at the top of a tall tree and, unfortunately, I don't have a telephoto lens yet.  However I can make out just enough of this bird's coloring to identify it, but to do that I had to do some digging.  I ended up doing a general search on the internet about wintering birds in the province and got more than one surprise, all them good. 

The first is that the bird at the top of that tree turns out to be a female American Goldfinch, a first sighting for me.  The second surprise is that many more bird species remain in Alberta over the winter than most people assume, including hawks and ducks.  Although the American Goldfinch does migrate, not all of them do, just like not all Canada Geese migrate.  This of course is wonderful news for me, which means I can't wait to get out there again, provided it isn't too cold.  If you wish to find out which species are regularly sighted in Alberta every winter just follow this link: http://www3.ns.sympatico.ca/maybank/other/abwinter.htm

Purple Finch male and female
My last surprise of the day was another first sighting.   One that I didn't realize I had made, because I was totally focused on getting another glimpse of the Goldfinch.  When I got a good look at all of my photos for today, I discovered a photo of Purple Finches in yet another tree top.  Again the photo isn't particularly good, although better than the one of the Goldfinch.  But that's ok, usually if I see a bird once, I see it again sooner or later, although hopefully sooner.  That means better photos are in store eventually.


Nov 15, 2011

One second with Nature: November

                                                     Nature provides

The unintentional side effects of poison

Common Raven

Many local businesses have resorted to using poison to control pest species such as Pigeons and Rodents.   The reasons for doing so vary from loss of property and profit, to health concerns, and droppings leaving an unsightly mess on the sides of the buildings and rooftops.   However, the use of poison to control these pest species has a very unfortunate side effect that very few people mention, witness or even understand.

The poison that is used does not just target and kill the intended pest species.  In fact it can, and does act like a disease, which spreads to include other species.  Take the Raven for example.  Not only do local Ravens hunt Pigeons for food in winter, thus helping to control their population, they also eat carrion.  Their doing so helps prevent the spread of disease, but has now come with deadly consequence.  Just lately I was told by a friend that the body of a Raven had been found in a Garden Center without wounds, or other indication of injury that may have caused it's death, and this was not the first time this year.  While the Garden center is now closed, they still store seed and so, still implement pest control measures.

A couple of days ago I came across this little bird, in the photo below, outside of a business, near that same garden center.  It was a very sad species introduction for me.  As you can see there are no wounds, there is also no window nearby, ruling out a window strike.  My best guess, since this is a seed eating species, is that he got into some of the poisoned seed left out for the Pigeons on the rooftop.  
Common Redpoll male
Carrion eating species of birds and finches are not the only species to be affected.  Some of the poison that is left out for pest species to consume, is slow acting and creates horrible suffering.  Once the poison takes effect, the creature cannot move very fast or very far.  I have seen this many times, when I worked in a warehouse that stored and sold grain and seed products.  The result is that the poisoned creature can often be found out in the open somewhere between the location of the poison and a place of safety.  This leaves them vulnerable to predators such as the Merlin below, a Peregrine Falcon, an Owl or even a pet cat.

Family cat
While the predators may then instantly relieve their suffering, they in turn will suffer and die, when the Rodent or Pigeon is consumed.  Their bodies, if not left to decompose, will eventually be discovered and consumed by one of the many carrion eating species of wildlife.  If they do not consume the dead or dying creature themselves, as might be the case during the breeding season, then an Owl, Raven, or Merlin will feed the poisoned pest species to their mate, or their young, killing them instead.

While I know that this was not intentional on the part of the decision makers involved, the use of poison as pest control measure has created a very bad, very indiscriminate cycle of death for many wildlife species that needs to be stopped.   However, the sad truth is, this local community isn't the only one to use poison to control pest species populations and eliminate health threats.  Poison has been used for many years by communities the world over.  Are there alternatives?  More in another post.


Nov 9, 2011

Defying Gravity

Going Down

One of the reasons I will never tire of watching birds is the many things that birds are capable of doing.  The White-breasted Nuthatch is one of my favorite small birds to watch, if I get lucky enough to have one occupied with foraging at a single tree for any length of time, that is.
White-breasted Nuthatch just hanging on
As a species they seem to enjoy walking down the tree head first.  Sometimes they walk down in a quick spiral, stopping now and again to swallow a bug.  This one, however entertained me by showing off his strong legs and feet, and defying gravity altogether as he did so.  He walked along the underside of the branch, taking his time and foraging as he went.  Then he just dropped off.

Viewing the world upside down
Looking for bugs

His little wings spread and he was gone in a blink.


Nov 4, 2011

Fall Flames

Northern Flicker in part silhouette

The mind's eye sees more than it's physical counter part picks up.  This can include the brightness and contrast of color, details on the wings of a bird, or the slightest motion.  A camera can help to capture what the physical eye has missed.  In this post I thought I would share some of my favorite photos from this fall.  All but one of these images are modified to emphasize the natural beauty which prompted me to take the photos.

Color flow
Cascade of flame

Sometimes the light is just right to help capture that image on camera, and at other times the natural mix of colors help to frame a momentary scene almost perfectly.

Common Yellowthroat

White-breasted Nuthatch
Golden Flame