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Nature in it's glory

Nature in it's glory

Mar 30, 2012

Grateful to the Crows

The first birds arriving back in the city are usually the Crows and Seagulls, although this year they seemed to have timed their arrival to coincide with the White-throated sparrows and Robins.  While I heard both of the latter species, it was the Crows that got my attention a couple of days ago.  As many of you know, Crows can at times be very noisy.  What you may not know, is that there is usually a reason.

In defense mode

Crows call out a warnings when there is an eagle in the sky for example, or predator of another sort in the area. When the predator settles in, or near their territories, and they perceive it to be enough of a threat, they will literally gang up on that predator.  This is when you will see many crows suddenly converging on a specific point and they will not be quiet about it.  You will see them diving and swooping at the predator, generally harassing it until it leaves, and then they will escort the predator away, with continual mobbing to make certain it doesn't return.

Crows calling

This is a scene I came upon, when I entered the little forest down the street.  I was curious as to what had the Crows in such an uproar, so I made my way to where they had converged.  They were harassing a Barred Owl.  Although, I didn't see the Owl, until the Crows finally flushed him from his resting place. The action was fast and furious, and it took the crows several tried to finally flush the Owl out into the open, and I never did get a photo of the Owl.   The Owl was large and magnificent, and stubborn.  So much so, that it took the Crows several tries, which allowed me to get a few quick views of the Owl.  Since I have never seen an Owl before, I am grateful to the Crows.  I will also be sure to keep an eye on them, who knows what they may show me next.


Mar 21, 2012

Tiny Woodpecker

I'm seeing a lot of woodpeckers lately and they are not shy.  This little Downy Woodpecker was a delight.

Downy Woodpecker male

He clearly saw me with my camera, but chose to ignore my presence, much like the Pileated woodpecker in my last post.

Choosing to ignore me

 He even came closer, by landing just above me a couple of times.  

Going about his business

That's why birding in the spring can be so much fun.

Where to next

Right above me
The birds are so busy selecting their mates and seeking sustenance that they are more visible and tolerant of the attentions of humans on occasion.


Mar 16, 2012

One second with nature: March

                       Spring is upon us, why not head out into the wild, and let the spring winds carry you towards a new nature adventure?


Mar 15, 2012

Woodpecker close encounter

      The first birds I saw today were Bohemian Waxwings in the hundreds adorning every tree top.  They are gathering for their migration north, and were too far for decent photos.  But then I saw a flash of red out of the corner of my eye.  When I went to investigate, I came upon this Pileated male woodpecker on the forest floor.  He was busy excavating a fallen log.

Male Pileated woodpecker
He spots me
Contemplating his next move
He takes a second look
                            Turns out he is not at all shy.  He looked at me, then looked again and clearly discounted me as a threat. 

This looks interesting
                                               Here he is ignoring me.

Here he is above me later
In fact, even though I made no attempt to hide and was anything but quiet as I walked slowly through the forest, I was so unthreatening, that ten minutes later he landed right above me on a tree.  He pounded away at the bark quite some time, totally unconcerned by my presence, before he meandered off.  Slowly moving from tree to tree, but just far enough out of sight that I could get no more clear shots.


Mar 13, 2012

Adorable Chickadee

Chickadees are challenging to capture on camera without a tripod, because they are quite simply hyperactive.  However, they are adorable and an absolute delight to watch.  If you can follow their flight path, that is, since they are so very quick and agile.  The following photos are some of my favorites of this weekend.

Thirsty birds eat snow
Chickadee chin up

Looking for the next culinary opportunity

Trying a different view
Sometimes you  gotta let go
Despite a fast shutter speed setting, this last photo is quite blurred.   I included it to show you just how quick these tiny birds can be. 


Mar 11, 2012

All the signs are there

I do believe spring is well on it's way.   All the signs are there.   The sun is bright and strong.  The snow is melting fast and the sound of running, or dripping water is everywhere.   Male squirrels are chasing the females.   There are noisy chases around the trunks of a trees, which continue high overhead amongst the branches.  There are also squabbles amongst the finches and sparrow.

I heard persuasive mating calls of White throated sparrows and saw a White-breasted nuthatch singing his best enticing song from the tip of an exposed branch, yesterday.  This is a sight I don't normally see, since  Nuthatches prefer to stay under cover, and certainly don't stay still for very long.

White-breasted Nuthatch male
Interrupted song
Today I saw a nuthatch pairing.   Apparently the male not only woes the female with song, but does so with food as well.

Male feeding a female
Male and Female on the sidewalk
The one would follow the other where ever he or she went and communication between the pair was constant.
One takes off
At one point they landed on the side walk, presumably to pick up some small stones to help them digest food.  Before long however, one took to the trees and half a second later the other followed.

They'll  make their nest in a woodpecker hole like the one above.  Although it will have to be a much higher off the ground.  Lot's of cover will help to protect the nestlings as well, and it wont be long now before all trees bud, the plants begin to grow, insects emerge to drone and the migrant birds arrive to begin their own mating ritual.


Mar 6, 2012

More Snow = More Bohemian Waxwings

The Branch of a Fruit Tree

I hadn't planned on going out today, because it was snowing.  But it stopped about midday and the sun came out, finally.   We've been getting a lot of snow this past week, just like last year at this time, and just like last year, more snow equals more Bohemian Waxwings, much to my delight.  No doubt that is because there are a lot of fruit trees in my neighborhood, as well as a couple of forested areas where they can roost.  Bohemian waxwings love to eat fruit in winter.  In fact they will eat it almost exclusively.  They will often eat so much fruit that are known to become intoxicated.

Bohemian in profile
Bohemian Waxwing
When I left my house I spotted a fruit tree that had an abundant amount of fruit still dangling from every branch.  I took a couple of photos of it, because it looked pretty contrasted again the blue sky.   Then I headed down the street, very conscious of all manner of bird song coming from every direction.

Small flock in the fruit tree
coming in for a landing
I didn't hear the Bohemians until I had walked several blocks.  There is no  mistaking their high pitched peeps and whistles.  Despite the fact that under normal circumstances a waxwing's voice doesn't carry far, when there is a large flock they make a lot of noise.  At first I heard more than I saw, but then a small  flock of Bohemian Waxwings took to the air.

Arriving and taking off
Startled into flight
When I got closer to the area where they took off, I realized that every single tree was occupied with 30 to 50 Bohemian waxwings, if not more.  Many were well hidden amongst the branches of the pine trees they occupied.  Those pine trees being the staging area for their war with survival.

They would take off and return in waves.  Those that arrived in the tree tops, busied themselves eating the snow blanketing the branches to quench their thirst.  Those that left were in pursuit of fruit.  They all seemed to be heading to, and returning from the same direction, which was back to where I live.  I took dozens of photos and then headed back.

Reaching for the fruit
Plucking the fruit
When I reached the point where I was almost back to the fruit, I stopped to listen  to a couple of chickadee's, hoping to see them.   Two things happened next, a vehicle passed by me at speed and a large flock of birds took off from the fruit tree directly behind me.  When I turned to look I noted that there were a few hardy Bohemians still perched in the tree and that the waxwings had managed to strip the tree of much of it's fruit in the half hour that I had been gone. 

A Close up
Set for Take off
I managed to get a few photos before another vehicle moved past,  spooking the majority of the birds into flight once again.  This happened several times over the next few minutes.  My best guess is that those who remained are either very determined to feast on the fruit, or are used to traffic sounds.

Stripped bare of fruit

Injured bird
Unfortunately a bus went by next startling the birds so badly, that one flew into the window of the house directly behind the fruit tree.  It struck the bay window with an audible thump. The poor bird struggled to fly to another tree nearby, but was injured enough that when all the other waxwings took off, it stayed on the branch on which it had landed, one wing drooping slightly and breathing hard.  It did not react to anything at all at this point, not my presence nor the sound of the traffic. 

I stayed and watched it helplessly for a few minutes, but there was nothing that I could do, when it was perched some five feet or more above my head, unless it fell.  It didn't, and I headed home hoping it was merely in shock; knowing that it was easy prey for any number of predators if it wasn't.  When I checked a little while later, the waxwing was gone.


Mar 2, 2012


For the most part it has been much too cold to take my camera out, but I did nip down to the little forest down the street for a short time at the beginning of the week.  The very first creature I saw was a Coyote, unfortunately the image I got was not in anyway good enough to add to this post.  Better luck next time.

After taking photos of some lovely House Finches, I came upon a Magpie who decided posing for me would be a good thing.

House Finch male
House Finch female
Black billed Magpie
Magpies, are in plentiful supply here in Alberta and are considered to be pests by many people.  However, they are handsome birds, with their black and white suit, and iridescent long tail.

Not long after taking photos of this beauty, I thought I heard a Pileated Woodpecker and followed the sound.  I heard it several times, coming from different directions.  Which was entirely too odd, given the speed with which he seemed to change directions.

It turns out Mr. Raven was playing tricks on me by mimicking  the woodpecker.  This is something that Raven's are very good at and provided me with a chuckle.  Raven's are capable of mimicking many animals, as well as human speech and sounds.  I heard a Raven mimic human laughter once, if that doesn't make a person smile I don't know what does.

Mr Raven showing off his tail

Perched in a tree

The Raven was flying from one tree to another and finally announced his presence with a deep croak.  I have seen a lot of this particular Raven, he is easily distinguished by a very deep voice.  Unfortunately, unlike the Magpie, he did not like to be photographed, although I did get some very nice photos anyway.