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Nature in it's glory

Nature in it's glory

May 18, 2013

One Second with Naure: May 2013

Western Tanager-first of the migrants this year

May 16, 2013

Hawks, ducks and shorebirds

Swainson's Hawk
This past week I visited my favorite ponds on the south side. I chose to visit them for several reasons, one of which was that I was hoping to catch sight of some White pelicans I saw there last year.

The Female Swainson's
Right above me

Instead I captured some gorgeous images of a pair of Swainson's Hawks. They have returned for the fifth or sixth year running.  It was fascinating to watch them interact, and at one point even chase off another of their kind, that was intruding on their territory. 

After spending some time listening for songbirds and wandering around the forested edge of the first pond, I meandered over to the larger and second pond.

Killdeer posing
Doing the head-bob
 Here I discovered, that the high pippin sounds I had been hearing, that were driving me wild with curiosity, had been made by this very cooperative Killdeer. The fact that it didn't immediately fly off really made me happy. As you can see I even managed to get several decent images of it.

Pair of Gadwall ducks
Handsome male Gadwall
 But that was not all, there was a pair of Gadwall ducks resting on the edge of the pond not too far from where the Killdeer had been strutting and posing. I was startled by their presence because they did not quack or hiss in alarm like Mallard ducks are wont to do. In fact, if they hadn't moved, I likly wouldn't have seen them. I haven't seen any Gadwall ducks for many years now, so  naturally I was absolutely delighted.

There were some Canada Geese with a spotted sandpiper among them, a common Grackle and Yellow rumped warblers, as well as several Northern Flickers. However, the Hawks, Gadwall Ducks and Killdeer were definitely the highlight of this bird watch trip.



May 9, 2013

The first of the migrants have arrived YAY!

After one last snowfall at the beginning of May, spring finally won the battle with winter and we've had gorgeous weather since then. The Geese started arriving in full force, wave after wave of them, on Thursday morning and migration, as far as I'm concerned, is well on the way.

The ponds have cleared of  ice and should soon be filling up with all manner of ducks, migrating shorebirds and herons. Saturday night we had some wind, which I hoped might just deliver up some migrating song birds. So Sunday morning I went out intent on spotting the first of them.

Tanager among the tassles
Peeking down at me
 After watching a pair of crows in the process of building a nest, I went through the forest listening to the bird song and anything out of the ordinary. The Chickadees were making contented, quiet little sounds and the Dark eyed Juncos were actually brave enough to come out in the open for brief forays. There were also Robins all through the forest, singing their praises to the sun. But finally I heard a song, that was similar but different to the song of a Robin, if that makes any sense.

A beautiful view
Western Tanager frontal
 I stayed put and listened hard, looking around at every tree and branch, high and low. I finally spotted a yellow belly topped by bright orange, but the sun was directly behind the bird and I just couldn't be sure what I was looking at. All I knew was I haven't seen yellow birds in the forest all winter.

Western Tanager in profile
I was elated and my heart started pounding, as I tried to focus my camera, but the sun was just in the wrong place and then I lost the bird completely. I knew from experience, however that if I saw it once I will see it again.   So I moved on, sneaking around trees as quietly as I could while I listened for more of that song.

Tanager Beauty
It took about half an hour to find the bird again, but when I did the light was just right and the distance not too problematic. What I had in front of my lens was a male Western Tanager in full mating plumage. And what a beauty he turned out to be.


May 2, 2013

Late migratory birds and battle royale

Murder of Crows
The birds are really late in arriving this year. When I compared the number of photos taken in April last year and the species, to that of this year the numbers are totally lacking. Although this morning I did finally see some ducks, and the Geese have been arriving, although very slowly, I have yet to see the expected number and variety of songbirds. So far there are only three species of song birds that have made it back. These include the Robin, the Dark-eyed Junco and the Golden Crowned Kinglet.

 I have never seen winter hang on so tanaciously, in fact it was snowing again this morning and I have been worrying obsessively about missing the migration entirely. However, I have read posts recently where it was mentioned that birds that should be migrating my way, are in fact still lingering down south, so the birds must have some way of "knowing" when is a good time to migrate. Reading so made me feel somewhat better and I certainly hope that the Hummingbirds especially delay their arrival. Although it is still rather frustrating and if anyone tries to tell me that climate change isn't happening, I'm afraid my response will not be polite.

Crows and Ravens on attack
I am also encouraged by the arrival of several species of Raptor, including Eagles. In fact when I was waiting for the bus last week, I was witness to a murder of crows, allied with the neighborhood nesting pair of Ravens in a fifteen minute battle with a Juvenile Bald eagle that was attempting to rest in the Little Forest, or maybe he or she was scoping out the territory.

The sky is a battlefield
Eagle on defense
When I'm at the bus stop, I can just see a part of the little forest between the houses two streets over, so I wasn't able to get any real good shots but believe me, I was so tempted to run over for a closer look and better photos. Unfortunately I was on my way to work. Since then I have been out several times, but still no new arrivals.

 Are you seeing any of the expected migrant song birds?


Apr 22, 2013

2013 It's Eath Day once again

Today is Earth Day. Every day I read some bad news concerning the destruction of yet another forest, of a species that is going extinct and of new mining/oil developments around the world that are very destructive. The climate around the world is changing, the oceans are too acidic and our fresh water polluted.   Scientist warn that we need to act in order to prevent disaster and I agree whole heartedly.  We are all connected and dependent on the earth after all.

Earth Day is one day in the year when I really think about what I can do personally to help preserve the earth and the wildlife, and implement a strategy to do so.  For instance I avoid buying plastics, chemical cleaners, insecticides and herbicides. 

So what can you do to help save the Earth and the wildlife?

Plant a Tree or a bed of wildflowers to help the butterflies and bees.  Take your kids out in nature to explore and teach about wildlife.  Take someone or a child out bird watching.  Make a concerted effort to clean up after yourself with each visit to nature, whether you are hiking, camping, fishing or hunting. Set up compost to provide nutrients to your garden instead of using chemical fertilizers.  Recycle and recycle some more.  If possible contribute to wildlife and nature conservation funds.  Above all, let your local political leaders know that preserving the Earth is of utmost importance.

These are just a few of the things you can do personally, but there is much more.  I encourage you to get on the internet and do some research and then take action.  Together we can help preserve the planet and the multitude of species that we share it with.



Apr 21, 2013

Spring is seriously late

Snow and more snow coming
I have never seen spring arriving this late and I have a serious case of cabin fever.  It isn't helping that I have been very busy with work and other projects, that prevented me from going out. Now, as I'm writing this, there is more snow coming down from the skies. With more of the same forecast for tomorrow, and here we are nearing the end of April.

At one time, years ago, it used to be that spring arrived in March and in odd years we would get a freak snowfall late in April,but the snow would be gone as fast as it arrived.   People are not dealing well with the changing weather patterns either. Many are cranky or seriously depressed, with some getting downright rude.

The butterflies that had emerged a little more than a week ago, have gone back into hiding.  The migrating birds, with the exception of Robins, seem to be arriving late as well.   Dark-eyed Juncos, for example returned late in March instead of February.  Resident birds, such as Blue Jays and Magpies however are acting as if nothing unusual is occuring and are going ahead with courtship and nesting.

With the cabin fever making me seriously restless, I had to get out of the house and make contact with nature.

The first thing I noticed was that the wind was picking up, but as I walked throught he forest with the icy crust of snow crunching loudly under my feet, I noticed more signs that spring is most definitely on its way. There were not many birds to see, but I could hear them loudly and cheerfully all around me.

Nuthatch, Chickadee, Dark-eyed Junco, Downy woodpeckers and Northern Flicker all well hidden in the tree tops. The Bohemian waxwings are still around and flocking all over the neighborhood and the Crows are everywhere.  The fact that the Crows have stayed encourages me, as they would not stay in the city if the weather was to turn seriously nasty.

The highlights of my outing were the sighting of a gorgeous, and ever cheerful, Golden-crowned Kinglet and a Golden Eagle flying by high above the forest.  I am feeling somewhat more cheerful,even though the cold weather wore me out.  There is nothing like birdwatching and a long walk in the forest to make me feel better.

Golden Crowned Kinglet
Golden Crowned Kinglet hiding

Golden Eagle
Gold Eagle
I just hope the weather warms up in the next couple of weeks before the the migrating birds arrive in significant numbers, most especially the Hummingbirds, if they arrive at the usual time.


Apr 13, 2013

Once second with nature: April

 I don't have a whole lot to say today.  Only one word "Snow"  I think that says it all.

So I thought I would share a photo from my trip to Alaska a few years ago, a fond memory for me, and a piece of nature's beauty for you.


Apr 5, 2013

Highlight of the day

I have not been able to go out much. I have been so busy, although for the most part the weather has been just lovely. This morning I got up to a nasty surprise though. Winter is back, again. Arrrg.  Nevertheless, I'm encouraged by the birds I have seen when I did venture out just recently for a brief time.

Although I saw a pair of Geese last week, I spotted the Canada Goose arriving in flight formation.  These were followed closely by another skein of their fellows.  A great sign that migration has begun.

When I reached the path to the forest, I was greeted by this gorgeous fat Robin, who was very cooperative about having his picture taken.  There were several others, more shy, foraging in the bushes, while the nuthatch called and the House Finches sang their courting songs.

Then I heard another sound, that of a bill striking the underside of a leaf or branch.  I turned and briefly caught sight of a flash of black.  As I focused my camera on a nearby bush, I caught sight of this.  A Dark-eyed Junco playing peek-a-boo with me.

Then a another voice, so low, that if I hadn't been standing very quietly and very still, I would have missed it.  I took a few steps under the trees, along the forest floor and waited.  It was warm enough, that there were trailing webs from inch worms and spiders.  It always amazed me that insects emerge so early in spring.  But I'm getting off track, sure enough before long, there it was again, a voice so sweet.  It was a Golden Crowned Kinglet, flitting from branch to branch, and tree to tree.

It wont be long now, before I see his cousin, the Ruby Crowned Kinglet and I can't wait.

It was a peaceful and delightful outing.  But it wasn't over until I got to within sight of my own front door.  On the way home I briefly watched a Magpie as he collected nesting materials.  I moved on, somewhat sad that I had no more time to spend outdoors and that's when the real action took place.

I spotted a Prairie Falcon on the hunt.  I missed the other bird entirely, although I think it might have been a Kestrel.  However, the Falcon missed his target and was screaming, as you can see and turned towards me, to fly up to a light post, where it perched briefly.

I shoot handheld and the bird was moving very fast, so these photos aren't the best.  However, I was pleased to get several shots of the falcon in flight as well as in the process of landing.  I would have liked to have gotten several more, but a passing pedestrian caused the Prairie Falcon to take off again.  This time directly down and straight at me, before veering off  very low to the ground, just above the street.

As you can see by this last photo, I couldn't keep a focus, the bird was moving that fast.  Nevertheless, I was thrilled.  It isn't often that I get action shots of Raptors, so although I had a wonderful outing, this was definitely the highlight of my day.


Mar 28, 2013

More signs of spring

Lady bug
First of all, a warm welcome to my two new followers and a happy Easter to all.

This week has been very busy for me.  However, I did stop to smell the roses as it were.  My short visits with nature provided more proof that spring is indeed arriving, albeit slowly.

For one thing the crows and seagulls have arrived back in the city in small numbers.  Yesterday morning I spotted this ladybug in the mud near the snow melt line in my front yard.  I took a quick photo with my cell phone, before I headed down to the little forest down the street.

As you can see in the photo below, we still  have a ton of snow.

But temperatures are such, that it is melting rapidly.  So in the little forest the snow is still quite deep, but by now I have forged a nice little trail.  Here are some images of the birds I saw this past week on my outings there.

Male Pileated Woodpecker

Female Pileated
The Pileated Woodpeckers have been mysteriously absent in the forest this winter.  But now they seemed to have paired off, I was delighted to see them again.
White Breasted Nuthatch
Yellow-shafted Northern Flicker

Both the red and yellow-shafted flickers have been a constant presence this winter, and I have many new photos of them, of course another fair close-up never hurts.

Bohemian Waxwing
The Bohemian waxwings are such fun to watch, especially now that most of the fruit has been consumed and they are foraging in the pines and much lower to the ground.  They will be gone before long, when the weather gets to be too warm for them, and be replaced by Cedar waxwings.  I can't wait to see them again.


Mar 22, 2013

Winter is warring with Spring

A little more than a week ago the snow was melting nicely and the temperatures were rising. However, apparently winter isn't going to go out like a lamb this year. The result is a major dumping of light powdery snow which is accumulating steadily.

I'm sure this makes the avid skiers insanely happy, but both driving and walking has become rather tricky, as there is ice beneath the snow.  Trust me I found some.  Me and ice do not get along, since an encounter usually ends up somewhat painful for me, which is why I never learned to skate.

Bohemian Waxwing reaching for a berry
Waxwing on lookout
Another result of this war between winter and spring, is that the birds have gone mostly into hiding.  Except the Bohemian Waxwings of course.  They seem to love the nasty weather and are flying all over the neighborhood.  Here are some members of a small flock I caught in action on a very cold day just when it stopped snowing for a short while.

Grasping a tasty berry
Showing off their colors
However, what seems likely often isn't, when the weather turns nasty birds need more food to help them keep warm, which is why the Bohemians are likely more actively searching for food and berries are their preferred food source. When they fly all over the neighborhood during nasty weather, greedily consuming fruit it is very much a necessity.   The fruit trees in the immediate neighborhood have pretty much been stripped of fruit as a result.

I sincerely hope spring wins this battle of the seasons very soon.