Saturday, January 31, 2009

River Coyotes & More

Yesterday morning I took a leisurely walk to some parks close to the river by way of some back alleys. Although the sun didn't come out as promised, I still had an enjoyable time and notched up a few nice things for my trouble :

Sharp-shinned Hawk -while photographing some Chickadees, suddenly they become agitated as an adult Sharpie swooped through the tree line within Gabriel Dumont
Park and across the river towards the san site.
Varied Thrush - I made an effort to re-visit the Queens House Retreat gardens in order to look for this bird I had previously found late last year..
I did not see it at first, but suddenly it flushed from some Mugo pine trees, giving a 'chuck' call as it flew off into some deep cover where unfortunately I could not relocate it.
These are private grounds, so anyone wishing to look for this bird will have to go to the front office and ask permission to look around.
Bald Eagle - 1 heading in the direction of the CN bridge near Diefenbaker Park.
Common Raven - 3
Blue Jay - 2
Downy Woodpecker - 2
House Finch - several loose flocks of around 5-15 birds in each
Red-breasted Nuthatch - 5
Black-capped Chickadee - 9
Black-billed Magpie - 2
Common Goldeneye - 5
House Sparrow - 50+ (almost every back alley has a small population)
Rock Dove - 25+
Common Redpoll - 5+
White-winged Crossbill - 11

I also watched 3 Coyotes on the frozen river, actively hunting and generally being very sociable with one another.
They often used the islands as cover and seemed interested in looking for Duck a l'Orange one minute or just being lazy the next, sprawled out on the snow yawning.

There were many Snowshoe Hare tracks in the parks, and I must have been mere feet away from a Skunk in its burrow, as I'm sure there was one in the woods I was exploring. The smell was pretty severe !

Here are some photos :

These Coyotes were a long long way off and I'm surprised I got any usable images at all.
The island close to the train bridge looks like a nice spot for them to rest :

Black-capped Chickadee - just before the Sharp-shinned Hawk arrived ! (no Chickadees were harmed during the Taking of this photo ) :

Thursday, January 29, 2009

To tide things over...

While it is fairly quiet here right now, here is one more shot of one of the Great Gray Owls I was lucky to see in December.
This shot really shows off the huge, flat facial disk that these birds have, used like a radar to pick up even the slightest sound under the deep snow while hunting :

Monday, January 26, 2009

More Northern Flickers

We have Virginia Creeper in our backyard and I have seen Yellow-shafted Northern Flickers eat the berries from this vine during fall when they are ripe.
Recently though, I have noticed that on particularly cold days, and when these birds are at their most hungry, they will also eat these ' leftover ' berries frozen.

Here is our resident male last week :

And a new addition to the yard, this female showed up and enjoyed the suet :

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Northern Hawk Owl

Inspired by a Northern Hawk Owl that is currently in Regina right now and delighting all the local birders there, here is a previously unpublished photo of the owl that was at Aberdeen last year and stayed for a few weeks :
(as usual click to see full size)

Monday, January 19, 2009

Sharp-shinned Hawk

This afternoon , I happened to look out my kitchen window and noticed a lone Common Redpoll, hopping around our Crab-apple Tree. It would then jump onto the ground and eat some seed that had fallen out of the feeder.
I must have looked away for a few minutes, because when I looked back again, the Redpoll had gone , and in its place was this handsome adult Sharp-shinned Hawk.
Now I know why the Sparrows have been nervous the past few days...

Friday, January 16, 2009

Black-billed Magpie

Here is a Black-billed Magpie I spied through our kitchen window yesterday afternoon.
This is the first time I've seen one eat crab-apples, but I guess when you're hungry..?
The sun was peeking through the trees, causing that strange backlit effect of the background :

Rock Dove

The Rock Dove/Pigeon , or just plain Pigeon, tends to be largely unappreciated, due to its association with the mess they live in, and because they are so common. I actually think they are quite beautiful.
They stay with us all year round , enduring the harshest of winters. That surely has to be admired doesn't it ?

I took this photo while walking across the CN train bridge a few weeks ago on a very cold day :

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Pileated Woodpecker

Keeping with the theme of winter woodpeckers, here is a previously unpublished male Pileated Woodpecker, taken at a park close to the river, this time last year :

Monday, January 12, 2009

Winter Woodpeckers

With the onset of colder weather and more snowfall, our yard becomes host to a number of different species of Woodpecker during the winter months.
The following photos were shot hand-held through my kitchen window. I wish the light had been better for these photos, but it seems the sun has barely been out for days.
The unsalted-unsweetened peanut butter is still proving to be a big hit for the third year in a row :

Yellow-shafted Northern Flicker - This male has been coming every day for the past couple of weeks and usually heads straight for the heated birdbath. Recently though he is spending more time eating peanut butter, to get through those colder nights.

Red-shafted/Yellow-shafted Northern Flicker Hybrid

Compare to the Yellow shafted : Note the orange/red on the underside of the wings and on the tail feathers, and only the faintest of red on the nape, where the male yellow has the black 'moustache', red nape patch and yellow on the wings and tail.
This female hybrid yellow x red shaft only seems to show up when the weather is really bad, or after a particularly big snowfall.
I was happy to see her back early this morning at the peanut butter tree.

Hairy Woodpecker :

The male Hairy Woodpecker still comes to the yard every other day.

Downy Woodpecker:

This female is one of a pair of Downies that also visits every day. I've noticed this species eating sunflower seeds quite often this season.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Great Gray Owl

Here is another Great Gray Owl image from Candle Lake in December :

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Pike Lake Christmas Bird Count

After completing my final Christmas Bird Count this season, and notching up a nice 247 species for 2008, here are some photos from the Pike Lake count.
Our team managed to find 17 species ,in weather conditions that actually made headline news as some of the coldest on record. Minus 55 degrees celsius with the windchill !
And my friends and I were out in it !
Highlights for us were a Northern Shrike , Purple Finch , A Hybrid Red/Yellow-shafted Northern Flicker, Pine Grosbeak and a straggling White-throated Sparrow.
I'm still waiting to see how everyone else did.

Here are some photos :

Bohemian Waxwing

Hybrid Yellow/Red-shafted Northern Flicker

Pine Grosbeak

Purple Finch with Pine Grosbeak

White-throated Sparrow

Sunday, January 4, 2009

More From Candle Lake

Here are 4 more photos from Candle Lake - Click to see full size :

Great Gray Owl

Spruce Grouse

Ruffed Grouse

Hairy Woodpecker

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Candle Lake Christmas Bird Count

Well, it finally happened ! After 6 years of not being in the right place, or being in the right place at the wrong time, I got to see not one, but 3 Great Gray Owls during a bird count I participated in at Candle Lake, Saskatchewan.

With 2 parties of 3 individuals, we had an excellent count , tallying up 25 species in total.

Here are the highlights :

Ruffed and Spruce grouse
Northern Goshawk and Bald Eagle
Great Gray and Northern Hawk-owl
Downy, Hairy, Pileated, American Three-toed and Black-backed woodpeckers
Boreal and Black-capped chickadees
Red and White-breasted Nuthatches
Blue and Gray jays
White-winged Crossbill, Pine and Evening Grosbeak

Here are some photos , with more to come later - click to see full size versions :

Great Gray Owl

Pileated Woodpecker

Gray Jay