Sunday, 22 November 2015

Great Potoo (Grand Ibijau) in Costa Rica

6 February 2011

     While travelling through the Alajuela region of Costa Rica, our driver braked suddenly and backed up. His incredibly sharp eyes had spotted a Great Potoo Nyctibius grandis roosting in a tree.

     This bird is difficult to locate when searching diligently for it, so to have located it incidentally like this is quite remarkable. 

     Even if the driver knew that the species had been seen in the area previously it is till quite a feat to relocate it. This bird is so cryptic, and is able to remain totally motionless, that it resembles nothing so much as a branch of the tree in which it is perched.

     It was a distinct highlight for us to see this species, our first ever, and we were able to capture it photographically to relive the experience again and again.  On a cold winter's day in Canada it is very pleasant to look at the pictures and remember the hot, sultry day when we found this bird.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Vive La France

Allons enfants de la patrie,
Le jour de gloire est arrivé!
Contre nous de la tyrannie
L'etendard sanglant est levé! (bis)
Entendez-vous dans les campagnes,
Mugir ces féroces soldats?
Ils viennent jusque dans nos bras
Égorger nos fils, nos compagnes!

Aux armes, citoyens!
Formez vos bataillons!
Marchons! Marchons!
Qu'un sang impur
Abreuve nos sillons!

Amour sacré de la patrie,
Conduis, soutiens nos bras vengeurs!
Liberté, Liberté cherie,
Combats avec tes défenseurs! (bis)
Sous nos drapeaux, que la victoire
Accoure à tes mâles accents!
Que tes ennemis expirants
Voient ton triomphe et notre gloire!

Nous entrerons dans la carrière
Quand nos aînés n'y seront plus;
Nous y trouverons leur poussière
Et la trace de leurs vertus.
Bien moins jaloux de leur survivre
Que de partager leur cercueil,
Nous aurons le sublime orgueil
De les venger ou de les suivre!

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Southern Crested Caracara ( Caracara huppé) near Punta Arenas, Patagonia, Chile

17 February 2012

     Some time ago I bought an external drive for my computer and embarked on a project of loading and classifying all of my digital photographs. Everything is categorized by date and location, and where possible separate files are created for males, females, family groups, fledglings etc. Not only are birds covered but every other organism I have photographed, plus numerous other topics. When it comes to items such as wildflowers, grasses, sedges, acquatic vegetation, molluscs and so on, the unidentified species file is quite large, especially for species seen on other continents!
     Obviously the task at hand is not for the faint of heart, and it will be at least another year until it is complete. It is pretty rewarding, however, when I am asked whether I have a picture of a gull, for example, in a certain plumage, resting, or flying, and I can click on one file where every such image that I have is there with details as to where and when it was taken. 
     What this process compels one to do is to look carefully at all the pictures one has taken. This series of pictures was taken during a trip to Chile in 2012.
     An adult Southern Crested Caracara Caracara plancus was seen feeding on the carcass of a skua sp. - an interesting juxtaposition of one scavenger feeding on another.

      It was not long before a juvenile spied the feast and joined the adult to secure its share of the booty.

         Whether the young bird was an offspring of the adult there is no way of knowing, but there was very little squabbling when the young bird horned in on the carrion. In short order they were feeding side by side in apparent harmony.

      I have already seen several other interesting sequences and I have little doubt that many more await discovery. It's a great way to relive the excitment of a trip.    

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Northern Cardinal (Cardinal rouge)

    This morning as I was glancing out the window and realizing that my main bird feeder is empty and that I need to get to the feed mill to buy more seed, a dazzling male Northern Cardinal Cardinalis cardinalis was picking through the wilted garden plants to secure whatever errant seeds may be found among them. It struck me, not for the first time I must admit, that we are very fortunate to have such a stunningly beautiful bird present here all year.

     It survives our harsh winters and is one of the first songsters to proclaim the arrival of spring when the males sing constantly from high perches. This species first moved north of the Mexican border in the early twentieth century and since then has colonized much of the continent.

     I have no doubt that it is a backyard favourite with anyone fortunate enough to have them close by.

     Although the male is the stunner, the female is imbued with a charm all her own. The subtle hues of her plumage are perfectly integrated into a study of grace and delicacy.

     Who can fail to be captivated by this species? Not many it seems, for many sports teams here have adopted the name Cardinal. No matter how well they perform, however, they will never rival the excellence of the bird from which they derived their name. 

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Halloween Hijinks

31 October 2015

     Is there any doubt that we have entered our second childhood?

     The theme was eat, drink and hoot with laughter...on a repetitive basis. Good wine always tastes better when shared with good company, and these guys are the best!

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Dark-eyed Junco (Junco ardoisé) in our Yard

29 October 2015

     Fall is well advanced now and as the following pictures from our backyard show most of the leaves are off the trees. Yesterday we had driving rain and today the wind is quite fierce so the combination of the two might just denude them completely.

     Dark-eyed Juncos Junco hyemalis returned to the area a couple of weeks ago and have been constantly in our yard ever since.

     Juncos seem to have a charm all of their own and we always look forward to sharing our space with them. At times when they are feeding on the ground, seemingly undisturbed by anything, they suddenly burst into flight and zoom off revealing the flash of white outer tail feathers so characteristic of this bird.
     For the most part they seem quite content to forage on the ground, kicking up the leaves to garner whatever morsels are hidden below.

     There are various subspecies of Dark-eyed Junco and females are quite distinct, so it is always fun to scan and see what can be found. Some individuals can be easily identified. One year we had a bird whose white outer tail feathers were much more prominent than others, and we called him Flash. He stayed with us right through the winter until the birds moved out the following spring.
    Although this species feeds mainly on the ground some of the birds become very adept at utilizing the feeders, but they are in the minority. This individual is a striking male.

     This morning a boldly coloured male Northern Cardinal Cardinalis cardinalis was feeding with the juncos, but in their sombre greys they did not seem to suffer by comparison. It's a great addition to any backyad.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Vive Le Canada! Vive Justin Trudeau!

20 October 2015

     Yesterday in Canada's federal election Justin Trudeau and his Liberal Party were elected to the status of majority government. We salute you Monsieur Trudeau and applaud the principled campaign you led, focusing on a vision of hope and inclusiveness for all Canadians. Our future looks bright.
     No government is perfect, of course, but we can look forward to a future based on science, truth and sincerity, and not one of division and disparagement, based on narrow ideology as practiced by the Harper conservatives. Scientists were muzzled, cabinet ministers were not permitted to speak to the press in a forthright manner, and were provided with media scripts they had to stick to. Questions were never answered in the House of Commons; a mockery was made of parliament. Conservative backbenchers were stooges, they were not even permitted by their party to take part in all candidate debates if it in any way looked as though the views of the party might be challenged and come under scrutiny; they were pawns in Harper's game.
     Canada's environmental record was appalling and the slavish commitment to the development and expansion of the tar sands made us pariahs on the world stage. Many environmental protections were eliminated surreptitiously by burying them in giant omnibus budget bills where they had no place. We abdicated our position as a country with a strong environmental conscience by failing to meet the commitments we had agreed to at international gatherings to reduce greenhouse gases, the Kyoto Protocol being notable in this regard.
     Goodbye Mr. Harper. Good riddance!

     Your way is not the only way. Canadians are sick and tired of the politics of negativity and division. May you wallow in the backwaters of ignominy forever.
     Thomas Mulcair, leader of the NDP should be congratulated for running a competitive, spirited campaign, based on clear positions, reflecting the history of the social democratic movement in Canada. His party suffered crushing losses, but he should nevertheless be congratulated for his commitment to our country and his long record of public service.

     Elizabeth May, a lifelong environmentalist, and leader of the Green Party in Canada, was the only member of her party to win a seat. This was not entirely unexpected. She is an enormously capable woman, with very high standards, impeccable principles and substantial scientific expertise. Let us hope that Justin Trudeau reaches out to her and uses her wisely.

     And so we say again, congratulations Justin Trudeau. Félicitations encore. We look forward to four years of good government at home and the restoration and refurbishment of our reputation abroad.
     Vive Le Canada! Vive Justin Trudeau!