Monday, 27 April 2015

Mute Swan (Cygne tuberculé)

     Mute Swans Cygnus olor are familiar birds to many people around the world and are found in the company of humans. They often originate as members of a waterfowl collection and are released or escape into the wild to establish feral populations.
    Before leaving for Victoria I observed a pair already on their nest and here is their egg, surrounded unfortunately by the inevitable detritus of humanity.


     This individual must have become really attuned to the presence of humans for the nest was close to a walking path and she seemed undisturbed by people walking by in close proximity.




     She turned her egg very carefully before settling down to lay another I presume. I haven't yet had a chance to check the current status but I will be sure to do so. I fully expect that later in the season we will have a fine flotilla of adults and cygnets to add interest and beauty to our walks.
     This handsome American Herring Gull Larus smithsonianus was swimming close by and I have little doubt that an unattended egg would make a fine snack.


Saturday, 25 April 2015

Eastern Bluebird (Merlebleu de l'est)

     I just returned last night from nine days in Victoria, BC on Vancouver Island on Canada's west coast. We had glorious weather there and did some great birding, taking hundreds upon hundreds of pictures in the process. Sometime this weekend I will begin the process of editing them, but in the meantime I am happy to present some images taken the week before we left for our vacation.
    We have now located three additional locations where we can reliably locate Eastern Bluebird Sialia sialis and, as you can see, at least one pair was already checking out a nest box. Here is the male disappearing inside.



     The female seemed content to perch on top for a while, but it was not long before she entered also.



      While we were away there was uncommonly cold weather for the time of year, with even snow one day, so it will be interesting to see whether the inclement conditions have retarded nesting activity. The insect prey upon which these birds rely will no doubt have been in short supply and the female needs a steady diet of protein for successful egg production.
      As the following pictures show there is nothing quite so beautiful as a male bluebird on a sunny day and I am looking forward to seeing them again this weekend.






     On a small storm water management pond I also observed these Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis. This species is quite common, although it is normally associated with much larger bodies of water and I was surprised to find it on so small an area adjacent to a subdivision.





     I have a busy schedule for the next four days but I am sure that I will be able to squeeze in a little birding here and there. I can hardly wait to get out and visit my local patch and see what has arrived since I went away.

Monday, 13 April 2015

Killdeer (Pluvier kildir)

     Killdeer Charadrius vociferus is commonly found over much of the North American continent, and is one of the early spring arrivals in southern Ontario. Its call, from which it gets its name, is familiar to birders everywhere.


     This series of pictures is designed to show how its cryptic plumage provides it with very effective camouflage. When sitting on its nest the brown of its back merges into the substrate and it is is virtually invisible to either ground predators or marauding hawks.


     If the bird is disturbed it is a master at feigning injury and draws the attacker away from its nest with a broken wing display, until it has lured the would-be predator a safe distance from its nest, when it simply takes to the air and flies away.



     Killdeers are prone to nest in locations which would seem to be entirely unsuitable, such as at the side of a gravel path leading to a building, but perhaps there are clues which work in their favour not always detected by us.
     In any event it is a member of the familiar and much-loved avifauna of this area, bringing delight to birders and non-birders alike.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

An Assortment of Delights

     Daytime temperatures are now consistently above freezing, and even overnight slightly above freezing, or barely below, and birds are arriving here one species after another on a daily basis.
    I have agreed to become a bird monitor for rare, a local land trust in Cambridge, ON and this Eastern Phoebe Sayornis phoebe was photographed while reconnoitering one of the two routes I will be covering.



     This hardy little bird is always the first of the flycatchers to arrive in spring and a species I always look forward to seeing.
     A few Song Sparrows Melospiza melodia overwinter here but the main surge of migratory birds is now well underway and males seem to be singing from every elevated perch. This individual was observed at Laurel Creek Conservation Area in Waterloo, ON.



     Eastern Bluebirds Sialia sialis are favourites with birders and non-birders alike and we have already been observing several pairs for over a week. This male was staking out a nest box with a female along Bricker School Line near Wallenstein, ON.




     Birds are not the only signs of spring, of course, and during our walk at rare Bill Wilson was able to point out this rare Rock Polypody Polypodium virginianium fern.



     Maidenhair Spleenwort Asplenium trichomanes was also present but not in a location amenable to photography.
     Both of these species of fern are provincially significant.
     Having now emerged from winter hibernation American Red Squirrels Tamiasciurus hudsonicus are seen scampering everywhere searching for food. They are not averse to raiding a bird feeder as can be seen from this individual in Laurel Creek C.A.



     Returning to birds, Brown Creepers Certhia americana have returned en masse and this bird was observed on Martin Creek Road in Waterloo County.



     The landscape would not be complete without great numbers of American Robin Turdus migratorius; they really do seem to be everywhere.




     The same could be said of Common Grackle Quiscalus quiscala, although they are not as abundant as American Robin.




     Common Redpolls Carduelis flammea that have wintered farther south start showing up in this area as they make feeding stops on their way north. On several occasions recently small numbers have shown up in our yard.




     The battle for my newest nest box seem to have been won by House Sparrows Passer domesticus and here is a male carrying nest material and then emerging from the nest box having stuffed it in there.




     I'll keep you posted on the progress of the family!

Thursday, 2 April 2015

The Genius of David Spector

     David Spector is a biologist at Central Connecticut State University and is always a voice of wisdom on an internet site called BirdChat, of which we are both members.
    For April Fools' Day he posted the following gem, which I am reproducing with his kind permission. For readers of my blog whose native tongue is not English some of the nuances may be lost, but for English-speaking readers this is simply hilarious, and oh so creative.
     I hope you will enjoy it as much as I do.


The minutes of the meeting as recorded by the Secretary Bird:
 There was dispute as to whether the meeting should be chaired by any of many emperors (including a Mikado), kings and kinglets, a sultan, tyrants and tyrannulets, monarchs, bishops, cardinals, or a Bonaparte. It was finally decided that the highest rank belonged to the Celestial Monarch.
 The royalty insisted that the Military Macaw exclude the Jacobins and the Zapata Wren from the meeting, and a Royal Flycatcher was appointed to protect the nobility from annoying insects.

Forbes's Plover reported the recommendation of the finance committee (Bank Swallow, Fiscal Shrike, Rothschild's Swift, Golden Plover, and Rockefeller's Sunbird) for the removal of the skimmer as treasurer and appointment of the Dollarbird to fill that post.
 The old coots of the history committee gave their report.
 Music was provided by the Flutist Wren, Musician Wren, Song Wren, Varied Triller, Song Sparrow, Melodious Warbler, trumpeters, and a barbet shop quartet. The hummingbirds, having forgotten the words, provided backup harmony and a Calliope accompaniment. The bard owl recited poetry, and the Mute Swan and Chaplin's Barbet performed in a mime show.
The Adorable Coquette and the Cock-of-the-Rock eyed each other across the room, while the restless Crestless Gardener yearned to get outside. The noddies slept through the meeting.
As debate became heated, members referred to each other as loon, screamer, booby, dodo, hammerhead, chat, wigeon, cuckoo, turkey, babbler, . . . . 
The mockingbirds and the sneering contempt of the Supercilious Wren intimidated the Tremblers, who were too nervous to speak.
Several orphaned birds were brought to the attention of the group, and, in an act of charity, the affected flycatcher, heron, and trogon were made Ward's of the state. 
The Lazy Cisticola missed the meeting (as did the Solitary Sandpiper and various solitaires and hermits).
The Adjutant Stork, as sergeant-at-arms, attempted unsuccessfully to prevent other cisticolas from bubbling, chattering, chirping, croaking, rattling, singing, trilling, wailing, whistling, and zitting.
 Despite the raucous tone of the event, the meeting closed with some words of wisdom from the Sage Sparrow and Sage Thrasher (the Sage Grouse kept its wisdom to itself) and a quiet song by the Vesper Sparrow. 
The Barn Owl, Barn Swallow, House Martin, House Sparrow, and House Wren each offered to host future meetings.
The scrub-birds cleaned up after the meeting.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Peregrine Falcon (Faucon pèlerin) in Kitchener, ON

     Last year a pair of Peregrine Falcons Falco peregrinus bred successfully on the Sun Life Financial tower in downtown Waterloo. This year due to maintenance on their roof, the company requested that the nest box be removed, and they were unwilling to have it reinstalled.
     Fortunately, CKCO, the local CTV affiliate, located just a short distance from the Sun Life building, agreed to permit the Canadian Peregrine Foundation to install a new nest box on their communications antenna. Two years earlier peregrines had bred there, and already this year a pair was showing interest in this location. 
     The nest box which had been taken down from the Sun Life building was too big to to be installed on the CTV tower, so a new box had to be built. Waterloo Region Nature, of which I am president, donated the funds for the construction materials, and the the custom box was built by Mark Nash of the Canadian Peregrine Foundation.



    It was getting late in the breeding season for the falcons and we knew that pair bonds had been formed. We had our fingers crossed that we would not be too late for this pair to occupy our box. 
     Dale Ingrey, the point man for our club, accompanied by several others, assisted at the erection site and the nest box was successfully hauled up and installed on the platform.







     Imagine our sheer delight when the pair of falcons almost immediately showed interest and within a day it became clear that they had claimed the box as their own.




       This has been a success story of which we can all be proud. As of yesterday the pair had two eggs!



     For our dedicated team of falcon watchers this is only the beginning. Much monitoring has to be done and people stationed at the ready to help future fledglings survive their first attempts at flight. Often they have to be rescued and returned to the nest, for the city can be a dangerous place for a young peregrine before it attains full flight proficiency.
     It is a labour of love for all of us, however, and we are happy that we have played some small part in ensuring the ongoing viability of this most magnficent of raptors.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

How Do You Spell Handsome?

     Well, I think that based on this series of picture you would say HERON!


     I saw this Great Blue Heron Ardea herodias a couple of days ago at the edge of a small pond in the vicinity of Creekside Church in Waterloo. It is in the prime of its nuptial finery and ready to mate.


     It was fishing successfully and snagged its prey with repeated strikes, but the fish it was catching were pretty small and it would need a good deal to satisfy its appetite.


     It will not be long before we hear the chorus of Spring Peepers Pseudacris crucifer and other amphibians as they awaken from winter hibernation, providing herons and other birds with a new range of opportunities to satisfy a hungry appetite.

     I am not quite sure what this gyration signified; perhaps the bird was just limbering up or maybe trying to dislodge something stuck in its throat.


      In any event I watched this heron for several minutes and it was quite wonderful to watch it going about the business of survival, to equip itself for a healthy and productive breeding season ahead.