Thursday, July 28, 2011

Escape to Pen Lake

Got to enjoy the antics of loons all weekend in Algonquin Park--flapping on the water as they spontaneously take off and their haunting group calls. They let me get a lot closer than last year...seemed pretty tame. I didn't see any babies.
There was also a bald eagle on the lake. both times I saw it it was being harassed by gulls. 
red eyes and a beautiful neck band. there's something about their heads that makes them look almost computer simulated?

with dragonfly
one leg up

stretching out the wings

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

mid-week treat (herons)

Wow. What a fantastic day...from start to finish.

Thundershowers were threatening so I was ecstatic when I got home and the rain ended about half an hour later. I had been sort of bummed because I had this bike ride planned and it looked like it was going to be rained out. Anyways, I heard that there were common moorhens nesting in the Terry Fox reservoir. I had no idea there was a reservoir on Terry's so close to my house. And I haven't seen moorhens yet. So I jumped on my bike and headed over there.

I found a few caches on the way, and found myself at the spot. I noticed that on the residential side of the street, there was a little creek that feeds the reservoir, so I thought I might as well check it out too. At the end of the path, a woman was looking up at this big tree with a crow in it and pointing her little camera at it. So I went up to her, and she showed me another bird with a white belly just below the crow. "Do you know what that bird is?" she asks.

And this is the part where I love knowing a little bit about something and getting to share it. "Actually, I do." So there was this beautiful black-crowned night heron (which I never would have spotted), posing so very nicely and silently and close to me. I thanked her for pointing it out and got the best pics I've ever got of one of these fantastic birds!!

After that I headed to the other side of the road, where I saw more night herons, juveniles this time...I also saw a bunch flying overhead. The place was crawling with them.

I just can't believe I didn't realize this was there and I can safely say it's one of my new favourite birding spots. It's not that big and there's just one trail running through it, but you can get a good view of the pond, and it seemed to be a really active area. Shortly after, I spotted a green heron fishing, and then later, as I walked down to one area where you can closer to the water, I heard something rustling right behind me, and there's another one, maybe 10 feet away. I absolutely LOVE these birds. Such a treat!!!
looks a little pigeon-toed!
I can't believe these pics turned out at all. I was shooting handheld and cranked the ISO to 1000...which I NEVER do...but it worked out.

It was one of those summer nights where the almost-full moon was hanging large and transparent on the blue sky's horizon and late sun made everything look like can't help but feel great when things you didn't expect fall into your lap, and everything seems to come together. Maybe it was the yoga I did this afternoon that put me into this mindset, but I felt an immense appreciation for a lot of things in my life.

But I do still need to go back for the moorhens, lol!

Monday, July 11, 2011

M.V. Glenora ferry swallows feeding time - photo essay

So I found myself headed to Prince Edward County once again this weekend...the pull of the County is so strong! Once again, not a ton of time for birding...there's so much to do there, and I was too busy tasting wine, eating cheese, getting distracted and caching my little heart out that I really only got to appreciate the birdies with my eyes and ears and not my lens.

However, on the ferry ride over, I noticed swallows swooping around and saw one go right under the bridge of the ferry. I got out and enjoyed watching the show for the entire crossing, while most people were busy peering over the edge of the boat. The thing that blew my mind is that the nest is almost always moving, and extremely busy! There are 2 boats that run, so I wonder if the other boat has a nest too, or if she ever gets confused about which boat her nest is on! As the ferry was crossing, she'd fly around and catch stuff and bring it up to them. FASCINATING!

the chicks lined up, waiting for mom to come back. check out the hilarious tufts on their heads.

open wide!

giving me the stink eye, and then...

down the hatch!

what on earth is that? I love how she uses her tail to it's a beautiful forked and patterned tail.

dragonfly for dessert!

there she is, about to land at the nest. it was really touching to watch her to do this, and repeat, over and over.

Since I have not been constantly looking for new birds to count (although I do admit to doing that to a certain extent), I do enjoy getting the chance to really observe more closely and appreciate some of the birds that I have already seen.

Another bird event of note was when we stopped in Waupoos. There was a big blueberry patch covered in netting and I noticed that there were some birds stuck inside trying to get out. I made Matt stop the car and I tried lifting the side of the nets up to let them out, but of course they flew away as soon as I approached them. I got seriously frustrated. Anyways, there was one juvenile robin really stuck in the netting that Matt actually removed, so while I felt a little better, I felt bad that I couldn't help more of them. Some were really clearly trying to get out, and I was worried that they might have babies waiting for them to feed them :(

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

hey pretty bird, are you lost? (ibis in Ottawa)

Well, I certainly didn't think I would be posting again so soon--that doesn't happen much these days! And with a new bird, and a spectacular bird, no less. I don't know why I did, because I'm out of the habit, but I happened to check Ontbirds today and saw that there were a bunch of reports of a glossy/white-faced ibis in Carp. I haven't chased a bird in ages, but the posting woke the birder in me and I could not resist. As soon as I logged off work, I headed out to the flood plains. I spotted it no problem, but the reach on my zoom wasn't really good enough. I cursed myself for not buying the 80-400 that was listed on Kijiji a while the time I thought it was too much and I couldn't justify it (knowing that all I really take pictures for is this blog), and now I'm like, "what was I thinking? they only wanted $850." In what freaking universe does $850 sound like a great deal on a lens? Apparently my universe today. If I heard myself say this two years ago, I think my head would have fallen off.

Anyways, we tried from a different angle and ran into a bunch of well-known birders there, including Tony Beck and his wife Nina, and a few others. This kid shows up on his bike and bins hung over his shoulder, and turns out it's Ben, Bruce's son...I'm like, this kid can't even grow a beard but can bird me out of the water (he's the one who sighted the ibis in the first place). Actually, it was pretty inspiring to see a kid who cares about this kind of stuff. Anyways I was kind of starstruck by all the local birding glitterati. LOL.

There were a few scopes on the ibis so I did at least get a look. However, a bunch were debating whether it was a glossy or a white-faced ibis, or a hybrid. To be honest, I really couldn't tell and would have just assumed it was a glossy. It seems to be that this particular spot lends itself to debates on identification...last time it was about cackling geese!
 After staying put for quite some time, another bird put the run on it, and it flew right in front of us.
(Couldn't get ANY useful info)
Heading back to the road after the ibis took off.
Everyone was making calls discussing the bird and latest developments. I got another brief glance at it after Matt was smart enough to turn down March toward where it took off and it was in plain sight from the road. I jumped out, got a crummy shot (below) before a few gulls put the run on it once more. The rest of them saw us stopped on the side of the road and we had to explain that they just missed it.
So, it was sort of bittersweet. I clearly saw a new bird but can't really claim it since it seems nobody can agree on what it was! Anyways, it was absolutely beautiful. Another excuse to travel to far and exotice places!

UPDATE: Several birders are now convinced that it is a white-faced. Am I safe to count? Honestly, I still feel uncomfortable about it. As of the latest reports, the bird is still there.

Monday, July 4, 2011

i'm (looking at birds) on a boat #150

I didn't have much time to dedicate to birding this weekend but somehow managed a lifer (something I realized 24 hours after I saw the birds...just about 5 minutes ago in fact!).

Mel and David asked us to join us for the weekend on their sailboat in Kingston (AWESOME). They aren't birders, so I knew I wouldn't get to see too much unless it found us on our course.  There were tons of swallows zipping around the marina, and before we left we saw a huge flock of swallows trying to drive out a hawk of some sort...quite the show! We also saw some really recent baby tiny.....OMGCUTE. They keep their boat right beside Lemoine's Point--if I'd had time, I would have checked it out.

Anyways, on our way into the harbour on Friday night to watch the Canada Day fireworks and again the next day on the way out to Prince Edward County, we passed the smelliest island known to of the Brothers Islands, which has been completely taken over by cormorants. They have completely killed off the vegetation, and are in the process of doing it to the next island over. The Brothers Islands are little islands between Amherst Island and Collins Bay, part of Kingston. I probably should have looked closer...apparently in 2005 a white pelican was seen hanging out that would be crazy!  I saw lots of cormorants on the water...they are actually really cool flyers.
Cormorants on (what's left of) one of the Brothers.
We docked at Prinyer's Cove on Saturday night and the birds even just around the marina were great--lots of orioles, a flicker, herons...I was loving it. It reminded me that the county is a great spot for birding!

On Sunday we were cruising along and passed a small point, where a bunch of gulls were hanging out. All seemed pretty standard until I noticed that some had black caps and bright red beaks, so I flew down below to grab my camera. NEVER before have I seen terns standing on the shore (remember, I live in Ottawa, where I don't see as many terns...exciting). Well, I got to looking at these pics and realized that these have black feet and much thicker bills...not like the terns I've seen before.

#150: Caspian Tern; Shores of Prince Edward County; July 3, 2011

A lifer, and not just any lifer, but somewhat of a milestone....150!