This weekend while out doing a little geocaching, I was inconspicuously sticking my nose in a pine tree when Matt chirps out, “hey, there’s a ruby-crowned kinglet!” It’s kind of neat when you’re just minding your own business and a lifer shows up. Wouldn’t it be nice if it was always that easy? We enjoyed fantastic looks at this little cutie, who turned out to be pretty curious about us too—it even flew right up to me a few times and then zoomed back to the tree. Since we weren’t in birding mode, all I had was a little point and shoot. Needless to say I am hugely disappointed with the pics.
#219: Ruby-crowned kinglet; Red Pine Park, Ottawa; April 28, 2012
|showing off the crown--no mistaking it!|
With migration starting up and the weather half decent, I really wanted to get out there on Sunday, especially because I got a little excited after the Saturday sighting. We headed down Eagleson and stopped at one of the little ponds near a townhouse development, where we found a blue-crowned night heron in its usual spot. The next thing we saw further down Eagleson and out of the suburbs were two turkey vultures camped out just off the road—with some interesting prey (a raccoon)! They got spooked after a minute or two and flew off, but they were a memorable sight nonetheless.
Further down Eagleson Matt spotted a huge dark clump in a tree along the edge of a farmer’s field. There were lots of branches blocking a good view and I sort of wondered if it was a porcupine just hanging out. Then we both thought it looked like it was too vertical to be a porcupine. Something seemed off so we decided that further investigation would be necessary. As we approached, the dark mass lifted from its perch, and holy crap---it was a golden eagle!! Ok wait…I’m 90% sure it was a golden eagle. I fumbled with the camera and managed and super blurry shot. Unbelievable—that’s a lifer..and there’s no question, that thing was HUGE! I won’t be surprised if we try to go find it again—I’m not sure what the chances are that it will stick around the same area.
Next stop was the Richmond Conservation Area, which I became aware of—get this—while geocaching. I have NO IDEA how I missed this little hotspot!! There are other ponds nearby but you can’t get nearly as close. Interesting how a new hobby brought me back to an old one.
I spent the first little bit fiddling around with the settings on my camera in the car because I couldn’t figure out why the focus point wouldn’t move. Normally I shoot with autofocus, but I control which point to use, since I find the camera is always more accurate than my eyes are..and faster than my fingers. I was getting pretty frustrated and sad that it seemed to be broken. I decided to bite the bullet and hit factory reset to see if that would fix it, but I couldn’t even find that option in the menus! I thought I had figured out the incredible amount of menus and options on my camera but the obvious eluded me.
While there was not a HUGE number of ducks, there was still a lot of diversity. This area is an interesting location in that you can walk along the partitions that divide the ponds and get really close to the water, and also in that it is bordered by a marshy area on one side and woodland on another—so you hit 3 different habitats in one shot.
I could swear a saw a shrike there, and some shorebirds that I couldn’t quite identify. I became instantly aware that I still need to get myself a scope (Santa, do you read my blog??)—funny how you forget about these things until you are looking at a duck that is 100+ metres away. There were some ducks on the far side that I could tell looked different, but I couldn’t jog my memory as to which ones have brown on their flanks, so it was nice to get home and pull this up one the screen and realize there were quite a few northern shovellers.
Being at the ponds really got the juices flowing for a bunch of posts that I want to write, and I felt that driving, creative, inquisitive force coming back. I also got to thinking about how I sort of got away from birding a bit..somewhere along the line I got a little distracted. One of my aunts asked me a while ago about the birds I saw on the Mexico trip, and I mentioned that they were all posted on my blog. She looked surprised that I still kept it going. She mentioned that she found most blogs start out strong and seem to fizzle out. I suppose that happened here to an extent—I’m certainly not as prolific as when I started. It’s important to find some kind of balance, and it’s hard to keep up that kind of intensity when you really fall in head first.
It was strange to think of what I was up to two years ago, and how different things were. It was hard not to compare that to where I was in that moment, and all the things that have changed. I felt a bit like I had let other priorities distract me without my even realizing it. What seemed to be a really huge part of my life at one point had sort of faded into the background. Not that there aren't other worthwhile pursuits I busied myself with, but I thought about my priorities; I thought about where the right balance might be...but I wasn't too sure of my answer. I felt like I needed to hit my own factory reset button, but I couldn’t remember the settings. The reality is that there are no factory resets, no system restore for people—every day and every thing and every experience changes us, and there is no going back from there. Every day we have to choose what is going to make us happy, what is important to us, how to move forward, what is going to make us proud of ourselves when we look back on our past. What do we want to accomplish and what will we have to show for it? If we don't choose consciously--then that is still a decision, and in the end we still have to face it.
The last stop of the day was Mud Lake, one of Ottawa’s great birding spots. It’s still pretty early and we hit at a quieter. One of the highlights was 4 pairs of totally stunning wood ducks.