Monday, February 18, 2013

Winter wonders

I decided I wanted to have a look around the west end this weekend to see what I could see. After last week's misfortunes I'm much more careful about what's laying around on the back seat of the car, so everything gets brought in and taken back out every time. The plan was to ski first and then do some birding. We got to the trailhead and I looked at Matt--you grabbed the camera right? And he gives me this blank stare.....sigh. So there we are with this huge lens that comes in its own bag which we now have to lug around *with no body* while skiiing so it doesn't get stolen. Luckily the camera was not needed on the trails and there it was strangely quiet--only saw an Eastern Cottontail and few birds. However it was a great ski and we got to head out onto the river for part of it--wanted to check out the ice shacks but didn't quite get that far--and I just had my skis waxed so I was good and fast...wheeeeeee!

The geocaching has started up again so we headed to a nearby spot on Grandview to grab one, where I noticed 200+ bohemian waxwings and pine grosbeaks in a tree in someone's front yard. So back to the house it was to get the camera body--luckily it wasn't terribly far away. I'm glad since I've had such a hard time getting close to a pine grosbeak for a decent shot. I didn't get any shots of the huge flock of waxwings unfortunately--it's a really incredible feeling when so many of them swoop around over your head and do the murmuration thing. Does anybody know what that fruit is? I'm still working on my plant identification...

Waxwings kinda make me think of Rupaul. They got the serious eyeliner wings goin' on. Rupaul aside, they are so awesome.
Afterwards we stopped at Hilda on the way home where there were two snowshoe hares. We also stopped at March Valley to see if the owls were around.  There was a large convoy of cars with plates from Maryland, Vermont and New York. They'd come up and struck out at both Green's Creek and in the West End. I can't imagine coming that far and missing a bird that's been here so reliably, but of course it happens  and that's the risk you run! Hopefully they stayed over and had better luck the next day...

Sunday involved an unsuccessful attempt to locate evening grosbeaks and white-winged crossbills. However it did end in inadvertently finding Maple Hill Urban Farm, very close to home with fresh eggs, and the farmer, Don, was so friendly and invited us in to see all the awesome animals--chickens, ducks, a cow, a couple horses, a pony, a donkey, two goats, two dogs and three hilarious barn cats (including two KITTENS!), and then we got DQ to top it all off (open on Family Day...yessssss!), so all's well that ends well.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Birding burns #234

I'll try to stay optimistic and not to let the rotten mood that I am ruin this post. I was having a great day until...well, I'll get to that.

It was a beautiful day winter day and we had a few birds on our radar today. First we drove some of the farm fields not far outside of Kanata looking for snowy/northern hawk owls. We didn't look too long before heading to the Lime Kiln Trail, which I had actually been avoiding since it was closed this summer after a large, 100-acre brush fire on NCC lands. Bad birder though, not recalling the woodpeckers that actually seek out recent burn areas. Luckily, someone else reported the black-backed (actually quite some time ago, when my bird radar was off...luckily it kicked back in on time!).

We parked at P10 and started the walk into the burn area, stopping about 50m in after 20 or so chickadees made clear it was time for lunch. Stopped to feed them for a bit, and then continued on.

Once we were close, we started stopping to listen every 50m or so for pecking, and following the source if we heard it. This method found several woodpeckers. As it turns out, it seems hairies are fans of burn sites too. Hairy peckers still get me...who came up with that anyway?! I brushed up on the differentiating features between hairies and downies after a man said he saw huge downies...but I'm pretty sure they were hairies. I usually guesstimate based on size, but you never know if you are looking at a large downy or a small hairy--so the key is the length of the bill and whether there are (downy) or are not (hairy) dark spots on the outer tail feathers.
Tree damage from fire

Then we were looking at a hairy on a tree, when I realized that there was a second woodpecker on the same tree further up...only its back was all black! Found it!

The birds didn't seem to mind observers at all and would go about their business until they moved on to a new tree. I only observed one black-backed, a female (I believe that's all that's been reported). Lifer!

 #234: Black-backed Woodpecker; Lime Kiln Trail area; February 10, 2013
Pretty lady. Love the fine bars on her side. Only the males have the yellow on top of the head.

Stopped to do a little preening. Nice to watch!
Today I learned a few things about me and my lens:
1. I need to develop some stronger shoulder/arm muscles to hold that sucker up for any length of time
2. I experienced a crazy thing that hasn't happened to me birding...I was TOO close to focus.Well, that doesn't happen often.
Was really hoping a bird would perch in that little spot, but no such luck today so I made Matt do it instead

Things started to go a little sour when we got back when I went to get in the car and realized something was wrong with the window--mainly that it wasn't there. And that all that was left was little shards. There was also a drill hole near the handle. It's unfortunate that people are getting out there outside, enjoying nature, and this is what they get. So, if this can be a reminder of anything to you birders, whenever you leave your car in an isolated parking lot (or anywhere really), do not leave things in your car! We didn't even have any valuables in sight, but we had a lot of junk that was in bags/boxes and could look like there might be something worth grabbing.
people are jerks. because this is just what I needed.

If you go to check out the BBW, don't forget your sunflower seeds, and if you must take valuables, take them with you on the trail. Snowshoes would help once you are off the main trail, but we just trudged it. Good little cardio workout that was, after the snowfall the night before!

On the way home we drove down Rushmore and spotted a snowy on a far-off pole. i wasn't keen to hang around though, since I was freezing with no window!

This morning I headed to March Valley to see if I could spot some of the west-end greys. I did, beautifully silhouetted by the rising sun. It was so nice to see them in a more peaceful setting being left alone! Didn't stay long though in the classy garbage-bag-over-the-window car.

Here's another really nice, informative post with great shots from another Ottawa blogger on the BBW at Lime Kiln.