Sunday, January 26, 2014

First lifer of the year (#280)

I wanted to get out birding this weekend, but it wasn't until there was only about an hour left of sunlight left that I was ready to go. I already had it in mind that I wanted to look for the Barrow's Goldeneyes but hadn't mentioned it, so I had to laugh when I asked Matt where he wanted to go and he said "I was thinking of looking for the Barrow's Goldeneyes." Seriously, in what normal couple does this conversation happen?

"Barrow's goldeneyes."
"Yeah, that's just what I was thinking."

So we thought we'd pass through snowy territory on the way (which, by the way, is pretty much anywhere in Ottawa right now). The first spotting was on a tall hydro pole way out in the middle of the field--so far out you probably wouldn't see it, but I knew to look from the last time. Just around the bend, there were a bunch of parked cars, and no surprise, a perched snowy nearby.

The key to spotting a snowy owl? Look for a whole bunch of parked cars and expensive optics. 

I watched from the car and was extremely pleased with the behavior of the birders/photographers at this particular location--everyone was respecting property boundaries, keeping distance, being quiet and no flying rodents. The only thing that eventually flushed the owl was the behemoth snowplow that came down the street.

So we headed to our intended destination--one of few locations of open water in Ottawa. The patch of water in the Jock River is only about 100 metres long, so it didn't take long to find the five ducks bobbing about. They took off out of the water but only flew to the beginning of the patch of water, and they were busy ducking and diving and preening and generally being ducks, surfing the current backwards. It didn't seem to bother them at all that the water must be totally frigid! There were two female Barrow's, one male Barrow's and two male common goldeneyes. It's always pretty exciting to get a life bird on home turf--it doesn't happen so often anymore!

#280: Barrow's Goldeneye; January 2014; Ottawa, Ontario
I do worry what these ducks are going to do when the river freezes over! It's only going to get worse here before it gets better. It seems that -30 Celsius is the new normal in Ottawa.
Male Barrow's wit Common. Neat to see side-by-side!

At this point it was quite dark and shots were getting blurry even with the tripod, so we headed home. I spotted two more stories, one of which we practically drove right under, but didn't notice until the last minute. Not shy at all, these ones...
All in all, a life bird and four snowies in about an hour--not bad at all!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Back at Point Bob

Here's the final post from out West. After a few weeks on the road, it was good to finally relax on the beach, kayak and paddleboard in the ocean, play games, bike around the point and catch up with West Coast friends and family. The birds around there start to feel familiar too: there are always a few herons in the tide pools, the kingfisher hunting at dinnertime and hanging out at the breakwater, an eagle eating up fish leftovers on the beach, hummingbirds at the top of the hill.

This year was finally my year to see the orcas! A mom and her baby. The curse is over!

Remember this pic? Oops. It's actually from the Point. Somehow it got mixed in with pics from way earlier in the trip. It's a rufous :)
These birds are a little less familiar--I can't recall seeing them on the Point before and I almost missed them, they blended in so well with the seaweed. Of course we didn't take the camera and so this meant kayaking back to get it! Black Oystercatchers.
Anyone who knows me knows I'm anything but a morning person. I was sleeping soundly while Matt was out snaping pics of this eagle in front of the cabin who'd found something good on the beach, in that quiet time before the beachwalkers and dogs emerge and take over the sandbars.
Oh hai.

got something good here.
going for a walk

thirsty bird
who's the fairest bird of them all?
I am, of course. what were you going to say?
I've got swagger, after all.
not to be confused with a sandpiper
Get me from my good side.
hey paparazzi. have you had enough yet?
see ya! I've got take-out.

Friday, January 3, 2014

New Year Birding: Off to a Great Start!

New Year's Day was gorgeous--clear and blue--although a little chilly with the windchill at about -25. But a day off is a day off and not something to waste, as it's rare these days that I have much sunlight to play with. So I was really looking forward to having the camera (and my birding partner) back and hitting the trails.

Shannon, Brent, Violet and Donovan joined us (I'm secretly creating a birding army) and provided lots of extra sets of eyes to spot the winged ones. Apparently they weren't scared off by their first experience with us.

With the temperature it was, it was pretty quiet on Old Quarry Trail. But eventually we were swarmed by chickadees looking for lunch, and everyone was happy to oblige. Even a red-breasted nuthatch came to eat out of our hands. Violet's mittens were black so the birds couldn't see the seeds very well..she found she had better luck putting the seeds on her head...
We did the entire loop and saw just chickadees, a single nuthatch, three deer and a porcupine. Back by the cars though, I spotted a flash of red and a great black body. Everyone was a little mesmerized by the Pileated, even though we'd all seen them before. This individual was not at all concerned by our presence and really went at the tree, taking massive chunks off. The evidence of his destruction lay all around the base.  Soon after we noticed a brown creeper that reaped rewards from the pileated's work---he hopped around the pile on the ground investigating. Eventually two downy woodpeckers landed on the tree and there was a pileated, a creeper, two downies and then an American crow all on one tree! If I only I could have got a shot of all of them in the same frame.
I headed to yoga in the aft, but had just enough sunlight left to hear out one more time. I hadn't had a chance to look for any of the snowies so I thought we'd have a quick look. Within 15 minutes we'd found two, one really far off and another a little closer, still a little far for a great shot.
We observed for a bit before moving on, and just around the corner a bunch of little birds took off, but resettled and they turned out to be precious little horned larks!

umph. I'm so mad!
I have to say it was a pretty wonderful new year's day. We decided to keep a year list, and it stands at 8 so far. Best of birding in 2014 to all! I can't wait to see what this year has in store :)

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy new year!

Another year gone by, and I guess it's something of a tradition for me to write a new year's post! In 2013 one of Matt's goals was to find 50 new life birds, and I thought he was crazy. Well, he did it! (I think I fell just short, but wasn't really counting anyway). A trip to Hawaii, the West Coast and Arizona probably didn't hurt!

So that brings me to resolutions. I used to hate them but recently have embraced them in that they help me have direction and keep me on track. So I have a few birding goals for this year. Not resolutions per se, but things to work on:

  1. Bird topography. After several years of birding I still can't tell a primary from a tertial (ok, as of two days ago I can). But knowing ALL of the parts of the bird should help me with tricky identifications. Sibley has some neat quizzes you can do covering all parts of the bird.
  2. Bird calls. I am really, really bad at this. I plan to pay a little more attention to bird sounds and try to remember at least some of them. 
  3. Shorebirds! I will do my best not to miss migration and start figuring these out!
  4. Local birding. I'm becoming notorious for doing most of my birding away from home. I want to rediscover my local area. That's starting today! And I want to make sure I don't miss spring migration!
  5. Target bird for the year? Just one: Tufted titmouse, because it's so cute, and I should be some places in their range. 
What about you? Have you made any birding resolutions, are do have goals you are working towards?
In other bits of randomness, someone posted this on Facebook the other day and I laughed because I thought, I would actually really love to play that!

If you don't get purchase the game, you can always play this alternative online: 
Cornell Bird Trivia Game. But then you don't get to play with someone else.

Also my in-laws gave me a cute little stuffed owl and a necklace with an owl on it at Christmas. Am I becoming the crazy bird lady already? :P
Happy birding in the New Year! I'm heading out today...can't wait to see what's out there!