Trapped!

I don’t know how long he’d been in the garden room. Maybe hours. Busy in the house, I’d decided to take a break and work on the 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle my grandkids had left for me to finish, just that morning. (It’s a bit of an addiction.)

Our Garden Room with ABC bird tape applied. It doesn't help, though, if a bird uses the door.

Our Garden Room with ABC bird tape applied. It doesn’t help, though, if a bird uses an open door.

 

As soon as I opened the door I heard the flapping, saw the dark feathers. A bird was trapped between my work table (the one doing temporary duty as a puzzle table) and the window. I leaned down for a closer look – a hawk!

Trapped!

Trapped!

 

I called to Dennis. “Hon! Bring me my camera – and get your heavy garden gloves.” I was pretty sure this was a Cooper’s. It had the white tail rim associated with the Coopers, the medium-sized hawks that squeeze their prey to death with their claws. We’d had visits from them before; I’d once watched one eat a Dark-eyed Junco for lunch. Another day one sat high up in the Big leaf maple tree in our front yard eyeing the avian smorgasbord below. That day I made a bit of a fool of myself, running around the yard, arms flailing, trying to scare all the jays and songbirds back into the bushes. Eventually that hawk flew off, looking disgusted. This one, however, looked panic-stricken. (That could be projection.)

He’d never get out trapped behind the heavy table. We tried to move it away a bit – but he flew up and smashed into another window (the garden room is ALL GLASS) before perching on the sill, recovering, while I took photos.

Windows, windows, everywhere ...

Windows, windows, everywhere …

 

Come sit on my glove why don't you? (Yeah, right.)

Come sit on my glove why don’t you? (Yeah, right.)

 

As I played photographer, Dennis, in a fit of unbridled optimism (or perhaps he’d been watching Robin Hood on Netflix again?) tried to coax the hawk onto his glove. That didn’t work. Eventually he got  a bright idea involving a broom. He’d try to gently push him down off the sill and out the open door. (Anyone want to make any bets?)

 

What's this?!

What’s this?!

 

You're making me nervous

You’re making me nervous

 

He was having none of it, and flew off and landed on the top edge of the open door.  I took the opportunity to take more photos, made funny little noises, trying to get him to look at the camera. I have no idea where I got the idea these noises might interest him, but apparently, they did. He looked at me with that bright yellow eye (sign of an immature Cooper’s) and I snapped lots of photos. Here’s one:

Taking a breather while strange human makes even stranger noises

Taking a breather while strange human makes even stranger noises

 

The streaked head and white spots on the back are also signs of a juvenile Cooper’s. Adults have solid dark grey caps and no white markings on the back. As in most hawk species, the female is larger than the male, and the male is submissive to her. (This is probably a male.) Since Cooper’s Hawks, very skillful fliers, specialize in hunting medium-sized birds (e.g. robins, jays, flickers, among the most common birds in our yard) the male is cautious around the female, perhaps worried that he might be her next meal?

Eventually Dennis wondered aloud if the photo shoot was over, and suggested we try something else. I was still hoping for a better shot, though. “Not just yet – let me get one more.” At times like this I really wish I had a more sophisticated camera. Dennis crossed his arms, leaned against the wall, watched the hawk, watched me, sighed deeply.

I caved. “Okay, I’m done. What do you want to try?”

“I have no idea.”

“Me either.”

Well, the hawk did. Clearly rested now, he leapt off the door edge and straight into the window.

Smash!!

Smash!!

 

I grimaced, imagining serious head injury, thinking this hawk needs a helmet. He ended up on the lower window sill between my pots of kale and herbs and the glass wall, his wings spread.

“Maybe you could wrap your hands around him now, very gently?”

Dennis replied, “Really?”

I nodded.

“Okay, I guess.”

He removed some of the potted herbs and leaned down, toward the hawk, who I was now calling Cooper and whose wings were still extended. We didn’t want to break one during the rescue mission, so Dennis got as close as he could and gently touched the bird on the back while I cooed, “just bring your wings in sweetheart, that’s right, good hawk”. Stuff like that.

That's right. Everything's going to be fine. Just relax. Good hawk.

That’s right. Everything’s going to be fine. Just relax. Good hawk.

 

And he did, slowly but surely. Dennis continued to “pet” him. Cooper seemed okay with this. I continued to take photos. Soon his wings were flat against his body. When Dennis stopped petting him, he actually looked up. I imagined him thinking, “Why are you stopping now?” – the way I do when Dennis stops rubbing my back after only twenty-three minutes. But maybe that’s a hawkish look of terror. How would I know?

 

Are you stopping now??

Are you stopping now??

 

In any case, Dennis carefully wrapped his hands around him and brought him out into the room, heading for the door, just four feet away. We were almost there! I could taste victory. And then Cooper jumped from his hands – and a certain expletive flew from both our mouths at the same time.

Next, he perched on top of the metal shelving unit where I store empty plastic pots and such. He was right in front of a small (dirty!) window, one that was open from the bottom.

 

Another window. This one is OPEN.

Another window. This one is OPEN.

 

We quickly concocted another brilliant plan. As Dennis cleared the area, I talked to Cooper and took photos. Then Dennis gently put his hands around him and even more gently pushed him down and out the window. Yes!! I clapped hysterically as Cooper the hawk flew up into a Bigleaf maple tree behind the house.

 

Freedom at last!

Freedom at last!

 

We stood on the lawn watching for ten minutes as he recuperated, then went back inside. When I went back out twenty minutes later to see if he was still in the tree, he’d gone. Hours later, though, a hawk swooped down into the back yard, just once, and over the house. I ran outside, scanned the trees and sky. Was that Cooper saying hello – or good-bye? I like to think so.

I’d love to see him again under better circumstances. And in case you’re reading this, Cooper, those circumstances would NOT include watching you dine on one of the jays or flickers or robins in our yard. Just sayin’ …

End of story. My apologies for all the blatant anthropomorphizing. But it was just such fun.

 

 

Posted in Bird Canada, Bird Identification, Canadian Birds, Raptors | Tagged | 11 Comments

August Notes From a NW Ontario Backyard

Late summer already … it’s such a shame that the shortest season of the year has to disappear in a blink!  I think it should be a rule that summer runs more slowly than the other 3 seasons, don’t you??

I was very excited this week to have another first-ever sighting for the backyard:  a Blue Headed Vireo!  This is the 4th Vireo species I have had visit my yard in the past few years.  The other 3 were Red Eyed (VERY common here), Philadelphia (I’ve only ever seen 2) and a super rare White Eyed Vireo in November a few years ago.

Blue Headed Vireo

Bad photo, I know, but it still good for documenting this Blue Headed Vireo in my crabapple tree!

I had some Warblers move through my backyard this week, a definite sign of late summer.  A nice assortment to start fall migration:  Tennessee (adult and juvenile), Black & White (juvenile), American Redstart, Northern Waterthrush, Yellow Rumped (adults and juveniles).  Between late summer and October of 2014, I documented 9 different Warbler species in my yard.  Hoping for a repeat performance this year.  :)

Immature Yellow Rumped Warbler

One of 4 juvenile Yellow Rumped Warblers in the backyard

Northern Waterthrush

I see an average of 1 or 2 Northern Waterthrush in my yard each year.

Immature Yellow Rumped Warbler With Lunch

Juvenile Yellow Rumped Warbler with a snack

Along with the Warblers, I’m still seeing quite a few other types of young birds in my yard although the begging behaviour has slowed dramatically.

Immature White Throated Sparrow

One of two juvenile White Throated Sparrows

Immature Common Grackle With Pine Bug

Such a good bird! This juvenile Grackle caught a Pine Beetle for dinner!

Grackle Bath Time

The juvenile Grackles have been making regular use of the birdbath this week

Chickadees

A whole family of 6 Chickadees showed up last week … 2 adults and 4 begging youngsters

Now that we are into late summer (egads!!), Hummingbird activity in the yard has picked up dramatically.  I’m now seeing males, females AND juveniles in the yard almost constantly.  There is LOTS of bickering and squabbling going on as they fight over the feeders and flowerbeds.  Great entertainment!  Sadly, I know the male Hummers have already begun their fall migration.  Females and youngsters will be here for upwards of another 5 weeks or so.

Female Ruby Throated Hummingbird at Feeder

Female Ruby Throated Hummingbird at one of my feeders

Every year in mid to late July, I see Common Nighthawks zooming across the evening skies in my neighbourhood.  Their visits are timed to match the annual hatching of the flying ants.  When the ants have all hatched and disappeared in early August, the Nighthawks are gone too.  They are such incredible aerial acrobats and really are something pretty spectacular to see, especially when the evening sun hits them and those white wing bars stand out like neon.  About 5 years ago, the number of Nighthawks in this area was in the thousands.  Since then, for some reason, I’m lucky to see one or two dozen.

Common Nighthawk

Common Nighthawk

The only other sighting to note this week is a small flock of 7 Evening Grosbeaks that visited the neighbourhood a few days ago.  I’m hoping they will stay for the winter (bad word, I know!) and give me impressive numbers to watch for the longest season of the year.

Until next month, thanks for reading!

 

Posted in Bird Canada | 5 Comments

Bird Studies Canada Seeking Volunteers in BC

Photo © Karen Barry

Photo © Karen Barry

The 17th season of the British Columbia Coastal Waterbird Survey begins on September 13, and we have several vacant sites in Vancouver, Tofino, and Ucluelet. This long-term monitoring program helps identify population and distribution changes in overwintering waterbirds. Volunteers conduct counts of ducks, loons, grebes, gulls, and other waterbirds on the second Sunday of each month throughout the winter. We welcome all our new and returning volunteers, and hope you enjoy the surveys!

Bird Studies Canada is also seeking volunteers to assist with a new bird-window collision monitoring project in downtown Vancouver. Surveys will be conducted in September and October, and involve walking along a route just after dawn for about 20 minutes to look for evidence of collisions at various buildings. The results will help our scientists assess mortality rates, identify vulnerable species, and understand the impacts of collisions in Vancouver.

To learn more about or volunteer for either of these projects, please contact Karen Devitt at BCvolunteer@birdscanada.org or 1-877-349-2473.

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Bird Tales from a Toronto Backyard – How we started

backyard

Our backyard, where all the action happens.

“It all started with a pair of Cardinals”. This is my standard response when asked how we got into backyard bird feeding or birding in general for that matter. Rob and I started dating in January of 2004, and that spring I suggested he get a bird feeder for his backyard. A pair of Northern Cardinals found that feeder about two weeks later, and like our relationship, the bird feeding and birding adventures have snow balled from there.

We now have between 8 and 12 feeders and between 1 and 4 bird baths in the backyard, depending on the season. People are often surprised at how many bird species we get in our backyard living where we do, but if you offer the right food and water, the birds will come. We’ve had 54 species visit our yard, and Rob even keeps a “fly over” list. We have our regulars and we’ve had some pretty interesting short term visitors which will be blogged about at another time.

Rob started planting native plants a few years ago to offer natural food for the birds as well. We do not use any pesticides and like a natural look to our backyard. We spend a lot of time in our backyard and enjoy the birds and all the other critters that wander through from time to time. Sitting out there as we so often do, it’s pretty easy to pretend you’re miles away from the city of Toronto.

We do go birding around different areas of Ontario, especially during migration. We did our first international birding trip last year, Cape May, NJ, USA and we have other places we’d like to go birding one day, but there is something special about enjoying the birds in your own backyard.

Below is a list of regular bird visitors, and a few pictures, all taken by Rob in our backyard over the past few years. He enjoys taking wildlife photos but does not consider himself a photographer. Me, I just carry binoculars when I go birding. I hope you enjoyed our first blog post, we look forward to sharing our backyard bird tales with you and will be taking turns writing the posts. ~Angie

Northern Cardinal, our first backyard visitor.

Northern Cardinal, our first backyard visitor.

We enjoy the Red-breasted Nuthatches in the winter.

We enjoy the Red-breasted Nuthatches in the winter.

American Robin, a sign of spring for most.

Our sign of Spring, the arrival of the Red-winged blackbirds.

Our sign of Spring, the arrival of the Red-winged blackbirds.

Chickadees have nested in the backyard a few times.

Chickadees have nested in the backyard a few times.

Downy Woodpeckers are year round visitors to our yard.

Downy Woodpeckers are year round visitors to our yard.

 

  1. American Robin (Spring/Summer)
  2. American Goldfinch (Year Round)
  3. American Tree Sparrow (Winter)
  4. American Goldfinch (Year Round)
  5. Blue Jay (Year Round)
  6. Baltimore Oriole (Spring/Summer)
  7. Blue Jay (Year Round)
  8. Brown-headed Cowbird (Spring/Summer)
  9. Black-capped Chickadee (Year Round)
  10. Common Grackle (Spring/Summer)
  11. Coopers Hawk (Fall/Winter)
  12. Downy Woodpecker (Year Round)
  13. Dark-eyed Junco (Fall/Winter)
  14. European Starling (Year Round)
  15. Hairy Woodpecker (Summer/Fall)
  16. House Finch (Year Round)
  17. House Sparrow (Year Round)
  18. Mourning Dove (Year Round)
  19. Northern Cardinal (Year Round)
  20. Red-breasted Nuthatch (Winter)
  21. Red-tailed Hawk (Year Round)
  22. Red-winged Blackbird (Spring/Summer)
  23. Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Spring/Summer)
  24. Rock Pigeon (Year Round)
  25. Sharp-shined Hawk (Fall/Winter)
  26. White-breasted Nuthatch (Fall/Winter)
A Blue Jay enjoys a bath on a hot summers day.

A Blue Jay enjoys a bath on a hot summers day.

I look forward to arrival of the Baltimore Orioles every Spring.

Goldfinches stay with us all year long.

Goldfinches stay with us all year long.

Sharp-shinned Hawk, one of 3 hawk species to visit the backyard.

Sharp-shinned Hawk, one of 3 hawk species to visit the backyard.

No bird gets me more excited in the backyard than the Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

No bird gets me more excited in the backyard than the Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

Posted in Bird Canada | 2 Comments

Some Summer Birding on Prince Edward Island

As June was past and we looked forward to the birds of Summer, our focus on the birds is changing. Rather than being occupied by looking for the arrival of migrants, people are finding birds that are in the midst of their breeding cycles and we are seeing birds that are in stages of raising young and recently fledged birds.

Bird Canada 1

Osprey are seen across the Island. This is one of a pair that occupy a platform just inside the National Park near Rustico.

Osprey numbers have increased nicely over the time I have been on the Island and both natural nests, and those on constructed platforms, can be spotted throughout the province. At the same time, other birds are being impacted by a variety of causes, and efforts are being made to assist them. There are programs taking place on the Island such as building nest boxes and bird banding to provide us with new information as to how our birds are faring.

One such program is on Hummingbirds. The program was proposed by Brenda Penak through the Island Nature Trust. Over one week in July, Brenda and Cindy Cartwright, one of Canada’s foremost Hummingbird researchers, created a Hummingbird Garden in Victoria Park, Charlottetown, gave presentations on our Ruby-throated Hummingbirds and trapped and banded Hummingbirds.

Hummingbirds 1 Trap

Hummingbird traps at the ready.

Hummingbird 2

Cindy collecting a hummingbird from the trap.

Hummingbird 8

Taking measurements.

Hummingbird 13

Examining the Hummingbird and checking brood patch after measuring, recording and banding prior to release.

Similar programs are taking place across the Island on American Kestrels, Piping Plovers and Woodland birds. There are also studies and surveys on Bobolink and Barn Swallows.

In the meantime, life goes on with the birds.

Bank Swallow

Bank Swallow are also found across the Island, although their numbers are being impacted by the many activities along our shores.

 

Red-breasted Nuthatch

Recently fledged Red-breasted Nuthatch (one of at least a family of four).

There was a late season bird walk in an area of the Island known as the Devil’s Punchbowl with the Trout River Watershed Committee.

The Devil's Punchbowl

American Redstart and Eastern Larch

American Redstart & Eastern Larch

Warbler - Black-throated Green

Black-throated Green Warbler

Now, with July over and August upon us, our shores are being littered with birds on their southerly migration. The Bonaparte’s Gulls numbers are more evident and shorebirds are increasing daily. I say bring it on!

Boneparte's Gull

Bonaparte’s Gull still displaying it’s breeding plumage.

Greater Yellowlegs

Greater Yellowlegs

Willet

Willet

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The Birds, the Bees, and a Drought

This summer we’re “feeling the heat” as we deal with drought and worry about the threat of fire on our island. (Where would we go??) Water conservation is nothing new to any gulf islander, of course. Although Dennis and I have a good well, many islanders buy drinking water year round and use captured rain water, held in cisterns, for other purposes. My friends in Vancouver are now under Level 3 water restrictions, which means no watering of lawns or washing of cars, etc. They’re busy learning how to cope with limited water supplies. But no one I know here on Gabriola Island would ever waste precious well or captured water to keep a car clean or water a lawn. I guess we’re always on a self-imposed Level 3. And these days many of us, our household included, are catching most of the water coming out of our faucet in a big bowl and carrying it out to water selected plants in the garden, mostly the food. And we save our pre-shower water (what would “normally” go down the drain as the water is heating up in the morning) to replenish the bird and bee baths every day.

For two days this week, though, we got some RAIN! Not enough to replenish the aquifers or help the deep root trees, but enough to give a lot of the very thirsty plants and ground cover and birds a fighting chance.

Speaking of birds, our yard is inundated with families right now. I guess they know what side their bread is buttered on.

The Nursery

The Nursery

Our little “wild” back garden is a favourite nesting spot, especially for Spotted Towhees, Song Sparrows, and Dark-eyed Juncos. I think they like the cover of all the salal as well as the weed seeds! So far it’s survived the drought quite well without any watering. This photo was pre-rain, after weeks of high temps.

Female Pileated Woodpecker teaching daughter how to use suet feeder

Female Pileated Woodpecker teaching daughter how to use suet feeder

When this Pileated Woodpecker mother and daughter showed up in the yard, I quickly stocked up on suet.

Juvenile getting suet "all by myself"

Juvenile getting suet “all by myself”

She quickly learned the ropes while Mom and Dad watched from a cedar tree not far away.

Juvenile Hairy  Woodpecker

Juvenile Hairy Woodpecker

I don’t see much of the parents but this juvenile Hairy Woodpecker is a regular. Note the beginnings of the red cap.

Hairy Woodpecker juvenile

Hairy Woodpecker juvenile

A nice bath is always good after lunch, especially in this heat!

Black-headed Grosbeak, juvenile male

Black-headed Grosbeak, juvenile male

For the first time this year, we have a big family of Black-headed Grosbeaks, parents and 3 offspring. I’ve bought more suet, the non-drippy kind, in bulk.

Female Black-headed Grosbeak in Cedar tree

Female Black-headed Grosbeak in Cedar tree

Not sure if this grosbeak is the mother or a juvenile. They look quite similar, although I think the mother’s plumage is slightly darker and more variegated.

Spotted Towhee with berry

Spotted Towhee with berry

There are two families of Spotted Towhees in the yard. One is based in the side garden (as above) and the other in the back garden. I think this is the mother of the side garden family. I’ve tried to get some photos of the kids but they’re just too rambunctious!

Juvenile Song Sparrow taking a bath

Juvenile Song Sparrow taking a bath

This is one of the two juvenile Song Sparrows from the back garden clan who constantly fight with each other. This one just won the battle for the bath. His sibling is waiting, out of sight, under the bath.

Anybody got a comb? Or feather blower?

Anybody got a comb? Or feather blower?

A quick dry off in the hot sun.

Red-breasted Nuthatch with nut

Red-breasted Nuthatch with nut

Honk honk honk!! This is the parent of a family of Red-breasted Nuthatches. For such a small bird, it’s amazing how far their “honk” carries.

Red-breasted Sapsucker post bath

Red-breasted Sapsucker post-bath

I haven’t seen any babies from this Red-breasted Sapsucker but he’s a regular visitor to the yard. This is the first time I’ve seen him in one of the bird baths.

Female Anna's

Female Anna’s

This spunky Anna’s female is a year-round visitor.

Mama Robin and baby in Japanese cherry tree outside bedroom

Mama Robin and baby in Japanese cherry tree outside bedroom

My what a big mouth you have dear!

My what a big mouth you have dear!

Love waking up to the robins!

Juvenile House Finch in plum tree

Juvenile House Finch in plum tree

Always lots of House Finches. This guy was gleaning bugs from the plum tree.

Chestnut-backed Chickadee enjoying a nut

Chestnut-backed Chickadee enjoying a nut

These little guys are so comfortable with us humans. If  I take the feeders down for awhile and am patient enough, they’ll eat from my hand. Chestnut-backed Chickadees are unique to the gulf islands, Vancouver Island, and the Pacific coast. Their Black-capped kin inhabit the Pacific Coast (though not the islands) and the rest of the country.

Bee bath

Bee bath

This is the first year we’ve put out a Bee Bath. Both honey bees and wasps feast on the oregano then have a drink. What would life on earth be without the birds AND bees?

Save the Bees cake by Brie, my multi-talented daughter

Save the Bees cake by Brie, my multi-talented daughter

How are YOU and your birds and bees coping with the drought?

Posted in Bird Canada | 4 Comments

July Notes From a Northwestern Ontario Backyard

Hello again!

This is not the busiest time of the year in my yard but there are still a few visitors making an appearance lately.  It’s quite noisy in the yard these days, actually, because we are being overrun with Grackle and Starling juveniles.  When you get 20 or 30 of them, man, can they make a racket!!

Once again, my husband and I are birdie empty nesters.  Our family of Tree Swallows officially fledged on July 4th.  Our resident pair successfully raised 5 chicks, once again.  Most exciting though, is that this was the first year that I was actually able to sit and watch 3/4 of the process. When we looked outside at 8:00 am that day, my husband was the first to spot 3 youngsters on the ground against the garage door, right below the birdhouse.

2015's first 3 brave little Tree Swallow fledglings

2015’s first 3 brave little Tree Swallow fledglings

As I watched over a period of another 3 hours, the other 2 came out, one of which landed right at my feet!   I kept a very close eye on them the rest of the day, having to rescue 2 of them from traffic.  They made their way out to the street and I had to shoo them off the road … I actually stopped one truck so I could do the rescue!  The adult Swallows are another huge hazard:  if I got within 10 feet of the juvies, I’d have about 20 adult Swallows dive bombing my head! Dangerous work!  By 2:30 pm, they were all gone …. safely, I can only hope.

Last 2 fledglings in the bird house for 2015

Last 2 fledglings in the bird house for 2015

Last Tree Swallow fledgling to leave for 2015

Last Tree Swallow fledgling to leave for 2015

Hubby and I went out in the woods for a ride in our Teryx (side by side 4 wheeler) last weekend and came across 2 separate families of Ruffed Grouse.  The juveniles are so freakin’ cute right now!  Instead of having a full head crest, they just kind of have a ….. spike …. for lack of a better term!

Juvenile Ruffed Grouse

Juvenile Ruffed Grouse

Their tail feathers haven’t completely grown in yet either so they are far from professional fliers at this point.  They stick pretty close to momma Grouse who is VERY protective of them.  With any luck this winter, we’ll have these lovely birds visiting the yard again for the season.

Protective Momma Ruffed Grouse

Protective Momma Ruffed Grouse

We’ve had many Robins in the neighbourhood this summer, successfully raising their families.  I’ve been putting out dried mealworms this summer …. first time I’ve ever used them (we can’t get fresh ones up here, that I know of).  The Robins and Crows love them!

Robin in the flowerbed

Robin in the flowerbed

A  neighbour of mine was lucky enough to have a family of Northern Flickers nest successfully in his yard.  They fledged just last week.  This morning, I took a short walk and had 3 Flickers fly over my head from different directions before I even reached the end of my own lawn!  What fun it’s been to have them around.

Purple Finches are still around but I haven’t seen any young from them yet.  The Goldfinches have mostly disappeared recently so I suspect it is nesting time for them.  Song Sparrows and Chipping Sparrows are around almost constantly.

Female Purple Finch in the Crabapple Tree

Female Purple Finch in the Crabapple Tree

We have also been lucky enough this year to have a pair of Eastern Bluebirds nesting in the neighbourhood.  They are getting closer to the yard!  I remain hopeful for next year.

Male Eastern Bluebird on a powerline over my driveway

Male Eastern Bluebird on a powerline over my driveway

My yard is getting much more colorful these days and will be a riot of color very shortly as my late summer plants burst into full bloom.  This Tiger Swallowtail loves the Honeysuckle blossoms as do the odd Clear-Wing Moth.

Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly on Honeysuckle Shrub

Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly on Honeysuckle Shrub

Peony Shrubs

Peony Shrubs

Funky Bird in backyard garden!

Funky Bird in backyard garden!

Until next month ….. thanks for reading!

Tammie  :)

Posted in Boreal Forest Birds, Canadian Birds | Tagged | 2 Comments

Birding and Camping…it must be summer!

I love birding and I love camping (both of which I consider a form of ‘candy for the soul’), so when the two combine in summer I’m in a particularly happy place!

Spotted Towhee at Dinosaur PP

Spotted Towhee at Dinosaur PP

My first family camping trip this year was out to Dinosaur Provincial Park in south-eastern Alberta, world-renowned for its ‘badlands’ landscapes as well as the incredible amount and variety of fossils found there. The Park has a nice campground and also offers lots of short hikes for families with young children like me. And for the birder, you get to see several species that aren’t that common elsewhere in the province such as the Brown Thrasher and Lark Sparrow:

Brown Thrasher

Brown Thrasher

Other more common birds include:

Western Kingbird

Western Kingbird

House Wren

House Wren

Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

A great treat was to find and photograph my target bird of the trip, the Yellow-breasted Chat:TH1D0601d&b-v3-fb TH1D0463d&b-v3crop-fb TH1D0439d&b-fb TH1D0431v2-fb

But a word of caution if you visit Dinosaur: while birders like to spend a lot of time looking up, be sure to look down regularly here so that you don’t step on one of these:TH1D0078d&b-fb

….yes, the venomous Prairie Rattlesnake calls Dino home and I definitely enjoyed the opportunity to photograph and observe one at close, but safe, quarters. TH1D0157d&b-fb

However, it was right on the trail and you do need to keep an eye out. Indeed, the weekend following our trip a young girl was bitten by a rattler while running across the long grass behind the campground (she spent a week in hospital but is fine, I gather). All that said, personally I’d rather take my chances with a snake here than a bear at the mountain campgrounds…because unlike the snake, the bear is the one that will decide whether you live to tell the tale of your encounter!

A weekend back in Calgary allowed me to check some local ponds and some waterfowl were still putting on breeding displays, such as this Ruddy Duck:

Ruddy Duck performing the `bubble bath`courtship display.

Ruddy Duck performing the `bubble bath`courtship display.

but most seemed to be tending to their hatch year offspring, such as this American Coot that kept a close eye on me:

American Coot

American Coot

Our next camping destination was again to south-eastern Alberta, this time Kinbrook Island PP on Lake Newell. Flycatchers of all shapes and sizes were prevalent:

Least Flycatcher

Least Flycatcher

Western Wood Peewee

Western Wood Peewee

Western Kingbird

Western Kingbird

While various gulls seemed to have taken up residence in a nearby field as well, this one here loudly proclaiming its rights to a roadkill ground squirrel it had found:TH1D1753

While at Kinbrook, I took a drive around the surrounding area to see if I could find any Ferrugionous Hawks of which I spied two at long range, but Longspurs were in good numbers throughout:

Chestnut-collared Longspur

Chestnut-collared Longspur

And while I was out shooting the longspurs, I was delighted to come across this small family of grazing Pronghorn:

Pronghorn

Pronghorn

Back at the campground, the surrounding marshes are home to a number of Marsh Wrens who never cease to amaze me with their bottomless energy levels that enable them to sing (or rather chatter) away from dawn to dusk:TH1D1860d&b-fb

I`m always happy to photograph these little characters:

Marsh Wren

Marsh Wren

Have a fun & safe summer!

Cheers,

Tim.

 

 

Posted in Bird Canada | 2 Comments

May & June

Black-throated Green Warbler

Black-throated Green Warbler during the Macphail “Birds & Breakfast”.

The birds are back, and are well into the breeding season. The morning chorus is slowing and many young birds have fledged. We have had a number of nice events and some good sighting. Here are a few of the highlights.

Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat

 

American Redstart

American Redstart during Bain Birdathon.

 

Eastern Kingbird

Eastern Kingbird

 

Cedar Waxwing7

Cedar Waxwing at Campbell’s Pond.

 

Swainson's Thrush

Swainson’s Thrush at Bonshaw Park.

 

Northern Parula5

Northern Parula

Eastern Wood Peewee

Eastern Wood Pewee

 

 

Double-crested Cormorant

Double-crested Cormorant

 

Gray Partridge

Gray Partridge at Campbell’s Pond.

 

Wood Duck

Wood Duck at Borden Lagoons.

 

Willet2

Willet at Cape Traverse.

 

Yellow Warbler2

Yellow Warbler at Noonan’s Marsh.

Now we look forward to the passage of the shorebirds through our area as they will soon begin to migrate on their way south. Bring them on!

Posted in Bird Canada | 1 Comment

The Tar Sands, a Forest, a Billion Birds

In June 2012 I submitted my concerns about Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline (NGP) to the Joint Review Panel of the National Energy Board (NEB). As I told the panel then, “Honestly, I’d rather be bird-watching, but sometimes there’s just no choice.”

Enbridge tanks

Images of Canada Geese on Enbridge’s oil storage tanks. Very annoying.

Of the 1161 citizens who made submissions to the NEB, two were in favour of the project. Nonetheless, in December 2013 the NEB approved the pipeline and sent it to the federal government for a final decision. Six months later, when Prime Minister Harper approved the pipeline, I thought of all those migrating geese that had already suffocated in tar sands tailing ponds. If you have the stomach for it, the article that follows includes a video of ducks struggling to get out of a tailings pond owned by Syncrude Canada Ltd in 2010. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/no-charges-to-be-laid-in-case-of-duck-deaths-on-tailings-pond/article4590596/

Then I thought about the Boreal Forest, breeding grounds for at least 325 bird species, nearly half the species found in North America. Billions of birds.

The Boreal Forest. Photo by Olga Oslina. CC-image.

The Boreal Forest. Photo by Olga Oslina. CC-image.

It’s also home to the Tar Sands.

The Tar Sands

The Tar Sands

I thought about the slow and painful death of democracy in Canada.

Then I thought about my beloved coastline, about what an oil spill will do to coastal communities, to the sea birds and mammals and ocean, to the 127,000 people who work in the BC tourism industry. http://credbc.ca/role-energy-sector-bcs-economy/.

Brickyard Beach on Gabriola, part of the Bird Studies Canada Beached Bird Survey program

Brickyard Beach on Gabriola, part of the Bird Studies Canada Beached Bird Survey program

I ranted. I raved. I cried.

It’s three years later; I’d still rather be spending my spare time watching birds.

Great Blue Heron at Reifel Bird Sanctuary in Delta BC

Great Blue Heron at Reifel Bird Sanctuary in Delta BC

Instead, though, I’m here – writing, grieving, getting angry all over again as I try to decide whether or not to participate in the Public Hearing for the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion (TMPE).

The National Energy Board accepted my application to comment on this project over a year ago. The rules had changed by this time. Applicants now have to demonstrate (via a 10 page application form) that they’re either “directly affected” by the project (what coastal resident isn’t?) and/or have “relevant information or expertise”. In my application to comment I ticked both boxes then wrote about the impact of Kinder Morgan’s proposed pipeline expansion on the more than one billion birds, including twenty-four priority bird species that migrate along the Pacific Flyway and the more than seventy species that make their home on or migrate through Gabriola Island, my home.

I wrote about my concern over oil spills and the fact that even one drop of oil can be lethal and that a significant percentage of birds die even after being cleaned. (http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2010/06/100608-gulf-oil-spill-birds-science-environment/).

Oiled birds after Exxon Valdez spill. CC license.

Oiled birds after Exxon Valdez spill. CC license.

I wrote about the chronic oiling of seabirds and mammals, oiling that will increase dramatically as the number of tankers leaving Burrard Inlet and heading down the Strait of Juan de Fuca, passing through several internationally-recognized Important Bird Areas, rises to over four hundred a year. I mentioned that these IBAs are critical for the maintenance of the world’s bird populations because they support millions of nesting, wintering, and migrating birds.

Since the NGP hearings, things have gotten worse. The Harper government (perhaps fearing that the NEB might be infiltrated by a bunch of radical birders?) included an amendment in its infamous omnibus bill C-38 stating that even if the NEB should recommend against a project, the federal government has the final say. To make matters even more depressing, the NEB took the “Public” out of “Public Hearing”. You can read about that here – if you’re up to more bad news: https://ca.news.yahoo.com/blogs/dailybrew/restrictive-neb-pipeline-hearing-rules-violate-charter-free-000011109.html

I’m not alone in my outrage. Expert intervenors and commenters are dropping like flies as the deadline to submit approaches. http://www.news1130.com/2015/06/07/cant-do-anything-to-make-kinder-morgan-hearing-appear-fair-neb/

Recently energy executive Marc Eliesen, an intervenor who withdrew, called the hearing process “jury-rigged with a pre-determined outcome“, “a public deception” by an “industry captured regulator.” (http://www.desmog.ca/2014/11/03/energy-executive-quits-trans-mountain-pipeline-review-calls-NEB-process-public-deception).

The deadline to make my submission to the NEB is July 23 and a big part of me doesn’t want to play the game. What, I ask myself, is the point? … Then I think of the birds. Somebody has to speak for them, right?

Black-headed Grosbeak at our suet feeder

Black-headed Grosbeak at our suet feeder

The problem I face now is that much of what I’d want to say is verboten. NEB rules no longer allow commenters to mention, for example, climate change. (!!) Yet, according to the 2014 Climate Report by the Audubon Society, it’s climate change – fueled to a considerable extent by tar sands oil production in Canada – that “seriously threatens bird species across Canada and the United States”. The report, “314 Species on the Brink”, warns that “half of all birds studied could see their populations drop dramatically on account of climate change.” (http://climate.audubon.org/)

Among the species identified as “severely threatened” due to habitat destruction brought on by climate change are some of my favourite backyard birds:

Varied Thrush female

Varied Thrush female in our yard

82% of the Varied Thrush’s summer range and 44% of its winter range has been lost due to climate change.

Hairy Woodpecker in our back yard

Hairy Woodpecker in our back yard

The Hairy Woodpecker has lost 78% of its summer range and and 30% of its winter range.

Hermit Thrush. Photo by Garry Davey.

Hermit Thrush. Photo by Garry Davey. (Thank you.)

The Hermit Thrush has lost 74% of its summer range and 31% of its winter range.

Western Tanager in our front yard, migrating through

Western Tanager in our front yard, migrating through

The Western Tanager has lost 70% of its summer range and 37% of its winter range.

A nest of Violet-green Swallows at Folklife Village, Gabriola Island.

A nest of Violet-green Swallows at Folklife Village, Gabriola Island.

The Violet-Green Swallow has lost 65% of its summer range and 38% of its winter range.

Pair of Common Ravens at Scarlett Point BC. Photo by Ivan Dubinsky. (Thank you.)

Pair of Common Ravens at Scarlett Point BC. Photo by Ivan Dubinsky. (Thank you.)

The Common Raven has lost 62% of its summer range and 35% of its winter range.

Northern Saw-whet Owl. Photo by Gary Stolz. USF&W photo. (Thank you.)

Northern Saw-whet Owl. Photo by Gary Stolz. USF&W photo. (Thank you.)

Some birds, including the Northern Saw-whet Owl have lost 100% of their winter range.

Trumpter Swans passing through Gabriola. Photo by Eileen Kaarsmaker. (Thank you.)

Trumpter Swans passing through Gabriola. Photo by Eileen Kaarsmaker. (Thank you.)

Others, including the Trumpeter Swan, have lost 100% of their summer range.

Even though birds are pretty good at adapting to their environment, the climate is changing faster than their capacity to adapt. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology Yard Map folks explain: “Birds have a relationship with habitat that is often delicately intertwined with climate. As the climate slowly shifts so does the make-up of their habitats, sometimes removing expected food sources, favorite nesting locations, or sources of water. As warmer winter temperatures become more common, one way for some animals to adjust is to shift their ranges northward. But a new study of 59 North American bird species indicates that doing so is not easy or quick—it took about 35 years for many birds to move far enough north for winter temperatures to match where they historically lived. … Most likely, birds are not shifting their range faster because the vegetation they rely on as a part of their habitat shifts very slowly.”  http://content.yardmap.org/learn/habitat-defined/climate-change/  Gary Langham, lead investigator of the Audobon Climate Project, summarizes the issue: “Birds have wings. Trees don’t.”

The sad conclusion of the report is that unabated climate change is “likely to lead to the decline of bird populations across North America and, in some cases, outright extinction.”

Submitting my concerns about the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion without talking about climate change would be like discussing the obesity epidemic without mentioning the fast food industry. Or grappling with the plight of the First Nations in Canada without mentioning the residential school system.

But that’s not all. Not only is the NEB not interested in hearing about climate change, in its own words, it “does not intend to consider the environmental and socio-economic effects associated with upstream activities, the development of oil sands, or the downstream use of the oil transported by the pipeline.”

Yikes. I am not permitted to voice my outrage about all those toxic tailings ponds where so many birds suffocate and die every year? (Luckily, I did have an opportunity to that, to some extent, here, thanks to BirdCanada: http://www.birdcanada.com/drilling-for-oil-in-the-nursery/).

And I can’t mention my worry over the increase in the number of huge Aframax tankers that would ply their way down the west coast, home of the Pacific Flyway, just inviting an oil spill destined to devastate the human and animal communities along my beloved coast – for decades? (https://dogwoodinitiative.org/no-tankers/learn-more/more-info/kinder-morgan-backgrounder)

Just what – of any import – would I say? What would YOU say?

I wonder: what would one of those Mallards suffocating in a tailings pond say? Or one of the Trumpeter Swans that have lost all their summer range? Or one of the 325 species that breed in the boreal forest? Maybe I’ll speak for them, say whatever I darn well please. After all, they don’t know the rules have changed.

All photos are property of the author unless otherwise noted. 

 

Posted in Bird Canada, Boreal Forest Birds, Global Warming | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments