Notes From a NW Ontario Backyard – Feb.’16

Hello again!  Hope everyone had an enjoyable Valentine’s Day.

Believe it or not, it is time for the Gray Jay to nest!  Up here in NW Ontario, I believe the Gray Jay is the earliest species to begin nesting, usually in mid to late February.  The signs have been there lately too.  Twice this week, I’ve seen a pair feeding each other peanut butter from the log I have hanging with my feeders.  Last week, I was able to see this from 5 feet away, as one fed the other from my honeysuckle shrub while I was standing there watching.  I loved it!

Gray Jay

Gray Jay enjoying the rare sunshine

GJays sharing peanut butter

Mating pair of Gray Jays: one is feeding the other peanut butter …. SO sweet to see!

GJay eating peanut butter

Gray Jay on the peanut butter log

3 Gray Jays

3 Gray Jays: 2 are a mating pair, one is a loner

Redpoll numbers have finally picked up nicely in my yard and the bonus is that there are a couple of Hoary Redpolls in the mix.  The season for them started out very slow.  I normally have Redpolls at my feeders by the end of November but this year, although I would see or hear small flocks of them flying around, they didn’t come to my feeders until nearly Christmas and even then, the numbers were very low.  Now, I’m averaging 40 to 60+ at a time …. much better.  🙂

Redpoll at -35C

Male Hoary Redpoll

Male CRedpoll

Male Common Redpoll

Male & Female CRedpolls

Male (top) and female Common Redpolls

Hoary & Common Redpolls

Two Common (top) and one Hoary Redpoll

Female CRedpoll

Female Common Redpoll

Grosbeaks are here pretty steadily.  Evening Grosbeak numbers fluctuate from 5 to 20 per day.  Pine Grosbeak numbers are pretty steady around 15 at a time.

Male & Female EVGB

Male (top) and female Evening Grosbeak

Busy Feeders

Pine Grosbeaks with Common Redpolls

EVGBs on Birdbath

Male (right) and female Evening Grosbeak at my nearly frozen heated birdbath (it was -35C that day!)

Speaking of Grosbeaks, I had a visit from a very interesting one last week.  I thought at first that this was a female Pine Grosbeak with messed up colors but once I asked around to a couple of ornithologist friends, I found that this is actually a MALE Pine Grosbeak with a condition called Xanthochroism:  excessive yellow pigment instead of the normal red.  I’ve seen various forms of this before in the Pine Grosbeaks but never to this extent.  He’s stunning in lovely gold!

Pine with Xanthochroism2

Male Pine Grosbeak with Xanthochroism: excessive yellow pigment

Pine with Xanthochroism1

Male Pine Grosbeak with Xanthochroism: excessive yellow pigment

One or two Ruffed Grouse are still coming around almost daily.  A few days ago, this smaller Grouse spent an entire day in the yard.  She (I think) had breakfast at the feeders, then she made her way over to my spruce tree where she has a favourite perch in the middle of the tree.  She settled in there and spent the whole day resting, napping and looking around, well protected from the elements.  I have a perfect view of that spot from my office window.

Grouse hiding in feeders

One of two Ruffed Grouse that visit daily. This one is the smaller of the two.

Two Crows come in to fight the Blue Jays for peanuts.  It can get very noisy sometimes but the Crows are actually quite shy and jumpy.  I don’t mind having them around one little bit either.


Crow eyeing up the peanuts on the platform feeder

A few Chickadees come around off and on all day long.  This little Black Capped Chickadee finally sat still just long enough for a quick snap.  I’ve been very lucky in the past two weeks to have a couple of quick (VERY quick!) visits from this fellow’s cousin, the Boreal Chickadee.  In almost 12 years, these are the first two visits from a Boreal that I can be sure of.  I’ve heard them nearby before but have never seen them in the yard until this month. No photos of them ….. yet.


Black Capped Chickadee

And that’s about it for this month.  By the time you hear from me again, it will be just as spring is officially arriving!  Doesn’t that make you feel good?

Thanks for reading!

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15 Responses to Notes From a NW Ontario Backyard – Feb.’16

  1. Tammie Hache says:

    Thanks, Thai! 🙂

  2. Thai says:

    Amazing to see all your new photos this week

  3. Thai says:

    y favorite bird of all is the Black Capped Chickadee

  4. Tammie Hache says:

    Thanks, Thai … in summer, I’m expecting various sparrows, purple finches, goldfinches, etc. With any luck, a Rose Breasted Grosbeak will visit. Fingers crossed! T.

  5. Tammie Hache says:

    I emailed you, Angie. 🙂

  6. Thai says:

    Love all the photos you take. You really take great shots. Can hardly wait to see what birds you get in Ontario for spring in summer. Here in lower Manitoba it may me different. Guess we can compare over summer.

  7. Angie says:

    just wondering, what your opinion is on feeding Goldies this summer, sunflower chips or nyjer. some say either will attract them some say one or the other. Do you use mesh finch feeders in summer to over tube finch feeder? this would help me. Thanks in advance for your time.


  8. Tammie Hache says:

    Hello & thank you so much for you comments! Afraid I can’t help you with the jacket. I bought it at a souvenir shop near here a few years ago but they don’t carry them anymore as their stock changes regularly. I checked the tag on it and it does not show a distributor. Sorry!

  9. Jo Walden says:

    We watch from Plymouth, England. Your feeder birds are fantastic! We love it. Especially the Gray Jays, so cute, and the fleeting chickadee. Just found this blog, love your photos. One day, when filling the feeders, you wore a jacket with bear motif on the sleeve. Can you tell me where you got it, and do they have a website I could check on? Jo and Barry Walden

  10. Tammie Hache says:

    Hahaha! Thanks, guys!

  11. Rob and Angie Mueller says:

    Love, love, LOVE, the Gray Jays!!! We always make at least one trip to Algonquin every year to see them. Great blog, I have backyard envy! 🙂

  12. Tammie Hache says:

    You’re welcome, Gilda! Glad you enjoyed it. 🙂

  13. Tammie Hache says:

    Me too, Marcia! I’ve seen him 3 times now but he’s never once sat still long enough for me to catch him.

  14. gilda9 blackmore says:

    Thank you for providing this look at the birds of Manitouwadge! Inspiring!

  15. Marcia Stager says:

    Hope you can get a few pics of the boreal chickadee. My class and I will have to keep a close watch out for it.