Friday, 21 April 2017

It's a Ruff Life

Today I was able to finish up my work early and decided to try for the awesome bird that Jarmo Jalava found up in the Grey-Bruce area yesterday.  The bird is a 'Ruff', a European species that winters mostly in Africa and breeds in Scandinavia and northern Asia.  Although a very rare vagrant, wayward individuals do show up each year in Ontario.  As I had not had the opportunity to see this species before, I made the 1.5hr drive from Fergus this afternoon.  Lucky for me, the bird decided to stick around!  Below are a few photos I snapped with the new camera.

The bird on the left is the Ruff.  It is a male, hence why it has the ridiculous showy feathers!

The Ruff was really entertaining as it chased the other Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs and the Pectoral Sandpipers.

At one point it even took to flight to chase away this Pectoral Sandpiper!

Eyeing up the next target!

This bird was well worth the drive!  Such an exciting bird to see!

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Loggerhead Shrike - Napanee Alvar

This weekend I was home in Kingston to see my family, and on Saturday, Dad, Caitlyn and I headed up to the Napanee Limestone Plains Important Bird Area on Nugent Road north of Napanee to see if we could find some Loggerhead Shrike.  Loggerhead Shrikes are an Endangered species in Ontario that favour alvar habitat, which are areas where the bedrock comes close to the surface, making soils quite shallow.

We drove down Nugent Road and after a bit of searching, a shrike flew right across the road in front of us and proceeded to put on a show as it foraged along the fence line!  We saw another one on our way back down the road!

We also saw many beautiful Eastern Meadowlarks singing away, like this one below.

We were pleasantly surprised to see this flock of 14 Wilson's Snipe fly over and circle us!

On Friday we hiked around Lemoine Point Conservation Area, and although it was a lovely day, we picked up 5 Black-legged (Deer Ticks) on our clothes!  As you are probably aware, these nasty little creatures can give Lyme Disease, so it is a good idea to do a thorough tick check of your entire body after coming home.

Deer Tick - somehow this one eluded capture for over an hour and popped up on Caitlyn's leg while sitting in the living room!
 When I arrived in Kingston on Thursday night, the moon was nearly full and the sky was clear.  I decided to try out the moon setting on my new camera and was really impressed! You can see lots of the craters too!  This was handheld, bracing myself on the car hood at full zoom.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

More Nature Shots with the P900

I was down by Lake Erie for work again today and tested out the Nikon P900 some more.  I am really impressed with it! The range at which I am able to get decent shots with this camera is staggering! Shots that I wouldn't have even tried for before are easily attainable with this beast!

The shot below of the deer was taken at full telephoto (83X optical zoom) and handheld and came out pretty darn sharp!

Eastern Bluebird
 I took this shot of this eagle nest, staying inside my car at max telephoto.  The adult on the nest was feeding the new born nestlings some sort of meat.

Northern Flicker

Eastern Phoebe
 I was impressed also with how well the camera autofocus is able to thread the needle through branches to focus on the target as seen in this shot of a Cooper's Hawk and the Field Sparrow below.

Much more to come! Migration is in full swing!

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Luther Marsh and Nikon Coolpix P900 Test Run

It has been far too long since my last blog post, but March was a crazy busy month.  I am hoping that April is a bit more "normal".  Anyways, I recently purchased a new camera, the Nikon Coolpix P900.  I have had just about every type of camera you can think of: point and shoots, film SLRs and digital SLRs, and was anxious to see how this one stacked up.  If you are familiar with this camera, you know why I bought it...the enormous telephoto lens!  It has an optical zoom of 83X, an equivalent of up to 2000mm!  The camera itself is pretty enormous and I anticipate this will be mostly a car camera, and I will still carry my HX50 in my pocket everywhere.

Below are a few long range shots that I got.  I was really impressed with the quality of the images at such a long range and handheld!

The shot below wasn't half bad considering these ducks were pretty much across the lake!  Canvasback, Ring-necked Duck and Lesser Scaup.

I like the shot below.  It was pretty far out, and I just caught the heads of the male and female Mallard in the foreground, with the male Northern Shoveller in the background!

Some of the thousands of ducks that I flushed by accident from a puddle out in a field, I wish I was more careful and could have scoped through them while they were sitting.

We had fun watching these Sandhill Cranes.  I was pretty happy with these photos considering they were quite far into the field.

I can always count on seeing a few Trumpeter Swans at Luther Marsh at this time of year.  Two pairs were present in the pond.

A long range shot of Cait coming down from the viewing gallery, quite a ways away.  This is the perfect paparazzi camera!

One of the nice things about having a new camera is you end up taking lots more pictures! So I expect to post more regularly in the near future!

Monday, 20 March 2017

California Nature Highlights

 Caitlyn and I just got back from a great time in sunny California!  We flew into LA and spent the week traveling as far south as San Diego, east to Joshua Tree National Park and all the way up to San Francisco.  The driving was a bit tiring, but the wildlife and nature that we saw was well worth it! Below are some of my favourite shots of the scenery and wildlife we encountered.

We spent Saturday evening and most of the day on Sunday in Los Angeles and area, and one of our highlights was hiking in Griffith Park (near the Hollywood sign).  I didn't really care for the touristy stuff, but was happy to bird watch on the trails and scrub that is prevalent throughout this area.

One of my favourite species I saw here was the numerous Acorn Woodpeckers!  They were loud and conspicuous throughout the area.

Acorn Woodpecker
 Allen's Hummingbirds were by far the most common hummingbird in LA, followed by Anna's.
Allen's Hummingbird

Bewick's Wren
Rufous-crowned Sparrow

We also stopped by the La Brae Tar Pits in central LA.  It was really neat to learn all about the cool fossils that they found from ice age animals that sunk into the tar.  I also got to see some cool birds including these California Gulls.

Most of the day on Monday was spent in San Diego, which was experiencing some very foggy conditions.  The air was quite cool by the water, and the water was frigid.

Heerman's Gull
 We enjoyed watching the nesting Brandt's Cormorants on the sea cliffs near La Jolla.  Lots of people think they are ugly, but up close the eye and throat colour is striking!

Brandt's Cormorant

La Jolla coastline
 Lots of Sea Lions were also lazing about on the shore just feet away from tourists.  Some of them were branded/tagged for a research study.

In the afternoon on Monday we drove several hours to Joshua Tree National Park where we camped overnight.  This spot is a real gem that I would recommend checking out.  I could spend days exploring the desert in Joshua Tree - which comprises both part of the Mojave and Colorado deserts.

This is our camping spot - car camping but still pretty neat!
One of my bird highlights was seeing my first ever Costa's Hummingbird.
Costa's Hummingbird

 Cait and I had fun exploring the desert and found all sorts of interesting wildlife.

 Gambel's Quail were mostly very secretive except for this one that was found singing in the morning sun.
Gambel's Quail

Black-throated Sparrow

We had fun hiking the Skull Rock trail, named for this creepy looking rock.  Can you see the face?

Joshua Trees

Black-tailed Jackrabbit

Cholla Cacti 
 Caitlyn and I went on a long hike out to Lost Palms Oasis, which turned into a hot, sweaty march.  We underestimated the length of the trail, which always seems way longer when its 90 degrees out!  We got to the end of the trail and turned around but not before Caitlyn took a bit of a spill and scraped up her leg!

Collared Lizard??  -update: Zebra-tailed Lizard, thanks Mark

On Wednesday we were in Santa Barbara, which is definitely the most beautiful city of the trip (and really the only city I actually liked).  It has a small feel, is neat and tidy and has a perfect mountain backdrop and ocean front views.

Wednesday night was spent camping at Morro Bay State Park.  There was plenty to see in this small park that overlooks the Pacific Ocean.  The mudflats were a boon for migratory shorebirds, and we saw hundreds of Marbled Godwits, Willets and Longbilled Curlew.

Long-billed Curlew!

Marbled Godwit
 We were really excited to see this Sea Otter cruise by in front of us as we stood on the shore.
Sea Otter
 Several dozen Brant were also present in the bay. Nice to see this species in such abundance.
Our plan was to head to Big Sur on Thursday and spend the day hiking and looking for birds (like California Condor).  However, we quickly found out that hwy 1 was closed north of Ragged Point and the Big Sur itself was also closed!  We decided on a whim to go to another national park I found on the map that was more inland called Pinnacles National Park.  I'm sure glad I did because this place was not only beautiful, but loaded with birds!

Acorns stored in this pine by an Acorn Woodpecker!
We hiked up the Condor Gulch trail and within a few minutes saw our first California Condor!!  This is still a very rare bird that was essentially extinct in the late 80s and all birds were brought into captivity to protect the remaining birds.  Lead shot from bullets was poisoning these birds, leading to catastrophic declines of this magnificent bird.  The global population of this species is now approaching 500.  Although the birds we saw were up really high, the enormous size (10ft wingspan) was readily apparent.
California Condors

California Condor
 As we were leaving the park I saw a large bird chasing something, it was a Golden Eagle!  We watched as it quickly killed this ground squirrel before carrying it away.  I was really happy to get this shot below!  It was one of two Golden Eagles that we saw on hwy 25 that day.

Golden Eagle and ground squirrel

On Friday we crossed the Golden Gate bridge and headed to the world famous Muir Woods National Monument. The trees here are enormous California Redwoods and Sequoias, some of which are 3,000 years old!!

We didn't see any Spotted Owls, but did see this Great Horned Owl that was calling in broad daylight to its mate.  I noticed this bird was very pale, a trait common to southwestern Great Horned Owls.

Great Horned Owl

This was the fifth "big" trip Cait and I have done together, and it turned out to be another memorable one! We were happy to hear that we missed the big blizzard and crappy weather that hit while we were away!