Friday 18 December 2020

The Barrow's Goldeneye

This morning I was able to get out for a bit of birding.  My gracious wife assumed the baby duties for a few hours while I drove up to Owen Sound to see the long returning Barrow's Goldeneye.  This is a rare species to Ontario, but an obliging male bird has been returning to Owen Sound harbour for the past few years!

After some searching, I discovered the bird on the east side of the harbour.  Below are a few of my favourites - not too bad for being fairly heavily cropped! This is when the 26.2 Mega Pixel sensor shows its worth, since you can crop in while retaining much detail!  I am starting to figure out how to optimize the performance of the Fuji XF 100-400mm, and am quite pleased with it.

He caught a mussel!

Sunday 6 December 2020

Niagara River Gulling

I was down in Niagara for a few days and decided to do a quick circuit from Fort Erie to Queenston to look for gulls and other water birds.  Overall the number of gulls were very low along the river, with the exception of large numbers above the falls.  Adam Beck and the Whirlpool did not yield many gulls at all!  Highlights were 3 Little Gulls above the falls, a Thayer's Gull at Adam Beck, and the Black Vultures at the usual spot in Lewiston NY, viewed from the Queenston overlook.  No Fish Crows in Fort Erie this time, despite some effort looking! 

Below are a few of the shots I got.  Given the terrible lighting and snow/rain all day, not too shabby!

Bufflehead trio

Common Merganser

Common Goldeneye

Bonaparte's Gulls

I enjoyed photographing gulls flying in and out of the mist below the Horseshoe Falls.  The cascading water creates a dramatic effect! 

My reward for sifting through hundreds of Bonaparte's Gulls was this Little Gull (small bird dead centre - note the pale wingtips protruding near the tail). About the same size as a pigeon, and half the weight, this diminutive species is the world's smallest gull. For me, the Little Gull has always been synonymous with the Niagara River, ever since I saw my first way back in 2004, and it is still a thrill to pick one out from amongst thousands of Bonaparte's Gulls.

Although tough to pick out when seen from above (as shown in the photo above), when the underside of the wing is exposed, the dark feathering of this adult bird shows at quite a distance!

Thayer's Gull at Adam Beck 

And a bonus Red-tailed Hawk from the other day!

Tuesday 24 November 2020

The Shrike

 This morning I went on a short walk to Belwood Lake to look for some more winter birds and was rewarded with an obliging Northern Shrike that allowed me to snap a few photos.  I was quite happy with the shots that I got.

My first few shots show that this shrike was feeding on something, possibly another bird.  Shrikes are a predatory songbird that eat rodents, small birds, and insects.  They have always been a favourite winter bird of mine, as they are very active and allows doing something interesting.  The dense scaling on the breast and faint mask show that this is a young (first winter) bird.

After finishing its breakfast, the young shrike flew to a less obstructed perch.

Other birds of note included lots of redpolls, pine siskins, and two more Pine Grosbeak! So far I have only had young and female birds.  I am still waiting on my bright red male grosbeak!

Wednesday 18 November 2020

Winter Finch Round Up!

 This fall we have been blessed with an abundance of winter finches arriving from the boreal forest.  I have never seen these species in such abundance this far south!  In the past couple of weeks I have tallied nearly all of them, with the exception of Red Crossbill, which I am still on the hunt for!  Pine and Evening Grosbeak, White-winged Crossbill, Pine Siskin, Common and Hoary Redpoll have all been located within my 5MR (5 miles from my house)!  It sure makes local birding very exciting.

I have managed to snap a few record shots of these species, although I would like a chance to get better shots of these species in the coming months.

Below are a few of the shots I managed to get.

Pine Siskins

Pine Grosbeak

Evening Grosbeak

I have enjoyed birding from my backyard as well, and have seen large numbers of Common Redpolls almost daily over the past week.  Backyard birding works particularly well with a new baby in the house!

With large numbers of redpolls around, I was on the hunt for a Hoary!  The rarer of the two species.  I was fortunate to find a female exilipes Hoary Redpoll right behind my backyard, and I fired off a few shots with my lens sticking out the door.  Note the paleness of this bird, limited streaking on the rump and undertail coverts as well as the very small beak.

I have also photographed a few other birds in addition to these specialties!

Pileated Woodpecker couple

Rough-legged Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

Canada Goose from above

Golden-crowned Kinglet

Herring Gull

Rough-legged Hawk

Thursday 8 October 2020

Watching Hawks

I had the pleasure of doing some raptor surveys for work this past week, down in Haldimand County.  I took the opportunity to practice shooting these challenging subjects with the new camera!  Below are a few that turned out alright.  All of them are fairly heavily cropped, so not the sharpest, but a good start anyways!

Red-tailed Hawk - quite a pale individual!

There were quite a few Peregrine Falcons around this week.  I enjoyed watching them zip past, occasionally taking a swipe at starlings and other hapless birds.
Peregrine Falcon

Cooper's Hawk

Several Bald Eagles were also around, including this juvenile bird, with a pesky crow escort.

Same bird as above

Bald Eagle and American Crow

Turkey Vulture

The most exciting moment came when a male American Kestrel whizzed by like lightning, with a Merlin in hot pursuit! I scarcely had time to grab my camera.  My first photo below is out of focus, but shows the Merlin above diving at the kestrel, which has flipped upside down to meet the attacking bird. 

The Merlin chased the kestrel over the tree tops and out of site, and I thought this was the last I would see of these two small falcons.

However, moments later the Merlin returned and was being pursued by both the male and now a female kestrel!  As seen below, the larger Merlin again turned the tables and chased the female.  Eventually the Merlin disembarked and disappeared into the setting sun.

Below is my favourite shot.  Merlins are one of my favourite birds to watch.  They are very active and busy, always stirring up trouble!