Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Northern Shoveler

An outstanding feature of this dabbling duck, that is so readily observable, is its long spatulate bill. The Northern Shoveler skims the water for food and comb like projections along the side of its bill allows the food to remain while the water sieves out. The female Shoveler is very similar in appearance to the female Mallard Duck but as with the male, the long bill sets it apart and gives it its own distinctive identifying feature.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Ring-necked Ducks

This is the sort of setting where I usually find Ring-necked Ducks, in a pond, near a wooded area and seen at a distance. There is one small pond where during other springs I have seen them often, but this year the pond was late in shedding its ice and I have not seen any Ring-necks there yet. The bill of the male Ring-necked Duck is quite distinctive and has a white outline around it. Also distinctive is its lighter coloured sides which are gray and white. The white portion having an appearance of being wedged between its black breast and grayer portion. The female's bill is not as distinctive as the male's but one of its distinguishing features is a white eye ring. These smaller ducks have a compact appearance, measuring about 17 inches in length.

This species stays in our area and later in the season the female can be seen in ponds accompanied by her young.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Wildflowers and Butterflies

It won't be long now, perhaps in just a week or so, when Wild Strawberry blossoms will be blooming in abundance, like those seen in the covered bridge photo above, taken in early May, 2006. However I did find my first Wild Strawberry blossoms yesterday in the same location where I found my earliest blooms last year. I now have four check marks on my spring wildflower list: Coltsfoot, Dandelions, Mayflowers and yesterday I added, Wild Strawberry Blossoms. The next two I am expecting to check off soon will hopefully be Trout Lily and PurpleViolets. After that Purple Trillums and Ground Ivy should be blossoming soon too. And a reminder to me that spring isn't all just about birds and blossoms when yesterday a Mourningcloak butterfly came fluttering by and I took my first butterfly photo of the season.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Wood Ducks

To my way of thinking Wood Ducks are the most magnificent looking of duck species. The male, shown above, is multi-coloured and distinctly patterned and cannot be mistaken for any other species. The female also is very distinctive with her large, elongated white patch around her eyes.
Another unique feature of Wood Ducks is that they are perching ducks and they nest in trees cavities found in trees situated above water. As soon after their eggs are hatched the young baby ducks are coaxed out of the nest and are encouraged to jump down into the water, by the female Wood Duck, whom is waiting below. Other than encourage -ment the female Wood Duck gives no other help. This duck species produces two broods a year and this also makes them unique among other duck species in North America. This photo, of two males, following a female is rather misleading for it might suggest to some that this is of a pursuit of a female by two males in search of a mate. In actual fact though, in most cases Wood Ducks pair up in January and mates have already been chosen long before they reach our region.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

A Gallimaufry of Nature

I began yesterday with a goal in mind: to see if the Mayflower blossoms I had seen last week were now in bloom. This was primarily first on my spring checklist for the day but also I had been hoping to see Yellowlegs and Green-winged Teal as well. As there has been a lot of flooding activity this week, along the Saint John and it tributaries, due to snow and ice melt, I first decided to check out an area that most always floods each spring and ducks often gather there in the fields covered with water. I was immediately rewarded with seeing a small flock of Canada Geese at the edge of the rising waters, but the gold in this sighting was a glimpse of three Green-winged Teal in the water behind them! While checking the area with my binoculars I saw a beautiful Northern Harrier flying over the area but its flight path was further than my camera lens would reach. Upon checking the flooded fields on the other side of the highway I saw at a great distance some Black Ducks and feeding in between them was a Yellowlegs! Its profile allowed me to identify it as such, but not as far as if to say it was a greater or lesser one. My next stop was to check on the Mayflowers, and I easily found several in bloom. This day was full of interest -ing sightings for me for when I returned home I saw a Goldfinch in our feeder area. Usually a Goldfinch isn't such an uncommon sighting for me but for some reason this past fall and winter there just didn't seem to be any around. This Goldfinch was the first I had seen for many, many months. It was a very welcome sight. This had been a very rewarding day with quite a growing collection of interesting first spring sightings but it was not yet over for while out on an afternoon walk I came across a caterpillar in damp grass in a large meadow. I haven't tried to id it yet, but most significant to me is that I don't think I've ever come across one so early in the year before. It continued to be a wonderful day of sightings for early in the evening I went out to fill the car with gas and decided to take the long way home as the evening light was so beautiful. Driving by a small pond I spied what I thought at first were Black Ducks as they were in the shadows, but closer examin -ation showed them to be a couple of female Mergansers near the edge of the pond. Aren't they beautiful? And then; what could be a more perfect ending to a perfect day of nature sightings than a meadow full of White-tailed Deer, eight in all.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Broad-winged Hawk

The smallest of buteos
with a big sounding name

Viewed from its back
I glimpsed the one, white band on its tail
Gliding off into flight
it displayed its dark-edged underwing

A Broad-winged Hawk

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Osprey Nest Building

Driving along the highway yesterday, at Lower St. Marys, we saw a large bird fly across the road ahead of us carrying a big stick and we thought it was probably a crow. But as we got closer and saw it land on top of a power line we realized it was an Osprey and there was another waiting there.

What grand luck with a great view! We parked across the street from the nest building site and sat in our car taking pictures.

There was definitely team work going on.
We had luckily been in the right place at the right time to see this initial start of Osprey constructing a nest. I'm quite sure we will see a large, fully completed nest the next time we drive by this location. It will be quite a different view from the beginnings of the nest yesterday.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Rebuilding the Nest

The answer to my previous post: Yes, the Osprey are rebuilding the nest. I saw a noticable difference when I drove by it today.

The Osprey Nest: Will They Rebuild?

I'm glad that I had saved a picture of this beautiful old Osprey nest. The nest had stood for many, many years on top of this old dead tree but the ravages of this winter's fierce winds, and rains and storms had destroyed it. You can see from the positioning of the branches that it is the same tree but when the Osprey returned this year they found only a few fragments left of what once had been a grand structure.
Each year I have watched this location for their return and have taken many photos of these magnificent birds. One of my favourites is of one Osprey pushing a somewhat hesitant Osprey off the nest in August, 2006. I wondered at the time if this was an example of offspring that just wouldn't leave home?

In some locations platforms have been built for Osprey such as this one seen above. On this past weekend I saw many nests occupied in Jemseg. Such locations make it much easier for nesting than the one on top of the old dead tree that had been destroyed over the winter.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Sparrows 101

When I first started birding I used to think all sparrows looked alike but I know now that was a total misconception on my part.

At our feeders presently we have both Chipping Sparrows and Tree Sparrows. At a brief glance these two do look similar but there are a couple of quick ways to tell them apart. The Tree Sparrow has a dark spot in the center of its breast whereas the Chipping Sparrow's breast is unmarked. Also the Tree Sparrow's beak is bicoloured with the bottom part being yellow.

I wait every spring for the Fox Sparrows to show up. They don't stay long but while here feed constantly before continuing on thier migration route. "Red as a fox!" is a good way to describe a Fox Sparrow. Look at the difference in colour between the Fox Sparrow shown here and the brown of the Song Sparrow shown below it. While both sparrows, the Fox and the Song, have a central spot cluster on their breasts, the markings on the Song Sparrow appear more distinct whereas those of the Fox Sparrows have a mottled appearance.
Its pretty hard to not pick out the white bib on this White-throated Sparrow, but if you miss that just look for its yellow lores, the feathers between the eye and the bill. Another sparrow that can be identified by its yellow lores is a Savannah Sparrow.
I have left this White-crowned Sparrow to the last for its the only sparrow shown here that I have not seen yet this spring. It will probably be around soon though, during the early part of May. Like the Fox Sparrow, the White-crowned Sparrow will be only passing through, but we see it in our feeder area in both the spring and then in the fall when its migration is in progress again. Its not to hard to figure out why it is called 'White-crowned'.