Saturday, February 20, 2016

A quick update from the last 8 months

I have not updated this blog for the last 8 months. I skipped summer, fall and winter.  I have been out there trying to observe and learn more about the birds that surround us, but I haven't been writing about it.  I should do a quick update before spring gets here and I get too busy trying to remember all the different variations of warbler songs.

I'm going to post one photo from each month I have skipped, from June 2015 to January 2016.

JUNE 2015
It's always a treat to see these wonderful ducks when they pass by during migration.We don't see them too often… only once in a while on Porcupine Lake.
Long-tailed Duck (Harelde kakawi)
Porcupine Lake (June 2015)

JULY 2015
Every summer, there is a family of Eastern Kingbird that nests in one of my favorite marsh.  They always choose a dead stump in the middle of the pond.  We watched the parents working hard at catching insects to feed the hungry nestlings.
Eastern Kingbird nest (Tyran tritri)
Near Porcupine, ON (July 2015)

Although very common in the southern part of the province, Gray Catbirds are not that common in the South Porcupine area.  We observed this particular Catbird in the Porcupine Lake area, between the Dead Man's Point trail (on the south side of Porcupine Lake) and the Evans street creek area.  In June, it was very vocal; it was interesting to hear it sing non-stop near the trail.  In August, I observed it many times near Evans street creek; it was carrying food (insects) back and forth across the creek.  I didn't see a nest, but this behaviour is a sign that it was feeding young ones nearby.

Gray Catbird (Moqueur chat) - Porcupine Lake
South Porcupine - August 2015

Bear sightings in town have increased alarmingly in the last 6 years.  Black bears seem to love to hide in our huge spruce tree in the front yard.  Every fall, this is a common sight out of our living room window.  We have to be extra careful when we go out the door.  This is why we put our bird feeders away in April and we don't take them back out until November.  
Bear cubs in my tree
South Porcupine (September 2015)

I missed the huge flocks of hundreds of cranes this fall, but I did spot a few.
Sandhill Cranes (Grue du Canada)
Timmins, ON (October 2015)

A note on learning about birds:  I still consider myself a beginner birder and I know I still have so much to learn.  There are plenty of opportunities to learn if you take the time to look closely.  And you have to appreciate when a good challenge comes along.  My thirst for knowledge is much greater than my pride, that's why I'm not afraid to show my limitations and ask questions when it comes to birds… it's the only way to learn!  For all of you who are, like me, starting to learn about birds, don't be embarrassed to ask a question about a bird's i.d.  If you do, you are limiting yourself.  When I first started, I needed help identifying European Starlings and other common birds.  Every encounter is a learning experience, and if you find yourself in doubt, it just reflects the fact that you haven't been exposed to that particular learning experience before…so take advantage of it.  You have 2 choices: Option 1: you convince yourself you know the answer and you accept the easiest i.d. rather than look further and ask around…this is how you stop learning.  Option 2: you observe every details, take notes, ask questions and look at all the possible i.d. options... and you continue learning.   

We were driving on the highway and spotted this hawk. At first glance, because of the time of year (November), I thought this was either a Rough-legged Hawk or a Red-tailed Hawk because we had seen many of those in this particular area in the past.  But as we got closer, I realized immediately that it was much smaller than a Rough-legged and it looked a bit smaller than a Red-tailed.  The size itself was telling me it could be a Broad-winged Hawk.  I had seen them in the area before and the size seemed to fit. Of course, adult Broad-winged Hawks are easier to i.d. when in flight with the under wing and under tail pattern. But this young hawk was a bit trickier for a beginner like me!  It was a very cooperative bird and I was able to look at it for a while, from the front, the back and in flight. I wrote  observations in my notebook (it's important to write stuff like size and behaviour as you observe the bird because it's not something you can get later from a photograph and time will distort your memory).  When I got home and looked at the photos, I was hesitant between a Juvenile Red-tail Hawk and a Juvenile Broad-winged Hawk.  The size of it was indicative of a Broad-winged Hawk (approx 15 inches) as opposed to Red-tailed Hawk (approx 19 inches) but size is a very tricky thing to judge. The unmarked under tail coverts was also indicative of a Juvenile Broad-winged. There are more details to enumerate but I won't go on forever.  I have to admit this is when I wish I had someone to turn to for help!  Feel free to comment on this i.d. if you feel I missed something… I'm always open to comments and willing to learn!

Broad-winged Hawk Juvenile? (Petite Buse)
South Porcupine (November 2015)

The same Hawk seen from behind

At least this one wasn't hard to identify!  This was my first ever Timmins area Snowy.  I had seen them only in Moonbeam, Kapuskasing and Cochrane last year.  
Snowy Owl (Harfang des neiges)
Timmins (December 2015)

Believe it or not, I saw my first Bohemian Waxwings this year!  This was one species I just couldn't seem to find!  I've been looking for them every winter, but I've had no luck until now.  Ok, I have to admit that I wasn't the one who found them…my husband did.  He saw them in town, correctly identified them with his Sibley's and came to get me immediately (I guess the years of forced training I put him through paid off!).  There were 12 of them eating berries from a shrub.  It was almost dark so the photo doesn't do it justice... I honestly think these are the most attractive birds we have in our region.  They are absolutely stunning!  They are bigger than our abundant Cedar Waxwings and they're only in our area during the winter.  They breed up north during the summer.  They survive on berries and fruits during our long winter months. If you haven't observed this amazing bird yet, and you have fruit or berry trees in your neighbourhood, take your binoculars and look around once in a while… and don't give up, I had been looking for years before I saw one.
Bohemian Waxwing (Jaseur boréal)
South Porcupine (January 2016)