Saturday, April 26, 2008

Pine Siskins and new warblers

We experienced an influx of White-throated Sparrows overnight. These were accompanied by the first White-crowned Sparrow of the season. A lone, lingering Evening Grosbeak was joined by three male Purple Fiches and four Pine Siskins.

In the nearby woods, we saw our first Hermit Thrush, Blackburnian, Yellow-rumped and Black-throated Green Warblers of the season.
Here is a close-up of a male Common Grackle tacken outside our kitchen window.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Caspian Terns

Early this evening we heard the rasping calls of a pair of Caspian Terns flying past the mouth of our bay. This is the earliest arrival date we've had on the lake. Ring-billed and Herring Gulls as well as Common Terns nest on the rocky islets in the lake. We suspect that the Caspian Terns might also breed here but we've yet to find a nest. Last summer, we observed adults feeding fledges young of the year outside of Gilchrist Bay.

Another new arrival was Yellow-rumped Warbler, heard singing in our yard. This is a pretty late date.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Prospecting Wood Ducks

Local Wood Duck populations are limited by the availability of cavity nest sites. Such sites are rarer than in the past as a result of swamps being drained and forests being cleared. Traditional forest management practices have undervalued the importance of dead snags to wildlife, including Wood Ducks. We have seen pairs prospecting for nest sites in an upland hardwood forests, more than a kilometre from the nearest wetland. This spring, we erected a Wood Duck nest box in a nearby cattail marsh - no signs yet of tenants.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Broad-winged Hawk

We heard several Broad-winged Hawk calls this afternoon but didn't see the bird, leaving the identity of the caller open to question - the local Blue Jays are excellent mimics of both of our resident buteos. In the evening, a Broadwing flew over our picnic table as we ate our burgers. We also saw our first Belted Kingfisher of the season.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Norhern Flicker

Another common woodpecker has returned. This one is a male.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Loons return

Common Loons returned to the area in the last week. This pair appeared at the edge of the receding ice today - you can see some residual slush in the water. A pair typically nests in the nearby back bay. Also present were pairs of Common Mergansers, a few of which will remain in the area to breed. Martha took these shots from the canoe.Common Loons

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Buffleheads moving through

The Bufflehead is among the first species of waterfowl to appear when the lake ice "goes out". Like the other diving ducks, they don't readily take to walking up from shore; however, they seem content to court and dive for food in the shallow water near our shore. This species doesn't nest here. These birds will move on as lakes to the the north open up.

This shot was taken with maximum zoom, through our sun room window.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

House Finch

Like the Northern Cardinal, the House Finch thrives in the villages and cities to the south, but we seldom see it here. In fact we've seen it here only twice before. It superficially resembles the Purple Finch.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Arriving sparrows

A lone White-throated Sparrow appeared today - the first we've seen of this species since late last fall. We look forward to their distinctive song although none remain to breed within earshot of our house. This is not the case for Chipping Sparrows, which also arrived today,

The big kahuna

Our old hopper feeder is fine. It was improved substantially by the addition of a tray to accommodate more seed and more birds - sounds fine, but all of this accommodating allowed the emptying of the feeder in a few days. Normally, this is fine but in the depths of winter, the feeder gets cleaned out if we're away for a couple of nights. My solution was to build a much larger feeder, one that might nourish a flock of Evening Grosbeaks for a week or more. As you can see, this one holds lots of seed but it positively dwarfs the visitors. At this point, I'm questioning whether bigger is better. Perhaps I should donate this industrial-sized unit to a nature centre.

American Woodcock

Yes, this is an impressionistic rendering of the animated male we watched displaying in a small clearing beside the top of our driveway. Alas, our point-and-shoot camera was unable to focus in the light of our headlamps.

Friday, April 11, 2008

More sparrows

Song Sparrow and American Tree Sparrow
Over the course of this rainy day, the numbers of seed-eating birds grew steadily. By late afternoon, we could see hundreds of American Tree Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos. They were joined by a few Song Sparrows and Fox Sparrows. This year, we only saw the later species for a couple of days. Fox Sparrow

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

I spotted this male (note the red throat) on the Sugar Maple outside our bedroom window.

This species is a summer resident. We expect to hear them drumming on our steel TV antenna in the coming weeks. A few summers ago, we watched a juvenile sapsucker eating the fruits from a Black Cherry tree in the yard. They have never been tempted by the suet we offer.

Wood Duck at bird feeder

A common April sound is the squealing of Wood Ducks over the wetland and adjacent woods. Every now and then, a bird or two will walk up to one of our feeders. I looked our the window this morning expecting to see a flock of rain-drenched juncos instead of this striking fellow.

Monday, April 7, 2008

First ever Northern Cardinal

Cornell University's Great Backyard Bird Count lists the Cardinal as the most frequently reported species.

According to the recently published Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Ontario, it nests in all of the survey squares immediately south of the shield in Peterborough County. They occur only sporadically north of the shield. Until today, we'd never seen one on the north shore of Stony Lake. Indeed, we've considered the absence of this species, whose geographic range is centred to the south, to be one of the more boreal aspects of our area. Is this bird, perhaps a young male, a vanguard in an population known to be expanding northward?

Friday, April 4, 2008

Cat vs Turkey

In what we hope is one of very few posts relating to interactions between the local feral cats and wildlife, we present the moment before this cat jumped forward toward its quarry. This resulted in the Turkey puffing up to what seemed to be double its normal size, and a hasty retreat by the feline.

Snow Bunting

This lone bird was found perching among the boulders in the gravel pit. Once before, in the winter of 2007, a flock visited our yard.