Thursday, December 17, 2009

Petroglyphs CBC

This year's edition of the Petroglyphs CBC will play out on December 27.
Petroglyphs Count Circle (click to enlarge)
Last year, some great birds were found, including Red-bellied Woodpecker and Great Gray Owl.
Great Gray Owl near Jack Lake courtesy of Anne Anthony
Nature lovers and birders of all skill levels are welcome to participate. Please contact Tony Bigg at tanddbigg [at] sympatico [dot] com or phone 1-705-652-7541.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

We've moved...

We're hosting a new blog in northern Ontario.

Monday, July 27, 2009


Something had to give. Yesterday morning, the five very mature nestlings were crowded on the nest. I checked on them a few hours later and there were only two birds on the nest. I glanced overhead and saw the missing three perched on one of the rafters.

Today, all five were outside, perched on the roof of the boathouse. They took regular flights in the company of the adults and seemed very adept on the wing.

Full credit goes to my neighbour who only complained about the droppings.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Almost fledged

This nest of Barn Swallows in our neighbour's boathouse is one of few we've seen this year. Several cottagers who perennially host several families have told me that their boathouses are vacant this summer.

This family is almost set to go. There have been three adults attending five, then four young. Here's what they looked like only four days ago.

Because the nest was off to one side of the structure, most droppings fall clear of the boat - undoubtedly a fortuitous choice by the parents.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Odds and ends

The fate of the backyard Tree Swallow brood is unknown. Three days ago the parents were relentlessly feeding the noisy chicks, one of which appeared in the doorway, looking like it was close to fledging. The next day, there were no swallows to be seen or heard. I suspect that fledglings might have dropped from the nest on to the well worn path of the local feral cat.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Seen from the canoe

I went out for a very pleasant evening paddle, past three active Osprey nests and a summer Double-crested Cormorant roost on a small island.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

New Loons

With a few mid-day whoops, this loon family began its migration from the cattail marsh in the back bay, past my dock and out to the nursery area sheltered by a cluster of small islands, about 1.3 km away. The chicks were fed small fish fry along the way.

This is the third consecutive year we've watched the loons exit the nesting area. The dates vary and may be related to fluctuating water levels earlier in the spring, when nesting commences.

July 5, 2007
June 19, 2008
June 24, 2009

Friday, June 12, 2009

Waterfowl in the bay

As always, Canada Geese are making a good living on the groomed lawn in the neighbourhood. In addition to three families, there appear to be several no-breeding adults on our shore.

This fresh brood of Mallards appeared on our shore. In most years we see one or two Wood Duck broods in the bay.

This evening, I was sitting at our picnic table when I heard a noise overhead. I glanced up in time to see a female Hooded merganser flying from the old, diseased Sugar Maple that shades our cottage. It's likely that the merganser's nesting in cavitity about 8 m. up, in a rotted out knothole. This certainly merits closer monitoring.

American Avocet visits the Greater Stony Lake Area

Local birder Jerry Ball found this beautiful American Avocet on a cattle watering pond in the south end of Peterborough (Greater Stony Lake Area) a couple of days ago. I was in the area today and was very happy to observe the bird dashing about, catching insects in the shallow water.

To my knowledge, this is the first record for Peterborough County. Sadler (1983) makes no mention of the species.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Pine Warbler

This male Pine Warbler was flitting about the White Cedars in front of the cottage this afternoon.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Woodland birds

Our feeders have only a handful of species attending frequently - Hairy Woopecker, both nuthatches, Black-capped Chickadee, Red-winged Blackbird (mostly females), Brown-headed Cowbird, Common Grackle, Purple Finch, American Goldfinch and a lone Pine Siskin this morning - the first in weeks.

A late afternoon walk through the hardwoods near our home turned up very few birds although I had good looks at Scarlet Tanager, Veery, Eastern Wood-Pewee and Black-throated Green Warbler.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Shield-edge birding

I was out with a friend to do a little birding at the edge of the shield, Between Bobcaygeon and Burleigh Falls. I was very pleased to see and hear some late warblers - Bay-breasted, Blackpoll, Mourning and Canada, which hadn't materialized around our cottage. Also new to me were a few open country birds - Clay-colored Sparrow, Bobolink and Savannah Sparrow. Near Woodview, we encountered some Evening Grosbeaks and some Small Yellow Lady Slipper Orchids growing in a boggy wetland - new to me!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Heron on water lily roots

Twenty metres off our shore is an island composed of uprooted water lily rhizomes. The uprooting occurred when the lake level was drawn down in the winter. Ice formed withing the matrix of roots and when the water level was increased, the rising ice tore the roots up from the mud. Now, on any given day, our odd little island may provide footing for Great Blue Herons, Hooded Merganser, Northern Map Turtle, beaver and muskrat.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Spotted Sandpiper

This Spotted Sandpiper landed for a moment on our dock and then flew to the neighbour's. The species nests on the lake but seldom visits out bay.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Yard Birds

We are accustomed to seeing Evening Grosbeaks looking resplendent against a snowy background. It's unusual for us to see them in late may and to hear their calls along with those of BAOR, WOTH, WAVI, and PIWA.

I took a ten minute stroll around the house mid-morning and noted the following:

Canada Goose
Ring-billed Gull
Red-shouldered Hawk with prey (being mobbed blackbirds)
Hairy Woodpecker
Eastern Phoebe
Great Crested Flycatcher
Red-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch
Common Flicker
Wood Thrush
American Robin
Northern Waterthrush
Black and White Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Pine Warbler
Magnolia Warbler
Warbling Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Black-capped Chickadee
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Baltimore Oriole
Song Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow

Monday, May 18, 2009

A green birding day.

I went cycling/birding this morning and afternoon around the eastern end of the lake, south along a county road through rich hardwood stands, flooded meadows, limestone barrens and old farms.

Among the known breeding birds on this route are Cerulean, Blue-winged and Golden-winged Warblers. A pulse of additional northbound warblers at this point in May allows the possibility of seeing 20+ species of warbler. Alas, this wasn't to be. If I count the species I hear around our home (Pine, Yellow-rumped and Northern Waterthrush), I ended up with only 15 species. Few were singing. The highlights were three male Golden-winged and one male Blue-winged Warbler, all in spots where we'd seen these species before.

Other additions to the year list were Sandhill Crane, Killdeer, Red-headed Woodpecker, Warbling and Philadelphia Vireos, Magnolia and Black-throated Blue Warblers, Eastern Towhee, Sandhill Crane and Red-headed Woodpecker.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Skyped hummingbird

This isn't just another bad image of a Ruby-throated Hummingbird. It's actually an image captured through the built-in video camera on my MacBook during a Skype "videoconference" with Martha. This is her capture from the video that I was streaming to her, via my wireless router.

The sensitivity of the built-in microphone and the high fidelity of the audio stream are better than you might expect. If I point the WIFI enabled laptop towards an open window, Martha, who's sitting at her desktop computer 1300 km away, has no trouble picking out the songs of Baltimore Oriole, Tree Swallow, Pine and Yellow-rumped Warbler. Skype is pretty awesome - perhaps the coolest thing ever to come out of Estonia.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Rose-breasted Grosbeaks

This pair has been visiting throughout the last few days.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Tree Swallows nesting?

We found an old next box when we moved here. It looked like it had once been used by House Wrens. After cleaning it out, we installed it about 4 metre off the ground on a hydro pole. It appears that a pair of Tree Swallows are keenly interested.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Wild Turkey nest

I flushed the adult off this nest in a hardwood stand near Woodview.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Singing Cerulean Warbler

I was happy to locate this singing male Cerulean Warbler at a known breeding site. It will likely be joined by a handful of others in the coming days. I apologize for the shakiness - I had initially intended to record the song and then I noticed the bird hopping around through the view finder.

Other species singing/calling in this area include Red-eyed and Yellow-throated Vireo, Least Flycatcher, Black-throated Green Warbler, Ovenbird, Rose-breasted Grosbeak and Veery.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Pitched migration

I was away in northern Ontario for a couple of weeks. On my first May morning on Stony Lake I walked out into the yard and heard my first Ovenbirds, Northern Waterthrush, Pine, Yellow-rumped, Black and White and Nashville Warblers, Wood Thrushes, Great Crested and Least Flycatchers.

Common Grackles, Red-winged Blackbirds and Blue Jays are dominating the feeders and are sometimes joined by White-throated, Chipping and Song Sparrows. Yesterday, a lone female Evening Grosbeak and a single Pine Siskin seemed like throw backs to winter.

Today, a Ruby-throated Hummingbird hovered in front of a window where our nectar feeder hangs from May through September - it's tempting to imagine that this is a returning bird that remembered that a feeder once hung in that spot. I quickly installed the feeder to the apparent satisfaction of the hummingbird.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Brown Thrasher and a few other notes

Some birds have moved on in the past few days, among them American Tree Sparrow, Fox Sparrow and Common Redpoll. Other fish-eating birds are here for the summer. A single loon is diving in our bay where it is joined periodically by single Ospreys and Great Blue Herons.

Less expected was the Brown Thrasher that was tossing leaves in the garden outside our kitchen window this morning.

We are still being visited several times each week by a female Red-bellied Woodpecker. She used to come for the sunflower seeds. Now, she only eats the suet.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Owling near Apsley

Last night between 8:30 pm and 11:30 pm I monitored our Ontario Nocturnal Owl Survey route, east of Apsley. Ours is one of about 300 such routes in the province which are attended by volunteers co-ordinated by Bird Studies Canada. The protocol is simple. Over a 12 minute period at each of ten stops we listen for owls before and after we broadcast calls of Barred and Boreal Owls - we're told that the Boreal Owl call elicits calls from the closely related Saw-whet Owl.

Participants also collect data on other crepuscular/nocturnal animals including calling amphibians and courting Wilson's Snipe, American Woodcock and Ruffed Grouse. Each route is monitored on one evening each April, a month when owls are most likely to exhibit territorial behaviour. The data are compiled by Bird Studies Canada and provide a means of monitoring changes in owl populations over the long term. The Ontario survey began in 1995. This was our third year on this particular route.

The cold night air depressed the frog chorus and made it easier to listen for owls. At three of the ten stations along the 20 km route a pair of Barred Owls responded aggressively to the recordings. The birds flew to trees within 30 metres of the car and energetically declared their territory. The photo above shows one of the birds that we encountered at our first stop. At a fourth stop, a single nearby Great Horned Owl hooted before and after we played the calls of the other species. We didn't hear any Saw-whet Owls calling this year. In past years Saw-whets have been heard on the last leg of this route.

This was the first year we didn't hear any snipe, woodcock or grouse although I did see a lone Ruffed Grouse at the roadside as I drove to the first station, a few minutes before sunset. The only amphibian I heard was a single Spring Peeper.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Hoary Redpoll and and other wonders

Over the years we've looked at many thousands of redpolls swarming our niger feeders.
At times we've been able to study several hundred birds at once. We've marveled at their variability. Some are heavily streaked: some are radiant pink. We have always scrutinized the palest birds in these flocks, hoping to differentiate the Hoary Redpolls. Until today, we've never been satisfied that the characters of the pale birds fell enough beyond range of the Common Redpoll to call them Hoary Redpolls.

Today, a pale bird joined the throng of Song, Fox and American Tree Sparrows feeding below the sunflow seed hopper. It never joined the Pine Siskins, Common Redpolls and American Goldfinches tending the niger seed silo. The characters - bill shape and nasal feather tufts, frosty colour and reduced streaking - correspond closely with the exipes reace of the Hoary Redpoll. This is a new bird for our our yard and our BIGBY list!

This was one of 22 species we had visiting our feeder. The high number of individuals was also impressive - American Tree Sparrows, Dark-eyed Juncos and Common Redpolls numbered more that 50 each.

I scattered some cracked corn on the roof of my workshop, beyond the reach of the deer and just right for a pair of Rock Pigeons.

Purple finches reappeared only a week ago after being wintering to the south.