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Entries in Canada (21)

Monday
Jun252012

The Birds and Butterflies of Carden Alvar

We've visited the Carden Alvar several times already this year but we wanted to go one more time before the birding begins to quiet down.  Of particular interest was the Loggerhead Shrike which we were eager to add to our LBY list.  So, last Saturday we rose with the sun and spent a beautiful morning exploring the alvar.  We thoroughly enjoyed all of what the alvar had to offer -  the birds were plentiful and vocal and the flowers were in bloom, covered with butterflies and bees.  We met a few people along the way, including Jean Iron.  It is always a pleasure being surrounded by those who love to observe and photograph the same things we do.  Once there we drove directly to Wylie Road and headed for the location where a Loggerhead Shrike family has been observed this season.  While I scanned the landscape for our goal species Nate spent some time photographing the other local birds, including the Barn Swallows...
...the Catbirds foraging for breakfast...
...and the Eastern Blubirds bringing food to their young.
It was about 8am when Jean Iron arrived and kindly let us know where the Loggerheads were located.  It turns out I had been looking on the wrong side of the road for the entire morning. LOL  It wasn't long thereafter we saw two young Loggerheads along the fence and we were happy campers!! :-)  The birds were positioned into the sunlight making shooting conditions practically impossible but we did get to observe them via Jean's scope which was great. 
Across the road from where the Loggerheads were located was a nice sized collection of Spreading Dogbane buzzing with butterfly activity.  We were able to photograph a few new species including some Bronze Coppers. With their wings closed male and female Bronze Coppers look like this...
...With their wings open, a male Bronze Copper looks like this...
...and a female Bronze Copper looks like this.
Here is a photo Nate captured of a Milbert's Tortoiseshell when closed...
...and a Milbert's Tortoiseshell open.
We spent a couple of hours with the Loggerheads and butterflies before heading down to the Sedge Marsh area. This area was also busy with bird and butterfly activity.  Within the first ten minutes were were able to photograph a European Skipper on Birdsfoot Trefoil...
...and a Marsh Wren performing its little heart out.
Timing was on our side when Nate happed to see a young Virginia Rail at the side of the narrow road.  We chose a spot and hunkered down to wait and see if any others would emerge.  Sure enough the young one popped out again... 
...and then another...
...and finaly the mother emerged.  The whole family crossed the road together, making their way into the growth on the other side then disappreared.  Getting to watch this crossing was a lot of fun, we were both grinning from ear to ear.
Around the puddles on the rough gravel of Wylie Road we were able to photograph American Ladies.
I couldn't pass up the opportunity to photograph this gorgeous White Admiral when it landed right in front of me. I find with this species to be almost more beautiful closed...
...than they are open.
Finally, I wanted to let everyone know that  the government has proposed to establish a portion of the Carden Alvar as a Provincial Park.  You can show your support by visiting the Environmental Registry page and leave a comment.  Click HERE to be directed their webpage.
I hope you're all having a great weekend.
Friday
Feb032012

Nature 10+1 - 2.33 "Into the Wild"

Shot in Oro ~ iPhone 4S

Thursday
Feb022012

Nature 10+1 - 2.32 "The Inspector"

Red-breasted Nuthatch shot at Tiffin Conservation Area ~ Canon 7D, EF 100-400mmL IS

Sunday
Jan222012

Nature 10+1 - 2.22 "Snow Day"

Shot in Ravenshoe ~ Canon 7D, EF-S 18-55mm 3.5-5.6 IS

Kelly and I headed around Lake Simcoe to Ravenshoe in search of the seemingly elusive Snowy Owl.  We didn't see an  owl but get a bird with at least snow in the name, a nice flock of Snow Buntings ;-) On the way back we decided to take a quick tour around Holland Marsh and finally we got our Snowy Owl!  It was pretty far out in the field so no pictures but a great sighting for us, it's been nearly two years since we've seen one!

  • 70 ~ Snow Buntings
  • 71 ~ Snowy Owl

Monday
Feb282011

Nature 10+1 - 1.59 "Blurred Seasons"

Combo Pan/Zoom Blur ~ Canon Rebel XS, EF 100-400mm 4.5-5.6L IS, f/7.1, 1/6, ISO 100

Monday
Feb282011

Saturday In The City - Part One: Humber Bay West

We haven't spent much time outside this winter aside from our 4 hours of delivering the mail out in Oro everyday. We decided that it was completely unacceptable to spend another weekend indoors so we got our stuff together and headed up to Toronto's Humber Bay Park West.

We were greeted by a large group of Sparrows, mostly House but also a few Songsters and Trees were scattered about the trees at the entrance.  

 

Then it was ducking time!!  We love to go out ducking and Humber Bay has proven to be a great place to explore. Within our first 10 minutes there we spotted a close to shore pair of Buffleheads and Greater Scaup!! What a great way to start the day.  More to come on the Scaup a bit later ;)

As usual there were plenty of Mallards around and we would be remiss if we did not include a few shots of them in this post.  Because they are so tame it's usually quite easy to get up close to them, unlike the majority of other ducks that fly away the instant they see you.

 

Mute Swans were scattered all about and appeared to be establishing mating territories - we witnessed a few altercations, it was fun to watch! :)

 

The overcast skies were a bit of a bummer.  In fact, the skies were the only negative aspect of an otherwise perfect winter day of ducking in Toronto.  The grayness was so thick at times that it even hid the CN Tower but the rocks and boulders that make up the shoreline were still covered in snow and ice which made for some interesting photography.

 

 

 

We were walking around the tip of the park when I noticed a male Red-breasted Merganser coming in closer and closer to us.   My excitement level was sky high not only because I think they're freakin' cool but because I rarely get to experience them up close.  So I grabbed Juliette from Nate and hunkered down behind some rocks along the shoreline and waited.  Sure enough he came to within a decent distance of me and I was able to capture a few images.  I was so incredibly happy!!

While I was working the above Merganser Nate was off working this Northern Mockingbird.

After a couple of hours we began to make our way back towards the car and this was when things started to get REALLY interesting!!  It all started after I spotted a small group of White-winged Scoters quite a ways off shore. First Nate got close-up to a male Long-tailed Duck... 

...then a female Long-tailed...

...then, as though destiny was guiding us, we made our way to an open peninsula where we both hunkered down and experienced our first close encouters with Greater Scaup...I mean REALLY close!!  We positioned ourselves on either end of the peninsula and the ducks stayed between us.  That's when I looked over at Nate and just had to take a shot of him :)

Here's what he was photographing while I was photographing him...a beauty female Greater Scaup...

...and a male Greater Scaup.  There had to be upwards of 150-200 Scaup around us at one point!!  Wow, what an amazing experience!! :)

After our time with the Scaup we were on cloud nine, filled to the brim with utter satisfaction.  We continued to make our way towards the car when out of nowhere a Mute Swan flew in and landed right beside us.  We couldn't pass the opportunity to capture some intimate close-ups.

While Nate was taking some shots of the swan, a Red-breasted Merganser came up from a long dive about ten feet out from where the swan was - I just about lost my mind with excitement!!  I thought I had captured some great images of this duck earlier but Nate really rocked it out with this second even closer encounter.  All the while, the swan remained positioned about 2 feet in front of him - scary and exhilarating all at the same time!!

Drenched in a Scaup and Merganser afterglow, we forced ourselves to leave Humber Bay West for High Park but not before seeing a Kestrel perched atop a small tree directly across from the bushes filled with House, Song and Tree Sparrows.  What a nice little surprise!!

Join us tomorrow when we'll be posting the second part of our day at High Park!!

Sunday
Feb272011

Pearl Jam 20 - "In Hiding"

White-throated Sparrow shot at High Park in Toronto

Sunday
Feb202011

Nature 10+1 - 1.50 "Redpoll to the Rescue"

Shot at our place in Barrie ~ Canon 50D Handheld, EF-S 55-250mm 4-5.6 IS @250mm, f/5.6, 1/800, ISO 640

There was an increase of activity at our feeders today and we were lucky to have both Redpolls and Siskins show up!!  A full post with lots of pictures to come tomorrow morning.  Hope you had a great weekend!

Great Backyard Bird Count/Project Feeder Watch Results : Am Goldfinch (43), BC Chickadee (6), Dark-eyed Junco (5), Mourning Dove (3), Am Crow (3), COMMON REDPOLL (2), Downy Woodpecker (2), House Finch (2), PINE SISKIN (1), Red-breasted Nuthatch (1), Eu Starling (1)

Thursday
Feb102011

What's My Name?

Help us to resolve a friendly dispute we're having on what to call this great image Nathan took of a Pileated Woodpecker. Do you like the name:

A.  You Lookin' at Me?

or

B.  It Wasn't Me!!

or

C.  I don't like either.

Let us know you're choice by leaving a comment.  Thanks!!  :)

Wednesday
Feb092011

Wildflower Wednesday ~ True Forget-Me-Not (Myosotis Scorpioides)

This week's flower is the small but mighty cute True Forget-Me-Not.  We see this wildflower all over the place, all summer long and they always puts a smile on my face.  I hope this post does the same for you!! :)

  • a herbaceous perennial plant that flowers from May through to the first frosts of October.
  • was introduced from Asia and Europe - is now naturalized over much of North America.  
  • is considered a noxious weed(*) in Connecticut and Massachussetts.   
  • is a member of the Borage Family.
  • the five lobed flowers are only 1/4 of an inch across and are light blue with a yellow centre, called a corolla.
  • the leaves are oblong, hairy and stalkless, about 1 - 2 inches in size.  
  • they grow 6 - 24 inches in height, thriving in or near wet spaces such as rivers, streams and bogs.
  • The name 'myosotis' is Greek for 'mouse ear' in relation to the shape of the leaves.
  • The name 'scorpioides' is in reference to the tightly coiled flower bud clusters which are said to resemble a scorpion.
  • the French called them 'Ne m'oubliez pas.'  It is suggested that term was first anglicized and used as Forget-Me-Not back in 1532. 
  • the seeds are in pods found along the stem.  If you want to collect its seeds all you have to do is put something underneath the stem and give the plant a shake.
  • an abundance of folklore and legend surround this wildflower.  There is a German legend that suggests when God forgot to name it, it cried out 'forget me not,' and so that is what God so named it. 
  • another legend suggests a young Jesus wanted to preserve the beauty of Mary's blue eyes and so he touched them, waved his hand over the ground and Forget-Me-Nots appeared.
  • there is a story in medieval legend where a knight falls into a river while picking flowers for his ladylove; as he is drowning, he throws up the flowers to her and shouts 'forget me not.'
  • Henry IV adopted the True Forget-Me-Not as his symbol during his exile in 1398 and upon his return to England a year later.

"It is one of the most interesting minute flowers.  It is the more beautiful for being small and unpretending; even flowers must be modest."  HD Thoreau  

*Noxious Weed: refers to an invasive species of plant that has been designated as one that injurious to agricultural and/or horticultural crops, natural habitats and/or ecosystems and/or humans or livestock.

Tuesday
Feb082011

Nature 10+1 - 1.39 "Muted Sunrise"

Shot in Oro ~ Canon 50D Handheld, EF 100-400mm 4.5-5.6L IS @ 100mm, f/6.3, 1/800, ISO 160, EV -2

Monday
Feb072011

Nature 10+1 - 1.38 "Mrs Hairy Woodpecker"

Shot in Oro ~ Canon 50D Handheld, EF 100-400mm 4.5-5.6L IS @400mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO 640, EV + 1

Monday
Feb072011

Last Week in Birds

Total Species for the Week - 27             Locations - Oro, Barrie and the Minesing Wetlands

Another week down, another week closer to spring ;-)  We did have a couple of good sightings this week which all came while doing the mail route in Oro.  Once again we were able to see Evening Grosbeaks and once again they eluded our lenses! Arrgggg, so frustrating!! LOL  Other notable sightings were a close up viewing of a male Pileated WP and Kelly finally was able to see and photograph Bohemian Waxwings for the first time!   We're still waiting on our first Snowy Owl - maybe they're holding off for Kelly's birthday, let's go with that and hopefully next we'll have one to report. Have a great week everyone!

Of course you can view the entire list of birds seen by clicking on the image above ;-)

Sunday
Feb062011

Nature 10+1 - 1.37 "Junco Playing in the Snow"

Shot at our place in Barrie ~ Canon 50D Tripod, EF 100-400mm 4.5-5.6L IIS @275mm, f5.6, 1/320, ISO 640, EV + 2/3

Project Feeder Watch Results : Mourning Dove (13), Dark-eyed Junco (7), Am Goldfinch (6), BC Chickadee (5), Downy Woodpecker (2), Red-breasted Nuthatch (1)

Friday
Feb042011

Nature 10+1 - 1.35 "Sumac Zoom Blur"

Shot at our place in Barrie ~ Canon 50D Tripod, EF 100-400mm 4.5-5.6L IS, f/8, 1/10, ISO 125

Thursday
Feb032011

What's In A Name - Whiskey Jack

The name Whiskey Jack is actually a nickname given to what is actually called the Gray Jay.  Gray Jays are a member of the Crow family and can found in boreal forests over much of North America.

When boreal areas began to see an increase in human activity, Gray Jays quickly learned that humans were an excellent source of food.  These birds accustomed themselves to humans quite readily and soon enough began to invade camps and steal provisions.  This would happen with such frequency that eventually they were given the nickname of Whiskey Jack.

The name Whiskey Jack is an anglicized version of the Algonquian name Wisakedjak.  Wisakedjak is a mischevious prankster god in Algonquian mythology.  If you are interested in reading the full mythology behind Wisakedjak, please click on the following link - tigerlily_1.tripod.com

We were able to experience first hand the extroverted and friendly nature that inspired their nickname last winter while at Algonquin Park. There was a group of university students there who were feeding them peanuts right out of the palms of their hands.  There aren't too many species that will do that in wild - always a nice treat!! :)

Wednesday
Feb022011

Nature 10+1 - 1.33 "Lady Junco on Spruce"

Shot at our place in Barrie ~ Canon 50D Handheld, EF 100-400mm 4.5-5.6L IS @400mm, f/5.6, 1/250, ISO 500, EV +1

Another day, another winter storm ;-)  We managed to get through the mail route today and only got stuck once!  Thanks to all the kind people that helped us get out of the ditch, it's amazing how selfless people can be! We arrived home early and I thought the feeders would be a hoppin' but alas, it was pretty quiet.  I managed to get a few images of one of our local Junco's when I was outside cleaning the patio, she must have known I still needed to get nature shot!!

Wednesday
Feb022011

Happy World Wetlands Day!!!

I have always thought of today as Groundhog Day - the day we find out how much more of winter we will have to indure....but not anymore!!  Since becoming involved in nature photography our focus has shifted towards a deep appreciation of our natural spaces coupled with a burning desire to help conserve and educate.  February is no longer just Groundhog Day for us, it is also, and more importantly, World Wetlands Day!!!

WWD first began in 1997 and marks the date of the signing of the Convention on Wetlands back in 1971 at the Ramsar Convention in Iran.  The Ramsar Convention was put together to address global concerns regarding the loss and degradation of the worlds wetlands.  Its mission is "the conservation and wise use of all wetlands through local and national actions and international cooperation, as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development throughout the world."  Ramsar's list of wetlands of international importance now include 1,888 sites from all over the world.  I am proud to say that Canada has the greatest area of listed wetlands in the world with over 130,000 square kilometers, which represents approximately 25% of the worlds wetlands!!!

On a scientific level wetlands are defined as areas of land where the soil is saturated with moisture on a permanent or seasonal basis for long enough each year to support aquatic plants.  Wetlands include lakes, rivers, swamps, marshes, wet grasslands, peatlands, oases, estuaries, detlas, tidal flats, near shore marine areas, mangroves, coral reefs and man made sites such as fish ponds, rice paddies, reservoires and salt pans. Wetlands are considered the most biologically diverse of all ecosystems because they include an abundance of plant life and wildlife.  

Wetlands play a major role when considering our environment and climate change.  Wetlands help abate pollution through their natural ability to sink and retain carbon.  When these areas are destroyed for the purpose of development the stored carbon is expelled into the atmosphere.  It is estimated that 7% of the worlds carbon dioxide emissions comes from this.  

Water is one of the most important environmental issues of our time and wetlands play a major role in this as they are natural water purification systems.  Nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen enter our water systems because of agriculture and industry.  Research indicates that sediments and organisms that live in wetlands trap, breakdown and absorb these nutrients.  Wetlands also filter, trap and absorb harmful bacteria, trap sediment and lessen the impact of erosion.

Sadly, by 1993 over half of the worlds wetlands have been drained.  I think Dave Matthews hit the nail right on the head with the lyrics from his song Before These Crowded Streets, "progress takes away what forever took to find."  I couldn't of said it better myself!!  Happy World Wetlands Day everyone! :)

Tuesday
Feb012011

Nature 10+1 - 1.32 "Northern Shrike"

Shot in Oro ~ Canon 50D Handheld, EF 100-400mm 4.5-5.6L IS @400mm, f/7.1, 1/800, ISO 320, EV + 1 1/3

We finally saw a Shrike low enough in a tree to get some decent images while doing the mail out in Oro today. We've been seeing a lot of these guys lately and it's always a treat to get a close encounter.  I'm also looking for input on the framing of the image, does the crop work for you?

Monday
Jan312011

Nature 10+1 - 1.31 "Lady Cardinal"

Shot at our place in Barrie ~ Canon 50D Handheld, EF 100-400mm 4.5-5.6L IS @400mm, f/6.3, 1/60, ISO 800