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Feb 28, 2011

Winter loosens its grip

McEwan's Bridge ~ Vaughan
The Humber River was busy today showing winter that spring was just three weeks away.   Beneath McEwan's Bridge, broad sections of the river were running free from icy bank to bank.   The City of Vaughan is considering restoring McEwan's bridge to its former grace and functionality.   It's hard to imagine anyone opposing such an initiative.   It was built in 1923, which means it has been around for 88 years.   88 is considered a special number to many people.   In Chinese culture, 88 symbolizes fortune and good luck, so maybe this augers well for McEwan's Bridge.   The bridge is described as a bowstring arch type and, in 2011, is the Humber River crossing point for the Humber Valley Heritage Trail.   It is located a few steps east of the Kirby and Huntington Roads intersection, north of Nashville and south of Nobleton.   The City of Vaughan welcomes comments from interested citizens and you can do so online.   For myself this bridge has spanned more than just a river for 88 years.   It has spanned generations and history.   It is part of a people's heritage.

                                                                  Photos by BarrytheBirder
Please comment if your wish.

Wyndsong Farm

Not a pleasant day today: right on the freezing mark, rain and wind.   At least there was lots of food for the horse and cow, two sheep, three ponies and three cats in front of the barn at Wyndsong Farm, just north of Eversley in King Township (click on the photo to enlarge - the cats are each side of the barn doors).   The old barn was once a Presbyterian church, located two sideroads down and one concession east, at Temperanceville.   Before Temperanceville took on its anti-alcohol name (1877), it was known as Love's Corner.   Love's Corner was named for an early settler, Jimmy Love, who was a shoemaker, weaver, charcoal-maker, and total abstainer.   He and his wife and three children settled in King in 1804.   Please comment if you wish.

Feb 26, 2011

I'll just have to buy a bigger lens

   Finding critters and birds to photograph is not much of a problem, but getting close to get a great picture often is.   Today there was a coyote, Red-tailed Hawk, Wild Turkeys and Canada Geese, but they all took off or moved on, as I approached...very frustrating.   Oh well, I could have struck out altogether and seen none of these wonderful creatures.   Please comment if you wish.

Feb 24, 2011

fast forward to spring...

Oh to be a bee
sniffing flowers day-a-day
honey the reward

                         Late February has made me wistful
                         for warm days, willows and warblers.  
                         I shall stare at this picture for a moment or so,
                         until I hear the buzz of the bee.  
                         Then I will dream of the days
                         when spring shall embrace you and me.

Please comment in you wish.
BtheB                                                                       Haiku, photo and free verse by BarrytheBirder

Life bird # 398 ~ Bohemian Waxwing

It only took me 20 years to do it but I have finally added Bohemian Waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus) to my life list - # 398.   It wasn't just one bird that I saw.   There were over two dozen of them, silently watching me pass them by at Cold Creek Conservation Area.   I am in the habit of stopping often to listen, turn about, and scan the treetops.   There they were.   Note the cinammon-coloured, under-tail coverts in the photo.   It was the icing on the cake of a pleasant morning of wandering about several spots.  Prior to the Bohemians, I had seen Wild Turkeys at Hammertown, a Red-tailed Hawk at Strange, and Horned Larks on Woodchopper's Lane and Strawberry Lane in the Holland Marsh.
Please comment if you wish.
BtheB                                                                                  Photo by BarrytheBirder

Feb 22, 2011

A weatherman's art

"Great Grey" painting by Phil Chadwick
As mentioned in a few early posts, I have been on the look-out this winter for Great Grey Owls and Snowy Owls.   It's looking more and more unlikely that I will not see either one, so I'll have to content myself , every once in a while, with a peek at this fine painting of a Great Grey, by old acquaintance, Phil Chadwick.   On his website, former Environment Canada weatherman, Phil, notes that the Great Grey Owl is one of the world's largest owl, and is often referred to as the 'Great Grey Ghost' or 'Phantom of the North', neither of which I had heard before.   Phil goes on to say that it is one of the most reclusive owls in North America and because of its secretive habits is rarely seen and little-known.   From my own up-close experience, they are not particularily timid around humans, and birdwatchers and photographers can get good looks and pictures once they have been spotted.   Phil Chadwick is a 'plein air' painter and quite prolific.   Admirers of the French impressionists or the Group of the 7 will stirred by Phil's bold but thoughtful brush strokes.   You can check out his talent by visiting him at
Please comment if you wish.

Feb 21, 2011

Collapse of an old barn

                        The collapse of an old barn is doubly sad now.
                        Its enduring presence - sight, sound, smell, feel,
                        will exist only in images and our memories.
                        And that which shall replace it
                        will not be made of wood and stone and sweat,
                        but rather concrete and metal and plastic,
                        which will bear no resemblance to the holy materials
                        used to erect a childhood's sanctuary.
                                  Photo (south of Schomberg) and free verse by BarrytheBirder

Please comment if you wish.

Signs of community

My morning search for birds in the countryside today was interrupted by this sign on a sideroad, lined with country estates.   I try not to judge people, sight unseen, but am willing to make an exception in this case.   The posting of this sign makes its author knowingly complicit in the grisly death, by KILLER GUARD DOGS, of some poor fool who might unwittingly set foot here.   To give some ligitimacy to such a bloody end-of-life is the warning that the killer dogs would only be doing what police have trained them to do, ie. tear you from limb to to limb.   My wife, Linda, is of the opinion that people like this have placed themselves in prison camps of their own making.
Further along on my return from birdwatching, I drove past this King Township sign which appears in several locations around the township.   On its website, King Township states " ...King is known throughout North America and the world for its many horse farms.   Horses of all statures and breeds are a common sight on grassy slopes and along our country roads.   King's unique geography provides the required environment to raise horses that have gained distinction all over the world."    Well, that's certainly positive, and inspiring of civic pride.
Moving on, I noticed the Puck's Farm sign and really started to feel good as I remembered all the nice times there with my children and grandchildren.   Then I turned a corner on the King-Caledon Townline and spied a sign which, at the very bottom, declared Caledon to be the "GREENEST TOWN IN ONTARIO".   We are adjoining municipalities, so maybe some of that green Caledon Karma rubs off on us.
Finally, I passed this sign of disappointment and regret.   It meant that the locals would have to hike into Schomberg for their eggs, but it reminded me of the good ol' days when signs about local produce were numerous and promising...of good food and a chat.   Today, I let some roadside signs get to me, for better and worse.   The good definitely out-weighed the bad, I'm happy to say.   Please comment if you wish.
BtheB                                                                                Photos by BarrytheBirder

Feb 20, 2011

Backyard bird count update & GBBC

 BarrytheBirder photo
The Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) is taking place this weekend in Canada and the USA.   For the first time I am entering some data in this important research project.   This afternoon I kept an eye on the feeders and recorded nine species.   Leading the way were Common Redpolls at 101 birds at one time!   I was shocked.   The most I've had previously this winter was 44.   Next were American Tree Sparrows at 26 and Dark-eyed Juncos at 22.   There were pairs of House Finches and Northern Cardinals plus singletons of White-breasted Nuthatches and Mourning Dove.   I took some pictures of the redpolls, just in case the folks at Cornell, Audubon, and Bird Studies Canada need some corroboration.
Meanwhile, here's how the numbers look for my own winter backyard bird count, as of Feb. 20, 2011.   Once again the numbers you see are for the most numbers of a single species, seen at one time.   Common Redpolls have pulled into a big lead.

Common Redpolls ~ 101
American Goldfinches ~   61
Dark-eyed Juncos ~   34
American Tree Sparrows ~   34
Mourning Doves ~   19
House Finches ~     8
House Sparrows ~     6
Northern Cardinals ~     5
Blue Jays ~     4
Chickadees ~     4
Red-breasted Nuthatches ~     2
White-breasted Nuthatches ~     2
Downey Woodpeckers ~     2
Starling ~     1
Cooper's Hawk ~     1
Total species   ~       15
(Species in red indicate new numbers)
Please comment if you wish.

Feb 19, 2011

Red Panda blog follow-up

My good friend Murray Skinner read my Red Panda blog, of Feb. 11, and commented that he and his dear wife, Jo-Anne, had a Red Panda encounter when they visited Ghengdu, China, not long ago.   Murray pointed out that the Red Panda is also called the Lesser Panda in China.   Above is a photo that Murray took of that encounter.    I noticed that Jo-Anne is wearing plastic gloves, no doubt for hygenic reasons, and that the Red Panda looks bigger than a domestic house cat.   I had said it was about the same size as a domestic house cat, now I'm not so sure.   Further research says the Red Panda compares with a raccoon in size and weighs in at 3 - 6 kg. (7 to 13 lbs.).   Maybe it's all that fur and the big feet.   In any event, it looks like it was one of the highlights of Jo-Anne's day.   If you look closely, this panda is holding a biscuit or cookie in its right paw.   Both Red Pandas and the giant black and white Pandas have an extended wrist bone that functions like a thumb.
Please comment if you wish.
BtheB                                                                                     Photo by Murray Skinner

Feb 18, 2011

Baffling bird boxes at Cold Creek

Nigel Hussey of Nobleton, a member of the Cold Creek Stewardship Committee, took advantage of the short February thaw yesterday, to get a headstart on Wood Duck  nesting box maintenance.   Nigel was attaching baffles to a number of the poles, to which boxes are attached and the big smile is typical of the enthusiasm he brings to his volunteer work.   I was on my daily outing and came across Nigel near the main pond at Cold Creek.   I hung around to shoot these pictures and give Nigel a bit of hand, at a couple of boxes.   I was responsible for the bird box trail for a couple of years but Nigel has taken over the job and has made a number of improvements to the layout.   Well done, my friend, and best wishes for the upcoming nesting season.  
Please comment if you wish.

Spring ~ one day closer

Winter sighed today
Wild turkeys found bare earth patches
Melting streams chortled

Photos and haiku by BarrytheBirder

Feb 15, 2011

Valentine's Day + 1 = first robin

American Robin ~ Turdus migratorius

No sooner had I written about a Bluebird being spotted, on the north shore of Lake Erie, about 10 days ago, when today I came across the robin you see pictured above, at the Cold Creek Conservation Area on the 11th Concession of King Township.   I quickly took a few photos and immediately began to wonder what this bird was going to live on for the next couple of months.   I didn't need to look any further than an adjoining bush (right) which was covered in small, black, partly dehydrated berries.   There was a large supply, enough to keep one robin going for quite a while, methinks.   I hope he, or she, survives to claim the prize for being 'first in port' or first on the breeding grounds, come the spring.   Sometimes, the fruit and berry crop from a particularly abundant year is enough to sustain robins which decide not to migrate south.   I don't think 2010 was one of those years around here, though.   So I believe the robin I photographed (above) is really an early bird.   Please comment if you wish.     
BtheB                                                                                     Photos by BarrytheBirder  

Our opportunistic backyard bunny

Our backyard bunny benefitted yesterday from the strong winds and falling branches.   One of the feeders was knocked to the ground, dumping its load of seeds.   The normally nocturnal rabbit was still stuffing itself at dawn this morning when the fly-in regulars, like the Tree Sparrows, seen in the bottom photo, showed up for their breakfast.   This bunny looks pretty plush and healthy to me.
Please comment it you wish                                              Photos by BarrytheBirder

Feb 14, 2011

Can spring be far off?

(Photo ~ Tim King / OFO)
Here's a great shot of an Eastern Bluebird, taken a week ago by Tim King at Sherkston, Ontario.   Sherkston is halfway between Fort Erie and Port Colborne, on  Lake Erie's north shore.   Tim took this picture a week ago and it promptly showed up on the OFO (Ontario Field Ornithologists) website.   The Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis) normally winters across the southeastern United States, and yet here is a male bluebird already in Canada, in February.   There is growing evidence that global warming and warmer winters in our part of the world are pressing more birds to migrate north sooner and expand their traditional ranges.   A number of Bluebirds will show up here  in King Township before the snow is gone, and well before other well-known spring harbingers, such as Robins and Red-winged Blackbirds arrive.   The bluebirds will begin a life and death struggle for food and against the climate.   Many will succumb themselves to the cold and hunger, or their first set of offspring will not make it and they will begin over again.   It's such a battle for these small, timid, blue jewels.   They are no match for competing starlings, swallows and wrens when it comes to nesting spots and yet they persist.   Thank goodness, for they light up the spring.    The King Township Parks, Recreation and Culture Department will be stepping up its monitoring of birds, including the bluebirds, this year, at Cold Creek Conservation this year.   I hope to be involved in a small way and look forward to reporting on the project as it unfolds.   Please comment if you wish.

Feb 12, 2011

Get them started young

This is my granddaughter, Brawley, helping me load up the birdfeeders in the backyard, on a cold, cold, mid-February day.   Below, it's smiles all around as we congratulate ourselves on a job well done.
Please comment if you wish.
BtheB                                                                           Photos by Brawley's dad

Feb 9, 2011

Who keeps an eye on your horse?

As I drive the backroads of King Township looking for birds I can't help but notice the hundreds of fine horses for which the area is now famous.   Many groups of horses are accompanied by non-horse species that I presume acts as early-warning systems to protect the horses from intruders.   Some of these animal-sentinels will, on occasion, even run an intruder off the property.   I've seen burros, donkeys, ponies, llamas, even small gaggles of geese.   Today, for the first time and during a snow squall, it was a goat.   Not only has the goat you see above, been given an important responsibility, but it has been outfitted with a matching horse blanket.   Excuse me, make that a goat blanket.   It's a considerate gesture given our cold temperatures of late.   Although this goat was down on its front knees having a pleasant hay lunch, it never once tool its eyes off me.
Please comment if you wish.

Feb 8, 2011

48 hours in Parry Sound ~ part 2

Highway 400 ice show south of Parry Sound, Ontario

                         Mae ~ official greeter at Harmony House                        
Wintery theme on a theme

Hibernating collectibles in cottage country

"Bloody tourists...I'm outta here".

Special thanks to L. J. Garderner and his missus for the great Parry Sound hospitality.
Please comment if you wish.

48 hours in Parry Sound ~ part 1

I just spent the last 48 hours visiting my brother Bob and his wife Nancy in Parry Sound, Ontario.   The actual drive up and back, along Hwy. 400, was highlighted by the frozen waterfalls in the rock cuts on each side of the road.  Mile after mile, I saw cascades of pale blue and green, yellow and orange, white and gray, and even pink.   Thank goodness there was little traffic on the road, because I was continuously distracted by these beautiful, frozen stalactites.   I know that the bright orange colour comes from iron oxide in the rocks but I have no idea about the origins of the other tantalizing tints.   My visit included a jaunt with Bob to a huge landfill site outside Parry Sound where I was told to expect to see a lot of Ravens, possibly three Bald Eagles and a couple of Golden Eagles.   The landfill provides a huge buffet for these birds throughout the winter.   I got to see two of the Bald Eagles - not as close as I would have liked, but still a treat to see.   The real surprise were the Ravens.   At the spot where the latest garbage had been dumped, there were 250 Ravens!   The Ravens certainly rule the roost here, vastly outnumbering the crows and eagles and starlings.   However, despite their unofficial ownership of this place, all these birds are very wary and hard to approach.

Unfortunately, this was the best shot of the Bald Eagles that I could get.   We could have spent more time here but the weather was very cold and the birds kept moving about.   Below is a shot of about 80 of the Ravens surrounding one of the non-occupied dump vehicles.
Elsewhere on this day of discovery, my brother and I stopped at the Smelter Wharf on Salt Dock Road, adjacent to the Parry Sound harbour.   The picture below gives some idea of what 100,000 metric tons of dry, unprocessed, road salt looks like, as it sits waiting to be used as de-icer on area highways, throughout Central Ontario.   
Part two to follow.   Please comment if you wish.

Feb 6, 2011

Frigatebird follow-up

When writing about the frigatebird, two blogs ago, I neglected to comment on its most noticeable and outstanding physical feature: its gular pouch.   It is an inflatable, red-coloured throat pouch used as part of the courtship display.

To make amends for the oversight mentioned above, I have written the following verse.

The frigatebird has a grand pouch
When displaying it he's no slouch
If this sac's bright red
It's time he was bred
If not, he turns into a grouch

Please comment if you wish.
BtheB                                                                     Fritgatebird photo ~ Wikipedia

Feb 2, 2011

Storm of the century a non-event here


Here are before and after shots of Hwy. 400, looking north towards the King Sideroad interchange, in King Township.   What was being touted as "Snowmagedon" sort of fizzled.   Last night, while waiting to be snowed-under and having little else to do, I looked up the origin of the word snow in my Chambers Dictionary of Etymology.   The word snow has been around since probably before 1200 and was developed from Old English (before 830) snaw,  which is descended from the same original language or root as Old Frisian, Danish and Middle Low German sne, Old Saxon and Old High German sneo, Middle Dutch snee, Old High German sneo, Old Icelandic snaer and snjor, Norwegian and Swedish sno, and the Gothic snaiws, from the Proto-Germanic snaiwaz.   Gognates from elsewhere or outside of Germanic include the Irish snechtae or snechte, Old Prussian Snaygis, Russian Sneg, etc., etc., etc., just in case you were wondering.
Please comment if you wish.

Feb 1, 2011

Langtry Reserve ~ thanks Roberta

Walk north on the 7th Concession of King Township, beyond the 16 Sideroad, which is also the route of the Oak Ridges Moraine Trail, and eventually you will come upon this monument to Roberta Langtry, on the west side of the trail.   You will also be in the Happy Valley Forest.   Here's what the plaque on the monument says:

Happy Valley Heritage Forest
Langtry Nature Reserve
Stewarded for the benefit of nature
and all Canadians
through a significant bequest by the late
M. Roberta Langtry of Toronto
1 April 1916 - 13 August 2005

I wandered through the Happy Valley Forest today and couldn't help but silently thank Nature Conservancy Canada and its supporters, like Roberta, for what is happening here.   Overall the Happy Valley Forest (oldtimers call it the King Ridge or King Forest) comprises almost 1,600 acres, much of it in private hands.   But in a few short years, 300+ acres has been protected; good news for the 110 bird species here.   The birds most often mentioned as significant in Happy Valley are the Red-shouldered Hawk (vulnerable), Hooded Warbler (threatened), Acadian Flycatcher (endangered) and the Cerulean Warbler - all pictured here.

   The Nature Conservancy Canada declares that the Happy Valley Forest " one of the largest remaining intact upland deciduous forests on Canada's Oak Ridges Moraine".   It contains Sugar Maple, American Beech, Paper Birch, White Ash, Eastern Hemlock, Black Cherry, Red Oak, Red Maple, Largetooth Aspen and Trembling Aspen, among other less frequent species.   The Nature Conservancy Canada is aiming to protect 500 acres of the forest and is well on its way with over 300 acres currently protected via land purchases, land donations and  conservations easements.   Roberta Langtry's gift to NCC, by the way, was $4.3 million!   I believe I read it was the largest private donation ever received by the NCC and   it has gone a long way to supporting nature conservancy right across Canada.
Please comment if you wish.
Photos ~ Wikipedia