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Sep 29, 2012

Jay jam

Photo by BarrytheBirder
It's getting darker earlier in the evening these days and the Blue Jays tend to be a bit more cooperative with each other, when it comes to filling up one last time before the sun goes down.
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Sep 27, 2012

Crow loves tax guy's peanuts

Photos by BarrytheBirder
Don McKnight, accountant and proprietor of Personal Tax Services, in my home village of King City, takes his responsibilities seriously.   One of the duties he performs diligently is feeding peanuts to the crow that awaits him each work-day morning, on the hand-rail outside Don's front door.   The crow has been getting the hand-outs for a few years but Don hasn't given his crow-buddy a name yet.   Sometimes a second crow lingers nearby (a mate perhaps?) but Don can't tell them apart.   
Don does not think of this crow as being tame.   It is wild, but there is a symbiotic relationship that Don certainly enjoys and the crow eagerly and faithfully anticipates each day.   It's sometimes hard to describe the value of a relationship like this, but as for the's peanuts...and a little goodwill. 
And what the crow leaves behind, opportunistic blue jays quickly take.

Meanwhile, on a totally unrelated matter, Don McKnight has just been named as a 2012 inductee into the Newmarket Sports Hall of Fame for his over-60-years of involvement as a player, coach, umpire, association executive and builder of the sport, at both a local and provincial level.   Well done, Don.
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Barry Wallace

Sep 26, 2012

Ogden Nash's birding poem

As a great admirer of  Mr. Ogden Nash and an avid birder, I can't believe I didn't
stumble across this delightful poem during my first 70 years.   I hope it  may 
be new for you also and you delight in Mr. Nash's inimitable verse.

Bird watchers top my honours list.
I aimed to be one, but I missed.
Since I'm both myopic and astigmatic,
My aim turned out to be erratic, 
And I, bespectacled and binocular,
Exposed myself to comment jocular.
We don't need too much birdlore, do we, 
To tell a flamingo from a towhee:
Yet I cannot, and never will,
Unless the silly birds stand still.
And there's no enlightenment in a tour 
Of ornithological literature.
Is yon strange creature a common chickadee,
Or a migrant alouette from Picardy?
You can rush to consult your Nature guide
And inspect the gallery inside,
But a bird in the open never looks
Like its picture in the birdie books-
Or if it once did, it has changed its plumage,
And plunges you back into ignorant gloomage.
That is why I sit here growing old by inches,
Watching a clock instead of finches,
But I sometimes visualize in my gin
The Audubon that I audubin.
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Sep 24, 2012

McKenzie Marsh boardwalk ~ Aurora

    Above ~ Great Blue Heron
Below ~ Female Mallard Duck
Photos by BarrytheBirder
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Sep 23, 2012

Rain and warblers

Photo by BarrytheBirder
Rain the last few days brought some warblers to ground including this immature Blackburnian.   A male Wilson's Warbler and a female American Redstart were also in the cedar hedge at the same as the Blackburnian.
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Sep 20, 2012

Chilly morning on the King Ridge

Photo and doggerel by BarrytheBirder
Three Turkey Vultures
Sitting on a fence
We'd all head south
If we had any sense
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Sep 19, 2012

Nuthatch takes a break from the rain

Photos by BarrytheBirder

Anyone who attempts to photograph Red-breasted Nuthatches knows that you have to be quick.   They dart in and out at the feeders in the blink of an eye.   It rained for such a long time today, that this little lady finally said the heck with it and stopped to catch her breath and dry out a bit, after most of the deluge was over.   This of course gave me a chance to photograph her.   Pretty little thing, isn't she?
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Sep 18, 2012

A crow with gumption

Photo by Ron Griffith/AP
A Wedge-tailed Eagle, also known as the Eaglehawk, is seen having a sky-high dispute over Gunnedahl, in south-east Australia.   The Wedge-tailed Eagle is the largest bird of prey in Australia and is also one of the largest birds of prey in the world.   None of which seems to be making an impression on this rather annoyed and determined crow.
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Sep 17, 2012

My 'hummers' have left

Photo by BarrytheBirder

One  day they are  all squabbling over whose nectar feeder is whose, and the next day they have all agreed to forget their differences and have headed south to warmer climes.   My hummingbirds were chasing each other all over the backyard last Thursday.   Then on Friday they were all gone.   I never did figure out how many there were this summer.   The most I ever saw a one time was six.   And those photos you see of a dozen hummers all sitting around a giant feeder, on their best behaviour?   Forget it.   Mine spent every waking moment chasing each other off!   Not that it made me appreciate them any less.   It's all about survival, right?   I shall miss them dearly.   And next year I will relish their return.
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Sep 16, 2012

World's migration champion

Photo by Dave Walsh / Milennium Images
MMArctic TernMM
Sterna paradisaea
An Arctic Tern is seen defending its nest in Ny-Alesund, Svalbard, Norway, 746 miles from the North Pole.   Arctic Terns wing their way to Antartica and back to the Arctic every year, a round trip of more than 70,000 kilometres (or 2.4 million kilometres in their lifetimes) the longest known migration of any animal or bird.
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Sep 15, 2012

Rollers are the size of crows

Photo by Paul Goldstein/Exodus/Rex Features
I stumbled across these two photos of Lilac-breasted Rollers, a bird I was not-at-all familiar with, and was struck by the impossible contrast of the birds' colours and the zebras' black and white stripes.   Moreover, I was quite surprised to learn these brilliantly-hued birds are the size of crows!   Rollers are native to warmer parts of the Old World, particularly Africa, but are also found in parts of Europe.   Fossil records from the Eocene period show Rollers once existed in North America.   They are primarily insect-eaters and as for that name Roller, well they are aerial acrobats and ward off intruders in their nesting territories with intimidating rolling dives.   They use the save moves during mating season also.   Wikipedia states there are 11 species of Rollers in the world, but my Monroe & Sibley World Checklist Of Birds lists 17 species.   Ah then...taxonomy is becoming such a chore in this modern age.
Photo by Greg McMullin on Flickr
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Sep 14, 2012

British Wildlife Photography Awards

Photograph by Gerald Robinson
'A Swan Like You Have Never Seen One Photographed Before' 
Kingsmill Reservoir
Mansfield ~ Nottingham ~ England
Entry by Gerald Robinson in the 2012 British Wildlife Photography Awards

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Sep 13, 2012

September afternoon at the feeders

Photos by BarrytheBirder

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Sep 12, 2012

A glut of Grackles

Photo by BarrytheBirder
For a brief five minutes during the Monday dinnertime, a flock of approximately 150 Grackles swooped into the backyard and took over three small mixed-seeds feeders, that had been previously occupied by Mourning Doves, White-breasted and Red-breasted Nuthatches, Black-capped Chickadees and Blue Jays.   It was bedlam and the feeders were quickly being emptied, when, at a mysterious signal, there was a instantaneous flapping of 300 wings and the marauders were gone as quickly as they had arrived.   The photo above does not to the occasion justice, as it captured only about 50 of the 150 birds.  The other 100 birds were in the cedar hedge in the background, and along the window sills and eavestroughs of the house...shades of Alfred Hitchcock.   As a footnote, Grackles were long ago called 'Crow Blackbirds' in North America.   And as a second footnote, my 30 or so America Goldfinches were so traumatized by the Grackle onslaught, that I have not seen them for the past 24 hours.
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Sep 11, 2012

Close call for duckling

Photo by John Grainger/News Pix/Rex Features
This duckling had a lucky escape after being grabbed by a seagull in Narrabeen Lakes in Sydney, Australia.   When one of the ducklings strayed from the flock, a gull saw its chance and swooped.   However, the mother duck gave chase and forced the abductor to release the baby duck.
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Sep 10, 2012

A face only a mother could love

Photo by Greg Bowker, New Zealand Herald, AP
A Kiwi chick hatches at Aukland Zoo in New Zealand.   The Kiwi is  a flightless bird and is the national symbol of New Zealand.   It lays the largest egg compared to its body size of any bird in the world.
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Two-headed pelican?!?

Photo by Vladimir Kucherenko/Caters News
This photo which appears to show a two-headed pelican in flight, was shot by Vladimir Kucherenko in the Danube Delta, in Ukraine.   Kucherenko explained that he only spotted the strange positioning of the two birds when he returned home to Odessa.
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Sep 8, 2012

Hidden in plain sight

Photo by Kelly Swing/Universidad San Francisco de Quito
Nyctibius jamaicensis
A highly camouflaged bird of South and Central America, the Common Potoo, hides quietly at the end of a broken branch, in Ecuador, while protecting its nestling beneath its breast feathers.   One can easily imagine walking right past this bird, unaware of its presence.   This one was photographed in Yasuni National Park.   Ecuador is now claimed to be, by some, as the most biodiverse region on Earth.   Below is a photo of a Common Potoo, by Sam Wood of the United Kingdom, that is perhaps more readily recognized as the bird that it is.
Photo by Sam Woods, UK.

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Sep 5, 2012

Return of White-breasted Nuthatches

Photo by BarrytheBirder
MWhite-breasted NuthatchM
Sitta carolinensis
I'm happy to report that a pair of White-breasted Nuthatches have become regular visitors to my backyard feeders after an absence of a few years.  They were regular visitors over the years, but then a few years ago stopped dropping by.   I'd see lots of them in the fields and woods just outside the village of King City, but not in my backyard.   It's great to have them back and I sure hope they stick around, rather than heading south this fall to visit relatives in Florida or Texas.   They are such a striking bird to look at in their morning-suit attire.
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Sep 4, 2012

Young Tawny Owls ~ down but not out

Photo by Mike Cardy/Getty Images
Rescued young Tawny Owls perch rather forlornly on a branch as they wait to be released back into the wild at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals West Hatch wildlife centre in Taunton, England, south-east of Exmoor National Park.   Between January and the end of July, 33 of the baby birds were taken to the RSPCA centre in Somerset for care, a large increase over previous years.   Although the exact reason for the rise is unclear, it's thought that weather conditions and extremely windy days through spring and early summer may have contributed to the owls' misadventures.
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Sep 3, 2012

Hummingbirds fattening-up

Photos by BarrytheBirder
Today is September 2.   I expect my backyard Ruby-throated Hummingbirds to stay around for another three weeks and then all leave on the same day for sunny climes south.   Weather forecasts say that September may be especially warm and I'm wondering if the hummers might hang-on to the end of the month.   They're more than welcome to do exactly that, if they wish.   Meanwhile, over the past two months, the bellies of first-fall juveniles have gone from being the size of my little finger to the size of my thumb. 
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Sep 2, 2012

Hummers in a huff

Photo: Features
Two hummingbirds, a Velvet-purple Coronet and a Buff-tailed Coronet, fight over a colourful Banana Flower in Mindo, Ecuador.   Both species are found in north-west South American, in Columbia, Ecuador and, in the case of the Buff-tailed, also in Venezuela.   Although not seen in the photo here, the Buff-tailed has a prominent feather feature on its thighs, where it displays puffy, white "boots".
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Sep 1, 2012

The fox and the goose

Photo by Sergey Gershkov/2012 Veolia Environmental Wildlife Photographer of the Year
In late May, a quarter of a million Snow Geese arrive from North America to nest on Wrangel Island, in north-eastern Russia.   They form the world's largest breeding colony of snow geese.   Arctic Foxes take advantage of the abundance of eggs, even caching surplus eggs for leaner times.   But a Snow Goose is is easily a match for for a fox, which must rely on speed, agility and guile to steal eggs.   The foxes are successful, but rarely.
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