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Dec 27, 2012

First snow at the feeders this winter

Photos by BarrytheBirder
Five Starlings (above) showed up at the feeders today and the White-throated Sparrow (below) that arrived yesterday, was back again today.   This brings the latest winter feeder count up to 19 species.
The record for Mourning Doves at the small square feeders, seen above and below, is six birds at one time.   Even the small juncos, redpolls, goldfinches and Tree Sparrows limit themselves to four or five at a time.  All of those four smaller birds are showing up in large numbers early in this winter season.
Please comment if you wish.

Dec 26, 2012

The Blue Jay

                                                                           Photo by BarrytheBirder
The Blue Jay
by Emily Dickinson

No brigadier throughout the year
                                So civic as the jay.
                                A neighbour and a warrior too,
                                With shrill felicity
                                Pursuing winds that censure us
                                A February day,
                                The brother of the universe
                                Was never blown away.

                                The snow and he are intimate;
                                I've often seen them play
                                When heaven looked upon us all
                                With such severity,

                                I felt apology was due
                                To an insulted sky,
                                Whose pompous frown was nutriment
                                To their temerity.

                                The pillow of this daring head
                                Is pungent evergreens;
                                His larder - terse and militant -
                                Unknown, refreshing things;

                                His character a tonic,
                                His future a dispute;
                                Unfair an immortality
                                That leaves this neighbour out.

Please comment if you wish.

Dec 25, 2012

White-throated Sparrow on Christmas Day

Photo by BarrytheBirder
Zonotrichia albicollis
This morning, Christmas morning, there among the juncos and sparrows and redpolls was a solitary White-throated Sparrow.   A shy bird at the best times, this little bird was very wary about the dozens of other birds jostling at the feeders and on the ground below.   The south sides of Lake Ontario and Lake Erie are the the usual northern limit for these lovely little birds in winter.   I don't know if this one is a late migrant or was sent here, just for today, as a special harbinger of Christmas.
Please comment if you wish.

Dec 23, 2012

Trumpeter Swans at Glenville

Photos by BarrytheBirder
The southernmost pond at Glenville, south of Hwy. 9, on Dufferin Street, is partially frozen over, but these four Trumpeter Swans, two adults and two juvenile birds, were quite busy dunking their heads and feeding on the bottom of the pond.   The two cygnets are grey in appearance and will be completely white after their first year.   The two in the lower photo are nearing maturity as their grey colouring is limited now to the neck and some flight feathers.   Trumpeters are the largest extant waterfowl species on earth.   The largest known Trumpeter was 183 cm (72") long, with a wingspan of 3.1 m (10 ft) and weighed 17.2 kg (38 lbs).   The birds above are tagged and undoubtedly part an introducing breeding program that is meeting with some success in eastern Canada and the United States.
Please comment if you wish.

Dec 22, 2012

A.K.A. abbr. also known as


Pictured above are three of the many species of small birds at the backyard feeders today, a day which turned cold and very windy, compared to the past several days.   As I watched these birds feeding, I was recalling all their common names.   For whatever reason, I started to wonder what my grandfather, who emigrated from England to Canada in 1911, might have called these same birds back then.    Back in 1911 of course, he would have heard some new names, no doubt...names that were purely north-american and most of which probably had their origin in the United States.   I did some quick research and discovered the following obsolete English names for the birds pictured above plus a couple of others.   They are in no particular order.

Dark-eyed Junco: a.k.a. Baird's Junco / Carolina Junco / Grey-headed Junco / Guadalupe Junco  /  Laguna Hanson Junco  /  Montana Junco  /  Nevada Junco  /  Oregon Junco  /  Pink-sided Junco  /  Point Pinos Junco  /  Red-backed Junco  /  Ridgeway's Junco  /  Shufeldt's Junco  /  Slate-coloured Junco  /  Thurber's Junco  /  Townsend's Junco  /  White-winged Junco  /  Snowbird.
Common Redpoll: a.k.a. Redpoll Linnet  /  Greater Redpoll /  Holboell's Redpoll  /  Labrador Redpoll  /  Lesser Repoll.

House Finch: a.k.a. Crimson-fronted Finch  /  Rose-breasted Finch  /  San Clemente Finch  /  San Lucas Finch  /  California Linnet  /  Guadalupe Linnet  /  McGregor Linnet  /  Burrion.

American Goldfinch: a.k.a. Wild Canary  /  Yellow-bird  /  California Goldfinch  /  Eastern Goldfinch  /  North-western Goldfinch  /  Pale Goldfinch  /  Western Goldfinch  /  Willow Goldfinch  /  Yellow Goldfinch  /  Thistle-bird.

American Tree Sparrow: a.k.a. Mountain Sparrow.

The obsolete names listed above are from a list created,  by Richard C. Banks of the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Centre, National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.

Please comment if you wish.

Dec 16, 2012

Canada Geese at Seneca

Photos by Barry Wallace

On Thursday it was a thousand Canada Geese at the Beasley Farm on the 8th Concession of King and Friday it was approximately 500 Canada Geese on Lake Jonda, at Seneca College's Eaton Hall Campus.   Slowly but surely, our township's lakes and farm ponds are freezing over, leaving the geese and ducks and gulls to reconsider their options about where to go next to find open water.   Decisions, decisions.
Please comment if you wish.

Dec 14, 2012

Canada Geese like the Beasley Farm

Photos by Barry Wallace

The two ponds, near the barns, at the front of the Beasley Farm, on King Township's 8th Concession may not be big, but they are apparently perfect for the almost 1,000 Canada Geese that have been hanging out here for many days now.   In fact, there may be more than a  thousand, as I was not able to guesstimate the many more geese over a hill and farther afield.   Apparently, there is some special combination of security, water and good gleaning to be had on the Beasley Farm.
Please comment if you wish.

Dec 8, 2012

Dave Kemp photos at Boundary Bay

Photos by Dave Kemp
Dave Kemp from Richmond, British Columbia, sent me these two photos, which he took on Dec. 7, down in the Boundary Bay area, south of Vancouver.   I don't know exactly what it is about owls, but one does not just take pictures of owls - one is compelled to take owl pictures.   Is it their aerodynamic perfection, the silent flight, or is it their eyes?   I believe it's the eyes...that the look in the eyes must be captured.   Really nice shots, Dave.
Please comment if you wish.

Dec 7, 2012

Mpho cheers summer

My friend Mpho Phiri, from Mahikeng, South Africa, has just posted his first blog in almost six weeks.   The past winter has been especially hard in and around Mahikeng, including the Modimola Dam where Mpho does a great deal of his birding.
Here's what he wrote back in October: "The recent dry weather conditions and lack of rain in and around Mahikeng had a devastating impact on the Modimola Dam...We hope sooner or later the rains will come as the dam is gradually shrinking".   Now in early December, Mpho has resumed his birding and blogging.   There is a hopeful tone in his latest blog as his prose borders on 'prose idyll' or 'prose poetry'  with its wording and imagery: "We had two days of silent showers as a welcome relief to the drought-stricken areas around Mahikeng.   With the first rays of sunshine, this afternoon, I went out birding.   One could hear the sounds of birds again amidst the fresh rain-soaked ground around the trees.   I was first greeted by the Red-backed Shrike (see photo above), the common summer visitor, perching conspicuously on a branch.   Hooray!!!   Summer is here."   So winter is settling in, here in King City, Ontario, Canada, but is saying goodbye in South Africa.   Good birding, Mpho.
Please comment if you wish.

Dec 6, 2012

Redpoll's mate shows up

                                                                                                 Photo by BarrytheBirder
Yesterday's first, female, Common Redpoll of this fall, was joined today by a male redpoll, at the feeders.   In the photo above the male is seen top-left and the female is top-right.   Sharing this particular feeder with the redpolls is a American Goldfinch, bottom-left, and a House Finch, bottom-right.   Below is a list of 17 birds which I refer to as winter birds, and which are currently showing up regularly at the feeders.

Northern Cardinal                 Red-breasted Nuthatch
Black-capped Chickadee      White-breasted Nuthatch
Mourning Dove                     Common Redpoll
House Finch                         American Tree Sparrow
American Goldfinch              House Sparrow
Cooper's Hawk                     European Starling
Sharp-shinned Hawk            Downy Woodpecker
Blue Jay                               Hairy Woodpecker
Dark-eyed Junco                  ( more to come, hopefully )

Please comment if you wish.

Dec 5, 2012

Dec. 4 - first Common Redpoll of season

It was a balmy 14C and raining, not the kind of day one would expect to see the first redpoll of the season.   But there it was, ensconced at the Niger Seed feeders with the American Goldfinches.   My Peterson field guide says: "...resembles an American Goldfinch or a Pine Siskin".   Apart from overall size, I'm not so sure about that comparison, but I suppose the term 'resembles' allows for a liberality of interpretation.   Whatever, this dear little bird is always welcome.
Please comment if you wish.