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Jun 30, 2015

Blending in...

Photo by Scott Heron / Treehugger Reader Photo

(Otis asio)
Here's an interesting photo of an Eastern Screech Owl perched in a hole, created by a missing branch in a Sycamore Tree, in Hollis, New Hampshire, in the north-eastern U.S.A.   The bird's feathers echo the tree bark texture and colouring, providing a measure of camouflage and protection for the small owl.
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Jun 29, 2015

Another Osprey nest, after all...

 Photos by BarrytheBirder
On Father's Day, June 21, I wrote a blog about Ospreys returning to abandoned nests in King Township.  I mentioned that an extremely tall communications tower near to my home did not have an Osprey nest this year, where it had in the past.   I'm pleased to report that upon further spotting with a more powerful camera lens, that this location now has a new nest with a male and female bird on hand (see photos) with, hopefully, reproduction in mind.   If there are eggs or hatchlings already, they cannot been seen because the nest is so very high.   They won't likely be seen until they can climb to edges of the nest and are spotted with binoculars, scopes or telephoto camera lenses.   The bottom line is that now three of four former perennial Osprey nests are back in operation.   Great news!

I intend to keep an eye out for a fourth nest in and around the King Campus of Seneca College, where an Osprey nest existed successfully for many years past.   The old nest was on top of a tall parking lot light tower, but eventually fell apart completely.   There are many naturally occurring treed tracts nearby, and around the adjoining Lake Jonda.   I hope to spot a new nest sometime in the near future.
After all, Lake Jonda still has lots of fish in it...I think.
In fact, the pair of Ospreys I've just written about above may very well be making the 2 or 3 kilometre journey to Lake Jonda to do some of their fishing.

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Jun 28, 2015

Muscovy Ducks at Temperanceville pond

 Photos by BarrytheBirder
Whenever I see a Muscovy Duck, they are usually  of the domesticated kind, comfortably settled on someone's hobby farm or in a petting zoo, etc.  But the the pair pictured here showed up today on an abandoned farm pond at Temperanceville, a few kilometres from my home.   I assume they flew in of their own accord which makes them wild birds or escapees from a place where their keepers didn't keep their flight feathers clipped enough. In any event, they seemed to be getting along just fine with some wild Mallards and a Great Blue Heron which are regulars on the small man-made pond.   If they are wild-wary fowl they should be fine, but if they are tame escapees they could be at risk from predators such as mink, foxes, or coyotes.
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Jun 27, 2015

A hungry and well-mannered crow

One Green Planet has just published a set of photos (above and below) received from Reddit user sencerb88.   The photos show a Hooded  Crow finding some leftover rice on a paper plate in a park, in the city of Izmir, Turkey.   The crow proceeds to eat the leftovers, cleans off the plate, picks up the plate, takes it to a nearby trash bin and drops the plate in.  I find these photographs amazing and hope you do also. 

All photos:
sencerb 88 / Imgur

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Jun 26, 2015

Male rhea is a sole provider of up to 50 chicks

Photo from Care2 website
My wife Linda directed me to this Care2 website item and I just had to share it here.
"As members of a polygamous species, male Rheas have a lot of partners, but when it comes to child-rearing these dads pull their weight and then some.   Males can have up to a dozen or so female partners who all lay eggs in a nest he builds before they leave.   Males then take on the role of incubating and guarding what can be up to 50 eggs for close to two months before taking on the role of a single parent after they hatch.   Males also have been known to adopt orphaned chicks who have been separated from their brood".   And since reading this item, I have since come across a source which says male rheas can care for up to as many as 60 chicks!   What a remarkable creature.

Photo by Ignacio Yufera /
A male Darwin's Rhea is seen in the photo above feeding chicks in Torres del Paine National Park in Chile.   Rheas, which are flightless birds and native to South America, are found in the seven countries wholly south of the equator.

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Jun 25, 2015

Little Tern feeds its big chick

    Photo above by Kim Jae-Sun / EPA                                                              Photo below ~ Wikipedia 

A Little Tern (Sterna albifroms) feeds its rather large chick in Incheon, the third largest city in South Korea.   It is native to tropical and temperate areas of both Europe and Asia.   The Small Tern is well-named as it measures just under 10" or 25 cms. in length.   See photo at right of a Little Tern in front of two Crested Terns, for a size comparison.
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Jun 24, 2015

Feathered hitchhiker

Photo by John Flowers / Guardian Witness
Cygnus olor
A Mute Swan cygnet gets a piggy-back ride, a common occurence, from its parent in Incheon, the third largest city in South Korea.
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Jun 22, 2015

These vulture species are critically endangered

Photo by Andre Botha / Conservation Letters
The fight to stay alive on a day-to-day basis is challenging by itself, but for these vultures the battle not to be come extinct is very real as well.   The photo above, by Andre Botha, shows Lappet-faced, White-backed and Cape Vultures in an uproar over a carcass at Sable Dam, in Kruger National Park, South Africa.   The three species are declining at a rate of 80 to 92% over three generations (approximately 45 to 55 years) a study suggests.   A international team of researchers, including leading scientists from Scotland's University of St. Andrews, The Hawk Conservancy Trust in Hampshire, England, and the University of York in North Yorkshire, claim African vultures are likely to qualify as "critically endangered" under the IUCN's (International Union for Conservation of Nature) global threat criteria.
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Jun 21, 2015

Ospreys reclaim old nest sites

Ospreys have have returned to nest in two King Township places that were abandoned for the last year or two.   Pictured above is an Osprey occupying the huge nest that has been used for several years at the northern end of Bathurst Street, on the Holland River.   The nest is a couple of hundred metres or so beyond the actual end of Bathurst Street and vehicle access is usually not available because of a chain across the laneway which goes into private marsh garden lands.   Sometimes, as was the case today, the laneway is accessible while the farm vehicles are working the lands of the Holland Marsh, and I was able to drive up to and right below the nest...otherwise I would have had to take a short walk in on foot.   These Ospreys are fairly calm but the photo below does show the reaction I got when I approached the nest.   The Osprey gave a somewhat subdued screeching cry, as if to say: "You have come close enough".   I took a couple of pictures, retreated a bit, and then went on my way.      

 All photos by BarrytheBirder

The sign pictured at right marks the the end of Bathurst Street North in King Township. If you spot this sign, you can pull over to edge of the road and walk a couple of hundred metres, angling to your right, where the Osprey nest can be seen atop a hydro pole in the distance.   There are also a couple of abandoned buildings beneath the pole that also act as landmarks for the nest site.

Meanwhile, a few kilometres south and west, on the south side of the Holland Marsh, where Keele Street crosses the south canal (north of Hwy. 9), Ospreys have once again occupied a long-time nest at the Spray Lake  Watersports and Activity Centre (see photo below).   The nest is on the north side of Spray Lake and has been re-occupied after an absence of a year or two.   The nest and ospreys can be seen from the parking lot but you need binoculars or a spotting scope to get a good look.   Of course, if you're lucky, the Ospreys may soar right above you.   Spray Lake is a commercial venture, so dropping by for a free look at the birds should be limited to a short time.   Otherwise, there may be a fee to visit the park.

These two reclaimed Osprey nest sites are great news because they mitigate loss of two other Osprey nest sites that have been abandoned in recent times.   One is the longtime, but now missing nest, on a tall light post, in the parking lot at Seneca College's King Campus, on Dufferin Street.   The nest site was nearby to the Eaton Hall Lake.   The other now unused site is the huge communications tower at Temperanceville.   The tower is on the south side of the King Road and west of Bathurst Street.   The nest of the last few years there has been removed and has not been rebuilt yet.   I have seen Ospreys inspecting it however.   Of course there are private sites in King Township where Osprey occupy nests on or near to small kettle lakes, but they largely unknown to anyone but the landowners and a few lucky observers.
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Jun 20, 2015

Pretend you're an owlet in this video

Click on the prompt below and then hit "Go to link" to be a part of an extremely close-up and charming encounter with an owl family...  

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Jun 19, 2015

Robin builds nest in herb planter

Photos by Nancy Wallace
Where birds build their nests is sometimes a surprise.   My brother Bob and his wife Nancy discovered an American Robin building a nest in a small 8" x 24" herb planter (see photos) on the handrail of a deck on their house, just north of Parry Sound, Ontario. This is interesting in and of itself, but consider these other developments at their home in the northern woods.
1. There is a momma robin in a previously made nest on the top of a ladder, under an     overhanging eave in the shade, in which there are four fledglings.
2. In the gazebo garden which has Virginia Creeper growing 8 ft. high, two nests have     been discovered.   One nest has a robin sitting in it with four eggs and just four
    inches away the other nest has a Chipping Sparrow with four eggs beneath her.           The two mom birds sit side-by-side in their respective nests, cheek-by-jowl, rain           or shine, in apparent acceptance of each other.
3. At the end of their driveway, near the road, there is also a pair of robins busily             building a well-hidden nest in the shadows.
4. Bob and Nancy say they have never seen so many robins in their 35 years in the 
    pine woods around and about Parry Sound.   Climate change, maybe?

Bob and Nancy are a wee bit bewildered by this activity and have promised to keep me updated and will try to send more pictures, which I will share in this space.

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Jun 18, 2015

Hummingbirds = huge brains

Photo by BarrytheBirder
National Geographic reports that hummingbirds are incredibly intelligent.   Like songbirds, they have the largest brains in relation to their body size of any birds on the planet.   Maybe that's why they can hover, fly backwards, up-side-down and rotate 360 degrees in mid-air!
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Jun 17, 2015

Barack Obama's administration to save grouse habitat

Photograph: Bob Wick / BLM / Reuters
Greater Sage Grouse
Centrocercus urophasianus
The Greater Sage Grouse is under serious threat in western North America from shrinking habitat.   US. President Barrack Obama's administration plans to protect the habitat by limiting energy companies operating in the bird's habitat, which covers 11 states. There is also a small Canadian population in southern Alberta and Saskatchewan.   The Sage Grouse is widely known for its captivating group mating displays in spring.   The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species rates the Sage Grouse as 'Near Threatened' and reports a decreasing population trend.   'Near Threatened' is when a species has been evaluated but does not qualify for Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable now, but is close to qualifying or is likely to qualify for a threatened category in the near future.
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Jun 16, 2015

Close encounter in the riverside reeds

Photo by Paul Fouracre / LNP
A Common Moorhen (Gallinulla chloropus) comes extremely close to a large Grass Snake (Natrix natrix) at Riverside County Park in Rainham, Kent, in southeast England. The Grass Snake is the largest reptile in Great Britain, with a few specimens measuring just over 6 ft. in length.   This non-venomous creature is also called the Ringed Snake for the white ring around the neck, just behind the head.   Grass snakes eats amphibians.   This stand-off lasted 15 minutes with the moorhen ultimately chasing away the snake.
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Jun 15, 2015

Close family interaction

Photograph: NPL / Rex Shutterstock
Barn Swallow
Hirundo rustica
Here's a tight little trio of Barn Swallows, located in Uto, Finland, just off the southern tip of Finland, in the Baltic Sea.   The parent is feeding two chicks that are the same size as it.   Barn Swallows are the most widespread species of swallows in the world, breeding as far north as the Arctic Circle and migrating as far south as South Africa, in the eastern hemisphere: for some, a journey of close to 12,000 kilometres (one way).   The Barn Swallow is the national bird of Austria and Estonia.   As a child, living on my grandfather's farm for one year, I would watch Barn Swallows flying through the open doors of my grandfather's stables and pens, above the cows, pigs and horses. It occurs to me, only now, 60 years later, that he must have had to assure himself that the nesting Barn Swallows were in their nests, with their eggs or fledglings, before he closed the barn doors each evening.
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Jun 14, 2015

Bee-eaters complain to each other about getting wet...

Photo by Pin Yan / Corbis
Blue-throated Bee-eaters
(Merops viridis)
Slightly soggy Blue-throated Bee-eaters wait out rain on a branch of a tree in Jiujiang, Jiangxi Province, on the southern shore of the Yangtze River, in southeast China.   Blue-throated Bee-eaters are found in a dozen countries in southeast Asia.   While bee-eaters to eat bees, wasps, hornets and ants, they also devour dragonflies, grasshoppers, butterflies, even small lizards and fish.

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Photo by Choi Wai Mun 

Jun 13, 2015

Robin wins vote as UK's national bird

Photo by Lisa Geoghegan
Nationwide poll selects English Robin
Almost 1/4 million people in the United Kingdom have cast ballots in the National Bird Vote according to the organizer of a nationwide poll.   The English Robin captured 75,623 votes (34%), the Barn Owl 26,191 votes (12%) and the Blackbird 25,369 votes (11%).   The robin is known for being openly aggressive to other birds it competes with for territory and food, and can kill those birds occasionally.   Vote organizer, David Lindo, attributed the robin's popularity to Britain's 'small-mind' mentality .   "Despite being a seemingly friendly bird, the robin is hugely territorial and very defensive of its territory and I presume that reflects us as an island nation that we will stand our ground", he said.   Lindo is also quoted as saying he hopes the British government will now act to bestow official honours on the robin.   Britain, like Canada, does not now have a national bird.   Two perennial preferences in Canada are the ubiquitous Canada Goose and the sentimental favourite: the yodelling Common Loon.
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Jun 12, 2015

Rain replenishes our backyard birdbaths

Photos by BarrytheBirder

And this (at left) is what it is all about... a robin that has drenched itself and looking exceedingly pleased with itself.   We have several birdbaths and my wife and I treasure them as much as the birds do.   It's always a chore to keep them cleaned and filled with water because there are so many species of birds that use them to bathe in and drink from.   Then there are the squirrels, the chipmunks, the raccoon, skunk, cat, and who knows what else after night falls.   Apart from seeds in the feeders and bugs everywhere else, no other item seems as important to the birds as water to drink and bathe in.

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Jun 11, 2015

Buntings being eaten to extinction

(Photo by Huang Qiusheng/AFP/Getty Images
These Yellow-breasted Buntings (Emberiza aureola) were rescued from a trapping site in Forshan, in China's Guangdong province.   
Yellow-breasted Buntings 
'being eaten to extinction in China'

Photo: Hong Kong Bird Watchers Society
The Yellow-breasted Bunting has gone from being one of the most abundant birds in Europe and Asia to near-extinction status because of Chinese culinary consumption.
Yellow-breasted Bunting population has dropped by 90% since 1980.   The IUCN ( International Union for the Conservation of Nature), until 2004, had considered the Yellow-breasted Bunting to be of 'least concern'.   However, in 2004, the IUCN changed the status to 'near threatened'.   In 2008, it was up-listed again to 'vulnerable'.   Latest research has now shown an even rarer status, with the bird's status now being 'endangered'.   In Europe, the bunting has experienced rapid declines in population that appear to exceed 80% in just three generations.   It is therefore classified as 'Critically Endangered' in European countries and is on the verge of extinction.   Because many populations have dropped rapidly on pristine breeding grounds, the decline is likely to be driven by excessive trapping at migration, particularly at wintering sites.   Consumption of the Yellow-breasted Bunting has increased because of economic growth and prosperity in east Asia.   An estimate concludes that in 2001, 1 million buntings were consumed in China's southern Guangdong province alone.   Dr. Johannes Kamp from the university of Munster, said in statement released by Birdlife International that "High levels of hunting also appear to be responsible for the declines we are seeing in Yellow-breasted Buntings".   Parallels are being drawn between the extinction of the Passenger Pigeon in 1914, due to massive hunting efforts, and this migratory bunting, also known as the "rice bird".
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Jun 10, 2015

Birds of a Feather by Claire Rosen

New York-based artist Claire Rosen's photographic series 'Birds of a Feather' was featured this past weekend in England's Guardian newspaper.   She has reached into the past to recollect and create classic combinations of birds and flowers for traditional wallpapers.   The pictures were set up in a local pet store and great patience was required to have the birds perfectly posed.   I have included three of the remarkable photographs below.

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Jun 9, 2015

Do kingfishers ever come up empty-handed?

Photograph: PM brem /Guardian Witness
Well, they must have the occasional miss, right?   It's just that I don't remember ever seeing an unsuccessful kingfisher fishing.   Wikipedia says that most of the kingfishers species in the world live away from fresh water and eat small invertebrates!   Here in southern Canada, I've only seen Belted Kingfishers and they always seem to fish in ponds or streams and just eat fish.   I've seen Ospreys miss fish, even seagulls dropping catches, but never an unsuccessful kingfisher.   I like to think of them as intrepid.   Yes, that's the word: intrepid.
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Jun 8, 2015

Pelican heaven in Bonaire

Photograph: Lorenzo Mittiga / Barcroft Media
A split water-level view of the Dutch Caribbean Sea, off the shores of Bonaire, shows a myriad of fish,  of which the Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) is only too well aware.   This is obviously a bountiful feeding ground.   The pelican, of course, must become airborne in order to dive into the water from above the surface to catch its fishy food.
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Jun 7, 2015

Jacana in Jiangxi

Photo: Panda Eye / Alamy
A Pheasant-tailed Jacana (Hydrophasianus chirurgus) is seen on the surface of a lake in Poyyang County, Jiangxi Province, in southeast China.   LIke all other Jacanas, these Jacanas have very large feet and claws that enable them to walk on floating vegetation in shallow lakes.   They can swim but prefer to walk on the vegetation on top of the water, looking for food.   They are found mainly in India, Indonesia and southeast Asia.   Other Jacanas are found worldwide, but the Pheasant-tailed species is the only one to have a separate breeding plumage, which is conspicuous and striking, as seen above.   They are also known casually, as 'lily trotters'.
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Jun 6, 2015

Fox in the food chain

Photograph: DG wildlife / Barcroft Media
A hungry Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) prepares to dine on a dead fox in the snow-covered mountains of Flatanger in Norway.   Flatanger is located 500 km north of Oslo, in western Norway, on the coast of the Norwegian Sea.   Noteworthy are the impressive talons of this magnificent bird.   How the fox perished was not stated.
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Jun 5, 2015

New bird book

"Top 100 Birding Sites in the World"
This book by Dominic Couzens, now available in North America presents some of the best places on the planet to go birdwatching.   Shown below are typical birds in three of the selected locations.

 Photo by David Tupling
A large population of Great Bustards (Otis tardus) thrives in western Spain's Extremadura with its rolling farmlands, open forests and rugged mountainsides.   From a distance, Great Bustards, with their ruffled feathers and colouring may be mistaken for sheep.   Extremadura is an important wildlife area with the major reserve at Montfrague, which was made a national park in 2007, and the Tagus River Natural Park. 

Photo by Markus Varesvuo
The varied landscape of Norfolk, on England's east coast, on the North Sea, with its mudflats, coastline, marshes and scrub make it one of the most popular areas for birdwatching in England.   Pictured here is a Bearded Reedling (Panurus biarmicus). 

Photo by Jon Hornbuckle
A Sunbittern (Eurypyga helias) shows off its splendid and unique plumage in western Venezuela's Los Llanos region.   Los Llanos receives high rainfall amounts in the May to October wet season, which turns the plains into a series of shallow lakes, perfect for water birds.
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Jun 4, 2015

Gardens and bird nests high in the sky

Photo by Kelly Luckett
Many green roofs attract nesting birds
The photo above was taken by Kelly Luckett at the Wildwood Community College in Wildwood, Missouri, USA.   It is representative of not only the explosion in the incidence of green roofs but also of how birds are adopting the new roof-top habitats across North America and many other parts of the World.   It certainly came as a surprise to me to read that the megalopolis of Toronto (just 15 minutes from where I live) has just been ranked the number two city in a new report from the non-profit Green Roofs for Healthy Cities (GRHC), which has ranked the top ten North American metropolitan regions that have installed the most square footage of green roofs last year.   Washington, D.C. was the number one city, a position it has held for the past four years.   Philadelphia, Chicago and New York rounded out the top five.   My wife, Linda was quick to tell me that in her opinion, former Toronto mayor David Miller (currently CEO of the WWF-Canada), was as much a force behind this as anyone.   Green roofs are now attracting nesting birds in increasing numbers.   An unanticipated hazard of this is that birds are safe on the green roofs themselves but are in danger of crashing into the windows of Toronto's many glass business towers nearby.   Deterrents to prevent these collisions are late being designed and installed, but are being worked upon.   Hopefully, this will have a happy ending for the situation, not just in Toronto, but throughout cities worldwide.
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Jun 3, 2015

Salisbury Cathedral's new Peregrine Falcon

 Photo by by Ben Birchal / PA
Members of the British Trust for Ornithology ring a Peregrine Falcon chick inside the 404 ft. spire at Salisbury Cathedral, in Wiltshire, England, where the chicks successfully hatched, for only the second time in 62 years.   The cathedral's spire is the tallest in England.   The cathedral was built in the first half of the 13th century, and rises above the water meadows of the Avon River.
Salisbury Cathedral photo by
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