Total Pageviews

Dec 31, 2016

Barred Owl in downtown Sudbury

Close encounter of the feathered kind
One of my neices, April Dawn Gull, recently sent this charming photo she came across of a Barred Owl, taken in Sudbury, Ontario.   Unfortunately, there was no photographer identification for the picture, but he or she deserves praise for the capture of the image and the shot's composition.   How often does one get an owl and a traffic light in the same picture?   The setting appears to be a snowy intersection in the city, at night, with the owl sitting on a porch or veranda railing.   Amazingly, a passing handicap motorized scooter gets into the shot immediately behind the owl.   Sometimes great photos are just taken serendipitously.
Please comment if you wish.

Dec 30, 2016

Moment of truth in Kruger National Park

Photo: Greatstock /Barcroft Images
Pictured above, an African Goshawk catches a Plaited Lizard at Kruger National Park in South Africa.   There are 29 species of goshawks around the world.   The African Goshawk ranges south of the Sahara Desert from the western cape of South Africa, north to the southern Democratic Republic of Congo, and upward to southern Ethiopia.
Please comment if you wish.

Dec 29, 2016

House Finch

                                                                                                                             Photo by BarrytheBirder
What is it about 
red birds and snow?
Please comment if you wish.

Dec 28, 2016

"On the fourth day of Christmas..."

Photo by Marco Hebig
What is a "calling bird"
In the song 12 Days of Christmas, it is widely accepted the gift on the fourth day is "four colly birds", not "four calling birds".   The word colly means 'black as coal'.   Therefore, the gift on the fourth day of Christmas was the Common Blackbird (Turdus merula), common throughout the UK.   The fourth day of Christmas, by the way, is December 28.
Please comment if you wish.

Dec 26, 2016

Christmas Kiskadee in Bermuda

Photo by Beth Sleightholme-O'Kelly
My wife's younger sister and her husband are celebrating Christmas in Bermuda this year and part of the visit involves some fishing.   Beth photographed a Kiskadee perching on Patrick's fishing poles with her iphone and passed it along.   This is the same Kiskadee that joins Beth and Patrick for breakfast each morning.
Please comment if you wish.
Barry The Birder 

Dec 25, 2016

Merry Christmas

                                                                                                                     Photo by Barry Wallace

Dec 24, 2016

Anchovies on the menu

Photo: Lillian Suwanrumpha / AFP / Getty Images
Bryde's Whales and gulls in Thailand
A Bryde's whale and her calf feed on anchovies, which are also of interest to local gull flocks, in the Gulf of Thailand, off the coast of Samut Sakhon province.   The whales are named for John Bryde, the Norwegian consul to South Africa who helped establish the first modern whaling station in the country.
Please comment if you wish.

Dec 23, 2016

742 new birds in the world ~ 11% of them are threatened

IUCN RED LIST UPDATE reported by Bird Studies Canada, Dec. 8, 2016

 Photo by Singing Wing Aviary
Java Sparrow 

Photo: Wikipedia
Azores Bullfinch
This year, the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List of Threatened Species has been updated to recognize 742 new species of birds.   This brings the overall count to 11,121, exceeding 11,000 for the first time.   The new total is the product of a comprehensive taxonomic review, and suggests that avian diversity at the species level was previously under-estimated by more than 10%.   Unfortunately, over 11% of the newly-recognized species have been list as threatened.
The need for conservation is especially urgent in Asia and Africa, where habitat loss and capture for the pet trade are depleting populations of the Java Sparrow, Grey Parrot, and other species.
On a positive note, some species have been down-listed to lower threat categories.   Populations of Azore Bullfinch, St. Helena Plover and Seychelles White-eye have sprung back from the edge of extinction, setting a hopeful example of what dedicated conservation efforts can achieve.
Please comment if you wish.

Dec 22, 2016

World's 2nd smallest bird

Photo: Theodore Ferguson/Diane Slawych
Lophornis ornatus
Many, many birders know that the world's smallest bird is the Bee Hummingbird, found in Cuba and other spots in the Caribbean area.   But how many of us know what the second smallest bird is in the world?   I've just learned it's another Caribbean and South American hummingbird: the Tufted Coquette.   At 6.6 cm. long and 2.3 gms. in weight, it is just a wee bit bigger than the Bee Hummingbird.   The photo above of a Tufted Coquette was taken in the garden of Theo and Gloria Ferguson in the town of St. Joseph, in Trinidad.   It may be small but it has a grand showy appearance!
Please comment if you wish.

Dec 21, 2016

Birds on Vancouver Island

 Photos by Dave Kemp
Pacific Loon (winter plumage)

Hairy Woodpecker

Surf Scoter (bottom left) + Black Scoters

Trumpeter Swan family

Common Goldeneye 
My friend British Columbia friend, Dave Kemp, took the shots above, a few days ago, on a trip over to Vancouver Island.   The west coast of Canada has just had a series of big snowfalls, quite unlike what they are normally familiar with, however it looks like critters that were on the water were not inconvenienced.
Please comment if you wish.

Dec 20, 2016

Thousands of Snow Geese poisoned in Montana

Photo by Keith Myers / AP
Photo by Tom Munson

Metal-laden waters of open pit mine are deadly
Associated Press reported last week that several thousand Snow Geese have died following a snowstorm that forced huge flocks of the big birds to land in acidic, metal-laden waters of an old, open Montana pit mine.   Spotlights and noise-makers plus other measures were used to scare of the birds and prevent others from landing.
The flock was estimated to be around 25,000 birds, of which 2,500 were poisoned and died.   Sadly, open water was no safe haven for the unknowing birds.   A pitiful end to magnificent creatures.
Please comment if you wish.

Dec 19, 2016

Big bill doesn't hamper dexterity

Photo by Willem Kruger
WYellow-billed HornbillW
Ceratogyymna elata
Using the ends of it huge beak, like forceps, this hornbill picks up termites, flicks them into the air and then swallows them.   The bird was foraging along a railroad track in South Africa's Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.   It became so intent on dining on termites, that it gradually worked its way to within 19 ft. (6 metres) of photographer Willem Kruger, who was sitting in his vehicle, camera at the ready.
Please comment if you wish.

Dec 18, 2016

Graceful Great Egrets

Photo by Zsolt Kudich
Glorius Great Egrets (Casmerodius alba alba) take flight in a swamp in Hungary in a photo entry to the 'Action' category of the 2016 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year competition.
Please comment if you wish.

Dec 17, 2016

Sunset near Lietzow ~ north-eastern Germany

Photo by Jens Buttner / AFP / Getty Images
Grebe amongst swans at dusk
Lietzow is located on the island of Rugen, at the north-eastern tip of Germany, and at the foot of the Baltic Sea.   Nearby to Lietzow, is Germany's smallest, but perhaps most picturesque national park: Jasmund Nationalpark with its huge coastal chalk cliffs.   As mentioned in this spot about two weeks ago, Germany's national bird is the Golden Eagle.
Please comment if you wish.

Dec 16, 2016

A most beautiful blue bird...

Photo by Tim Zurowski / BIA / Minden / Alamy
Red-legged Honeycreeper
Cyanerpes cyaneus
Female - photo by Doug Jansen
The Red-legged Honeycreeper is common throughout South and Central America, which is immensely fortunate for hundreds of thousands of birdwatchers, because this bird is one of the most strikingly coloured birds in the world.   It is small, like a tanager, but the male is violet-blue with a turquoise head, black wings, tail and back, and the underwing is lemon yellow (seen in flight).   It feeds on insects, some fruit and nectar, hence the name honeycreeper.   It is widely regarded in South America, in the way the Eastern Bluebird is admired in North America.

Please comment if you wish.

Dec 15, 2016

Back from the brink...

Photo by Alistair Homer / RSPB / PA
Montserrat Oriole ~ one of world's rarest birds
Icterus oberi
The Montserrat Oriole, one of the world's rarest birds, has been brought back from the edge of extinction.   It is no longer critically endangered, according to the latest Red List of Threatened Species issued by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature).   The bird species has been moved to the lower-risk category 'vulnerable to extinction'.
Please comment if you wish.

Dec 14, 2016

Jackal comes close to capturing sandgrouse

Photo: Greatstock / Barcroft Images
Cubitje Quap waterhole
A jackal is just inches away from seizing a plump sandgrouse at a waterhole in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park on the Botswana/South Africa border.   The waterhole is a well-known site for jackals to catch birds.
Please comment if you wish.

Dec 13, 2016

Chickadees ~ winter's warriors

Photo by Barry Wallace
I wonder if chickadees know that
I need them as much in winter 
 as they need me?
Please comment if you wish.

Learning about Black Swans

Photo: Hayden's Animal Facts
Cygnus atratus
Today I learned a few things about this beautiful black bird I never knew before.   For starters, Black Swans are native to Australia.   They were introduced to Britain in 1791 as splendid additions to captive wildfowl collections, but inevitable escapes and deliberate releases meant that they are now nearly a self-sustaining population in the wild.   They are found now in captivity all over the world.   I have seen captive ones up close here in Canada, but I have never heard of wild ones in this country.   Never having seen one in flight, or flapping its wings, I did not know that the Black Swan's flight feathers are white!
Please comment if you wish.

Dec 12, 2016

Canadian Geographic 2016 photo contest winners

Photo by Tim Hopwood
Pygmy Owl and vole prey
First Honourable Mention

Go to to see all the winners of the 2016 Canadian Wildlife Photography of the Year Competition.   The competition was conducted by Canadian Geographic magazine on behalf of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society.   Some of the winning photos also appear in the 'Special Wildlife Issue' of Canadian Geographic's  December magazine issue, currently on newsstands. 
Please comment if you wish.

Dec 11, 2016

How do they do it?

Photo by N. Camilleri / Lund University / PA
Researchers in Europe have stated that observations of Common Swifts during winter months are scarce and that roosting sites have never been found in sub-Saharan Africa. Now, swifts have been equipped with accelerometers and results show that swifts never seem to stop flying, with birds airborne for 99% of the time during their 10-month non-breeding period.
Please comment if you wish.   

Dec 9, 2016

Those unmistakable big dark brown eyes...

Photo by Cathy Scharge
Strix varia
I attended a community potluck supper this week and sat across from a neighbour, named Ed Millrr, who is an avid hiker.   Ed mentioned being out with a group of fellow hikers recently, several kilometres east of our village of King City, when they came across the beautiful Barred Owl you see above.   Great sighting of a great bird and nice photo by Cathy Scharge.
Please comment if you wish.

Dec 8, 2016

Hummingbird migration ~ adults versus juveniles

Photo by BarrytheBirder
Henry Nicholls writes in The Guardian Online this week that migration-based research shows Ruby-throated Hummingbirds adopt a mixed strategy regarding pre-migration feeding habits.   Some adults choose to fatten up in North American before heading to Central America wintering grounds, by gorging on feeders to increase their body mass by more than one third.   Juveniles do not appear to do this, so probably fall behind as they stop and feed along the way.   In my Ontario backyard, all the 'hummers' leave on southern migration at the same time, usually within a 24 to 48 hour period.   I find it difficult to distinguish between a well-fed adult bird and a partially nourished juvenile.   During the migration, the adults indubitably leap-frog ahead of the juveniles, which stop to nourish themselves as required.
Please comment if you wish.

Dec 7, 2016

Dubai city becomes outdoor art gallery

 Photos by Tom Dulat / Getty Images
Birds among popular mural images
Dubai City is being transformed by huge art murals painted on buildings across the city, as part of the 'Dubai Street Museum' an initiative promoting the emirates' visual arts and cultural heritage.   Dozens of murals are already in place and there could be hundreds eventually, as the city's streetscapes are dramatically and colourfully transformed.

Please comment if you wish.

Dec 6, 2016

Flying flowers

 White Egret Orchid
(Habenaria radiata)

Flying Duck Orchid
(Celeana major)
 Parrot flower
(impatiens psittacina)

Dove Orchid
(Peristeria elata)
Please comment if you wish.

Dec 5, 2016

No excess too great

Photo: History in Orbit
Short-cut to over-killing
In what can only be described perhaps, as a super-long blunderbuss, this real gun was used in commercial waterfowl hunting in the late 1800s and early 1900s.   They were called 'punt guns' because they were used in a type of boat called a punt.   One of these guns could fire almost a pound of shot and could kill 50 birds in one blast.   In order to maximize the count, 10 punt guns would be fired simultaneously in the name of efficient enterprise.   Not surprisingly, they devastated wild bird populations and were subsequently outlawed.
Please comment if you wish.

Dec 4, 2016

Paper birds flutter for real birds

Photo by Juan Carlos Hidalgo / EPA

Above, a woman walks through paper birds placed by World Wildlife Fund activists opposite Spain's lower house in Madrid, on Novemeber 24, to demand greater protection of Donana National Park in Andalusia, southern Spain.   The park is home to thousands of European and African migratory birds, fallow deer, Spanish Red Deer, wild boars, badgers, mongooses and endangered species such as the Iberian Lynx and the Spanish Imperial Eagle (pictured at left).   The eco-systems of these creatures are under constant threat by the draining of marshes, the use of river waters to boost agricultural production by irrigating land along the coast, water pollution by up-river mining, human encroachment and the expansion of tourist facilities, loss of habitat and illegal poisoning.
Please comment if you wish.

Dec 3, 2016

World's most common wild bird

Photo by Lee Ouzman
1. There are 1.5 billion breeding birds of this species.
2. It is part of the weaver family.
3. They are sparrow-sized with brown bodies and red bills.
4. They are found in sub-Sahara Africa.
5. They are very social and flocks can be in the millions.
6. They feed on seeds and can cause serious crop damage.

Meet the Red-billed Quelea
(Quelea quelea)

Please comment if you wish.

Dec 2, 2016

The charcoal chicken

 Photos: Imgur
An all-Black Chicken
(Ayam Cemani)
Here's a bird that popped up all over the place this week, thanks to photo news service providers around the world.   It's nothing new, but the reaction to the photos would make one think this chicken is the first of its kind in the world, one never seen before.   The all-black Ayam Cemani chicken, from Indonesia, has a dominant gene that causes hyperpigmentation (Fibromelanosis), making the chicken entirely black; including its feathers, beak, skin, legs and internal organs.   Ahhh, but what about its blood you ask.   Its blood is red.   Ayam translates as 'chicken' in Indonesia and Cemani seems to translate as two things.   On one hand, Cemani is Javanese for 'completely black'.   On the other hand, Cemani denotes the village of origin for the bird on the island of Java.   Speculation is that the breed originated from Java, in Indonesia, and has probably been used for centuries in mystical and religious rites.   The Cemani Chicken is sometimes called the Lamborghini of chickens.   Prices outside of local Javan villages are reported to be as high as $2500 per bird, which aficioandos have apparently offered.   Premiums can be paid for chickens with magical 'black' blood, but such a thing would appear to be achieved only by adding things like like charcoal or squid ink to the bloodstream.   One report states that more than 25 avian breeds with fibromelanosis are known and almost all of them originate from southeastern Asia.   Ho hum.

Please comment if you wish.

Dec 1, 2016

National Geographic 2016 photo finalist

Prehistoric aura to gannet photo
This photo is one of the category finalists in the 2016 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year contest.   Northern Gannets fish by diving into the sea and can do it from heights of 30 metres and at speeds up to 80 km/hour.   They are the largest sea birds in the North Atlantic and pursue their prey underwater.   This particular photo caught my eye by the dark, overbearing, violent presentation of what is happening here.   I see an almost prehistoric aspect in this scene.   Captivating, indeed.
Please comment if you wish.