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Jan 31, 2017

Pileated and Lineated Woodpeckers...yes, there are two.

                                                                                                                     Photo: Biologos de El Salvador
Lineated Woodpecker
(Dryocopus lineatus)
My friend and neighbour, Phyllis Vernon, who recently returned from a visit to Belize, told me she had seen and photographed a Lineated Woodpecker in the Central American country.   I thought she had made a mistake and meant to say Pileated Woodpecker.   Phyllis quickly assured me there was such a bird as the Lineated Woodpecker and it does resemble the Pileated Woodpecker in size, shape, colour and markings.   Compare the two in the photos above and below.   Again one learns something new every day.

Pileated Woodpecker
(Dryocopus pileatus)

Please comment if you wish.

Jan 30, 2017

2017 ~ Year of the Rooster

Photo of Black Forest Garden Centre chickens by BarrytheBirder
The Chinese zodiac animal of 2017 
Chinese culture and tradition states that 2017 is the 'Year of the Rooster' and the Nature Conservancy of Canada has this to say about this bird: "To attract mates, roosters do a dance called 'tidbitting', which involves making noises and moving their heads up and down".   More esoterically perhaps, the Rooster is the tenth symbol of the reoccurring 12-year cycle of the Chinese zodiac.   It is also the only bird included in the Chinese zodiac.   In Chinese astrology, zodiac years are associated with an animal sign, plus one of the five elements: gold (metal), wood, water, fire, or earth.   The zodiac sign and the element shape the astrology for the year. 2017 is the year of the Fire Rooster.   Roosters are very confident in themselves, observant, hardworking, resourceful, talented, and courageous.   Moreover, Fire Roosters are notable for being trustworthy, with a strong sense of timekeeping and responsibility at work.   I will leave it to you (and Google) dear reader, to search for more specific predictions about your personal Year of the Rooster.
Please comment if you wish.

Jan 29, 2017

Bean Geese overwintering in Germany

Photo by Patrick Pleul / AFP / Getty Images
Handsome goose ~ plain name
Bean Geese (Anser fabalis) are seen above flying over a snowy field near Sachsendorf, in north-east Germany.   I would respectfully suggest the following alternative names for the almost-elegant-looking Bean Goose.   How about Gallant Goose, or Grand Goose, Glory Goose, Graceful Goose ... or maybe even Groovy Goose or Gung-ho Goose.
Please comment if you wish. 

Jan 28, 2017

2016 Audubon Photography Awards ~ Grand Prize Winner

Bald Eagle and Great Blue Herons
Photo by Bonnie Block
Bonnie Block's photo of a Bald Eagle harassing Great Blue Herons at Seabeck, in Washington State, was the Grand Prize Winner in Audubon's 2016 photography competition.   The magnificent eagle was attempting to steal the hunting herons' prey as they foraged in an oyster bed at low tide.   Spectacular!  
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Jan 27, 2017

Phyllis Vernon's Belize Birds

Bird photos by Phyllis Vernon
My friend and fellow King Township resident, Phyllis Vernon (below-right), recently returned from a week in Belize, where among many other naturalist pursuits, she took several bird photos in the jungles along the Caribbean coast of the small, central american nation.   Pictured above is a Collared Aracari Toucan (Pteroglossus torquatos) and below-left is Slaty-tailed Trogon (Trogon massena).   Another Toucan, not pictured here, the Keel-billed Toucan (Ramphastos sulfuratus), is the national bird of Belize.

It's almost impossible not to take a good picture of the ubiquitous Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis)  in the Caribbean and Phyllis's excellent photo above is no exception.   Great portrait!   Below is Phyllis's picture of a Black-headed Trogon (Trogon melanocephalus).

Above is Phyllis's photo of a Black-headed Trogon (Trogon melanocephalus) and below is her photo of a Black-cowled Oriole (Icterus dominicensis).   Phyllis identified approximately 30 birds on this trip to Belize. 

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Jan 26, 2017

Birding in the shadow of Grouse Mountain

 Photos by Dave Kemp
"The Peak of Vancouver"
Fellow birder, Dave Kemp, from British Columbia has sent some more of his January photos from the lower mainland of British Columbia.   The photo above is of Grouse Mountain, just north of Vancouver.   The bird photos below include a Bald Eagle, a Red-breasted Merganser, a female Green-winged Teal, a Brandt's Cormorant and a Common Snipe.   Thanks for sharing your shots, Dave.

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Jan 25, 2017

Hooked on Dark-eyed Juncos

Photos by BarrytheBirder
Dark-eyed (Slate-coloured) Junco
(Junco hyemalis)
Although the Black-capped Chickadee is one of my favourite year-around birds, especially in the winter, it's the Dark-eyed Juncos that capture my heart each winter in the snowy backyard.   It seems the same individuals keep showing up, followed by generations of their offsprings, year after year, decade after decade.   I'm sure if I had the patience, I could get them to eat seeds from my hand.   Below is what William Stafford (1914-1993) United States Poet Laureate wrote about the Junco.

They operate from elsewhere,
some hall in the mountains -
quick visit, gone.
Specialists on branch ends,
craft union.   I like their
clean little coveralls.

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Jan 24, 2017

White hummingbird draws crowds in California

Photo by Brad R. Lewis
Unique Anna's Hummingbird 
at Santa Cruz Arboretum
One of Audubon's most popular stories of 2016 was about a white Anna's Hummingbird that visited the Australian Gardens, at the arboretum of the University of California, Santa Cruz.   
Because of its rareness, the bird caused a stir with the crowds of people that flocked to the gardens to see it.   A normal Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna) is seen at right.

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Jan 23, 2017

Coming in for a landing ~ at the mouth of the Fraser River, B.C.

Photos by Dave Kemp 

Hooded Merganser
(Lophodytes cucullatus)

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Jan 22, 2017

White-breasted Nuthatch

                                                                                                      Photo by Barry Wallace

The White-breasted Nuthatch
upside down the ancient bole.
If it has no soul, neither do I.
                                                                               ~ Robert Ronnow, 2015
Please comment if you wish.

Jan 21, 2017

Northern Flicker ~ Canada's west coast

Red-shafted (western) Flicker
Photo by Dave Kemp
Please comment if you wish.
Barrythe Birder

Jan 20, 2017

Goosanders catching lampreys?

Photo by David Tipling / Bartlett Images
This photograph surprised me greatly last week when I saw it in The Guardian Online.   It shows Common Goosanders catching lampreys in the River Nith in Dumfries, Scotland.   Wikipedia says Goosanders (Mergansers) eat fish, molluscs, crustaceans, worms, insect larvae, amphibians, and more rarely: small mammals and birds.   Wikipedia does not  mention lampreys, but seeing is believing.   One learns something new every day.
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Jan 19, 2017

Brave Adeline penguins...

Photo: Tim Laman/
"Last one in is a Pygmy Whale"
An Adeline Penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae) daringly leads the way as it is captured photographically, plunging off a massive iceberg in Antarctica.
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Jan 18, 2017

Red ivory bill is driving rare bird to extinction

                                                                                                     Photo by Tim Layman/NPL
Helmeted Hornbill seems doomed to extinction
Damian Carrington, in Britain's Guardian newspaper, says that the rare Helmeted Hornbill's solid red beak sells for several times the price of elephant ivory due to soaring demand on the Chinese black market.   The demand is rapidly driving one of the world's most spectacular birds to extinction.   Since 2011 poaching has soared in Indonesia, Borneo and Thailand to feed the Chinese demand for carved ivory, sending this hornbill into a death spiral.   In three years the huge bird has moved from "near threatened" in 2012, to "critically endangered".    The government of Indonesia recently advised the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species, in South Africa, which gave this hornbill its highest level of protection in 1975, that all trade is illegal.   Arguably one the most spectacular birds on the planet, the slow-breeding Helmeted Hornbill is particularly vulnerable to poaching.   They mate for life. and when ready to lay their one or two eggs per year, the male uses mud to seal the female into a protective hole in a tree.   It then feeds the female and chicks through a slit, meaning if the male is shot, the whole family starves.   The bird's casque, or beak, is used to hammer out insects from rotting wood, or to fight.   The hornbill has also been harmed by the loss of much of its habitat to palm oil plantations.

Photo by Dewantoro / AP
Photos above and below by Natural History museum of London / Alamy

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Jan 17, 2017

Green-winged Teal (Anas crecca carolinensis)

Photo by Dave Kemp
Resting ~ but always watchful
Green-winged Teals are found throughout North America, but many are found living year-around in southwest British Columbia and northwestern states like Washington and Oregon.   The photo above of a pretty female was taken recently by Dave Kemp, south of Vancouver.
Please comment if you wish.

Jan 16, 2017

PIED AVOCET (Recurvirostra avosetta)

Photo: Sam Yeh/AFP/Getty Images
What better for a study in black and white
than a flock of Pied Avocets?
A dramatic-looking flock of migratory Pied Avocets  flies above the salt flats of Budai, in Chiayi, southern Taiwan, off the coast of China where they spend their winter.   They breed from temperate Europe to western and central Asia, however some flocks do to not migrate at all.

The Pied Avocet is one of just four avocet species in the world and is part of the same family as stilts.   Wikipedia says of avocets: 
"In a large colony they are aggressively defensive and chase off any other species of birds (see photo below by John A. Thompson) that try to nest near or among them, which has caused the annoyed remark: 'Avocet: Exocet' from some British birders".


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Jan 15, 2017

Kingfisher found north of normal winter range

Photo by BarrytheBirder
 A few days of mild weather 
or global climate change?
Belted Kingfishers in southern Ontario, during a Canadian winter, usually restrict themselves to the north shores of the two southern Great Lakes: Ontario and Erie. My friend Mary Asselstine directed me to a Belted Kingfisher, in a storm-water retention pond in the village of Schomberg, near to where I live.   Schomberg is approximately 40 kilometres north of the Lake Ontario's north shoreline.   The question becomes is the kingfisher, currently at Schomberg, there temporarily because of several days of mild weather and open pond water, or is global warming having a behavioral effect.   The pond in question does have water slowly flowing through it on a constant basis, so perhaps it has not been ice-covered yet this winter and this kingfisher may have been there since last fall.   A fluke, or a sign of things to come?   Time will tell.
Please comment if you wish.

Jan 14, 2017

2016 GBBC Photo Contest Winners

The 2016 Great Backyard Bird Count 
 Photo Contest Winners
Sponsored by The Cornell Lab, Audubon, and Bird Studies Canada

A total of 57 prizes, including the top five finishers and honourable mentions, in six categories, have recently been announced.   The categories included Overall, Behaviour, Composition, Habitat, Group and People.   Entries were received from all over the world.   Pictured below is my personal favourite from each category.

OVERALL / First Place - White-winged Crossbills, Nick Saunders, Saskachewan

BEHAVIOUR / Second Place - Bald Eagles, Andy Byerly, Iowa

COMPOSITION / Honourable Mention - Anhinga, Georgia Wilson, Florida

HABITAT / (Tie) Fourth Place - Green Heron, Tony Peebles, California

GROUP / Honourable Mention - Eastern Bluebirds, Tami Gingrich, Ohio

PEOPLE / First Place - Florida Scrub Jay, Ann Foster, Florida
Please comment if you wish.

Jan 13, 2017

A wonderful wingspan

                                                                                                                             Barb Zadros
WWild TurkeyW
(Meleagris gallopavo)
Until my wife drew my attention to this photograph, I had never seen a wild turkey, in a photo or in real life, showing its full, almost resplendent wingspan, from such an angle.   How grand!   Male Wild Turkeys are heavy and can weigh anywhere from 11 to 24 lbs.   They have relatively small wings but are agile flyers and usually fly low to the ground for short distances, hence my never having got a good glimpse of one, such as the spectacular profile above.
Please comment if you wish.

Jan 12, 2017

Blue flamingos and gold water...

Photo: Raed Qutena / EPA
Sunset in Kuwait City
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Jan 11, 2017

Dave Kemp bird photos - from Canada's west coast

 Photos by Dave Kemp
My friend Dave Kemp's photographic capture above, of a Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus), shows an elegant pale gray male as it glides buoyantly and low over the ground, searching for small prey, near the sea.   Below, a container ship is underway along the British Columbia coast.   In the foreground of this photo a Red-tailed Hawk is perched on a post, near the water, while further out, in the middle foreground, a Bald Eagle is perched on the tallest pole.

In the photo above, on the left, an odd couple (a killdeer and a snipe) appear to be enjoying a quiet and relaxed moment together.   In the photo at right, A Great Blue Heron flies over marsh reeds.
Please comment if you wish. 

Jan 10, 2017

The crow by moonlight

Photo by Gideon Knight
London's Valentines Park is the scene for this photo taken by Gideon Knight, 16, who is the U.K. winner of London's Natural History Museum 2016 Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year contest.   Gideon captured the blue light of dusk and a misty moon, providing the backdrop for an evocative scene.
Please comment if you wish.