Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

December 22, 2010

Return of the Hawks... Winter 2010

The cold weather has set in, the snow is on the ground and Hawks are all around. It's true, more and more can be seen through this season as a lot of their food source seemingly disappears in the snow... small mammals. Smaller birds become more of a staple diet through these months.

How do I know? Steady attacks at my bird feeders by these birds of prey.

There definitely is at least one Coopers Hawk who has been taking out some Pigeons lately. I don't mind really because Pigeons are a dime a dozen around here. Heck, I can even handle the mess they leave in the aftermath.

A gross sad sighting to some but this is life in the world of the wild. A Hawk only kills what he needs to eat, to survive. If you take the idea that this was a living creature out of your mind for a moment... look at that picture above, such contrast over the snow, the markings on the feathers are quite nice too.

I see more Hawks in my travels too! Mostly Red Tailed Hawks along the highways. On my 19 km trek from work to home, I see 4 every afternoon. Obviously 2 pairs.

I have seen another Red Tail a number of times on Scarlett Road as I get nearer to home. This one is rather bold and doesn't seem to be bothered too much by people in his vicinity. Too many I try to photograph high-tail from me long before I can get a zoom on them.

Last Saturday I was driving along Hwy 427 and counted 9 Hawks (all Red Tails I think) from Derry Road to Hwy 7 which isn't any more than 10 kms or so. Impressive! The thought of slamming on the brakes, jumping out and getting a photo run through my mind; but not such an easy task when driving 105 km/hr.

I snapped this one that seemed to hover just at the top of this hill. I thought I might get an eye-level in-flight shot but when I reached the top of the hill, he was gone.

A little further up the road I spotted this guy sitting at an intersection. I snapped this from my passenger window.

I've noticed a number of American Kestrels in my travels lately too! Three were in an area at the top of Hwy 427 last week. I took this picture through my front windshield before he flew off.

I must add that it's not just the winter when I see Hawks. They are just more visible at this time, to me anyways. All through the year, at any given time, I can have some bird of prey make or try to make a meal of one of my feathered friends. This Sharp Shin Hawk visited a few months back and caught himself a little House Sparrow.

I know a few who get quite upset over the fact of such birds visiting their properties/feeders and making a meal of the birds they feed. While it's never been my intention when backyard bird feeding, and I do my best to keep the feeders in spots with quick escape routes and hide outs... sometimes it just happens that the Hawk is clever and quick enough or a frightened bird goes the wrong way. Luckily for me it's been commoners that show up here in large numbers like House Sparrows, European Starlings and Pigeons who get nabbed. Catching a Blue Jay or Northern Cardinal would be heart-breaking to me since I see not much more than a pair of each.

But not every bird who gets caught, gets eaten. This Sharp Shin has a European Starling in his clutches and we thought he was done for but after a couple minutes of struggle, the Starling broke free and flew off. We sure don't need the television on, just have to look out the kitchen window for a daily story.

So, in your travels, keep your eye to the sky and around you, and you just might see one or a few of these guys along the way. Enjoy them!

December 12, 2010

Grey Jays and Algonquin Park... November 2010

About a month ago I visited Algonquin Park for the very first time ever in my life. Angie and I were taken up there by some friends of ours who are familiar with the area. We had a mission for this trip and that was to find and experience the presence of Grey Jays nicknamed "Whiskey Jacks" or "Camp Robbers".

I heard the stories of these birds, and while I believed them, it is nothing compared to actually seeing them in person. A mid-sized bird with a seemingly fearless attitude who will raid campsites, picnic sites, etc and steal the food of the people on site. Bold enough to fly right into the palm of a person's hand for some grub too!

While they aren't the most vibrant colored bird in the area; they still are quite a fine looking species.

We could have easily spent the whole day in this one spot and playing with the Jays.

The photo below is my favorite shot from the afternoon. I do love the hand shots but this one is just right for what I wanted to capture.

If you notice in the shots, they are all banded (colored bands on the legs). The birds are wild but they are heavily researched. The banding is for tracking and ID'ing the birds.

One of the reasons, or perhaps this has been discovered with the research so far is that the Grey Jays are declining in numbers along the most southern points of their range. The longer summers and autumns are to blame. The Jays are hoarders and rely upon the cold weather to act as a refrigerant and keep their food. So, while the weather stays warmer longer, their stored food rots much faster. It's lead to less successful breeding. It might be a decade or less and Grey Jays will be a rare sighting or perhaps not seen in places like Algonquin Park. Sad for us since this is a 3 hour drive on a good day to get to this spot... and since it's a winter spot for the birds, traveling up there, weather is often an issue.

It was +8c that afternoon. Toronto was really enjoying the spring like temperatures and lots of sun that week. I remember it well as I was on vacation. But, Algonquin had snow already.

We had another first sighting that afternoon... a Black Backed Woodpecker! They look alot like our Downys but the back is a mostly solid black color. We were treated with a good 5 minutes of watching him on this tree. Photography was not easy in the dense woods. I stayed well back because I didn't want to frighten him off. Not a bad shot though.

We picnic'd at this spot. The water was unbelievably calm! The sun felt so nice as it beamed down upon us.

Of course lots of Black-capped Chickadees were present. Always a treat since they are quite comfortable diving in for some grub too.

Deep in the woods we heard the Boreal Chickadees. We sorta saw them way up in the trees, buzzing back and forth. I hope on our next visit we might get a good visual of them... and maybe a photograph or two. With that being said, I did not take this last photo and borrowed it from Google Images.

I wonder who else out there reading this has experienced the fun of hanging out with those Grey Jays?