This past weekend provided one of the few bright sunny days that I’ve witnessed during this depressing record low recent weather we’ve been experiencing in this area. The temperature rose from about -13°C at sunrise to a “balmy” -4°C by late afternoon. Can spring be far away?
Earlier this week I lucked out with a combination of a sunny, albeit cold winter day along with Surf Scoters hanging out close to shore at nearby JC Saddington Park in Mississauga, Ontario. On this day, Lake Ontario at this spot was open, which was not the case just a few days earlier.
Owls are one of my favorite bird photo subjects. Successfully photographing owls requires several things to go right, not the least of which is you have to locate them first. Fortunately, Short-eared Owls are fairly common and widespread (although decliningand are easier to see than most owls. This past weekend, our birding group spotted five individuals at one location during the late afternoon on a cold winter day. This group of owls did not appear to be skittish at least not when compared with my typical owl experience.
Red-tailed Hawk is common across much of North America, but that doesn’t mean that it is an easy subject to photograph. The individual shown in the photographs below was perched in a roadside tree. Red-tailed Hawk is typically shy and usually can be counted on to flush if approached, even if you remain in a parked vehicle for a period of time and almost certainly upon opening your vehicle door. Since there were no other vehicles in sight, I pulled over to the side of the road, less than thirty meters from where the Red-tailed Hawk was perched.
Back in December, prior to Christmas, I wrote a blog post about a Painted Bunting that was frequenting a bird feeder in Oakville, Ontario.
During the long winters in southern Ontario, I find the American Tree Sparrow brightens up my day; not just on days with sunny and clear blue skies, but also on days with dull grey skies and moderate snowfall. The rufous-capped sparrow seen in the photos below was hanging around some thickets near the roadside in Whitby, Ontario; fortunately I was able to capture some clean photos of it when it occasionally landed on a thick but unobstructed branch.
I find sparrow identification can be tricky at the best of times, but fall/winter identification of sparrows adds an additional degree of difficulty; throw in first winter birds and the ID challenge further increases. During the winter, I am thankful whenever I get an opportunity to photograph winter sparrows at close range, as I enjoy studying image details on my computer screen and noting the sometimes subtle, yet important differences among many sparrow species.
Last week I travelled to the Niagara River, Ontario area to look for Tundra Swans, as well as other bird species. Arriving fairly early in the morning, my friend, Andrew, and I checked out the river shoreline as we drove along the parkway. We spotted several Tundra Swans, which slept afloat on the river near the shoreline and we pulled over to see if we could get some close views. I’ve always found Tundra Swans to be pretty skittish and they typically will vacate the premises once they spot you approaching.
A couple of winters back I observed a few Common Redpolls at my backyard birdfeeders on many days. They are an irregular winter visitor to southern Canada and so far this winter a limited number of sightings in and around the Toronto area have been reported. While birding in a nearby park recently, I observed a dozen Common Redpolls feeding on small cones. It appeared to me that all of the common redpolls were “Southern” Common Redpoll (A.f. flammea).
While birding recently in the Aylmer, Quebec area with my friend, Mark, in an unsuccessful attempt to locate an American Three-toed Woodpecker, we noticed early on in our search a number of American Crows making quite the racket. As we moved in the direction of the noisy crows, we kept an eye on the wooded area, looking for a clue as to what all the fuss was about. The solution to the puzzle was solved moments later as I came face to face with a Barred Owl, a species I had only seen for the first time just two weeks prior.