Monday, December 24, 2012

Winter finches

Just a quick post with a couple of pictures of our latest winter visitors.

Redpolls were one of my favorites birds when I was a kid, and I've only seen them a handful of times since then. We had one lonely little Redpoll show up in our yard last winter, but then this weekend we had a flock of 40-50 thoroughly enjoying our sunflower chip feeder. And they're back today, so hopefully they'll stick around for a little bit!

Anyway, I was able to take a break from Christmas prep yesterday to set up my blind and try to get a few pictures of these pretty little festive visitors. Hope you enjoy. :)

And Happy Holidays to everyone!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Fall is here

The last of our sweet little hummingbirds disappeared from our yard on September 24. I miss them already. *sigh*

We had our first Dark-eyed Juncos of the season at the feeder last night. I love those little birds - so pretty! I actually thought I saw one flitting around the pine trees out back about a week and a half ago (the white side tail feathers are pretty telling), but couldn't confirm it. But now they seem to be here to stay, since they were bopping around on the driveway this morning.

Haven't seen that many migrants passing through, really. We had our annual October Eastern Phoebe stop by briefly, and there was some kind of mystery warbler in the yard on Monday, but we didn't get a good enough look at it for an ID.

So yes, the season change is definitely upon us. Come ooooooon, snowy owls! :D

Monday, September 17, 2012

Yardbird species #60, #61, and #62

It's been a productive migration so far, in terms of visitors to our yard.

First we had a House Wren. Next, a juvenile Common Yellowthroat. And tonight, a Red-breasted Nuthatch was fighting the Goldfinches for sunflower seeds at one of our feeders.

Also, some exciting news for me. One of my hummingbird photos was published in Photo News Magazine. My first credited magazine publication! :)

On another note, we've got somewhere in the range of... oh, a billion Goldfinches in our yard right now. If anyone wants any, you're welcome to them. I love those little birds, but they're eating us out of house and home in the numbers they're in!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Biiiiiig yawn!

Biiiiiig yawn! by Jen St. Louis
Biiiiiig yawn!, a photo by Jen St. Louis on Flickr.

This little guy was far too cute to watch. He kept getting puffier and puffier as he settled onto the stick, and his blinking was getting slower... and then yawning. I've never seen a hummingbird yawn before, and was really lucky to get this shot. :)

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Killdeer babies - found!

I finally managed to track down the little fluff balls of cuteness known as baby Killdeer. They - and their parents - are pretty skittish, so I wasn't able to get very close. But I was able to work with the lighting conditions and distance as best as I could to get a few shots of them.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Crippled hummingbird

Discovered something very sad yesterday - our male hummingbird has a broken leg/foot. He seems to be doing okay - flies and feeds no problem, and still does the courtship dive for the females - but when he perches, he straddles the branch and his bad leg just dangles. It breaks my little heart to see him like this. :(

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Yard bird species #58 and #59

Two new yard birds in the span of 24 hours. Not bad!

#58 - Cedar Waxwing. I know, it's a very common garden bird for a lot of people, but it's a first in ours.
#59 - Pine Siskin. This guy has been hanging out with the Goldfinches and House Finches, and I thought it was a female House Finch. But then I got a better look at it, and I realized the beak was completely wrong and it had a yellow tint to its wings.

Yesterday morning I was outside trying to get some more pictures of my tree swallows, and I got to witness the babies fledge! It was pretty special to be able to see these little guys take flight for the first time ever. I felt a bit like a proud mom. They spent about half an hour working up their courage - first squeezing their shoulders out of the hole, then perching there with their little feet grasping the ledge, and then - jump and lift off! Now they're gone, and the nesting box will be empty until next spring. Maybe one of those babies will come back and start a family of its own. :)

I also reached new levels of bird nerdiness yesterday. I bought a small photography blind to set up in the backyard to allow me to photograph our birds more closely without disturbing them. Tried it out yesterday afternoon, and from a preliminary review of my pictures, I'd say it was a success! (That's actually how I realized the Pine Siskin wasn't a House Finch - I was able to get some pretty close-up pictures of it in our pond.) So we'll see how this works out. Hopefully I'll be able to get some pictures of yard birds who have eluded me so far - like the Rose-breasted Grosbeaks and House Finches. I also really, really want to get some good Oriole pictures - NOT with them sitting on the feeder. Wish me luck!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Killdeer babies!

We have killdeer babies in our field! Dave spotted them and I actually saw one of the cute little critters as its parent was checking out the large puddle left by the rain we got today. My new mission is to stalk them and get pictures, because OMG I don't know if there are cuter baby birds out there than Killdeer babies.

Tree swallow family

We were finally able to get a peek at the babies in the nesting house in our backyard. There are at least two, but you can only see one in this shot.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Finally, some pictures!

Friday night I was able to spend half an hour shooting out my living room window (which is where I take a lot of my yard bird photos). Two female hummingbirds were semi-cooperative, and a male Baltimore Oriole posed all pretty-like just long enough for me to snap a couple of shots. Here are the results:

Monday, June 11, 2012

Fledglings everywhere

Work has been keeping me beyond busy the past month and a bit, so I haven't had much - or any - time to focus on taking pictures. Any spare time I have been spent trying to finish up the garden, and that's about it. That said, we've had a lot of bird activity lately.
  • Lots of fledglings being fed in our yard: robins, starlings, grackles, sparrows, and house finches.
  • Our tree swallows must have hatched their eggs, because the activity level has been crazy. One is always inside the nesting box, and the other goes off and comes back a few minutes later with food. Then they'll switch off. Lather, rinse, repeat, from dawn 'til dusk.
  • We suspect there's a Killdeer nest not far off our driveway in the wheat field. We have a lot of them in the fields adjacent to our property, but they're usually pretty far out. (Except the last two weeks, when they've actually been bathing in our pond.) Anyway, there's an adult Killdeer in the same spot every time we come or go, and we figure it can't be coincidence. That has to be its designated guarding-the-nest spot. I want to try to find the little cuties (seriously, baby Killdeer are so freakin' cute it should be illegal), but I don't want to stress out the parents.
  • Baltimore Orioles are our new summer bird of plenty. Yesterday there were three adult males frolicking in our pond. Yes, at the same time. It was really odd, since they're usually so territorial towards each other.
  • Hummingbird activity is depressingly bad. We've got maybe two males and two females, and they don't stick around for long. They also don't seem to have developed any kind of behavioral pattern that would let me get any decent shots. Very frustrating. Hopefully activity will pick up in August again. *fingers crossed*

Monday, May 07, 2012

Yard Bird Species #57

We looked out our living room window this afternoon and saw a dark shape in the tree where we regularly see a variety of hawks and falcons. Too big to be a Merlin or Kestrel, I dismissed it as a small RTH. But then my hubby asked, "Do red-tails have dark cheek patches?" So out came the camera for an ID shot (and crappy ID shots, at that), and this was the result:

Well, hello there, Mr. Peregrine Falcon! Wasn't expecting this guy at all. Quite a nice addition to our yard bird list. :)

Bird boom

It seems like the spring & summer birds have arrived in droves as of last Wednesday. Now we've got our Orioles, hummers, and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks back. And the White-crowned Sparrows have taken over the yard. From a single bird on Wednesday, we've now got more than a dozen at any given time.

I haven't seen the little female hummer that showed up Thursday morning, but we've had a couple of males posturing with each other the past couple of days. They were even sitting about a foot away from each other in the lilac tree yesterday, without putting up a fuss. Very odd behavior, if you ask me. Haven't been able to get a decent shot of them yet, though. In the meantime, here are a few of my non-hummingbird yard bird photos from the weekend:

 White-crowned Sparrow

American Goldfinch

Chipping Sparrow

Thursday, May 03, 2012

I win!

Our first hummingbird of the year made an appearance this morning! A little female was working the two feeders in the backyard around 7:00 AM. Yay! :)

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Colours of Spring

Man, our yard was a colourful - and busy - place tonight. At one point, we had a Cardinal, Baltimore Oriole, Tree Swallows, a Barn Swallow, Bluebirds, Goldfinches, and House Finches, plus the usual suspects, like Downy Woodpeckers, White-breasted Nuthatch, Grackles, Red-winged Blackbirds, and five species of sparrows. This collection included three first-of-the-season arrivals: Oriole (soooo happy to see this guy), White-crowned Sparrow, and Savannah Sparrow. Now all we're missing is Rose-breasted Grosbeaks and Hummingbirds. Today was Dave's day in the "When will we see our first hummer?" pool. It's getting dark, now, so I think it's safe to say he didn't win. My guess is tomorrow, so we'll see what happens. ;-) Anybody else have any Spring migrants moving through?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Blue is one of my favourite colours

Our first Eastern Bluebird of the year made an appearance tonight - a beautiful, bright male. He spent a very leisurely 10 or 15 minutes checking out our backyard, including the nesting boxes, clothesline, pond, and feeder holders. Hopefully he'll stick around - and bring a lady with him. :) Things could get interesting if they decide they want the same house the Tree Swallows seem to be thinking about claiming.

Last night at the dog park I got my first really good look at a Pileated Woodpecker. The ones I'd seen before were always in shadow or silhouette, but this one kept sticking his head around the tree into the sunlight. So pretty!

I need to start taking my camera to the dog park. An Osprey flew over a few times on Tuesday night, we've had a Meadowlark, some very loud cardinals... At the very least, we need to take binoculars, so we have a better chance of IDing some of the birds that don't come quite close enough to ID without help.

No hummingbirds yet, though we've got two feeders out for them. We do, however, have a ton of butterflies. Apparently there's a mass migration of Red Admirals going on, and yeah - they're everywhere. And they're so fast they keep fooling us into thinking it could be a hummer. Bah.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

NOW it feels like Spring

Last night at the dog park, there was an Eastern Meadowlark up in a tree singing its little heart out for all to hear. Literally - it was LOUD. But so, so pretty.

This morning, I knew Spring was really here. Our Tree Swallows are back! A pair of them were hanging out on the clothesline this morning, which made me soooo happy.

Meadowlarks and Swallows are on my "To get GOOD pictures of this year" list. Here's hoping! :)

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

More spring arrivals

We had a brutal cold snap last week that I thought was going to kill all my plants - not so! They're still growing like crazy, and I think we're still going to have a really early spring blooming.

Our first Northern Flicker of the year showed up in our yard on Sunday, foraging for bugs where our yard meets the unplowed farm field.

I actually ended up putting out our oriole and hummingbird feeders last week, because the migration maps are showing them much farther North than they usually are this time of year. Since it's too early for most of the nectar-rich flowers to be out yet, feeders are essential to help early migrants survive. And just a few minutes ago I received a report of a hummingbird spotted in Guelph (which is about 20 - 25 minutes from us). I'll be putting out a second hummer feeder tonight, I think.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


I received a lovely surprise in the mail yesterday from the Canadian Wildlife Federation. I'd submitted some images to a competition of theirs back in November, and while I didn't place at all, they chose one of my photos to include in their April issue of WILD magazine.

It was this photo of a Viceroy butterfly on a coneflower:

And earlier this year, I found out two of my images submitted to a competition hosted by Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Celebrating Urban Birds calendar.

This cardinal was January:

And this hummer shared one of the summer months, but I can't remember which one off the top of my head.

So yay! I guess I can now say I'm a published photographer. :)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Yard Bird Species #56

A Common Raven, cawing its head off, flew over my head this morning when I was in the back yard. So species #56 it is! :)

On a not-so-happy note, we got hit by a killing frost last night. We tried to cover most of the "important" plants, but it's not looking good. Only the ones that had more than one layer of cover seem to have gotten through it unscathed. *sigh* So much for an early Spring.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Return of the chippies

We have a Chipping Sparrow! I love these little guys so much - they're so little and cute.

A chippie actually landed on my hand two summers ago. I was refilling a tube feeder and hanging it on the deck, and the little chippie obviously wasn't thinking too clearly - just wanted food. He came flying at the feeder, landed on my hand, and you could see the second it registered with him that, "Oh, shit - shouldn't have done that!" And then he zipped back up to the tree to wait for me to go inside. It was really rather cute.

So yes, just another sign of Spring. Of course, it's supposed to get cold again Monday and Tuesday, with lows below freezing, so I'm a worried about what might happen to all the plants that are already trying to bloom. Hopefully they'll all survive okay. *fingers crossed*

Friday, March 23, 2012

Playing hard to get... loudly

I'm currently sitting at the back window watching a pair of Killdeer chasing each other around the field behind our house. My god, the noise these two are making! I'm not sure which one of them is making the noise like a dying squeak toy (not the typical Killdeer call), but maaaaan. They just keep chasing each other up and down the rows of leftover, dried corn stalks, seemingly squeaking as loudly and continuously as possible.

I love hearing the birds, don't get me wrong, but wow. So high-pitched it was starting to hurt my ears... and the pup wasn't overly fond of the sound, either.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Spring is springing

We've had an unseasonably warm spell the past week, and I'm not talking just a little above normal, which is 6 degrees (42 Fahrenheit) this time of year. It's been in the mid- to high-20s (70s and 80s Fahrenheit). This is weather we normally expect in late May and early June, not the middle of March.

So, needless to say, my gardens are going crazy.

We have four main beds in the yard: along the front of the house (which we don't do much with, since it's mostly in the shade), under the back window, the main garden out back that has the pond and waterfall, and one along the shed/storage barn to the side of the yard. We've also got a couple of small beds and plants along the fence Dave built last Spring.

Anyway, because of this insane weather, everything is starting to bud. We've got iris, lupines, beebalm, delphinium, columbine, cone flowers, bleeding hearts, and lily of the valley all coming up. My honeysuckle vines have big new leaves. All our shrubs have leaf buds, and our lilac trees - especially the one out back that gets full sun all day - have leaf buds the size we saw in early May last year. (Last year was a particularly cool Spring, though, and things were a couple of weeks later than usual.)

I've gotta say, I'm a little bit worried about what this might mean. A cold snap could kill everything, and then we'd be screwed for the rest of the summer. Or if things keep going the way they are, will everything die a lot earlier this year, because it bloomed earlier? If that's the case, I have to make sure I buy some late-blooming annuals to fill in some of the bare spots...

I'm also wondering how this weather might influence migrating birds. Will everything come through early? The only new arrival we've had in the past week are the killdeer who like to fly around our fields screaming their little heads off. The number of Grackles, Starlings, Brown-headed Cowbirds, Red-winged Blackbirds, and House Sparrows invading our yard continues to climb, though. Unfortunately. Our feeders are getting emptied out with alarming speed. And last night we saw a pair of House Sparrows trying to stake out one of our nesting boxes. (All I can say to that is: Nuh-uh. Not gonna happen, you little feathered bastards.) But I've already seen reports of ruby-throated hummingbirds as far north as Michigan, and there have been tree swallows spotted locally. I know I'll feel silly doing it, but I think I'm going to put out a hummingbird feeder or two this weekend, just in case. Same with our Oriole feeder. Better safe than sorry, right?

Also, note to self: have Dave get the pond cleaned up and running.

Anyway, it'll be interesting to see how the season continues to unfold. Things are supposed to cool off a bit after tomorrow, but we're still going to be above average. Most of our lows are still going to be higher than the normal high temps for the this time of year, and and it doesn't look like we'll get anywhere close to freezing.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Arrivals en masse

A couple of Song Sparrows made an appearance at our feeders this past weekend. Haven't seen them since.

The second annual Red-winged Blackbird occupation has apparently begun. I was so happy to see the first couple in our yard last week. I should've known better. Yesterday, I discovered that they'd decided to take up residence in our woods again - all you can hear is hundreds of RWBs calling to each other. The noise is unbelievable. Last year was so wet and the woods so boggy that the RWBs were there for a month or more, and I thought they'd never leave. I think they're lovely birds, but not in numbers like that.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Yard bird species #55

Came home this afternoon to find a lone redpoll hanging out in the lilac tree. I love these little guys and have only seen them once in the past... oh, 30 years or so, so I was really happy to see him. :)

Spring arrivals continue

Despite the snow squall that was going through the area at the time, a male red-winged blackbird was singing his heart out in our front yard this morning. Definitely a sign that spring is here. We also had a pair of House Finches in our hopper feeder, and they only tend to show up once the worst of winter is over. There were also more than 50 American Goldfinches swarming the feeders in the backyard today, and some of the males are starting to brighten up as their breeding plumage slowly starts to come in.

Last night we saw something we'd never seen before. A flock of hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of Tundra Swans flew over the farm behind ours. They were too far away for pictures, but close enough that we could ID them through binoculars, fortunately. But my god. It was an endless cloud of huge, snow-white birds. It was pretty spectacular. It's too bad they didn't fly right over the house, or I could've added them to our Yard Birds list. ;-)

Friday, March 02, 2012

Spring is in the air

Happy March!

As much as I love my winter birds, I'm really looking forward to Spring migration. I'm anxious to get my garden cleaned up and start planting... which is nuts, considering we've still got two-foot-deep snow drifts in parts of our yard, and the Horned Larks are still singing away in our fields. (I love listening to them when I'm out in the yard with the pup. Such a pretty sound.)

Regardless, though, I saw my first signs of Spring this week: the maple trees around us are being tapped for syrup, and I saw a robin fly across the road on my to work yesterday. Yeah, yeah, I know, some robins are over-wintering here now. But I'm going to go with it being a migrant. Makes me feel better. ;-)

I also watched Mr. Northern Cardinal attack his reflection in my car's side-view mirror this morning. I figure that's a sign that he's ready to start fighting for mating rights.

The downside to Spring is that all of a sudden we've got flocks of Starlings taking over our feeders. I hate those birds so, so, sooooo much. Them and the House Sparrows. Ugh. The Starlings are also brilliant mimics, and have fooled me and Dave more than once. They have a stellar red-tailed hawk cry, and lately they've been singing the first few notes of the male cardinal's call.

Haven't been taking many pictures around the yard, but I've been visiting a really lovely park down in Cambridge and getting some nice shots of the usual winter suspects - Black-capped Chickadees, American Tree Sparrows, Northern Cardinals, White-breasted Nuthatches. I even saw a beautiful male House Finch a few weeks back, and a Song Sparrow. It's early for a Song Sparrow, I think, but since the winter's been so mild, maybe it's not that unusual.

Here are a couple of my faves:

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Yard bird species #54

Two new yard birds inside of a week. Woot! :D This time it was a red-bellied woodpecker. Kinda funny, since we only saw one in person for the first time two weekends ago, and now one shows up at our feeders.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Yard bird species #53

A wild turkey just ran through our yard. It was in the corn field behind our house, and came right past the house. No picture, because it's almost dark, but still - species #53! :)

Monday, January 16, 2012


I finally decided to make the trip down to Kingsville to see the Great Grey Owl that's been causing such a commotion for the past few weeks. And guess what? I didn't see it. Apparently it was seen briefly Saturday morning, before I got down there, and hasn't made an appearance since.

I can't even tell you how disappointed I was. When I headed down there Saturday morning, I told myself I'd be thrilled if I came back with even one frame-worthy shot. By Sunday morning, I would've been happy just seeing the bird. But after a total of 13 hours of driving (3 hours each way, then driving around the back roads trying to track down the owl), I didn't come home happy. :(

I really hope the bird's just moved on to better hunting grounds, and it hasn't been hit by a car or taken out by a local to get rid of all the annoying tourists clogging the roads. A few of the people I spoke with while I was there said visitors had been getting increasingly loud and the poor thing was having trouble hunting.

So yes, I missed out on an incredible opportunity, and I'm even more jealous now of my friends' incredible pictures. I just hope this gorgeous owl is safe wherever it's moved off to.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Uncommon visitors

For the past week or so, I've been reading about people in my general area finding a female Mountain Bluebird. Now, this is a highly unusual sighting in South-Western Ontario, as the Mountain Bluebird is usually found West of the Rockies in the US and Canada. So, just for kicks, the hubby and I decided to go out yesterday afternoon and try to find it.

Fortunately, fairly detailed directions had been provided as to the usual location of the bird, so that got us to the right area... and the dozen or so cars pulled over to the side of the road left very little room for wondering where the bird was displaying herself.

A small grey-blue bird sitting on a grey board fence with a bunch of grey trees behind her didn't make for pictures worth sharing, but we saw her! And I got an ID shot, though you can barely tell what she is. ;-)

This seems to be a good winter for unusual sightings in Ontario. For the past two weeks there's been a Great Grey Owl down in Kingsville, near Point Pelee National Park (one of the top birding spots in North America during spring and fall migrations). I'm so, sooooooo jealous of all the gorgeous shots I've been seeing of this magnificent bird. It's apparently been putting on an amazing show, hunting and landing right in front of groups of observers, sometimes 75 people at a time. If it wasn't a nearly four-hour drive from here, I'd venture down, but... that's a lot of driving, and I'd be beyond disappointed if I got all the way down there and wasn't able to a) find it, or b) get at least one really good picture of it. So I think I'll sit tight for now, and hope one decides to visit my area. ;-)

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Happy New Year!

Yeah, I know, it's been a while. The problem is, I haven't had anything of any interest to tell, really. Other than the Cooper's Hawk taking out a bunch of our feeder birds (including a Blue Jay, which made me sad), things have been quiet.

Actually, this morning we had another bird of prey in the yard. I came home around 9:00 AM to pick up my hubby (his truck wouldn't start in the cold, so I left work, picked him up, dropped him at his office, and came back to work), and there was either a Sharpie or a Merlin on a kill in the front yard. I didn't get a good enough look at it to tell which it was, but I think it had taken down a Junco (which also made me sad, because I love those little guys), and it was struggling to fly around the side of the house with it in its talons. So it was small, for sure - definitely not the Cooper's.

This past weekend, my hubby and I went out looking for Snowy Owls, and we managed to find our first once since 2010. Yay! It was a male, and waaaaaaaaay out in a field, so no pictures, but still! And Dave made a great spot - a Short-eared Owl perched on a fence post, hiding within a tree. Neither of us had ever seen one of these guys before, so it was pretty cool. I managed a couple of ID pictures, and I'll post them in the next day or two, even though they're kinda crappy.