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Archive for the ‘Birds’ Category

redwing

Yesterday morning, as I was standing by the kitchen window sipping coffee, I thought I heard a red-winged blackbird call.   I stepped outside to listen and look, but found no evidence of the bird.  This morning, however, there could be no doubt.   A dozen red-winged blackbirds were waiting outside the door when I went out to fill the bird feeders today.  Hurray!   It’s official!  Spring is here.

Red-winged Blackbird return dates at Willow House:

2016:  March 6th
2015: March 21st
2014: March 15th
2013: March 10th
2012: March 3rd
2011: March 10th
2010: March 10th
2009: March 7th

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snow bunting

Snow Bunting

Snow Buntings breed far to the north, on rocky tundra. In winter, flocks move into Eastern Ontario and can be seen along roadsides as they forage in agricultural fields.

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stopover

Trumpeters

Trumpeter swans were extirpated from Ontario more than a century ago. Restoration of the population was begun in 1982 with the release of 584 captive-bred birds in southern and eastern Ontario. Releases were made at the Mac Johnston Wildlife Area at Brockville and these birds may be related to those swans. The Ontario population was estimated at around 700 birds by 2005.

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goldfinch

Goldfinch at Sunflower

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duck

Morning Paddle

 

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geese

Geese in Spring Snow

 

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redwing

The red-winged blackbirds are back! Finally. I’ve been waiting and watching and waiting, and last Friday I was finally rewarded when the distictive ‘oak-a-lee’ call reached my ears.

The blackbirds are late this year. I thought the 15th was late last year but it was still nearly a week earlier than this year’s date.

2015: March 21st
2014: March 15th
2013: March 10th
2012: March 3rd
2011: March 10th
2010: March 10th
2009: March 7th

Our long, cold, snowy winter has been holding on, holding on. We had a few teaser days a week ago, when the temperature rose above freezing, but there is still plenty of snow on the ground. Still, the sun gains strength every day, and the snow is slowly melting away, even as a cold wind makes us keep our coats buttoned up tight. Winter can’t hold on forever. Today I saw my first robin!

garden

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snowbuntings

Snow Buntings

 

We think of migratory birds flying south to Florida or Central America, but for some birds, this is the south they migrate to for the winter. Snow Buntings (Plectrophenax nivalis) breed in the far north on rocky tundra, but winter across central North America. As I drive along country roads, it’s not uncommon to see flocks of Snow Buntings fly up in a rush from the roadside as the car approaches. This flock was foraging farther into a field and when they didn’t take flight, I had the opportunity to record them with this photograph. These birds are sporting their winter plumage, with buff and black points. You’ll find more information about Snow Buntings linked here.

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garden

Halfway through February! We are well along on our journey through winter. Every day, the sun sets a little later and it is cheering to still have daylight at six in the evening. Still, the view out the front door is daunting. It is hard to believe that the July garden, pictured below, is just a few months away.

garden2

This annual transformation from green abundance to snowy slumber, and then back again, is like a miracle, amazing to observe. Still, in February, the snowy days drag on relentlessly.

snowlevel

I went out and measured the snow depth in one of the passageways cleared by the snowblower. We have about 16 to 18 inches of snow right now. Certainly, the plants will be glad of this deep blanket because temperatures have been brutal, with a frosty wind making -20C and lower temperatures even more biting.

bluejays

Another annual miracle is that tiny birds can survive these punishing temperatures. I stock the bird feeders daily, and in return, I am rewarded with a view of their comings and goings. I put out peanuts, both shelled and unshelled, and large stiped sunflower seed for the blue jays. They watch for me, and when I venture out to the feeder, a shriek goes up. With a whirl of wings, a flock of these noisy, clamourous, beautiful birds descends upon the feeder.

chickadees

A steady stream of busy chickadees attends to the two silo feeders stocked with black oiled sunflower seed. I often fill these feeders twice in a day to meet demand.

birds

A mixed seed combination attracts a variety of birds to the platform feeder and the driveway. There are American Tree sparrows, juncos, redpolls, goldfinches, mourning doves and a few cardinals. Adding a few crusts of bread attracts a pair of crows, who, like the blue jays, watch for my arrival.

pileated

A pair of suet feeders attract a number of Downy and Hairy woodpeckers, but recently we had a first: a visit from a large Pileated Woodpecker.

owl

Last winter, there was an unusual movement of Snowy Owls south of their usual range. This year, I have spotted just one, this female, perhaps the same one that I saw last year, who favors the top of a hydro post to look out over the fields.

animals3

Animal activity is not so conspicuous. However, I did see this trio of muskrats early in the winter, just before the river froze over for the season.

ermine

This unfortunate short-tailed weasel, dressed in an ermine-white winter coat, was found on the driveway one morning. These little carnivours are reportedly quite common in Ontario, but it is unusual to see one. They travel and hunt mostly at night, in areas with good cover, where they seek out small prey such as mice and voles, amphibians and bird eggs or nestlings. They are reputed to be fearsome, fierce hunters.

coyote2

My most surprising sighting of the winter was this coyote. I spotted it one day as I was driving home along the St. Lawrence River. It was far out on the ice, looking back to shore. As I watched, it made up its mind to travel on, and set out across the frozen water, leaving Canada and heading toward the American shore.

coyote1

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winter3

After a cold and windy weekend closed out a cold and snowy week, today we are being treated to a mild, sunny day. The snow has quickly melted and although it is still windy, the sun is blissfully warm.

winter4

It’s amazing how some plants can cope with the cold. In spite of having been buried in snow and subjected to freezing temperatures, these little epimedium plants appear unscathed. The parsley is still edible!

winter5

While this bright day is lovely, we know this balmy weather won’t last long. However, we’re ready for winter, as ready as we ever will be.

winter6

A few weeks ago, I had a load of bark mulch delivered and I spread about half of it around the garden. If this mild spell lasts for a few days, I might do a little more mulching, but otherwise, the remaining pile will be handy in the spring.

birds

goldfinches

A variety of birdfeeders are in place and are already attracting an appreciative flock of diners. You can see that these goldfinches are ready for winter too. They have lost their breeding-season brilliant yellow and are now dressed in a muted gold feathercoat, ready to be one of the flock.

winter7

Here’s our little kayak, hanging in the rafters over the wood pile.

winter8

Here’s even more wood! Garden ornaments have been returned to the little garden shed, where they’ll be protected from the worst of the weather.

winter9

winter1

This hay storage building is new this fall. It was installed just a few weeks ago and our hay supply has been moved inside. It will offer drier, more convenient storage than the old, rather battered outbuilding.

winter2

Also new this autumn is this run-in shelter for Czarina and her two donkey pals. They’ll be able to eat their morning hay in comfort, protected from the wind and snow. But they’re not there this morning. They’re taking advantage of the last of the pleasant weather to graze for a few hours more.

donks

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