Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Lots of Deer at the Point

There is something about the snow and the bare branches and the grey skies that make the animals less nervous. I was able to walk up quite close to the Barred Owl and to these deer. They never did run off, even when I came near and after I turned and walked away. I had no need of a spotting scope today. All that was required was that I walk slowly, pausing regularly to let them get used to me.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

A study in grey

Grey skies at Lemoine Point, Kingston, Ontario

Barred Owl

If gulls are a study in black and white then owls are a study in grey. Close up you can see the browns and whites of the Barred Owl but from a distance, when you first spot them, they are just a big grey blob. Everything was one shade of grey or another today. Even though it was the middle of the afternoon when I went over to the Point the sky was so heavy with clouds that it seemed like dusk. The trees were all grey branches, the sky was grey, and even the mood was a subdued grey as I walked about in the silence of the snowed landscape. This was the first Barred Owl that I have seen at the Point and the second one that I have seen in my lifetime (the other was on Amherst Island earlier this fall). Birds can be difficult to spot at the best of times. Most often it is movement that attracts our attention and then we can pick them up with the binoculars. Spotting an owl that is stationary and that blends in so neatly with its background is more difficult. What you are looking for is not an owl but a shape. You look for something that doesn't fit in with the skeleton of the tree and its bare branches. I'm not surprised that I saw another Barred Owl so soon after I saw my first one. I remember Pamela over at Thomasburg Walks commenting that once you've seen a species for the first time you begin to see them again and again. You get an eye for them and the mind remembers certain connections. This is one bird that I hope will keep coming up because it is a truly noble sight as it surveys its hunting grounds with "owlish solemnity."


Cornus canadensis L.
Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario
August 10, 2005

If you come to Algonquin in June you'll find this common plant in beautiful white flower but by summer the flower is gone and these red berries take their place. The booklet "Wildflowers of Algonquin Park" explains that this plant is a member of the dogwood family. Many of these plants are connected by roots that are parts of one larger plant that may cover many square metres.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Flowering Dogwood

Comus florida
Presquile Provincial Park, Brighton, Ontario
September 8, 2005

Although common in the U.S. this tree occurs only in the extreme south of Ontario. The USDA Forest Service website says this about the importance of Dogwood to wildlife:

"Flowering dogwoods are extremely valuable for wildlife because the seed, fruit, flowers, twigs, bark, and leaves are utilized as food by various animals. The most distinguishing quality of dogwood is its high calcium and fat content (5). Fruits have been recorded as food eaten by at least 36 species of birds, including ruffed grouse, bob-white quail, and wild turkey. Chipmunks, foxes, skunks, rabbits, deer, beaver, black bears, and squirrels, in addition to other mammals, also eat dogwood fruits. Foliage and twigs are browsed heavily by deer and rabbits."

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario
August 10, 2005

This colourful weed occurs throughout North America and Asia and is the national flower of Russia (One person's weed is another person's flower). It grows prolifically in areas that have been disturbed either by people or by nature. I found this one (in the company of many others) along Highway 60 in Algonquin Park.

Pileated Woodpecker

Lemoine Point, Kingston, Ontario

I wanted to post this picture of the Pileated that I saw last Thursday. This was the first time all fall that I didn't have the scope with me. I could have taken some good shots as he stayed on this branch for quite a while. This was the best I could get with the 4x zoom on the camera and later cropping the picture.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Yet another walk at the Point

A rather bleak looking former Dragonfly field

Jack Frost is back and will be showing his work
all winter over at the Point

Its been very wet lately and every low spot has become a little pool.

It was one of those magical mornings at Lemoine Point in Kingston, Ontario. When I left the parking lot for the woods it was bleak and windy. Fine flakes of snow were coming down sideways in the cold breeze. I was welcomed to my walk by the loud call of a Pileated Woodpecker from far away, the cry carrying through the leafless trees and seeming to come from every direction at once. There was a blanket of silence over the park that seems to be a feature of grey skies, cold temperatures, and barren landscapes. The silence was interupted here and there by the talking of trees as bare branches reached out to each other as if rubbing there limbs together to keep warm. There were birds and animals present here and there but they were particularly subdued and discrete this morning. A rabbit slipped away into a gathering of low shrubs, three deer feeding in a field allowed me as close as I pleased as long as I promised to be as quiet and slow moving as themselves, and even the Blue Jays were less nervous and more contemplative than usual. As I came towards the end of my walk the sun came out bright and warm against deep blue sky and white fluffy clouds. A pair of Pileated Woodpeckers high in the tall trees by the lake caught the sun and their red crowns danced as they worked their big hammers against the crumbling bark. Oh, the gift of sight and sound and sense, and Oh, the gift of spirit and soul to be able to respond in the depths to the wonder of the Creation.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Pitcher Plant

Spruce Bog Trail, Algonquin Park, Ontario
11 August, 2005

Richard Dawkins has a wonderful description of how this plant works in "Climbing Mount Improbable." This is an insect eating plant. The plant produces a perfume attractive to insects, the sides of the cups are slippery, there are downward facing hairs that impede a climb to safety, and a little pool of water in which to drown. The plant can't chew them up so it gets a little help from some other life forms. Maggots and other creatures find a home in this liquid which is unusually rich in oxygen to provide a good environment for them. The maggots consume the drowned insects and turn them into a form that can be absorbed through the lining of the pitcher. Dawkins is at his best describing the science behind the diversity of biological life around us, he also shows considerable creativity in developing a scientific mythology of the origin of life.

Yellow Legged Meadowhawk

I posted this as a Cherry Faced Meadowhawk a few days ago. There is a suggestion that it might be a Yellow Legged so I've posted pictures that show the legs. What do you think Nannothemis?


Little Cataraqui Creek Conservation Area, Kingston, Ontario

This pictures are from a week ago. These pictures illustrate what often presents an identification problem for me. The birds appear differently coloured and shaded in different light.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

American Tree Sparrow

Amherstview Sewage Lagoon, Amherstview, Ontario

It was a warm and sunny November day. I spent a short time at Lemoine Point where I saw my first Pileated Woodpecker in two years over there. At the Sewage Lagoons I saw Bonaparte Gulls, Scaup, Bufflehead, and this American Tree Sparrow.

Winter Wren

Presquile Provincial Park, Brighton, Ontario

I'm still posting the results of my trip to Presquile on Tuesday. This Winter Wren was a new bird for my list. I was very fortunate to get this picture. It was at the very end of the day. I was doing the Marsh Boardwalk and was just heading back to the car. You can see the dry bulrushes in the background. This is just on the edge of the swamp and here is the Wren sitting on a dead log. I was walking by and he began calling loudly in what Sibley calls a "hard, double-note jip-jip." I looked for him and he hopped into view. I set down the scope and watched him with my binoculars. He was moving from spot to spot but I decided to try to scope him even though I was fairly close. I got the scope on him, he paused on this dead branch, and I pushed the button on the camera. I really didn't know if I had anything until I got home. Sibley says that this Wren is "Uncommon in damp shaded areas, such as at edges of wooded swamps, where it climbs around fallen logs and overturned stumps." This fit exactly his location and behavior. It was an exciting conclusion to a very enjoyable day of birding.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Oding in November

Cherry-faced Meadowhawk were abundant in the swamp at the beginning of the Boardwalk at Presquile Provincial Park today. These are always the last dragonflies I see each year.

Only Birders can spend a day at the beach in November

Mute Swans

All of these pictures were taken at Presquile Provincial Park, near Brighton, Ontario.


Great Blue Heron

Great Black-backed Gull

Requiem for the Dead

I spent the day at Presquile Provincial Park, near Brighton, Ontario. I crashed this funeral service for what appears to be a Common Loon. I'm not trying to be deliberately morbid. I actually have a scientific purpose for the pictures that follow, bare with me, and parents, please supervise your children. This will get messy.

You can see by the feet and the bill that this is probably a Common Loon. What I want you to take a close look at is the little black dot at the bottom left of his belly. You see a line and just to the right of it is the little dot.

Here we have the remains of what appears to be a Long-tailed Duck. This would have been a new species for me but my son insists I can't count a dead bird. If any professional birders out there would like to contradict him please email me. But back to my point, please note the tiny bug on the centre front of the bird. CSI types, get to work!

Next dead bird, all on the same beach, all within a few hundred yards of each other. Note the speck on the centre of this bird. OK, here it is in a clear macro shot.

What is this beetle and why is it sitting on all these dead birds? I know that beetles are voracious eaters of small living things, but does this beetle specialize in the dead? Is it some kind of carion beetle. Calling all entomologists!

Monday, November 07, 2005

Snake Eating Raptor

Little Catarqui Creek, Kingston, Ontario

This isn't exactly framable but if you click on the picture and enlarge it and look closely you can see that it is carrying what appears to be a snake. If only I'd had more zoom! But I couldn't zoom all the way in and still hold the camera to the lens. Action shots are not easy to digiscope!

The Luck of the Duck, or Serendipitous Birding

Little Cataraqui Creek Conservation Area, Kingston, Ontario

When I headed over to the Little Cataraqui Creek Conservation area this morning I had pretty much resigned myself to a day of macro photography. I still drag the spotting scope around because you never know... My last couple of outings yielded no birds of any real interest and its late in the season so I wasn't expecting much at our local Creek. What a surprise when, as soon as I got out of the van and walked to the water, I saw a pair of Osprey floating on the 35 kph winds and making full use of the whole sky for their aerobatics. I followed one with my eyes as it dove into the water. It was then that I saw the four Hooded Mergansers (a new addition to my list). I was able to snap a few pictures before they drifted out of range. I went on to discover several large rafts of ducks, like the one above. There were smaller gatherings here and there. At the end of the day I had added three new species of duck to my list. I try to be prepared for such serendipity. I always carry my camera, I have the spotting scope and Sibleys, I carry a notepad and a ruler and pocket knife (in case of fungi), and a snack in case of starvation due to a refusal to come in out of the weather for proper meals. The natural world is so full of surprises.

Mixed Company

This would have been a better picture if I wasn't limited to digiscoping. Two Great Blue Heron flew into the this gathering of Canada Geese. They looked so beautiful with blue wings outstretched and legs reaching for a landing.

Ring-necked Ducks

I've seen these ducks before but forgot to add them to my life list until today.

Hooded Merganser


Today was just the warmup. Tommorow I hit Presquile!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

The wind still blows at Lemoine Point

I love a good clearing in the middle of the forest.
This is my first attempt to stitch together 3 photos.

A little black caterpillar was only about an inch long
and was a rufous brown underneath. I believe this is
the caterpillar of the Giant Leopard Moth.

Yet another tree oddity.

Tibetan prayer flags.
Nature imitating art.

Asian Lady Beetle
(Harmonia Axyridis)

Get used to pictures of these guys because this is about
all thats left of birds at the Point until Spring.

It was a windy day at the Point. Winds of 35 kph with gusts much stronger. However, it was warm and sunny an otherwise pleasant day to be out. Birding has dropped off considerably. I only saw Chickadees, Dark Eyed Juncos, Blue Jays, Gulls, and Robins. I am now going through the process of acceptance that this will be about it until Spring. I am still carrying the scope around with me but had no opportunity to use it today. I found some interesting late season mushrooms, some Asian Lady Beetles, a black hairy caterpillar, and some interesting trees and plants that I photographed for future identification. You'll see them as I get them identified. In the meantime its in to work for the weekend. Down time at work will be spent with Sibley's, Hawks in Flight, and Dawkin's "The Blind Watchmaker."

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The sun still shines at Lemoine Point

Golden Crowned Kinglet

Weaving Sunshine into Silk

I couldn't resist the obligatory Fall milkweed shot. It was cool but bright and sunny over at the Point today. Lots of Robins, Starlings, Chickadees, and Blue Jays. I found this lone Golden Crowned Kinglet in a playful mood. I couldn't scope him because he was moving quickly from branch to branch, always low down, always just on the edge of some good cover. He seemed curious and kept coming in close and I was able to get a few shots with the camera before I scared him off by infringing on his personal space.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Circus of the Spineless

The latest edition of The Circus of the Spineless is out. It is full of interesting posts and articles and its a great way to get to know other bloggers with similar interests. You can get your tickets here. This particular Circus has taken on something of a double meaning since the host has decided that only some bloggers are worthy of participating. If you are an evolutionist you can bring your act and join the Circus but if you happen to believe in Creation or Intelligent Design you can't come to the Circus, take your act elsewhere. Now what happens if someone who happens to believe in Intelligent Design hosts the Circus and refuses to take posts from Evolutionists? Why are we censoring each other? Why create more intellectual ghettos? Shouldn't our mutual love of the natural world enable us to share what we can of what we love?

Reminds me of the bumper sticker I saw a few years back: "The more I get to know people, the more I like my dog."

Oh well ... to the woods!