Drew Monkman

I am a retired teacher, naturalist and writer with a love for all aspects of the natural world, especially as they relate to seasonal change.

May 042018
 

Greater White-fronted Goose (Anser albifrons) (1)
– Reported May 03, 2018 14:37 by Warren Dunlop
– Bailieboro–442-470 Second Line Rd, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Media: 2 Photos
– Comments: “In field south of road with CANGs.”

Greater White-fronted Goose – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eurasian Wigeon (Mareca penelope) (1)
– Reported May 03, 2018 19:00 by John Bick
– Lakefield Marsh, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
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– Comments: “As reported by others. Reddish brown head, face & neck, pale yellowish/buff crown – foraging off shore near campgrounds.”

Eurasian Wigeon – male – Wikimedia

Apr 242018
 

Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator) (20)
– Reported Apr 28, 2018 07:39 by Steve Paul
– 341 Hiawatha Line, Keene, Ontario, CA (44.178, -78.204), Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
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– Media: 6 Photos
– Comments: “Two separate groups eventually came together. Close to 50/50 male/female split. Observed a possible second small pack way out on Rice Lake, but couldn’t clearly state whether RBM or CM. Will post pictures.”

Female Red-breasted Merganser (Karl Egressy)

Red-breasted Merganser (male) – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sora (Porzana carolina) (1)
– Reported Apr 27, 2018 13:00 by Kathryn Sheridan
– Lakefield Marsh, Peterborough, Ontario
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– Comments: “I didn’t see it, but I heard it make its unusual, unmistakale call/song.”

Sora (rail) – Wikimeda

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Long-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus scolopaceus) (1) CONFIRMED
– Reported Apr 27, 2018 15:55 by Donald A. Sutherland
– Peterborough–3.8 km SSE on Bensfort Rd, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
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– Media: 2 Photos
– Comments: “First county record. Found earlier in the afternoon by Scott Gibson. Foraging in flooded hayfield on E side Bensfort Rd with Greater Yellowleg and Lesser Yellowleg. Digiscoped from around 100 m.”

Long-billed Dowitcher – USFW service

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eastern Towhee:  This morning, April 27, I saw a female Eastern Towhee scratching around in the leaf litter below one of my feeders. I guess they’re not uncommon, but it’s the first I’ve seen here.  Annamarie Beckel

female Eastern Towhee (Tom Bell)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Redhead (Aythya americana) (2)
– Reported Apr 26, 2018 15:45 by Christopher Wagner
– Stony Lake, North Kawartha CA-ON (44.5608,-78.1728), Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
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– Comments: “Male and female in large mixed flock”

Male Redhead – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Barred Owl (Northern) (Strix varia [varia Group]) (3)
– Reported Apr 26, 2018 22:46 by Donald A. Sutherland
– Ontario Nocturnal Owl Survey route 218 Chandos Lake stop 9, Peterborough, Ontario
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– Comments: “pair in close and a third further away.”

Barred Owl with Winterberry in background – Tim Dyson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue-winged Teal (Spatula discors) (2)
– Reported Apr 26, 2018 15:00 by Dave Milsom
– 2nd Line cornfields, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:

Blue-winged Teal – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Horned Grebe (Podiceps auritus) (2)
– Reported Apr 25, 2018 12:00 by John Davey
– Peterborough–Beavermead Park, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:

Horned Grebe in waves – April 2018 – Don Munro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularius) (1)
– Reported Apr 23, 2018 07:33 by Bill Crins
– Peterborough–Beavermead Park, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
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– Comments: “alternate plumage; brown upperparts, white underparts strongly spotted with large black spots, pale superciliary, orange beak and legs; flew with stiff, shallow wingbeats; initially on stones adjacent to beach, then flew across toward Little Lake Cemetery”

Spotted Sandpiper with dragonfly nymph in beak – Lower Buckhorn Lake – June 2016 – Robin Blake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Green Heron (Butorides virescens) (1)
– Reported Apr 23, 2018 08:45 by Sheila Collett
– Peterborough–Beavermead Park, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
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– Comments: “FOY. Seen flying across the playing fields and then again flying across the water to the cemetery.”

Green Heron (Don McLeod)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pileated Woodpecker – Woke up this morning (April 22) with a tapping sound and looked outside to see the Pileated Woodpecker. The loons are back as well, but haven’t been able to get a picture.  Derry Fairweather, Upper Buckhorn Lake

Pileated Woodpecker – April 22, 2018 – Derry Fairweather

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) (2)
– Reported Apr 21, 2018 16:32 by Matthew Tobey
– Peterborough–Airport Rd Railroad, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
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– Media: 2 Photos
– Comments: “2 owlets in nest at edge of woodlot south of the wetland. Adult not present.”

Great Horned Owls in nest – Drew Monkman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cackling Goose (Richardson’s) (Branta hutchinsii hutchinsii) (5)
– Reported Apr 22, 2018 10:46 by Matthew Tobey
– Mather’s Corners Meltwater Pond, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
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– Comments: “Segregated from small flock of CANG at east end of meltwater pond.”

Cackling Geese – Little L. – Dec. 2015 – Iain Rayner

 

 

 

 

 

Northern Pintail (Anas acuta) (2)
– Reported Apr 22, 2018 10:46 by C Douglas
– Mather’s Corners Meltwater Pond, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
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Pair of Northern Pintail – Karl Egressy

 

 

 

 

 

Snow Bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis) (40)
– Reported Apr 22, 2018 09:40 by Dave Milsom
– Highway 28 at Block Rd, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
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– Media: 1 Photo
– Comments: “Flock of 10 in field, 30 flying over.”

Snow Buntings – Wikimedia

Apr 232018
 

Don Munro of Campbellford and Mike Faught of Peterborough shared the following pictures taken this month.

Common Loon with catfish – April 2018 – Don Munro

Wood Duck flying – April 2018 – Don Munro

Great Blue Heron flying – April 2018 – Don Munro

Pileated Woodpecker – April 2018 – Don Munro

Carolina Wren – April 2018 – Don Munro

Horned Grebe in waves – April 2018 – Don Munro

Double-crested Cormorants – April 2018 – Don Munro

Long-tailed Duck in breeding plumage – April 2018 – Don Munro

Lesser Yellowlegs – April 2018 – Don Munro

Ospreys at nest – April 2018 – Mike Faught

Great Blue Heron – Mike Faught

Wood Duck in flight – April 2018 – Mike Faught

 

Apr 202018
 
Osprey: I saw this Osprey on its nest today (April 20) on County Rd 2, west of Hastings. Impressive pad!   Wendy Marrs

Osprey – Wendy Marrs – April 20, 2018

Snowy Owl: This beautiful Snowy Owl was in our backyard this morning (April 20) around 8 am. What a thing of beauty! This is my first time ever seeing an owl in the wild and to see this one, I feel so lucky. We live just outside of Bobcaygeon, in Victoria Place.  Debbie Gardiner, Port Colony Road, Bobcaygeon 

Snowy Owl – April 20, 2018 – Bobcaygeon – Debbie Gardiner

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii) (1)
– Reported Apr 19, 2018 16:40 by Alain Parada Isada
– Trent Rowing Club, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
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– Media: 1 Photo
– Comments: “Cackling Goose by Otonabee river along with a Canada Goose. Individual had an aluminum band in left leg. Photo taken about 10 m away.”

Cackling Goose (foreground) – Brendan Boyd

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red-necked Grebe (Podiceps grisegena) (1)
– Reported Apr 19, 2018 09:25 by Ben Taylor
– Peterborough–Beavermead Park, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
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– Comments: “Long red neck, long bill, and tri-angular head. Seen in the cove near Parks Canada building.”

Red-necked Grebe in breeding plumage – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bonaparte’s Gull (Chroicocephalus philadelphia) (1)
– Reported Apr 18, 2018 10:54 by C Douglas
– Lakefield–Sewage Lagoons, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “Small gull black spot behind eye. Black edge on wings and tail”

Bonaparte’s Gull – breeding plumage – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus) (1)
– Reported Apr 17, 2018 09:08 by Iain Rayner
– Ptbo – Tara Rd N of Edenderry, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “Sitting on fence post. Almost completely white on back but seen at speed. Did not stop”

 

Apr 192018
 

Wildlife in Costa Rica can almost seem other-worldly: toucans with rainbow-colored beaks nearly as big as their body; huge Blue Morphos cruising about like computer-generated butterflies from the movie Avatar; and, as I’ll describe this week, wing-snapping manakins leaping back and forth like frenzied ping-pong balls. This amazing offering of the natural world was why my wife and I, along with our friends Mike and Sonja Barker, had decided to spend four weeks this winter in Puerto Viejo on the country’s southern Caribbean coast.

Keel-billed Toucan in palm tree metres from our house at Loco Natural – Drew Monkman

Despite the large number of tourists – the vast majority in their 20s and 30s – Puerto Viejo still has a gritty, grassroots vibe. This comes courtesy of Afro-Costa Ricans with their dreadlocks and Rasta hats; beat up ‘pirate’ taxis and three-wheeled tuk-tuks ferrying customers; reggae and hip hop music emanating from streetside bars; the aroma of rice and beans wafting from Caribbean restaurants; rickety fruit and vegetable stands spilling over with a dizzying array of product; and, more often than not, the skunky smell of marijuana on the evening breeze. There’s not a fast-food chain restaurant to be seen anywhere and, so far, local activists have been able to protect the area from large resorts and condominium complexes.

Manakins

As I outlined last week, the house we rented at Finca Loco Natural provided a non-stop parade of large, flamboyant tropical birds and mammals. One of the most common and fascinating species, however, was also the hardest to see. For the first couple of days, we wondered what in the world was making a non-stop snapping sound – reminiscent of someone banging stones together – emanating from the shrubbery. Pamela, our accommodating host, provided the explanation. The mystery sound was courtesy of the White-collared Manakin, a plump, chickadee-sized bird that is a master of concealment. Like other manakins, this species puts on a highly amusing but hard-to-observe mating dance. It all happens in an area known as a ‘lek’. To create the lek, the male removes all of the leaf litter and vegetation from a patch of forest floor under a dense stand of shrubs. When a female is lured to the area, he leaps back and forth at high speed between the stems of the shrubs. Each time he leaps, he snaps his wings, thereby creating the loud sound. Sometimes two males jump together, crossing each other above the bare soil. This was happening right beside our house! Only by going up on the balcony and peering down from above were we able to observe the spectacle. The manakin’s dance is an intriguing example of how evolution through natural selection – the females, in this case, doing the selecting – can drive male breeding behaviour to the most outrageous extremes. Go to bit.ly/2qAHEd5 to see a great YouTube video.

Male White-collared Manakin – Photo: Wikimedia

Abel and Alex

By far the best way to appreciate Costa Rica’s incredible biodiversity is to hire a guide. Costa Rican guides are highly trained and actually licensed by the government. With Abel Bustamante, I spent a morning exploring part of the wonderful Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge, located a short distance southeast of Puerto Viejo. His unbridled enthusiasm and energy were contagious. If you ever want a reluctant friend or spouse to discover the joys of birding, an outing with Abel will do the trick. Thanks largely to his knowledge of bird song, I was able to add nearly 20 new species to my life list – everything from Fasciated Ant-shrike and White-ringed Flycatcher to Pied Puffbird and Snowy Cotinga. Together, we also marvelled at a flock of 30 or more Swallow-tailed Kites migrating overhead.

On another occasion, I returned to the Kekoldi Hawkwatch tower with a second indigenous guide, Alex Paez. The native guide I’d gone with originally, Kesh Hernandez, was fully booked that day. Only minutes up the trail, Alex’s sharp eyes spotted a small sloth, almost at eye level. Alex explained that sloths make a weekly, slow-motion descent from the treetops, dig a hole in the ground, defecate and then cover their scat. Why they go to all this trouble remains a mystery. Sloths may have algae growing on their fur, but at least their bathroom manners are impeccable! Although the raptor-viewing from the tower was slow that day, peering down on the rainforest canopy from above did produce other new species for me such as a pair of beautiful Black-crowned Tityras.

The Three-fingered Sloth that we came across on the trail up to the hawkwatch tower. – Drew Monkman

A few days later, I did a rainforest night hike with Alex and his eight-year-old son. I had only seen one snake and relatively few frog species on the trip and wanted to see more. Sporting headlamps, we inched our way along a muddy path, peering under huge Heliconia leaves, inspecting roots and vines, watching for the reflection of distant eye shine. Thanks in no small measure to the eagle eyes of Alex’s son, we found two species of snakes, nine kinds of frogs, five Emerald Basilisk lizards, roosting Great Owl butterflies and countless moths, spiders and fireflies. I was able to take great photographs of a Masked Treefrog as it posed beside red and yellow Heliconia flowers; a Red-eyed Leaf Frog – the iconic Costa Rica T-shirt species –  which actually jumped onto my shirt pocket; a beautifully camouflaged but highly venomous Fer-de-Lance snake, curled up in the roots of a tree; and a Blunt-headed Tree Snake, which was almost identical in length, shape and colour to the vines in which it moved. These latter three species were exactly those I was most hoping to find.

Red-eyed Leaf Frog photographed on a rainforest night hike. Note the blue side pattern (Drew Monkman)

 Conservation

Over the course of our stay, we visited a number of conservation initiatives. One of the most interesting of these was the Jaguar Rescue Center. Its raison d’être is the rehabilitation of mistreated, injured, orphaned, and/or confiscated birds and mammals. Those animals that can be successfully rehabilitated are then reintroduced into their natural habitat in a nearby protected area. The Center is a great place to get close up views of sloths, monkeys, snakes, ocelots, toucans and parrots and learn from the knowledgeable, enthusiastic guides.

We also spent a wonderful afternoon at the Manzanillo field station of the Ara Project. The Project’s goal is to re-establish a breeding population of Great Green Macaws in the southern Caribbean region. The station is located high up on the mountain side where it offers spectacular views of the surrounding forest and ocean. The highlight, however, was seeing the macaws themselves. Almost three feet in length and garbed in green, blue and white, it was heart-lifting to see these birds flying free once again over Caribbean lowland forest. Volunteers offer supplemental feeding to the macaws and maintain nesting boxes.

I was also encouraged to learn that conservation initiatives extend beyond just birds and mammals. Alejo Pacheco, who I met one morning while out birding, is working hard to promote snake conservation. Sadly, the habit of killing snakes on sight is still the norm in Costa Rica. Increasingly, however, when people encounter a snake on their property, they call up Alejo, who catches and relocates the animal. Mike and I were able to accompany Alejo on the release of a metre-long Fer-de-Lance. The three of us squeezed into the front seat of his old truck and drove down to the end of deserted dirt road. Before releasing the snake, he held it briefly in his hand, allowing us to get a great look at the fangs and beautifully patterned skin. Rest assured that there are only about seven snake deaths per year in Costa Rica. Driving is far more dangerous!

Alex Pacheco holding a venomous Fer-de-lance. Alejo is a champion of snake conservation in Costa Rica – Drew Monkman

Alejo has the friendly personality that is typical of so many Costa Ricans. He is also the owner of beautiful tourist houses such as Casa Balto and Casa Yacky, which he rents out. Perched high on a mountainside, they not only offer spectacular views but the surrounding area is also incredibly rich in bird life.

Chocolate  

No account of Puerto Viejo would be complete without mentioning chocolate. The area has half a dozen local bean-to-bar chocolate makers. To learn more, we did an exceptional tour with Caribeans. They have been successful in rehabilitating a cacao plantation, which was abandoned in the 1980s after a deadly fungus struck. The highlight of the tour was sampling four kinds of local chocolate in pairings with coconut, garlic, curry and a wide array of spices. The tasting took place on a mountainside balcony with a stunning view of the ocean and rainforest. I later learned a great deal about the significant health benefits of cacao from Sandra Candela, a woman I met with for Spanish conversation. From Sandra, I learned a great deal about climate change in the south Caribbean region as well as birds, trees, cacao production and the importance of cacao farming to indigenous peoples. Sandra also produces and sells dehydrated, raw cacao beans which she markets under the name RaWo She  explained to me that raw cacao is thought to be the highest anti-oxidant in nature.

Sandra Candela is a wonderful Spanish teacher. She also dehydrates raw cocoa beans, which she sells at the Puerto Viejo Saturday morning Farmers Market – Drew Monkman

Climate change

Like everywhere, Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast is grappling with climate change. The area is seeing an increased number of tropical storms, hurricanes and heavy rains. Sea level, too, is rising and destroying coastline. We saw this at Cahuita National Park where coastal erosion has eaten away at beaches and numerous trees have fallen. Warmer water temperatures and increased acidity have also damaged coral ecosystems. Disruptions in the climate are making life more difficult for indigenous farmers, as well. As Alex Paez explained to me, seasonal weather differences are now far less clear, which results in confusion about when to plant crops.

Despite these challenges, the southern Caribbean coast of Costa Rica remains a wonderful place to visit and to experience nature at its most diverse. Personally, I can’t wait to go back. Next week, I’ll conclude this series with some highlights from our stay in San Isidro de Heredia where we spent the final 10 days of the trip.

 

 

Apr 142018
 

Horned Grebe (Podiceps auritus) (1)
– Reported Apr 13, 2018 08:21 by Daniel Williams
– Peterborough–Beavermead Park, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:

Horned Grebe (Podiceps auritus) (2)
– Reported Apr 13, 2018 12:54 by C Douglas
– Peterborough–Little Lake, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Media: 3 Photos

Horned Grebe in winter plumage – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snow Geese (Ottawa):  Here’s a photo I took this week of a flock of Snow Geese near Ottawa.  Don Munro, Campbellford

Snow Geese near Ottawa – April 2018 – Don Munro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sightings from Warsaw: One of our Red Squirrels was enjoying maple sugar time in mid-March, licking the sap on our Silver Maple. It returned to the tree periodically over several days, presumably scoring the surface bark to allow the sap to drain, then returning later to enjoy the sugary residue on the bark. We call this one ‘Red Squirrel Sapsucker’.

Red Squirrel drinking sap from Sugar Maple – March 2018 – Stephenie Armstrong

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just now, we have our returning pair of Canada Geese, the male keeping a watchful eye for unwanted competitors from our old dock, two pairs of Hooded Mergansers, one pair of Common Mergansers, and three male Buffleheads vying for the attention of a single female. A lone female Ring-Necked Duck arrived on March 24th and stayed for a few days, keeping close to either a pair of Mallards or the pair of Canada Geese. Possibly there was safety in numbers. And a Red Fox passed by on April 4th, the first we’ve seen for some years. Stephenie Armstrong, Warsaw

Canada Geese – April 12, 2018 – Stephenie Armstrong

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Osprey: Here’s a photo of an Osprey that I took on April 10 in Campbellford on the Trent River. One Osprey was sitting on a nest and this one brought a fish.  A third bird was circling around. Don Munroe

Osprey – April 10, 2018 – Don Munroe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vesper Sparrow (Pooecetes gramineus) (1)
– Reported Apr 10, 2018 09:45 by Sean Smith
– Keene–Mill St, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “Singing”

Vesper Sparrow – note rufous on shoulders (not always visible) – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red-bellied Woodpecker: We’ve had many woodpeckers on our property over the past few years, but this is the first year we are seeing the Red-bellied on a regular basis.
Derry Fairweather, Upper Buckhorn Lake 

Red-bellied Woodpecker – April, 2018 – Derry Fairweather

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glaucous Gull (Larus hyperboreus) (1)
– Reported Apr 10, 2018 14:14 by Daniel Williams
– Peterborough–Edgewater Blvd., Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “Continuing bird. ”

Glaucous Gull, Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apr 132018
 

Click here to see a compilation of sightings updated to January, 2018 of fauna of Jack Lake (Apsley, Ontario) and its watershed.  Baseline information has been obtained from published books which delineate the distribution of various amphibians, birds, crustaceans, fishes, insects, mammals, molluscs, and reptiles. Additional information has been derived from the Jack Lake Strategic Plan, MNR records, the Ontario Herptofaunal Atlas,the Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas,and reported observations by Jack Lake residents and members of the Peterborough Field Naturalists. I am also grateful to Drew Monkman, Martin Parker,and Bob Bowles for their assistance in providing additional information from their records and archives.  Steve Kerr, Jack’s Lake Association

Blanding’s Turtle – Rick Stankiewicz

Apr 132018
 

March 1st started with a Red-Wing Blackbird singing in the tree on the east side of Wendy’s on Chemong Road. Came home from Wendy’s and a Northern Cardinal was singing in a high tree at  the condo and the first sight of the chipmunks running. Four pairs of American Robins were checking out the property. The next day, we had a Cooper’s Hawk in the tree in front of the condo, probably chipmunking! He has bee n back several times over the month. Each time, he amazes us. You can walk right under his tree and he will not move. After you leave he will be a couple of branches up in the same tree. Rather tame ! On March 3, a River Otter scooted through the property, down on the edge of the Otonabee. The following day was the return of our two pairs of what might be Brant geese. I can tell them by their odd honk, more so than by colour. They come in the early part of March, stay a day or two on the river and then head north. They then do a fly over around Thanksgiving. Quite consistent in their time of coming and their time of going.  Gord Young, Armour Road, Peterborough

N.B. If these were indeed Brant, it would be a very rare sighting indeed – especially a pair of birds and so early in the spring. When we see Brant here – which is not often – it’s typically in mid-May or in November and usually as a flock simply flying over.  D.M.

Red-winged Blackbird – Karl Egressy

Apr 122018
 

April 3, 2018

PETERBOROUGH – A local nature lover has started a small business to help people get outdoors and connect with nature, and he’s doing it all online! Darian Bacon, a renowned wilderness instructor, has created the website 7winds.ca for people who want to learn more about wilderness exploration but aren’t sure where to start.

“I’ve always loved exploring our beautiful province and getting into the back country,” says Bacon. “But for many people, they just don’t know where to start looking for information. Whether it’s courses about bushcraft, building a shelter or making a fire, or finding the right gear, or even knowing what adventures and destinations are available, I wanted to create an online wilderness community that functions as a one stop shop.”

Creating 7winds.ca is a new venture for Bacon, who has spent over 15 years in his day job on the frontlines of emergency services, helping to protect the people of Ontario. Over the past several years, he has volunteered his time focusing on nature skills and connection for Trent University, Durham College, University of Guelph, Sir Sandford Fleming College, Hillside Festival and the Harvest Gathering, a wilderness event created by Bacon himself in 2011, and since handed off to the next generation of nature lovers.

Having a teaching background as well, Bacon recognized that most people are now accustomed to taking classes online and learning via online videos. He set out to develop a series of comprehensive online courses focussed on bushcraft and nature skills. People are able to gain the basics from these online modules before venturing out into the great outdoors for more experiential hands-on learning with traditional schools and courses.

At 7winds.ca, we have a wide range of courses available, with both online learning and hands-on experience options. Once students feel they are ready, they can check out our adventure directory which has an interactive map of outings, adventures and beautiful places all over Ontario. It’s up to all of us to develop our own connections with the natural world, but in order to find that inspiration, we need to have a solid foundation of academics and science to make sure we go about it in a safe, meaningful and efficient way. We all find our own path to walk, but need the same knowledge to find our own paths to blaze.”

Bacon and 7winds.ca celebrated their official launch this year at the Outdoor Adventure Show in Toronto, and now have students enrolled in courses from all over the map. For more information on courses, speaking engagements and customized educational products, please check out www.7winds.ca.

CONTACT:
Darian Bacon
7winds.ca
(705) 201-1013
admins@7winds.ca

Darian Woods

Apr 122018
 

If Costa Rica taught me one lesson, it was to never go anywhere without my binoculars and camera. Not to put clothes on the line, not to go for water and especially not to walk into town. I could  be certain that some kind of exotic creature – be it a sloth, a toucan, a poison dart frog or a new bird species – would pop up right in front of me, almost begging to be identified or for its picture to be taken.

My wife Michelle and I, along with our friends Mike and Sonja Barker, had the pleasure this winter of spending four weeks in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, Costa Rica. Our daughter Sophie, and Mike and Sonja’s daughter Karina, also joined us for part of the time. Puerto Viejo is located on the southern Caribbean coast near the border of Panama. We chose this area for two reasons. First, we had never been there before but knew that the temperature is more moderate than on the Pacific side. Equally important, there is still a large areas of primary rainforest, which has been relatively unaffected by human activities.

Bicycles are a common means of transportation in Puerto Viejo – for locals and tourists alike. (photo: Drew Monkman)

This region is the heart and soul of Costa Rica’s Afro-Caribbean community. Approximately one-third of the people living here are the descendents of immigrants who came here from countries such as Jamaica at the end of the 19th century. Their distinct culture is immediately recognizable in their clothes, food, music and, of course, language. Although they are all fluent in Spanish, many also speak an idiom known as ‘Limon Creole’, which is a mix of English, Spanish and other influences. This area is also home to the country’s most prominent and culturally intact indigenous groups who inhabit the Kekoldi, Cabecar and Bribri territories. Since the 1980s, the southern Caribbean has become a popular destination for large numbers of European and, increasingly, North American tourists, many of whom have chosen to stay and become business owners. Tourists are attracted by the rich cultural diversity as well as the beautiful beaches, great surfing, amazing biodiversity and spectacular land and seascapes. The area also has wonderful restaurants and cafés.

Loco Natural

We rented a three-bedroom house at Finca Loco Natural from a lovely Chilean and American couple, Pamela and Carter. It was only a 20-minute walk from town and just five minutes from the ocean. Nestled in seven acres of Heliconia gardens, flowering shrubs and towering trees – and backing onto rainforest – the ‘Bird House’ was everything a nature enthusiast could ask for. It was a treat for all of the senses. Every morning we awoke to the non-stop, frog-like clicking of Keel-billed Toucans, the wing-snapping of White-collared Manakins, the harsh squawking of Gray-cowled Wood-rails and the cacophonous cries of Howler Monkeys. The approach of nightfall was signaled by the loud, far-carrying “gwa-co” of the Laughing Falcon, followed shortly after by the throaty growl of the Great Potoo and eventually by the gentle hooting of the Spectacled Owl.

A Black-mandibled Toucan photographed from the kitchen table at Finca Loco Natural (photo: Drew Monkman)

In the middle of the day when bird activity slowed down, butterflies took centre stage. At times, it was like being in a butterfly conservatory as Julias, Banded Peacocks, Blue Morphos and various species of Heliconius and Caligos butterflies flitted about. Identifying them is no easy task, since the country has more than 1300 species. Compare this to only 300 in all of Canada!

Occasionally, a Blue Morpho would fly right through the kitchen or balcony, since they were both completely open on three sides with no windowpanes or screens. This meant that visitors of the non-human variety were common house guests. In addition to butterflies, these included giant six-inch walking sticks, geckos, leaf-like katydids, frogs, moths, hummingbirds and, on one occasion, even some fruit bats, which gobbled up most of a banana we had left on the counter. An added bonus was the rich, blossom-scented air, often courtesy of two Ylang-Ylang trees that grew behind the house.

A highlight of each day was simply sitting at the kitchen table – a cup of exquisite Costa Rican coffee in hand – and watching the parade of mammals, birds and butterflies attracted by the diverse flora. On numerous occasions, Howler Monkeys and Three-fingered Sloths provided spectacular entertainment and photo ops one can only dream of. Agoutis, a large, comical, guinea pig-like rodent, were regular visitors, too. For me, however, it was the birds that stole the show. These included outrageously coloured toucans like the Keel-billed, Black-mandibled and Collared Aracaris, boisterous Montezuma Oropendolas, exquisite Long-tailed Hermit hummingbirds and flashy Passerini’s and Tawny-crested Tanagers. Many of the birds fed in palm and Cecropia trees only metres from where we sat. As Sonja remarked, “The problem here is not Nature Deficit Disorder, it’s total Nature Overload Disorder!”

The kitchen and balcony of the ‘Bird House’ that we rented are open to the elements on three sides. (photo: Drew Monkman)

How right she was. I was hardly able to sleep, given all there was to discover. I headed out each morning at about 6 am to take advantage of peak bird activity. A favorite destination was a nearby Cecropia tree, where I snapped pictures of the parade of birds coming to feed on the seeds. These often included oropendolas, Gray-headed Chachalacas, Buff-throated Saltators, Social Flycatchers as well as Blue-gray, Palm and Passerini’s Tanagers.

Creek and pool

Pamela suggested we explore a nature trail on the property that leads to a creek and, a short distance upstream, to a lovely waterfall. As we walked through the ankle-deep water, we were thrilled to find both Strawberry and Green-Black Poison Frogs on the steep, shaded banks. I had no idea these frogs were still so common. Giant Helicopter Damselflies fluttered overhead – flying just like their namesake suggests – while insanely tame Tawny-crested Tanagers bathed along the stream edge. We stopped at one point to admire a giant fig tree with massive, four-foot-high buttress roots spreading out on all sides. This root design is an adaptation to the shallow, nutrient-poor rainforest soil and improves the tree’s ability to withstand strong winds. Finally arriving at the waterfall, the cool, clear water felt wonderful as it spilled over us. It was a scene right out of a Costa Rica tourist ad!

A Three-fingered Sloth that was hanging out in a Cecropia tree near the pool. (photo: Drew Monkman)

Tawny-crested Tanager bathing along the side of the creek up to the waterfall (photo: Mike Barker)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The small swimming pool at Finca Loco Natural was another favourite hangout – and not just because of the refreshing water. It also provided wonderful nature-viewing. Much of the time, it was nearly impossible to sit and read. There was almost always a sloth, a family of monkeys or a flock of toucans or oropendolas to grab our attention. A four-foot-long Green Iguana was also a source of constant entertainment, especially when it relieved itself on the vegetation below! With four pairs of eyes doing the watching, we continually spotted new and interesting birds. Two of the rarer species we observed from the pool area included a Bat Falcon – actually feasting on a bat – and a regal, adult King Vulture. Sonja spotted the huge black and white bird as it soared overhead among hundreds of migrating Turkey Vultures.

Guides

You can’t experience the full diversity of tropical bird life without hiring the services of a guide. Finding many species depends on recognizing their vocalizations – a major undertaking in a country of over 900 species – and having local knowledge of their whereabouts. I was lucky to go birding with three highly talented and passionate individuals, all of whom seemed to enjoy themselves as much as I did. They were Keysaur (Kesh) Hernandez, Alex Paez Balma and Abel Bustamante. Kesh and Alex are indigenous guides of the Kekoldi community.

Kesh, with my daughter Sophie, on the raptor-viewing tower (photo: Drew Monkman)

The morning Sophie and I spent with Kesh was an amazing introduction to the rich biodiversity and indigenous culture of the area. Not only does Kesh speak five languages, but he is also one of the most enthusiastic and profoundly ethical guides I have ever met. He moved effortlessly along the steep and muddy rainforest trail, reminding us to talk in whispers. At regular intervals, he would stop to point out the songs of elusive species like antbirds, treecreepers and wrens – all of which he imitated in a near-perfect whistle. At one point, his whistling brought a Stripe-breasted Wren almost to our feet.

Thanks to Kesh, we saw hummingbird and manakin leks (an area where males display for females), bullet ants, huge orb spiders, glass-winged butterflies and even a family group of rare Spider Monkeys swinging through the treetops. He even invited us to suck out the nectar of Heliconia blossoms to show us why hummingbirds are so attracted to them. As we walked past a small farm, we sampled the delicious fruit of Cherimoya and Star Apple trees, while he spoke at length about the importance of cocoa beans to health and to indigenous culture.

The highlight of the morning, however, was spending several hours at the top of the Kekoldi Hawkwatch raptor-viewing tower. This area of Costa Rica is considered one of the four best locations in the world to see migrating hawks, kites, falcons and vultures during spring and fall migration. Two to three million raptors pass over the region each year. As we looked out over the forest canopy – the Caribbean Sea to the east and the mountains of Panama to the west – a river of Turkey Vultures, Broad-winged Hawks, Swainson’s Hawks, Ospreys, Peregrine Falcons and Plumbeous Kites streamed by, slowly making their way northward. Although the migration had only just begun, it was an experience I’ll never forget. We were also treated to an array of tropical songbird superstars like Golden-hooded Tanagers and Shiny Honeycreepers as they perched in the treetops, illuminated by the morning sun.

Broad-winged Hawk (photo: Wikimedia)

Next week, I’ll share more of my Costa Rica adventures and talk about threats such as climate change.

 

 

 

 

Apr 122018
 

The average North American child can identify over 300 corporate logos, but only 10 native plants or animals – a telling indictment of our modern disconnection from the natural world. Even though children are born with an innate interest in nature, our society does little to nurture this predisposition. It is largely for this reason that Jacob Rodenburg, Executive Director of Camp Kawartha, and I decided four years ago to sit down and write a book to help address this problem.
Released just last week by New Society Publishers, “The Big Book of Nature Activities: A year-round guide to outdoor learning” sets out to answer the question “What can you do outside in nature?” In response, the book provides nearly 150 activities, including games, crafts, drama, and stories. It will also help young and old alike to become more aware of how the sights, sounds, smells, textures and tastes of the natural world change from one season to the next. The book is aimed at parents, grandparents, classroom teachers, outdoor educators and youth leaders of all kinds. Much of the information – and many of the activities – will also be of interest to adults, especially if you need to brush up on your own nature skills. Adults should also be interested in the extensive background information on evolution, citizen science projects, nature journaling, nature photography and how to make the most of digital technology,

The Big Book of Nature Activities

The Big Book of Nature Activities

Introduction

We begin the book by discussing the disconnection from nature that characterizes so much of modern society. In an increasingly urbanized world, our children are much more likely to experience the flickering a computer screen or the sounds of traffic than the rhythmic chorus of bird or insect song. And sadly, they can more easily identify corporate logos or cartoon characters than even a few tree or bird species. We therefore ask the questions: Where will tomorrow’s environmentalists and conservationists come from? Who will advocate for threatened habitats and endangered species? What are the impacts on one’s physical and emotional well-being from a childhood or adulthood spent mostly indoors? We then go on to discuss some of the consequences of what the environmental educator Richard Louv calls “Nature Deficit Disorder”.

The activities, species and events in nature, which are described in the book, cover an area extending from British Columbia and northern California in the west to the Atlantic Provinces and North Carolina in the east. This includes six ecological regions such as the Marine West Coast and the Eastern Temperate Forests. In other words, the book applies to most anywhere in North America where there are four seasons.

The introduction also provides ideas on how to raise a naturalist (hint: take your kids camping!), how to get kids outside, how children of different ages respond to nature, how nature can enhance our lives as adults and the importance of being able to identify and name the most common species. We provide lists of 100 continent-wide key species to learn – everything from birds and invertebrates to trees, shrubs and wildflowers – as well as about 50 key regional species. We also introduce the reader to three cartoon characters, namely Charles Darwin, Carl Sagan and Neil DeGrasse Tyson who will tell stories of the wonder of evolution and the universe throughout the book.

Charles Darwin cartoon character - Kady MacDonald Denton

Our Charles Darwin cartoon character gives examples of the wonder of evolution throughout the book – Kady MacDonald Denton

Basic Skills

Connecting to nature is easier when you have learned some basic skills. In this section, we provide hints for paying attention (be patient and slow down), how to engage all the senses (learn to maximize your sense of smell), how to lead a nature hike (have some “back-pocket” activities ready to go), nature-viewing and traveling games from a car or school bus (do a scavenger hunt), how to increase your chances of seeing wildlife (try sitting in one place), how to bring nature inside (set up a nature table), how to get involved in “citizen science” (start at scistarter.com) and how to connect with nature in the digital age (make the most of your smartphone and social media). The latter section is especially detailed. Although it might seem counter-intuitive, there are actually many ways in which digital technology can inspire people of all ages to explore nature and share their experiences with others.

We also provide information on the basics of birding; insect-watching (butterflies, dragonflies, damselflies and moths), plant identification, mushroom-hunting, getting to know the night sky, nature journaling, nature photography, and nature-based geo-caching. Additional basic skills are covered in the activities in the seasons chapters themselves. These include fish-watching, mammal-watching, amphibian- and reptile-watching and tree identification.

Key Concepts

The third chapter in “The Big Book of Nature Activities” deals with four important concepts, which help us to more fully understand and appreciate nature. We start by explaining why we have seasons, and how the tilt of Earth’s axis makes all the difference. This is followed by a discussion of phenology, which is the science of observing and recording “first events”- such as spring’s first lilac bloom or frog song. Next, we talk about how climate change is affecting different habitats and species, and why a connection with nature is so important in light of this threat. Finally, we discuss the importance of understanding evolution and how it is manifested in even the most common backyard species. Armed with a little knowledge of evolution, we can learn to appreciate the wonder that resides in all species, not just the charismatic ones. We also want children to know that science is just beginning to unravel many of the mysteries of evolution and the incredible stories it has revealed. Our Darwin cartoon character tells many of these stories. The good news for young scientists-to-be is that there’s so much we don’t yet understand

The book explains the basics of evolution and natural selection, without getting into the details of genetics. We then provide a story for young children on how evolution might work within a population of imaginary sand bugs. For older children and adults, we go on a “field trip of the imagination” in which we visit our ancestors, starting with our self, our grandfather, our great-grandfather, etc. and ending up at our 185-million-greats-grandfather who, by the way, would have been a fish! This section concludes with a shortened version of Big History, the evidence-based story that takes us from the Big Bang to the present, in which we humans are “star stuff pondering stars”.

The book contains over 400 illustrations.

Hundreds of drawings

 Seasons’ chapters

The four seasons’ chapters make up the heart of the book. Each begins with a summary of some of the key events in flora, fauna, weather and the sky. This includes events that occur across North America as well as happenings that are specific to each region. Most of the activities in the chapter relate to these events. This is followed by a seasonal poem to enjoy and maybe memorize; suggestions for what to display or collect for the nature table;

ideas about what to photograph or record in your nature journal; a short seasonal story called “What’s Wrong with the Scenario” in which you try to spot the mistakes; the story of Black Cap, the Chickadee, which takes you through a year in an individual chickadee’s life and includes activities; and ideas for what to do at your Magic Spot, a special nature-rich area close to home.

The final and largest section of the seasons’ chapters is called “Exploring the season: Things to do.” It comprises 50 or more activities to activate your five senses, keep track of seasonal change, explore evolution, and have fun discovering fascinating aspects of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish, invertebrates, plants, fungi, weather and the night sky. We also offer up suggestions on how to make nature part of seasonal celebrations like Thanksgiving. Some of the activities include making a scent cocktail and touch bag, using a roll of toilet paper to create a history-of-life timeline, meeting the “beast” within you, a non-identification bird walk, a woodpecker drumming game, mammal-watching with a trail camera, observing spawning salmon, a frog song orchestra, exploring seaside beaches and tide pools, a “bee dance” drama game, conducting a pond study, “adopting” a tree to observe over an entire year, dissecting flowers, a fungi scavenger hunt, a classroom “hand-generated” thunderstorm, going on a night hike, making tin can constellations, creating your own moon phases, celebrating the winter and summer solstices, ideas for Earth Day, and more. Scattered throughout the activities are suggestions for getting involved in citizen science projects. The book concludes with an appendix with blackline masters for photocopying and a detailed index.

There are 16 pages of colour photos that link to some of the activities.

Sixteen pages of colour photos that link to some of the activities.

The book also contains several hundred drawings, most of which were done by talented Lakefield artist, Judy Hyland. Others were contributed by Kim Caldwell, Kady MacDonald Denton, Jean-Paul Efford and Heather Sadler (drawings by her late father, Doug Sadler). In the middle of the book, you will find a 16-page block of colour photos by the authors and others.

“The Big Book of Nature Activities” is available at Happenstance Books and Yarns at 44 Queen Street in Lakefield (705-652-7535), at Camp Kawartha (1010 Birchview Road, Douro-Dummer), at Chapters (Landsowne Street west in Peterborough) and online at Chapters.Indigo.ca and Amazon.ca. It would make a great end of school year gift. The cost is $39.95. A book launch hosted by Happenstance will be held on July 24, from 2-4 p.m. at the Camp Kawartha Environment Centre at 2505 Pioneer Road. For more details and regular updates about the book, please go to drewmonkman.com. The authors can be reached by email at dmonkman1@cogeco.ca and jrodenburg@campkawartha.ca

 

 

 

 

Apr 042018
 

Snowy Owl – It was snowing on Upper Buckhorn on April 6 and guess what shows up at my neighbor’s dock? Looks like a male.  Derry Fairweather

Snowy Owl – April 6, 2018- Upper Buckhorn Lake – Derry Fairweather

Snowy Owl – April 6, 2018- Upper Buckhorn Lake – Derry Fairweather

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glaucous Gull (Larus hyperboreus) (1)
– Reported Apr 05, 2018 16:07 by Toby Rowland
– Peterborough–Millennium Park, Peterborough, Ontario
– Map: http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&t=p&z=13&q=44.3028834,-78.31688&ll=44.3028834,-78.31688
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S44277679
– Comments: “All white Wingtips significantly larger than surrounding ring billed gulls. Scene from the train bridge amongst the Ring billed gulls by the islands”

Glaucous Gull – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sandhill Cranes: Our 2 Sandhill Cranes have returned to Rockcroft, north of Buckhorn. Observed in my folks backyard this morning, April 3, at 10:30 am. Marie Windover

Sandhill Cranes – Rene Gareau

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) (Setophaga coronata coronata) (1)
– Reported Apr 06, 2018 07:16 by Daniel Williams
– Peterborough–Beavermead Park, Peterborough, Ontario
– Map: http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&t=p&z=13&q=44.2938973,-78.3027537&ll=44.2938973,-78.3027537
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S44291787
– Comments: “Well seen. Warbler with white throat and yellow rump. Calling consistently. Feeding alongside water just south of Beavermead beach. ”

Yellow-rumped Warbler (male) – Jeff Keller

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii) (7)
– Reported Apr 02, 2018 10:51 by Iain Rayner
– Ptbo – Second Line Rd pond, Peterborough, Ontario
– Map: http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&t=p&z=13&q=44.1469173,-78.3458757&ll=44.1469173,-78.3458757
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S44200072
– Media: 1 Photo
– Comments: “Continuing. Pic shows 2 of the 7 birds”

Cackling Goose (foreground) – Brendan Boyd

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tundra Swan (Whistling) (Cygnus columbianus columbianus) (1)
– Reported Apr 02, 2018 18:10 by Matthew Tobey
– Chemong Lake – sw end, Peterborough, Ontario
– Map: http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&t=p&z=13&q=44.3362125,-78.4461336&ll=44.3362125,-78.4461336
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S44204127
– Comments: “Continuing.”

Tundra Swans – Apr. 6, 2014 – Luke Berg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus) (1)
– Reported Apr 02, 2018 09:45 by David McCorquodale
– CA-ON-341 Hiawatha Line (44.1784,-78.2037), Peterborough, Ontario
– Map: http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&t=p&z=13&q=44.178402,-78.203746&ll=44.178402,-78.203746
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S44183725
– Comments: “Continuing. Out on ice.”

Snowy Owl (Jeff Keller)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sandhill Cranes:  I saw a pair of Sandhill Cranes on March 23 at about 6:30pm in Omemee. Gavin Hunter

Sandhill Cranes – Don Genge

 

Mar 082018
 

“There is no fundamental difference between man and animals in their ability to feel pleasure and pain, happiness, and misery.”

Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man

A decade or so ago, I came upon a considerable mystery. It was a fall afternoon and, while walking down the road toward my home in the Haliburton wilderness, I noticed enormous undulations on the dusty road. A snake perhaps? Now I knew no part of Ontario, or indeed any place on earth, held a snake that huge, at least I hoped not. The S-shaped pattern was approximately 75 cm wide, but its length was uncertain. I thought this beast must swallow deer for breakfast and dine on moose for lunch. My imagination was racing. Adding to the mystery were the occasional patches of dark blood—the remains of prey perhaps?

I have cameras that take photographs automatically when sensing both heat and motion. While these camera traps take photos, I’m usually at home drinking Glenmorangie single-malt scotch. To photograph the extraordinary animal that made these tracks, I attached one of my special cameras to a tree overlooking its trail. And I placed a large quantity of cracked corn, on the off chance the creature was a herbivore, and four pounds of hamburger in case it was a carnivore—the more likely choice. I activated the camera and departed.

The following morning I could hardly wait to check the site. As I approached I saw that all the food was gone, every bit of it, and that there were tracks everywhere, including those of this undulating monster. More significantly, the display window on the camera revealed it had taken 186 photographs. Jackpot!

I replaced the memory chip and ran home to boot up my computer to view these pictures. And what did I see? Bears, black bears, lots of them but no undulating monster. One large mother bear (sow) came early in the evening with her two small cubs—probably females. Four hours passed before a second mother bear arrived with her two larger cubs—probably males. (Each photograph is time stamped.) But still I saw nothing to explain the strange undulations. What was I missing? I had photographs of the two different sows. Where was the monster?

Then I saw the problem. The solution to the mystery was obvious, but so incredibly improbable. The mother bear in photograph 1 had no use of her hind legs. She was a paraplegic! Note the worn-away fur and exposed flesh on her back legs plus their unnatural position. Unbelievably, she was dragging herself everywhere, and this was the source of the undulations. There was no monster, just a mother bear of inconceivable endurance determined to feed her cubs and herself. I decided to call her Mother Courage.

Mother Courage and her two cubs – Gord Harrison

I contacted the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) about what we should do to help this injured bear. “We” quickly became “me.” But they did suggest that, if this sow made it to hibernation, about two weeks away, the cubs would have a better chance of surviving the winter—it can be 40o below zero where I live. Until then, I decided to feed Mother Courage and her cubs at my back window so that I might observe their behavior. After I began, they came every night; however, I never saw the other large sow and her two small cubs again. Two weeks passed, and then two more. Would Mother Courage ever hibernate? I telephoned the MNR to ask if my feeding was inhibiting them from going into hibernation—the officials said no! Another two weeks came and went; it was now the middle of December, and this family often arrived during a blizzard. The cubs were always first by several minutes until this heroic animal dragged her bleeding backside out of the deep forest only to collapse in exhaustion. On many occasions, she never ate—she just watched her cubs devour the cracked corn and dog food.

 

Note the exhausted mother at the back right and the concerned cub at the front left. Her mothering instincts could challenge those of most humans.  Gord Harrison

I became curious about the location of their wintering den. I surmised finding her lair would be easy. It must be close; after all, how far can an animal drag itself? After an hour’s trek I reached an embankment sloping down to an ancient glacial lake and located her den. This daily journey—both ways—would have intimidated Marco Polo. Yet Mother Courage had done this every day for weeks, perhaps even months. I was stunned by the magnitude of her endurance and the power of her instincts. Neither torn flesh, nor exhaustion, nor death itself I thought would prevent her daily rounds. Some will say I am anthropomorphizing; I would say it is simple empathy with a fellow mammal in great anguish.

By comparing my initial photographs to the later ones, Mother Courage appeared to be losing body fat. So, on December 17, I decided not to feed her and her cubs anymore hoping to force them into hibernation, lest she die crawling. It was a melancholy evening for everyone. They came. They searched. They left. And I never saw them again.

 

 

The final picture on that snowy night – Gord Harrison

Early in the New Year, I snowshoed to the den and was elated to find they were all safely asleep—or as asleep as hibernating bears ever truly get. The den entrance was encrusted with ice crystals caused by their emanating body heat. My flashlight revealed the back of a bear almost completely blocking the entrance in an effort to retain this heat. I took this to be Mother Courage in her ultimate act of protection for her cubs. She was following those deep instincts that had preserved her genes through a million years of evolution.

Clearly, this mother bear was exhibiting behavior that can only be described as moral. And just as clearly, this behavior was preserving her genes by enhancing the chance that her two male cubs would survive and reproduce. There was pressure for moral behavior, stemming from natural selection, because this behavior is adaptive for the preservation of genes, which are life itself. In his book Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, Daniel Dennett calls evolution by natural selection “the best idea anyone has ever had.”

Photograph 3: Mother Courage and Her Children

At my latitude, the average date for bears to come out of hibernation is April 10, so, about two weeks after this date, I revisited the den site. The MNR had assured me that this sow (Mother Courage) would not exit the den alive—I had to see for myself. I found the den again. It was empty, the entire family had left. In the distance was a kettle of turkey vultures, and I wondered if they were recycling Mother Courage. I suspected as much, but I declined to investigate.

Male bear cubs will depart from their natal territory—following the instinctive taboo against incest by Ursus americanus. Genetics tells us that inbreeding is generally detrimental to the gene pool. And, again, natural selection is the source of our discomfort and bears’ avoidance of this practice. It’s significant that sows will share territory with their female cubs since this sharing presents no danger of incest.

Many readers may have wondered how Mother Courage came to be a paraplegic. Only two reasonable speculations are possible: she was either hit by a car or shot by a hunter. It was bear hunting season when I first noticed the undulations on my dusty road.

Some moral behaviors exist outside of, and independent of, humans. If as a species, we had never existed or had gone extinct—and 99 percent of all species have—morality in terms we could recognize would still be flourishing on this planet.

Humans have driven thousands of species to extinction, and another universe must pass away before such creatures will ever come again. I am not a vegetarian, but I would speak for all those who cannot speak for themselves.

All herd or pack animals have a large moral repertoire: whales, elephants, and wolves. Naturally, moral differences exist between humans and other animals just as they do among all individuals of the same species including Homo sapiens. It’s a matter of degree not of kind.

To the shock of those who are stony faced and stony minded, the evidence that humans, apes and monkeys, whales, elephants, wolves, and even rats and mice inherit ethical behaviors honed by natural selection is profoundly disturbing. But should it be? We are a part of, not apart from, all life on earth. We are not descended from angels or demigods but ascended from ape-like creatures. Ours is a heroic past, at times so close to extinction that a wink might have made it so. Darwin would be delighted to witness this expansion of morality to non-human animals by natural selection.

Mother Courage crumpled in exhaustion – Gord Harrison

In the last photo, taken on a bleak November night, Mother Courage is just hanging on to life. But, in my mind’s eye, she will always be one of the bravest and most caring creatures I have ever known.

Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Dylan Thomas

 

 

This article comes from my book My Cousin & Me: And Other Animals available at Amazon and Avant-Garden Shop in Peterborough. Gordon Harrison is a writer and wildlife photographer can be reached at harrison153@gmail.com

Feb 122018
 

I photographed this Merlin this morning, February 13, in Lakefield. Jeff Keller

Merlin – Jeff Keller – Lakefield – Feb. 13, 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) (1)
– Reported Feb 12, 2018 08:30 by Colin Jones
– Peterborough–Robinson Place, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S42701090
– Comments: “Adult flew in from the east, landed briefly on the building, then flew out and around the south side, towards the west. Seemed small, possibly suggesting a male.”

Peregrine – Karl Egressy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Northern Saw-whet Owl (Aegolius acadicus) (2)
– Reported Feb 07, 2018 13:56 by S Ro
– Jackson Park, Peterborough CA-ON (44.3114,-78.3385), Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S42706134
– Comments: “Presume they were mates. One was sitting on a limb in a small tree on the park side of the bridge. Mate arrived on tree beside it, then flew to the same tree. Approximately 6pm”

NSWO – Warsaw – Tim Dyson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis) (2)
– Reported Feb 12, 2018 13:48 by Warren Dunlop
– Bailieboro–460 Scriven Rd, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S42717191
– Media: 1 Photo
– Comments: “Perched in hedgerow.”

A pair of Eastern Bluebirds – male at upper right – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I sighted two Bald Eagles soaring in the cold winds above Lakefield arena today, February 12. Decent sized. They were fairly high up.  Andrew Lipscombe

Bald Eagle – Lakefield – Feb. 12, 2018 – Andrew Lipscombe

Feb 082018
 

February 12 is a day to reflect on the principles of perpetual curiosity, scientific thinking, and hunger for truth as embodied in Charles Darwin.

With the arrival of February – a time I like to call ‘pre-spring’ – bird sound is slowly returning to the natural world. A week ago, I heard the boisterous song of the cardinal for the first time since last summer. Our neighbourhood Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers are making their presence known, too, as they drum against resonant tree trunks to advertize ownership of territory and to renew or establish pair bonds. Whenever I hear this hammering, I can’t help but wonder how their brains have adapted to endure a lifetime of head-banging at such incredible forces of acceleration. Humans suffer concussions at forces ten times smaller.

However, thanks to Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, science has a powerful tool with which to investigate this question. In the 25 million years that woodpeckers have been on this planet, their bodies have undergone a continual process of evolutionary adaptation. There have been changes in the beak, the neck muscles, the skull and even at the level of certain proteins. Recent research has shown that woodpecker brains have high levels of a protein called ‘tau’, which is also present in the brains of humans who have suffered brain damage or neurodegenerative disease. Scientists are learning that some kinds of ‘tau’ are protective, while others can become toxic. Do woodpeckers have the protective form and therefore don’t suffer neurological repercussions? Learning more about woodpecker tau may be highly useful some day in treating concussions and neurodegenerative disorders in humans. This is just one example of how the theory of evolution is routinely used to figure out where to look for potential cures. Without his discovery of natural selection – the process whereby organisms better adapted to their environment tend to survive and produce more offspring – the greatest achievements in medicine and human well-being over the past two hundred years would have been impossible.

Pileated Woodpecker 2 – Jan. 1, 2016 – Mark St. Peterborough – Helen Keller

Time scale

Part of the difficulty in understanding evolution is our inability to grasp the staggering amount of time it has had to work with. Our brains have evolved to understand time on the scale of decades and centuries at most. The idea that life has been evolving for over three billion years is therefore quite impossible to grasp. To make this time-span a little more tangible, let’s imagine it as a 4.6 kilometre walk, starting at the Disc Golf Course at the north end of Riverview Zoo and ending at City Hall in downtown Peterborough. The starting point represents the moment in time 4.6 billion years ago when planet Earth was created from a nebula cloud of gas and dust. The end point represents the present day. As we walk along the route, we’ll point out the moments in time when key events in evolution occurred. At this scale, each step represents about 700,000 years. (Note: BYA = billion years old and MYA = million years ago)

For the first kilometre, Earth is devoid of living things. You see little more than a scalding rock with choking fumes. However, as we pass the zoo’s miniature train station and the fighter aircraft on display (3, 5 BYA), the first life appears in oceans. At Marina Boulevard (3.25 BYA), life evolves the ability to capture the sun’s energy through photosynthesis. Twelve minutes of walking later, at Anson Street (1.9 BYA), the first cells with nuclei have evolved, but it’s not until we arrive at Locks Salon & Spa, just south of George Street (650 MYA) that multi-cellular organisms emerge. Having mastered the cell, evolution can now start moving faster. At Edinburgh Street by Amusé Coffee (500 MYA), the first land plants show up and at London Street (245 MYA), the age of the dinosaurs begins. Then, as we pass in front of the former George Street United Church (200 MYA), the first mammals arrive on the scene. Having crossed McDonnel Street, a mass extinction at 65 MYA event wipes out all of the dinosaurs, but not the branch that went on to become birds such as woodpeckers. However, it’s only when we arrive at the bottom of the steps at City Hall (3.5 MYA) that the first proto-humans appear. At this point, we’ll need to get out our tape measure. At a mere 10 cm from the main doors, evolution produces Homo sapiens, our own species. But it’s only in the last centimetre – 10,000 years ago – that recorded human history begins, and only in the last one-fifth of a millimetre that we enter the Industrial Revolution and present-day times. Now, take a moment to reflect back on how far we’ve walked – and all the time that evolution has had to produce a species that can reflect on its own origins!

City Hall – Peterborough, ON – Michael Morrit

 

 

 

 

 

Darwin Day

Charles Darwin was born in Shrewsbury, England, on February 12 1809. Ever since he published his radically insightful book, On the Origin of Species, Darwin has been the focus of commemorations and tributes by scientists, artists and scholars. The 200th anniversary of his birth in 2009 saw an entire season of BBC programming on Charles Darwin himself as well as evolution and natural selection. Since then, Darwin Day events have been organized each February throughout the world.

Charles Darwin (Wikimedia)

The purpose of Darwin Day is to promote Darwin’s contribution to science and to call attention to the importance of science in general. According to the International Darwin Day website, the day “will inspire people throughout the globe to reflect and act on the principles of intellectual bravery, perpetual curiosity, scientific thinking and hunger for truth as embodied by Charles Darwin.” Science is our most reliable knowledge system and has provided enormous benefit to the health, prosperity and intellectual satisfaction for our human existence. These are worthy achievements for all people to celebrate. This is especially important given that some people, including the U.S. government, appear unconcerned by scientifically-proven threats to civilization such as climate change.

Get informed

A great way to celebrate Darwin Day is to become more informed about evolution yourself. Make a point of talking about it with your children and grandchildren. If you are a teacher, consider organizing some Darwin Day activities. Your students would love a classroom science celebration.

Darwinday.org provides wonderful resources for becoming more informed about Darwin himself and his theory of evolution. They include six websites, four books for children, eight books for adults, six videos, four documentaries and two dramas. I especially enjoyed looking at “Darwin’s Diary”, which delves into Darwin’s life and work through an interactive diary created for PBS’ program, Evolution. The “Understanding Evolution” website is also excellent. This “one-stop website for information on evolution” provides an in-depth course on the science of evolution as well as superb teaching materials for grades K-2 all the way to 9-12. You will also find a fascinating article on how backyard birdfeeders in the U.K. appear to be driving the evolution of longer beaks in Great Tits, a type of chickadee. If you’re interested in fish, I’d also recommend checking out “A fisheye view of the tree of life”. This interactive evolutionary tree highlights some of the amazing innovations that have evolved in the different lineages of fish.

The annual Darwin Day Lecture will also be taking place at the Royal Ontario Museum on February 13 from 7:00 -8:00 pm. It is entitled “How do Tardigrades Survive Everything?”

Discovered in 1773, tardigrades, also known as “water bears,” are found everywhere on Earth. Dr. Thomas Boothby, from the University of North Carolina, will explain how evolution has equipped these micro-animals to survive the most extreme environments imaginable, including outer space. Call 416-586-5797 for more information.

Vancouver Resolution

The Darwin Day Foundation believes it’s time for a global celebration of science and humanity. To this end, they have introduced Darwin Day Resolutions to the U.S. House and Senate and in various states. Cities, such as San Diego, Omaha, Regina and Vancouver have also passed Darwin Day resolutions. The text of the Vancouver Resolution reads as follows:

WHERAS February 12, 2013 is the anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin in 1809; AND WHEREAS Charles Darwin is recognized for the development of the theory of evolution by the mechanism of natural selection; AND WHEREAS Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection is recognized as the foundation of modern biology, an essential tool in understanding the natural world and the development of life on earth; AND WHEREAS Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection has provided, and continues to provide, the basis for great advances in science, medicine, and philosophy; AND WHEREAS The anniversary of Darwin’s birthday is an appropriate period on which to reflect and celebrate the importance of scientific advancement to all people; AND WHEREAS The City of Vancouver is rightfully proud of its commitment to scientifically-based environmental awareness, appropriate technology, and progressive education: NOW, THEREFORE, I, Gregor Robertson, Mayor of the City of Vancouver, DO HEREBY PROCLAIM February 12, 2013 as “INTERNATIONAL DARWIN DAY” in the City of Vancouver.  Let’s encourage Peterborough City Council to pass a similar resolution next year!

Finally, the next time you hear a woodpecker drumming, pause for a moment to thank Charles Darwin for making sense of what’s going on – and why the bird isn’t suffering from a splitting headache!

 

Feb 062018
 

I heard a Great Horned owl at the edge of the cedar/ash/white pine forest by the Otonabee River near 9th line. On Feb 10- 5:45 am. Susan Chow

Great Horned Owl – Dec. 23, 2015 – Glen Grills

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Barred Owl (Strix varia) (1)
– Reported Feb 09, 2018 18:30 by Basil Conlin
– Peterborough–Rotary Park & Walkway, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S42629795
– Comments: “heard vocalizing three times from the direction of Nichol’s Oval at the entrance to the park at Rogers St.”

Barred Owl – Wilco Overink – Nov. 29, 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is an abundance of Snowy Owls in our area this year. Most any concession in the Lindsay area will yield a Snowy. Try Post Road (Hwy 7 north to Hwy 36) and Fieldside Road (Cheese Factory Road intersection).  The bird photographed here is the closest to home I have sighted. Feb 9 / 2018 at the Bypass & Bensford Bridge Rd ramp.  Carl Welbourn, Kawartha Camera Club

Snowy Owl – Feb. 9, 2018 – Carl Welbourn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Barred Owl (Strix varia) (1)
– Reported Feb 09, 2018 12:30 by Basil Conlin
– Lady Eaton Drumlin, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S42625033
– Media: 1 Photo
– Comments: “sitting about 50m away from flock of feeding robins, perhaps waiting for one to let its guard down?”

Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) (1)
– Reported Feb 09, 2018 08:32 by Donald A. Sutherland
– Peterborough–King St just W George St, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S42615388
– Comments: “perched on communication towers atop Charlotte Towers (245 Charlotte St)”

I took this picture of a Cooper’s Hawk on February 6 behind our unit. It was on a Rock Pigeon.  Don Finigan

Cooper’s Hawk – Don Finigan – Feb. 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today, Feb. 6, at about 2:00 pm, I had a Carolina Wren at my feeder eating suet. The bird feeder is high up – at the back of the
house. I live at 123 Creekwood Drive in Peterborough.

Sherry Hambly

Carolina Wren – Feb. 6 2018 – Creekwood Dr. PTBO – Sherry Hambly

Carolina Wren (Wikimedia)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Barred Owl (Strix varia) (1)
– Reported Feb 04, 2018 20:00 by Brendan Boyd
– 711 Armour Rd, Peterborough CA-ON (44.3159,-78.3098), Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “A yard bird I never expected. Sitting on the hydro line above the driveway.”

Barred Owl Feb. 8, 2015 – Television Road – Brenda Ibey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Northern Saw-whet Owl (Aegolius acadicus) (2)

– Reported Feb 04, 2018 16:11 by Matthew Tobey
– Peterborough–Harper Park, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “Calling near park entrance at 1740.”

Northern Saw-Whet Owl – Kelly Simmonds – March 26, 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red Crossbill (Loxia curvirostra) (4)
– Reported Feb 03, 2018 14:38 by Warren Dunlop
– Petroglyphs Provincial Park, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “2 individuals & one group of 2 – all flyovers calling – gip gip gip.”

Red Crossbill – male – Wikimedia

Feb 012018
 

Abundant Wild Turkeys entertain rural residents with their interesting behaviours.

It was a blockbuster trade for the ages. However, it wasn’t athletes that were shuffled around. It was wildlife. In 1984, Ontario sent River Otters to Missouri, Ruffed Grouse to New York and Moose to Michigan in exchange for 274 Wild Turkeys from all three states.

The last native Wild Turkey disappeared from Ontario more than 100 years ago. Habitat loss and unregulated hunting did them in. There were many attempts at reintroduction, including at least one in the 1960s with turkeys from Pennsylvania. It was spearheaded by ‘Turkey Jack’ Davis, a well-known outdoors writer who later moved to Peterborough. His daughter, Wendy, remembers a “garage full of turkeys” at their Port Credit home. These early attempts were never successful, unfortunately, because they used captivity-raised birds, which couldn’t adapt to life in the wild. However, thanks to the wide genetic spectrum of the turkeys acquired in 1984, this reintroduction was an astounding success.

Bearded hen & tom Wild Turkey – April 8, 2017 – Doug Gibson

Since then, Ontario’s turkey population has skyrocketed to about 100,000 birds. Most remarkably, they now range as far north as Algonquin Park and Sudbury, which is likely outside their historical range. Initially, there were fears that the climate would be too harsh, but the resilient turkeys proved the biologists wrong.

Catching the wild American birds was made possible by the development of a Howitzer-propelled net – a technology still used today. Jennifer Baici, a PhD student at Trent University who studies Wild Turkey social structure and behaviour, describes how the trapping works.” We begin by finding a flock and learning its schedule. This includes noting when the birds typically leave the roost, the path that they take throughout the day and what time they tuck in for the night. Turkeys are highly predictable in the winter, so we can make a plan about how to bait them. This involves intercepting their daily path with a ‘bait line’ of corn. We extend this line out into the middle of a field where we put down a large pile of corn. Once the flock is visiting the bait at roughly the same time each day, we set up a camouflaged net and wait for the turkeys to arrive. Although these birds are usually quite predictable, they still surprise us by occasionally sleeping in way later than expected!” To see a 10-second video of turkey trapping in action, click HERE.

A bird we notice

In researching this article, I contacted a number of people living out in Peterborough County for any turkey anecdotes they might have. As we’ll see, everyone had numerous stories. I should note, too, that turkeys often show up right in Peterborough.

Wild Turkeys are a striking bird. They have iridescent bronze-green feathers and bare skin on the head and neck, which can vary from to red to blue-grey. The bare skin probably plays a role in heat dissipation, since turkeys are essentially southern birds where hot weather is a challenge. Males – and very occasionally females – also have a bristly “beard” made of modified feathers that extend off the chest. Its purpose is poorly understood, but it may play a role in mate selection by the female.

Wild Turkeys in front of barn on Chemong Road at 3rd Line – Wasyl Bakowsky

In early spring, the toms (males) gather in clearings to perform courtship displays. They strut about gobbling with hormone-charged exuberance. Annamarie Beckel, who lives just south of Lakefield, has had a front row seat to the spectacle. “We woke up one May morning to find a tom and about six hens in our front yard. The hens were browsing in the grass, while the tom was displaying for all he was worth – the fully fanned tail, the fluffed up feathers and the dropped wing. The hens, of course, appeared to ignore him!”

The hens nest in hedgerows, along the edge of woodlots and sometimes in hayfields. The birds stay in family groups most of the summer. Sometimes two or three hens and their broods will join together. Winter flocks, however, are the largest. On average, a flock contains 25-50 birds, but sometimes there are many more. “In winter, we’ve seen large flocks of 100 or more in neighbouring fields,” says David Frank, who lives on Stewart Line near Cavan.

Wild Turkey nest (Marie Adamcryck – Bailieboro)

Turkeys are well-established north of Peterborough, too. Dennis and Lynn Johnson, who live on the north shore of Stony Lake, have been noticing them for at least 12 years. Across the lake on Dodsworth Island, Rob Welsh sees them there, too. “In winter, they parade between islands in more or less single file – a comical sight!”
At dusk, turkeys fly up into trees to roost for the night. For several years, Tim Dyson watched a flock that roosts in trees west of the junction of Preston Road and Fire Route 23 near his former home at Belmont Lake. One night he counted 118 turkeys lining the branches.

 

Diet

Turkeys eat just about everything. This includes acorns, beech nuts, hickory nuts, fruit, insects, worms, snails and even amphibians. Tom Northey of Little Britain told me of a hunter friend who was cleaning a bird and found Leopard Frogs in its crop. They will also eat crops such as wheat and corn, which does not go over well with farmers.

Turkeys can also turn up at backyard feeders. Dyson recalls a behaviour he dubbed the ‘Kenturkey Derby’. “The birds would see me go outside with a tub of bird seed. After I went back in the house, they would come running from 100 metres across the field to gorge themselves.” Dennis and Lyn Johnson’s Stony Lake birds will come right up and practically eat out of their hands.

Unfortunately, the turkey’s taste in foods can become problematic. Dennis explains. “Last year, my wife Lynn made her usual fall/winter outdoor pots of greenery. Included in the arrangement were several sumac heads. We’d never seen them eating sumac in the wild, but they sure enjoyed eating them from Lynn’s arrangement. After replenishing the sumac three or four times, Lynn decided that the turkeys could go down the road and get their own!”

Wild Turkeys at Armour Road condominiums (Betty Mitchell)

 

Predators

An abundance of nutritious turkey meat has not gone unnoticed by predators. Several people I emailed have seen coyotes stalking the birds. Raptors, too, are getting in on the action. Rick Stankiewicz of Keene writes, “On the edge of an open field at daybreak, I watched as a Great Horned Owl attacked and tried to fly off with a turkey decoy!” Tom Northey saw a Northern Harrier grab one in a hayfield, and this past fall his daughter came across a Bald Eagle eating a turkey.

Tim Dyson watched a female Northern Goshawk attack one of eight wild turkeys as they fed on scattered seed behind a house. “Once the hawk had seized the much heavier turkey by the rump, the other turkeys quickly surrounded the two and put on a rather aggressive display by spreading their tails and dragging their wings in an manner not unlike their courtship display. This intimidation seemed to work, since the hawk soon released her grip and sped off. The turkey fared well – only minus a few feathers!”

The interplay between turkeys and competitors for food is also interesting. Rick Stankiewicz has seen numerous interactions between turkeys and White-tailed Deer.” They always seem curious and tolerant of each other, but not in a friendly or playful way.” Trent’s Jennifer Baici also has an interest in these interactions. She is studying flocks of turkeys that congregate with groups of deer and hopes to learn more about the social dynamics between the two.

Turkeys and geese also interact in curious ways. Laura Summerfeldt, who lives near Keene, writes: “A few years ago in late autumn, we saw an extraordinary spectacle. A flock of Canada Geese had settled in the corn field adjacent to our house. The resident flock of a dozen or so turkeys withdrew to the hedgerow. The geese stayed on. The next afternoon we happened to be watching and observed that the turkeys “rallied” and en masse CHARGED the flock of geese in an organized manner. With wings outspread, they ran across the field in a line. Truly, it was like a cavalry charge. They drove the geese to the far end of the field and then resumed feeding!”

Wild Turkeys at Dodsworth Island – Feb. 2017- Rob Welsh

Hunting

Thanks to their abundance, there is now both a spring and fall turkey hunt. In the spring, only males can be targeted. This puts less pressure on the population, since the toms are highly polygamous and can impregnate up to 15 hens. Hunting turkeys is not easy, however. Turkeys are extremely wary and have excellent eyesight and hearing. The success rate for both seasons is only one bird for every three hunters. For hunters who are successful, the meat is delicious and close to domestic turkey in taste.

Population study

Part of Jennifer Baici’s research is to investigate the usefulness of citizen science platforms such as eBird and iNaturalist in estimating turkey population size. This winter, she is running a pilot project in Peterborough County and is requesting turkey sightings that fall between December 1, 2017 and March 31, 2018. This can be done either by adding observations to eBird or by submitting photos of any flocks seen to the Peterborough Wild Turkey Count project on iNaturalist. You will need to sign up for the project first. Be sure to include where you saw the birds and how many there were. Eventually, Jennifer hopes to expand the project and explore whether citizen science platforms can be applied to estimate Wild Turkey population size for larger areas, such as the province of Ontario – so stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jan 282018
 

Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) (1)
– Reported Feb 02, 2018 15:30 by Iain Rayner
– Ptbo – Hannah Rd, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Media: 7 Photos
– Comments: “Cracking views of Adult flying over road near Hwy 28. Watched for 5 minutes as it was kiting to the S and then slowly glided to the N not too far above trees. Golden nape visible, long tail-short head. No white at base of tail or at base of primaries. For the first few seconds I thought it was a dark RLHA as it was kiting, the golden head looked pale in the light, the dark carpal marks contrasted with paler flight feathers, and the tail looked like it had a broad terminal band…but then it turned showing size and broad eagle shaped wings(although not as barn board like as BAEA). It proceeded to put on a fantastic show for 5 minutes and came close enough for decent pictures.”

Adult Golden Eagle photographed at Petroglyph Provincial Park (Tim Dyson)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) (1)
– Reported Feb 01, 2018 09:11 by Donald A. Sutherland
– Peterborough–King St just W George St, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S42415089
– Comments: “adult, unsuccessfully chasing around a dozen pigeons low over King Street Parking Garage and 150 and 151 King St; flew W landing on communications towers atop Charlotte Towers (245 Charlotte St.).”

Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) (1)
– Reported Feb 01, 2018 08:03 by Iain Rayner
– Peterborough–Millennium Park, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S42407446
– Comments: “Sitting on antenna atop Charlotte Towers”

Peregrine eating Rock Pigeon – PRHC – Jan. 13, 2015 – Loree Stephens

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) (1)
– Reported Jan 28, 2018 16:45 by Dave Milsom
– Peterborough–Harper Park, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “seen flying out of giant white pine near auto wreckers yard.”

Great Horned Owl – Fleming Campus in Peterborough – Drew Monkman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Northern Saw-whet Owl (Aegolius acadicus) (2) CONFIRMED
– Reported Jan 28, 2018 15:39 by Kim Zippel
– Peterborough–Harper Park, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “We listened to 4-5 sessions of calls at dusk each lasting 1-3 minutes, separated by about 3-5 minutes. During one session a second owl joined in so there were definately two. A saw-whet was reported very close to this site within the past few days.”

NSWO – Warsaw – Tim Dyson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My wife, 3 kids, 3 dogs and I just moved to Buckhorn from Toronto at Christmas. We live in the bush on a slab of Canadian  Shield nestled in a gorgeous forest. My dogs discovered on January 10 of this year that we share the forest with numerous animals including (unfortunately for my curious pointers, who discovered her the hard way) this big Porcupine out of her den taking in some milder weather.   Justin Michaelov, Buckhorn

Porcupine – Buckhorn – Jan. 10, 2018 – Justin Michaelov

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today, Jan. 28, I captured a picture of these two Trumpeter Swans on my lake today. The milder weather seems to be bringing out more waterfowl.  Laurie McLaughlin-Maveal, Lake Katchewanooka

Trumpeter Swans – Jan. 28, 2018 – Lake Katchewanooka – Laurie McLaughlin-Maveal

Jan 262018
 

Date: Thu, 25 Jan 2018 16:15:21 -0500
From: Fred Helleiner <fhelleiner@trentu.ca>
To: ontbirds birdalert <birdalert@ontbirds.ca>,
“webcomm@friendsofpresquile.on.ca” <webcomm@friendsofpresquile.on.ca>
Subject: [Ontbirds] Presqu’ile Birding Report for Week Ending January
25, 2018.
Message-ID: <80e03963-2d64-95e2-e222-26808819d78c@trentu.ca>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=utf-8; format=flowed

Most of the birds seen at Presqu’ile Provincial Park in the past week
are species that one might expect in winter, but as usual a few that
have normally migrated further south have also appeared.

Whereas in previous years MUTE SWANS are in Presqu’ile Bay by the
hundreds, recently there have been only a dozen or so even when there is
plenty of open water. REDHEADS have been coming and going according to
the ice conditions, with over 100 on some days and none on other days.
Last year a few CANVASBACKS wintered at Presqu’ile but the first
significant increase in their numbers occurred on January 27 after three
days of mild weather. Perhaps a few will arrive this weekend. A few
(up to half a dozen) WHITE-WINGED SCOTERS can usually be found between
Salt Point and the lighthouse. Seven COMMON MERGANSERS were off the
government dock on Sunday. Not unexpectedly, many of the relatively
uncommon birds that have kept showing up in recent weeks have also been
sighted this week. They include WILD TURKEYS, BALD EAGLES (up to six at
once), SHARP-SHINNED HAWK, COOPER’S HAWK, SNOWY OWLS (at least three on
the offshore islands and one near Salt Point), RED-BELLIED WOODPECKERS,
PILEATED WOODPECKERS (three in one day), NORTHERN SHRIKE (at the calf
pasture), BROWN CREEPERS, and COMMON RAVENS (up to four in one day).
There was a report of a NORTHERN FLICKER, which is not a common bird in
the Park in winter. A lone HORNED LARK was again seen on Gull Island on
Friday, this time in the company of the usual flock of SNOW BUNTINGS.
Singles of the long-awaited PINE SISKINS have finally arrived. The
feeders at 83 Bayshore Road have attracted a few welcome over-wintering
birds in the past few days: SONG SPARROW, WHITE-THROATED SPARROW,
RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD.

Male Redhead – Wikimedia

White-winged Scoter on Otonabee River – Tom Northey – Feb. 2, 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To reach Presqu’ile Provincial Park, follow the signs from Brighton.
Locations within the Park are shown on a map at the back of a tabloid
that is available at the Park gate. Visitors to Gull Island not using a
boat should be aware that the ice between Owen Point and the islandmay
or may not support the weight of a human. They may also encounter
aslippery coating of ice on the rocks. Ice cleats are recommended.
Birders are encouraged to record their observations on the bird
sightingsboard provided near the campground office by The Friends of
Presqu’ilePark and to fill out a rare bird report for species not listed
there.

Questions and comments about bird sightings at Presqu’ile may be
directed to: FHELLEINER@TRENTU.CA <mailto:FHELLEINER@TRENTU.CA>.

Jan 222018
 

On my way home from a friend’s this evening at dusk (Jan. 27 – 4:45pm) while driving through pouring rain on Co. Rd. 38 between the Dummer-Asphodel Road and Webster Road south of Warsaw, an immature Snowy Owl suddenly appeared flying along beside me at about hydro line height. It then turned and crossed the road ahead of me and came to land briefly on a utility pole, before taking flight gain and heading far out to the west until it finally disappeared from my view. This was my third of the winter and first of 2018. The one photo I snapped off doesn’t show much of anything good enough for posting. Hmm… three Snowies and still no good pictures. Will keep watching and hoping! Tim Dyson, Warsaw

Immature Snowy Owl (Karl Egressy)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bird chatter when filling feeders

I was filling my bird feeders this morning (Jan. 25), and I noted that once I had started there was a good deal of bird chatter.  Would they be communicating with each other to say “she’s filling the feeder, let’s eat”?  I’ve experienced this a few times now.  The chatter stops, lasting maybe 10 seconds or so.  Once I close my door, I noted that the birds wait, and once they feel I’m gone they go at the feeders. I have the usual birds – chickadees, finches, cardinals, etc.  Sue Ramey

NOTE: Please send me an email if you’ve noticed this phenomenon yourself. D.M. (dmonkman1@cogeco.ca)

Northern Cardinal – by Ruthanne-Sobiera

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator) (3)
– Reported Jan 24, 2018 12:45 by Scott McKinlay
– 120 Fradette Avenue, Peterborough, Ontario, CA (44.287, -78.311), Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “Continuing birds along this stretch of the Otonabee. 2 males 1 female.”

Eastern Screech-Owl (Megascops asio) (1)
– Reported Jan 24, 2018 16:40 by Basil Conlin
– Peterborough–Harper Park, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “giving tremolo call frequently for ten minutes near entrance to park”

Eastern Screech-owl – red phase – 9th Line of Selwyn Twsp – March 11, 2017, Kathy McCue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) (2)
– Reported Jan 24, 2018 16:40 by Basil Conlin
– Peterborough–Harper Park, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “very vocal pair”

Great Horned Owl at dusk (Luke Berg)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Northern Saw-whet Owl (Aegolius acadicus) (2)
– Reported Jan 24, 2018 16:40 by Basil Conlin
– Peterborough–Harper Park, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “two individuals, one calling very loudly from cedars near Holy Cross, another calling loudly from cedars near trail head. Both birds could be heard hooting back and forth for 35 minutes beginning at 5pm”   LISTEN HERE

Saw-whet Owl banding – Wikimedia

Northern Saw-whet Owl – Kelly Simmonds – March 24, 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On January 21, I came across an immature Red-tailed Hawk eating a Gray Squirrel on the side of Golfview Road, beside the Kawartha Golf and Country Club and right behind the Clonsilla Ave. fire station. It sure scared the jogger who happened by! The hawk wouldn’t give up his squirrel and flew off with it into the woods. Mark Scriver

Immature Red-tailed Hawk eating Gray Squirrel – Jan. 21, 2018 – Golfview Rd. – Mark Scriver

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have two Sandhill Cranes that I’ve seen twice and heard once in the past week. I have cranes here every spring, summer and fall, but am surprised that they’d be around at this time of the year.  Leo Condon, 947 Douro 4th Line 

Sandhill Cranes – Wendy Leszkowicz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) (1)
– Reported Jan 23, 2018 07:49 by Scott Gibson
– Downtown – Robinson Place roof, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “feeding on pigeon on corner of roof”

Peregrine perched on steel girder – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator) (1)
– Reported Jan 22, 2018 08:50 by Ben Taylor
– Peterborough–Beavermead Park, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S42155983
– Comments: “Continuing bird,”

Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator) (2)
– Reported Jan 21, 2018 14:12 by Chris Risley
– Peterborough–Little Lake Cemetery, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S42151124
– Comments: “Continuing birds: male and female”

Female Red-breasted Merganser (Karl Egressy)

Red-breasted Merganser on Otonabee River -Tom Northey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Northern Pintail (Anas acuta) (1)
– Reported Jan 21, 2018 14:20 by Chris Risley
– Peterborough–Otonabee River (Lock 19), Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S42151121
– Comments: “Continuing bird. Only male seen, among mallards just below lock on west side of river”

Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) (2)
– Reported Jan 21, 2018 16:15 by René Gareau
– Peterborough–Harper Park, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “Heard an owl calling, and 20 min. later located two great horned owls approx. 50 ft up a tree in north-east portion of Harper Park (south of Holy Cross school running track) at approx. 5:00 p.m. on Jan. 21.” 

Great Horned Owl – Karl Egressy

Harper Park in the south end of Peterborough is a natural treasure – Drew Monkman

Jan 212018
 

Northern Saw-whet Owl (Aegolius acadicus) (1)
– Reported Jan 20, 2018 14:00 by Alexandra Israel
– Lang Area, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S42106339
– Media: 1 Photo
– Comments: “Alerted by mobbing chickadees. Only general location given.”

Northern Saw-whet Owl (Dave Heuft)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gray Jay (Northern) (Perisoreus canadensis [canadensis Group]) (1)
– Reported Jan 20, 2018 10:14 by Kenneth G.D. Burrell
– Kawartha Nordic Ski Club trails, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S42093450
– Comments: “Called a few times, Lill spotted it along Trillium just north of Wolf Pond(?). Pretty unexpected!”

Gray Jay -Tom Northey Algonquin Park – March 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had 16 Purple Finches on my property on January 19.  Don Munro, Campbellford

Purple Finch (male) – Karl Egressy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

White-winged Crossbill (Loxia leucoptera) (4)
– Reported Jan 18, 2018 11:00 by Scott McKinlay
– Kawartha Nordic Ski Club trails, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S42053565
– Comments: “On the Adam Scott trail. They were singing the varied pitch song from spruce trees next to the trail before flying off.”

White-winged Crossbill (female) – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red Crossbill (Loxia curvirostra) (2)
– Reported Jan 18, 2018 11:00 by Scott McKinlay
– Kawartha Nordic Ski Club trails, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “Good views of a male and female that were responding to pishing by calling continuously and flying back and forth between three white pine trees that surrounded me. There was no white at all for either bird on the solid dark wings. The gip gip gip calls were in groups of 2 to 6. These were located about 1/3 of the way along the PT trail, travelling east to west.”

Red Crossbill – male – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

Northern Pintail (Anas acuta) (2)
– Reported Jan 19, 2018 12:30 by Tim Haan
– 158 George Street North, Peterborough, Ontario, CA (44.299, -78.318), Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “Both male and female near the train bridge”

Pair of Northern Pintail – Karl Egressy

 

 

 

 

 

Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator) (3)
– Reported Jan 16, 2018 08:07 by Daniel Williams
– Peterborough–Beavermead Park, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S41958892
– Comments: “Males. Flyover. ”

Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus) (1)
– Reported Jan 16, 2018 09:44 by Scott Gibson
– 288 Scriven Road, Bailieboro, Ontario, CA (44.146, -78.313), Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S41959644
– Media: 2 Photos
– Comments: “top of hill in tree beside rd. pics.”

I had a couple of firsts today: first time skiing and first Snowy Owl of the winter. I saw an eBird posting at 11:15 this morning (January 16) and immediately twitched out to see the bird at 11:30 on Scriven Line. I also, watched about 100 Snow buntings for 20 minutes but couldn’t find one Lapland Longspur. Michael Gillespie

Snow Bunting (from Crossley ID Guide)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Black-backed Woodpecker (Picoides arcticus) (1)
– Reported Jan 15, 2018 09:05 by Chris Risley
– Petroglyphs Provincial Park, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “Black head and back with barred sides, hammering on and peeling bark from a red pine. Spotted about 300 meters beyond the park gate.”

Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator) (3)
– Reported Jan 15, 2018 15:17 by Toby Rowland
– Peterborough–Otonabee River (Lock 19), Peterborough, Ontario
– Map: http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&t=p&z=13&q=44.2879468,-78.3082509&ll=44.2879468,-78.3082509
– Checklist: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S41943549
– Comments: “Continuing three slightly worn males just below the lock”

Red-breasted Merganser (male) – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus) (1)
– Reported Jan 14, 2018 16:00 by Colin Jones
– Peterborough–Little Lake, Peterborough, Ontario
– Map: http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&t=p&z=13&q=44.2965341,-78.3105472&ll=44.2965341,-78.3105472
– Checklist: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S41908174
– Comments: “Sitting on the water fountain structure in the middle of the lake. Found earlier in the day by Warren Dunlop.”

Ruffed Grouse: I read your recent column on the winter bird counts. What you say about grouse is accurate. I saw one grouse today, whereas normally I would scare up six. The most I have ever seen in one group decades ago was 18 on a rainy day because they don’t like to fly when they are wet. Mel Fee, Cavan

Ruffed Grouse – Parry Sound – via Rob Moos

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ruffed Grouse: I wanted to comment on the grouse mystery. Growing up on a farm in the 50 & 60s we did hunt locally and there were always an abundance of grouse, hares, jacks and cottontails. Habitat has been reduced in some areas but not in others so what has changed? Coyotes have arrived in great numbers all across southern Ontario. We continually have tracks in our yard. Along with a very healthy Red Fox population I believe that anything nesting on the ground doesn’t have much of a chance. Would be interested to know if other ground nesting birds such as the Killdeer have seen declines. Always enjoy your columns and just to let you know I stopped hunting 50 years ago.  Al Mace, Westview Dr. Omemee

Jan 192018
 

Date: Thu, 18 Jan 2018 21:10:57 -0500
From: Ron Tozer <rtozer@vianet.ca>
To: ontbirds <birdalert@ontbirds.ca>
Subject: [Ontbirds] Algonquin Park Birding Report: 18 January 2018
Message-ID: <9EB826CE-F822-457A-BD69-C0D6961B2718@vianet.ca>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=”UTF-8″

As an ?old guy? myself, I was pleased when the male Spruce Grouse that was colour-banded in 2009 and is now at least 10 years old was photographed at Spruce Bog Boardwalk on January 14. According to Birds of North America, the estimated annual survival rate of male Spruce Grouse (canadensis subspecies) is just 38 to 44%. The oldest recorded age for a Spruce Grouse is 13 years. Readers may also recall that a Northern Goshawk successfully preyed on at least one Spruce Grouse at Spruce Bog Boardwalk in January last year, so living there for 10 years or more is quite an accomplishment.

January 19 will be this winter’s first Bird Feeder Friday when feeders at the Algonquin Park Visitor Centre are broadcast live on the internet from 9 am to 4 pm. Multiple views allow you to watch for common bird and mammal species. This live video feed is brought to you by The Friends of Algonquin Park. A special thanks to Wild Birds Unlimited Toronto for providing bird feeders and seed for the Visitor Centre. To see the broadcast, click HERE.

 

Here are some locations where birders observed the listed species during the past week:

-Spruce Grouse: three or four were in large conifers near the start of the first short boardwalk at Spruce Bog Boardwalk.

-Ruffed Grouse: continue to be seen along the Visitor Centre driveway and under the feeders below the viewing deck.

-Wild Turkey: up to nine are still coming daily to the Visitor Centre parking lot feeder, and two continue in Mew Lake Campground.

-Black-backed Woodpecker: a female was reported along Opeongo Road on January 15.

-Gray Jay: Opeongo Road, Spruce Bog Boardwalk and the Logging Museum are the best places to see them.

-Boreal Chickadee: the only report was of one heard briefly on Spruce Bog Boardwalk, January 14. They have not been utilizing the suet feeder there this winter.

-American Marten: two continued to come to the Visitor Centre feeders fairly regularly.

Winter finches remain widespread, with most species being seen regularly but in moderate numbers.

-Pine Grosbeak: the only report this week involved two on Opeongo Road, January 14.

-Purple Finch: regular but not numerous, although 29 were counted at the Visitor Centre on January 16.

-Red Crossbill: about six have been regular off the Visitor Centre viewing deck early each morning, with some larger flocks often seen on the highway.

-White-winged Crossbill: typical observations were of five or fewer birds, but they are seen regularly. Listen for their distinctive calls.

-Common Redpoll: no reports received this week.

-Pine Siskin: up to 15 at the Visitor Centre feeders, and some larger flocks seeking grit and salt on the highway.

-American Goldfinch: flocks frequently noted on the highway, and up to about 20 were regular at the Visitor Centre feeders.

-Evening Grosbeak: up to 35 continue to come to the Visitor Centre feeders daily.

Ron Tozer, Algonquin Park Naturalist (retired), Dwight, ON.

DIRECTIONS: Algonquin Provincial Park is three hours north of Toronto, via Highways 400, 11 and 60. Follow the signs which start in Toronto on Highway 400. From Ottawa, take Highway 17 to Renfrew, then follow Highway 60 to the park. Kilometre markers along Highway 60 in the Park go from the West Gate (km 0) to near the East Gate (km 56). The Visitor Centre exhibits and restaurant at km 43 are open on weekends from 9 am to 5 pm, and are also open with limited services through the week from 9 am to 4 pm. Get your park permit and Information Guide (with a map of birding locations mentioned above) at the East Gate, West Gate or Visitor Centre. Locations are also described at: www.algonquinpark.on.ca

Jan 192018
 

We have been getting a pair of Red-bellied Woodpeckers for the last 2 years. We also had a sighting of a Red-headed Woodpecker this past September (2017). I feed all year so we get a lot of different birds here. I also sighted a pair of Sandhill Cranes in September. We are just north of Millbrook on Fallis Line. Ab Parsons

Red-headed Woodpecker – May 28, 2017 – Buckhorn Lake -Nima Taghaboni

Virginia Opossum in Ennismore – 2011

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Virginia Opossums: We have 3 opossums living in our garage/hut –  a father, mother and baby. The male is a big white one; the female is grey and the baby is grey. The baby is about half the size of the mother. We live near Rice Lake on Wood Duck Drive on the north shore of Rice Lake. They are wandering around probably in the wooded area behind us which is owned by Southview Cottages. Sandy Kirkland

Virginia Opossum – Rice Lake – Jan. 2018 – Sandy Kirkwood

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Black-backed Woodpecker (Picoides arcticus) (1)
– Reported Jan 10, 2018 10:30 by Ryan Hill
– Petroglyphs Provincial Park, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “just off main road, a bit north of the gate”

Black-backed Woodpecker – Wikimedia

 

 

Red_Crossbill – male – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red Crossbill (Loxia curvirostra) (3)
– Reported Jan 10, 2018 10:30 by Ryan Hill
– Petroglyphs Provincial Park, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:

White-winged Scoter (Melanitta fusca) (1)
– Reported Jan 10, 2018 14:48 by Toby Rowland
– Lakefield- Lakefield Marshland, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S41807307
– Comments: “Continuing female WWSC from the report yesterday. Amongst mixed male and female COGO – will add photos ”

White-winged Scoter on Otonabee River – Tom Northey – Feb. 2, 2014

Male Red-breasted Merganser (Karl Egressy)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator) (1)
– Reported Jan 09, 2018 15:33 by Chris Risley
– Peterborough–Little Lake Cemetery, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S41804772
– Comments: “long bill, green head, shaggy back of head, brown breast band; swimming in open water opposite Beavermead Park”

Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus) (1)
– Reported Jan 10, 2018 15:30 by Ben Taylor
– feeder on County Rod 6, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “continuing bird at house at 3372 County Road Six. Actively feeding at feeder”

Sparrow-like female Rose-breasted Grosbeak – Cindy Bartoli

Male White-winged Crossbill – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

White-winged Crossbill (Loxia leucoptera) (4)
– Reported Jan 10, 2018 09:30 by Chris Risley
– Kawartha Nordic Ski Area, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “Heard and then saw flying over trees. Distinctive chips checked with recording online. Familiar with these chips”

On January 9, we had 15 American Robins at our house in Campbellford.  Donald Munro

American Robins feeding on Wild Grape – Beavermead Park – Feb. 7, 2016 – Helen & Larry Keller –

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While having morning coffee, this Cooper’s Hawk swept down to the deck and caught a Mourning Dove having a drink at the heated bird bath. Took over an hour for her to finish her meal and leave.  Sue Paradisis 

Cooper’s Hawk eating Mourning Dove – January 2018 – Sue Paradisis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red-winged Blackbird, male, spotted in the morning on January 12th, at my feeder on George Street in Lakefield. Don’t usually see these until March! John Dandrea

Red-winged Blackbirds – Dec. 23, 2017 – Fife Line _ Michael Gillespie

Female Red-bellied Woodpecker – Campbellford – January 2017 – Donald Munro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red-bellied Woodpecker: (Observed Jan. 7, 2018) We live at the corner of Centre Road and County Rd 32, aka River Road. This is the first Red-bellied for us. Luba Klama

Jan 182018
 

Exploring the characteristics of twigs and buds is a great winter pastime     

After the dramatic reds, oranges and yellows of fall leaves, it’s easy to think that the seemingly barren trees of winter offer little of interest. Fortunately, for those of us who enjoy winter botanizing, the trees are anything but barren. A closer look reveals that they are adorned with buds, tiny jewels that harbour the promise of spring. Better still, they provide a surefire way to identify the tree. All that’s needed are observant eyes – a curious nose can help, too – and some knowledge of what species grow in our area.

Although we tend not to notice them until autumn when the leaves have fallen, the buds of most species have been present since summer. Stored within three kinds of buds, the tree’s entire future lies in waiting. Leaf buds contain embryonic stems and leaves – miniaturized, folded and pressed together like the tiniest and tightest of parachutes. They are biding their time, waiting for their turn to capture sunlight and manufacture food. Flower buds, as their name suggests, contain one or more flowers. We often forget that trees are flowering plants in the same way as roses and tulips. As such, they produce flowers whose goal it is to produce seeds and assure a new generation. Flower buds are generally larger than leaf buds, sometimes differently shaped (e.g., red and silver maples) and often located at the tip of the twig (terminal bud). Finally, trees also have mixed buds, which house all three structures – undeveloped stems, leaves and flowers. It’s usually necessary to dissect a given bud to know exactly what is hidden inside.

Bud biology

Although trees can usually be identified by their overall shape and by characteristics of the bark, buds provide a much more reliable means of identification. The starting point for understanding buds is to be able to recognize the twig, the part of the branch where the buds are located. The twig is the section at the end of each branch that constitutes the previous year’s growth. A twig’s point of origin is marked by a distinctive, ring-like node around the branch and a change in the colour and smoothness of the bark. The node is where the scales of the previous year’s terminal bud fell off and left several lines encircling the twig. For this reason, it is called a bud scale scar. To see how much the twig grew last year, measure the distance from the tip of the twig to the first bud scale scar. You can usually find the bud scale scars from two and three years ago, as well.

Bud arrangement is critical information in species identification. Because buds form in the angle between the stem and the stalk of the leaf, both leaves and buds have the same arrangement on the twig. In opposite arrangement, the buds on the sides of the twig (lateral buds) are located directly across from each other. In alternate arrangement, they are staggered singly at intervals along the twig. Only a few genera of trees and shrubs have opposite buds and leaves. This makes their identification easy. They include honeysuckle, ash, maple, lilac, viburnum, elderberry and dogwood. Just about all of the other tree and shrub species are alternate. The following mnemonic (memory aid) that I devised – which unintentionally sounds like a rallying call for animals rights – may be helpful in remembering these seven groups: HAM LIVED! Each genera or group corresponds to one letter in the mnemonic; lilac corresponds to LI. Start by learning the opposite buds, especially maple, ash and dogwood, and then move on to some of the common and distinctive alternate species like poplar, elm and willow.

Opposite buds (H=honeysuckle, A=ash, M=maple, LI=lilac, V=viburnum, E=elderberry, D=Dogwood) Alternate Basswood buds on far right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you take a closer look at a bud, you will notice that it is covered with scales. These structures, which are usually leathery and sometimes hairy, serve to protect the embryonic leaves and flowers from the elements. The number, shape and arrangement of the bud scales are different for each species of tree. Beneath the scales, you will sometimes find tiny hairs, which provide additional protection to the bud’s precious cargo. Pussy willow buds are a well-known example of this feature.

Leaf scar and bundle scars of horse-chestnut – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Below each bud, you will also see a leaf scar. It marks the location where last summer’s leaf was attached. The scar therefore corresponds in shape to the base of the leaf stem. Each tree species has its own characteristic leaf scar, almost like the tree’s fingerprint. In red maples, the scar is U-shaped, while in white ash there is usually a deep notch in the scar. You may need a small hand lens to see this. If you look carefully at a leaf scar, you will see tiny markings known as bundle scars where veins passed from the stem of the leaf into the twig. These veins carried water into the leaf and food – made through photosynthesis – back out into the twig and to the rest of the tree. In some species – black walnut, for example – the leaf scar looks like a little face.

Flower bud opening on Norway Maple – Drew Monkman

Leaf buds of Manitoba Maple opening up – Drew Monkman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A primer

Let’s look at the buds and twigs of some familiar, easy-to-find species. You might want to go outside and gather these or use Google Images as a visual reference.

1. Sugar maple: Shiny, reddish-brown twigs with opposite buds. Buds are brown and conical, almost looking like upside down ice-cream cones, minus the ice cream. Covered by 6-8 pairs of scales, which are arranged in staggered rows. Large terminal bud. V-shaped leaf scar, containing 3 bundle scars.

2. Red oak: Reddish brown twigs with alternate buds. Buds are reddish-brown with 10 or more bud scales. Terminal buds form a cluster. Leaf scar is a semi-circle with numerous, scattered bundle scars.

3. American basswood: Light-brown, smooth twigs of zigzag shape. Buds are reddish, plump and opposite. 2-3 bud scales of unequal size. Leaf scar is semi-circular with 3 bundle scars.

4. Balsam poplar: My favourite winter buds! Narrow, long, pointed alternate buds with 4 leaf scales. Terminal bud larger, up to 25 mm, with 5 scales. Leaf scar roughly circular with 3 bundle scars. All buds are resinous and exude the smell of spring when rolled between your fingers.

Numerous guides for winter tree identification can be found online. Just Google “winter tree identification Ontario”. I especially like “Appendix C Winter Tree ID”, which should come up first in the search results.

Activities

1. What’s inside? Try opening some buds to see what’s hidden below the scales. Lilac and horse-chestnut buds work especially well. Using tweezers or just your fingers, try peeling back the scales and unfolding the contents. Count the tiny leaves inside. A hand lens will come in handy. Can you already see what shape the leaves are? Children are often amazed to see so many miniscule leaves are hidden inside such a small object. Large lilac and horse-chestnut buds may have tiny, pre-formed flowers inside. For small children, try cutting open some Brussels’ sprouts, which are actually large, immature leaf buds containing tightly overlapping leaves.

2. A twig collection: Collect the twigs of the most common trees and shrubs of your area. Attach these to a piece of cardboard with a glue gun, grouping them by opposite and alternate. Make sure you include twigs with both side and terminal buds. Cutting the twigs at an angle will expose the pith (the inside of the twig), which can also help in identification. Label each species.

3. Sneak preview: If you just can’t wait for spring to arrive, try forcing twigs for indoor blooming and leafing out. I’ve had especially good luck with dogwood, forsythia, crabapple, silver maple and birch twigs, but any species is worth trying. Head outside and cut off foot-long twigs with big, healthy buds. Make an angled cut at the base. Strip away buds and twigs that will be under water. Smash the woody bases with a hammer to enhance water absorption. Place in a water-filled vase in a cool, dark spot. Once the buds start to open – usually 7-12 days – move to a window, but out of direct sunlight. The cooler the spot, the longer the leaves and blooms will last. You might want to photograph or sketch the leaves, stems and flowers as they emerge. Try to identify which buds produced leaves and which produced flowers – or both!

Spring’s promise

Knowing these finer details of our trees and shrubs opens up a whole new world of winter beauty and adds immeasurably to any outing. Keep in mind that by March, sap will flow upwards from the tree’s roots, directing water and minerals to the buds and causing them to swell. With the warm days of late April and May, a new generation of leaves, shoots and flowers will emerge. The new growth will provide food for legions of insects, which in turn will become fuel for the rest of the food chain. The song of a Baltimore oriole on a May morning is directly linked to the buds of the winter forest.

Baltimore Oriole by Karl Egressy

 

 

 

 

Jan 112018
 

The annual Christmas Bird Count reveals the ups and downs of bird populations – and always some surprises.

Between mid-December and early January, birders in more than 2,500 localities across North, Central and South America take a break from the holiday festivities to spend a day outside, identifying and counting birds. Dating all the way back to 1900, the Christmas Bird Count is probably the longest-running Citizen Science project in the world. The information collected by thousands of volunteer participants forms one of the world’s largest sets of wildlife survey data.

One of the most interesting trends the numbers show is the decades-long northward march of the Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Carolina Wren, Northern Mockingbird, Tufted Titmouse and Northern Cardinal. Mourning Doves, for example, were extremely rare in the northern states and Canada until the 1960s, and it was only in the 1970s that their numbers really increased. All of these species used to be restricted to the southern U.S. Their range extension northward is most likely the result of a combination of milder winters and more people feeding birds.

The counts are organized at the local level, often by a birding club or naturalist organization. The count area is a circle, measuring 24 kilometres in diameter. The circle is then sub-divided into sectors, each of which is covered by a different group of birders. The basic idea is to identify and count – as accurately as possible – every bird seen or heard.

Once again this year, two local counts were held – one centred in Peterborough and the other in Petroglyphs Provincial Park. The Petroglyphs Count circle can be viewed at bit.ly/2EfuPt8. Martin Parker of the Peterborough Field Naturalists organized the Peterborough count, while Colin Jones was in charge of the Petroglyphs count.

Ruffed Grouse – Jeff Keller

Peterborough Count

The 66th Peterborough Christmas Bird Count was held December 17 under cold but sunny conditions. Seventy-one members and friends of the Peterborough Field Naturalists spent all or part of the day in the field, while 10 others kept track of birds visiting their feeders.

By the end of the day, participants had found 13,166 individual birds of 60 species. A pair of Fox Sparrows and a Sandhill Crane were new to the count. Both of these migratory species should have left the Kawarthas well before mid-December. At the compilation dinner after the count, Scott McKinlay described his group found and identified the crane. “I saw this bird through my scope from a considerable distance – maybe a kilometre – as it flew low over an open field in full sunlight. It had broad wings and the slow, arching wing beats typical of large herons and cranes. It was clearly brown in colour. I was reluctant to call it as a Sandhill because of the distance and time of year, but nothing else fit. A short time later, I reunited with the rest of the group, who had been surveying the area in the direction of my sighting. Before I uttered a word, they yelled out, “I think we saw a Sandhill Crane!” They described it as being the size of a Great Blue Heron with an outstretched neck, long trailing legs and flying low over a field in my direction. All three were adamant, however, that it was not a heron.”

Sandhill Crane (Wikimedia)

Record high numbers were tallied on the count for Cooper’s Hawk (12), Bald Eagle (13), Red-bellied Woodpecker (16), Pileated Woodpecker (28), Dark-eyed Junco (731) and Northern Cardinal (144). Previous highs were tied for Merlin (3) and Peregrine Falcon (1). The 466 Blue Jays tallied was three short of the previous high of 469.

There were also some notable low numbers. As has been the pattern in recent years, Great Horned Owls (2 vs. 40 in 1992), Ruffed Grouse (17 vs. 82 in 1979) and House Sparrows (181 vs. 2209 in 1981) were conspicuous by their relative absence. It is well known fact that Ruffed Grouse numbers fluctuate a great deal from year to year and even decade to decade. However, the factors responsible for these periodic fluctuations remain poorly understood. Road mortality and changes in habitat, especially south of the Canadian Shield, probably play a role, as well. These include forest fragmentation and fewer early-successional, aspen-dominated forest blocks. Ruffed Grouse are only capable of relatively short flights.

The decline of Great Horned Owls is another mystery. The Canadian population has dropped by over 70% since the 1960s. Collisions with vehicles and high mortality of fledged young due to starvation are acknowledged as playing an important roles. Declines in principal prey species, such as cottontails, hares and rodents (e.g., a big drop in muskrat numbers) may be a contributing factor.

Great Horned Owl – Drew Monkman

The downturn in House Sparrow populations, however, may be the biggest enigma. This is evident across the bird’s range, which includes every continent except Antarctica. The cause or causes are not yet known. In rural areas, it may be that changes in agricultural practices have resulted in fewer nesting sites and less food availability. In northeastern North America, it also been postulated that competition with a relatively new arrival, the House Finch, is a playing a role. However, House Finches have also been declining for a number of years. Only 181 were found this year, which is about one tenth of the record high of 1197.

Finally, not a single American Kestrel was found on the count. It is estimated that the continent-wide population of this small falcon has declined by about 50% since 1966. Part of the reason may be the felling of standing dead trees on which they depend for nesting sites. Removing hedgerows and brush as part of “clean” farming practices are almost certainly having an effect, too. According to Don Sutherland of the Natural Heritage Information Centre in Peterborough, American Kestrels are still common in parts of northern Ontario, particularly in the Big and Little Clay Belts where agriculture is less intense and there is an abundance of hayfields and pasture.

 

American Kestrel – Nima Taghaboni

The total tally sheet for the Peterborough count is as follows:   Canada Goose 400,  American Black Duck 8, Mallard 964,  Bufflehead 2, Common Goldeneye 100, Hooded Merganser 1, Common Merganser 7, Ruffed Grouse 17, Wild Turkey 223, Sharp-shinned Hawk  2, Cooper’s Hawk 12, Bald Eagle 13, Red-tailed Hawk 49, Sandhill Crane 1, Ring-billed Gull 9, Herring Gull 121, Glaucous Gull 1, Iceland Gull 1, Great Black-backed Gull 1, Rock Pigeon 1680, Mourning Dove 1088, Eastern Screech-Owl 2, Great Horned Owl 2, Snowy Owl 1, Belted Kingfisher 1, Red-bellied Woodpecker 16, Downy Woodpecker 90, Hairy Woodpecker 62, Northern Flicker 1, Pileated Woodpecker 28, Merlin 3, Peregrine 1, Northern Shrike 8, Blue Jay 466, American Crow 612, Common Raven 9, Black-capped Chickadee 2065, Red-breasted Nuthatch 27, White-breasted Nuthatch 88, Brown Creeper 7, Golden-crowned Kinglet 28, American Robin 181,  European Starling 2227, Cedar Waxwing 115, Snow Bunting 143, American Tree Sparrow 439, Dark-eyed Junco 731, Fox Sparrow 2, Song Sparrow 1, White-throated Sparrow 5,  Northern Cardinal 144, Red-winged Blackbird 2, Brown-headed Cowbird 1,  House Finch 181, Purple Finch 2, White-winged Crossbill 1, Pine Siskin 99, American Goldfinch 424 and House Sparrow 181.  A Northern Harrier, Ring-necked Pheasant and Carolina Wren were also seen during the count period but not on the day of the count.

Petroglyph Count

            The 32nd Petroglyph Christmas Bird Count took place on December 27, in frigid weather conditions. The 24 participants braved temperatures of close to -30 C in the early morning and only -18 by mid-afternoon. Despite the weather, 32 species and 1826 individual birds were tallied, which is close to the 10-year average of 33.5 species and 2,248 individuals. There was virtually no open water, however, and therefore no waterbirds.

Although no new species were recorded or records broken, there were some notable results. An above-average 7 Bald Eagles, 146 Red-breasted Nuthatches, 122 American Tree Sparrows and 134 Dark-eyed Juncos were counted. A Gray Jay was also located in a bog along the Sandy Lake Road south of Lasswade. Up until 2009, this species was recorded annually but since then only observed in 2014 and during the week of the count in 2016. Two other birds of note were an immature Golden Eagle seen soaring over the Kawartha Nordic Ski Trails near Haultain and a Black-backed Woodpecker in Petroglyphs Provincial Park.

Black-backed Woodpecker – Wikimedia

As for winter finches, 41 Red Crossbills and 8 White-winged Crossbills turned up, some of which were singing! These birds will nest in any month of the year if sufficient food is available. This year, nearly all of our conifers produced a bumper seed crop. Crossbills feed almost exclusively on conifer seeds. Two Purple Finch, 114 Pine Siskin, 103 American Goldfinch and 2 Evening Grosbeak rounded out the finch count.

The total  tally sheet for the Petroglyph count is as follows: Ruffed Grouse 7, Wild Turkey 40,  Bald Eagle 7, Red-tailed Hawk 2, Golden Eagle 1, Rock Pigeon 10, Mourning Dove 9, Barred Owl 1, Downy Woodpecker 25, Hairy Woodpecker 39, Black-backed Woodpecker 1, Pileated Woodpecker 11, Gray Jay 1, Blue Jay 206, American Crow 4, Common Raven 42, Black-capped Chickadee 641, Red-breasted Nuthatch 146, White-breasted Nuthatch 40, Brown Creeper 17, Golden-crowned Kinglet 32, American Robin 2, European Starling 10, Cedar Waxwing 6, American Tree Sparrow 122, Dark-eyed Junco 134, Purple Finch 2, Red Crossbill 41, White-winged Crossbill 8, Pine Siskin 114, American Goldfinch 103, and Evening Grosbeak 2.

 

 

Backyard Count

If you are inspired by the Christmas Bird Count and want to contribute to Citizen Science yourself – and maybe introduce your children or grandchildren to birding – consider taking part in the Great Backyard Bird Count. It takes place February 16-19 and anyone can participate. Simply tally the numbers and kinds of birds you see for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count. You can do so from any location. Go to gbbc.birdcount.org for details. To see the results of last year’s count, visit gbbc.birdcount.org/2017-gbbc-summary/

 

 

 

Jan 092018
 

N.B. “Home” and “the yard” is between Warsaw and Lakefield.

On December 12th, a Golden-crowned Kinglet flitted about with a few juncos and chickadees in the apple trees in the yard.

Three White-winged Crossbills and a Brown Creeper were the avian highlights in the yard on December 20th.

After having read reports during recent years about Red-bellied Woodpeckers moving into the area, I recalled that the last ones I likely had seen were way back in 1984 at Rondeau PP on Lake Erie. What a gorgeous bird, and I really wanted to see one. On the morning of December 21st, I had just e-mailed Drew Monkman, thanking him for telling me of a few reliable Red-bellied Woodpeckers in the county, and for providing me with contacts, should I decide to follow up on any of them. Being four days before Christmas, however, I mentioned to Drew that perhaps I would wait until after the holidays, not wanting to interrupt anyone’s other plans at this, the most hectic time of year. I suggested to him that “I might just hold off, and see if one comes here to my feeder and pays me a visit instead”.

Well, (I later checked the time of my e-mail), less than an hour later, there was a lovely male Red-bellied Woodpecker enjoying the suet just outside my window! How does it get any better than that? Talk about a dose of old time Christmas magic!! The bird was there for a total of four minutes, and then off he went with a glob of suet in his bill. Of course, I waited, but I never saw him again that day. On the morning of the 24th he returned. Again, he was very brief, and left the yard carrying a pinch of suet and headed off in the same direction he had gone three days before. I had not seen him since… until today (January 8th) while writing up this little report. He came just before 2:30pm, and over a period of about fifteen minutes, went back and forth between the suet and an elm tree a short distance away. Finally, I was able to take some photos of his back! Too bad for the heavy overcast, (but I’ll try not to complain!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also on the 21st of December, a Northern Shrike flew through low between the feeder and the house. Nothing significant really, as I normally enjoy many sightings of the species each year, but I think this was the first I had seen this season. Typically, I notice the first one or two by mid-October.

Same day, at dusk, a large immature Northern Goshawk perched atop one of the many spruces east of the yard. She sat long enough for a few lousy photos to be taken and she then headed north into the Red Pines. A few hours later, one of the property Barred Owls called from the hardwoods. Just single “Boo, boo, boo” calls, for nearly a minute. December 21st 2017… not a bad day of “yard birding” at all!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shortly after seeing the Red-bellied Woodpecker on the 24th, we headed into Peterborough just before noon. While waiting for a red light on Charlotte St. at Aylmer, I looked up at the top of the large building on the s-w corner. I began counting all of the antennas on the roof, and noticed one at the east end had a preening adult Peregrine perched on top. We made three left turns so we could come back around and have a look at the back of the bird. I had been in town many times over the past few months, and now, had finally seen Peterborough’s infamous falcon.

On Christmas morning, I watched the feeder from bed. New there that morning was an American Tree Sparrow, (finally), a House Sparrow, (quite a rarity here now), and a leucistic Dark-eyed Junco with uneven whitish areas of feathers on its face, throat, and sides of its head. The sparrows have only returned once or twice, but the junco is here now almost daily.

On December 27th I heard a Lapland Longspur uttering its calls as it flew overhead. I pished at it and it came to land briefly and poke around in the snow near the bases of some dead goldenrod stalks by the cedar rail fence for a very short while.

 

 

 

Period eagle sightings:

– December 13th a 1st winter Bald at about 1:30pm and an adult Bald at 1:55pm flying by over the house.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

– December 16th a 1st winter Bald in flight over the house.

– December 25th (reported by Ed Heuvel over his house n-w of Norwood) one adult Bald Eagle.

– January 6th (after a dry spell of three weeks for me) finally an adult Bald Eagle soared over my house near Warsaw.

N.B. If any birders are out and about in Lakefield, please check the river north of the bridge for a female Barrow’s Goldeneye. I watched a few goldeneye there on January 4th, and one looked suspiciously like a Barrow’s. They were actively feeding, however, and I was getting only two-second looks at best in between dives. Then my ride came and I had to go. I’ve not been back since. It might be worth a search, and I’d love verification as I was not completely sure of what I saw.

Jan 042018
 

2017 saw dire environmental stories grab centre stage but all was not doom and gloom

As we shiver into 2018, I would like to take a moment to look back at 2017 and revisit some of the top environmental and climate change stories. The past 12 months represent a stark cautionary tale that our climate is changing faster and with more catastrophic intensity than ever before. Scientists also reminded us this year that it is 100 percent human-caused. In fact, if it weren’t for Homo sapiens, the planet would be cooling.

To anyone paying attention, these changes are also apparent here in the Kawarthas where extremes in temperature and other weather events have become the norm. We might not know what the weather is going to bring, but we can be increasingly sure that it will be an extreme of some sort – and that it will last for much longer than ever before.

A year of extremes

1. Stronger storms: This was a savage year for hurricanes in the U.S. Three ferocious storms (Harvey, Irma and Maria) pummeled Florida, the Gulf Coast and Puerto Rico, causing deaths and billions of dollars of destruction. A growing scientific consensus is that climate change is increasing the rainfall, wind speeds and storm surges associated with hurricanes. Many experts believe that the intensity and frequency of these events will only increase.

2. Flooding:  Ottawa and Montreal had their wettest spring on record with over 400 mm of rain falling. According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, more than 5,000 residences were flooded. This resulted in 15,750 claims and $223 million in property damages. In April and May, Peterborough was drenched with 299 mm of rain, which was almost exactly double the 1981-2000 normal of 150 mm. In mid-May, water levels in Lake Ontario were their highest in 157 years.

On August 28, Windsor received 222 mm of rain in less than 48 hours. Insurance payouts totaled $154 million, which was the most expensive single-storm loss across Canada in 2017. This occurred less than a year after a record $153 million flood hit Windsor and Essex County in 2016.

Peterborough Flood 2004 – Janine Jones photo

3. Wildfires: British Columbia saw its longest and most destructive wildfire season ever. The BC Wildfire Service reported 1,265 fires that charred 1.2 million hectares of timber, bush and grassland. This represents an area twice the size of Prince Edward Island. It shattered the previous record for burned land by 30%. Fighting these fires cost the province more than half a billion dollars, while insured property losses approached $130 million. In California, too, the wildfire season was the most destructive in recorded history. This included the 20 most destructive fires ever seen in semi-urban areas. With climate change fueling more and bigger blazes, the Western wildfire season in the U.S. is now 105 days longer than it was 45 years ago.

4. Record heat: Planet-wide, 2017 will likely go down as the second-warmest year on record. What is most astounding is that this occurred in the absence of an El Niño, which drives up global temperatures. The hottest year ever was 2016, which broke the record set in 2015. The ten hottest years have all occurred since 1998. In eastern Canada, we saw “summer in September”. From September 22 to 27, over a thousand heat records fell. The mean monthly temperature in Peterborough was 2.6 C warmer than the 1971-2000 normal, while October temperatures soared an amazing 3.2 C above normal. To put this into context, the goal of the Paris Agreement is to limit planet-wide warming to well below 2 C.

5. Record cold: This December and January have been unbelievably frigid – once again thanks to the polar vortex. The mean December temperature in Peterborough came in at 3.2 C below normal – in other words, as much colder as October was warmer. It’s not just the severity of the cold, however; it’s also the duration. Outbreaks of cold weather almost never last this long. Bone-chilling Arctic air is projected to be with us through at least January 10.

So, doesn’t the cold mean that global warming is nothing to be concerned about – maybe even desirable? It’s important to remember that this is a short-term weather event and not a long-term climate trend. In fact, warmer-than-average air is dominating the rest of the planet right now.

The polar vortex is influenced by the temperature difference between the Arctic and more temperate regions to the south. In recent years, the Arctic has been warming at twice the global rate as sea ice melts. Many scientists now believe that the narrowing of the temperature difference between the Arctic and more southerly regions has caused the jet stream to weaken and become more wave-like. This weakening appears to have allowed Arctic air masses to spill southward and remain in place longer. In the past, a robust jet stream usually impeded Arctic air masses from spilling southward for more than a few days.

6. Donald Trump: From his announcement to exit from the Paris climate accord to appointing climate change deniers like Scott Pruitt to key environmental posts, the U.S. president did his best in 2017 to undo any environmental progress President Obama had made. Protected land was an easy target as he sought to weaken bans on industrial activity. He appears committed to gutting Obama’s Climate Action Plan.

Dire warning

In November, more 15,000 scientists from 184 countries issued a warning that the ongoing destruction of the Earth’s ecosystems is putting the very future of humankind at severe risk and leading to catastrophic biodiversity loss. It stated that humankind must take immediate action to reverse the effects of climate change, deforestation, unsustainable agriculture (especially ruminants for meat consumption) and species extinction. The alert came on the 25th anniversary of a similar warning in 1992. This time, however, 10 times as many scientists were signatories. The warning states that we have unleashed a mass extinction event – the sixth in the past 540 million years. The scientists provided a number of broad solutions: They include moving away as quickly as possible from fossil fuels; using energy, water, food and other materials much more efficiently; promoting a diet of mostly plant-based foods; reducing and eventually eliminating poverty; ensuring sexual equality and guaranteeing women control over their own reproductive decisions. Not surprisingly, the warning generated very little reaction.

Barn Swallows have seen their population crash by at least 80% in the last two decades – Karl Egressy

According to another major study published in July, the extinction crisis is far worse than most people think. Of the 177 mammals for which the researchers had detailed data, over 40 percent have lost more than 80 percent of their ranges. In terms of individual animals, wildlife populations have decreased by 50% in just the past four decades. “The massive loss of populations and species reflects our lack of empathy to all the wild species that have been our companions since our origins,” says lead author, Gerardo Ceballos of the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

Good news

It was not all doom and gloom, however. There were some good news stories.

1. Canada, along with four other Arctic coastal countries, signed a 16-year moratorium on commercial fishing in an area covering 2.8 million kilometres of the central Arctic Ocean. This is roughly the size of the Mediterranean Sea. The treaty is seen as a historic victory for Arctic conservation.

2. Thanks to a DDT phase-out and reintroduction programs, the peregrine falcon has been assessed as no longer at risk by the Committee on the Status on Endangered Wildlife in Canada.

Peregrines at Anstruther Lake nest – July 19, 2014 – photo by Drew Monkman

3. The ozone hole this year was the smallest since 1988, thanks to a decades-long international effort to ban ozone-depleting chemicals.

4. Monarch butterfly numbers bounced back this summer, following several years of severe declines. Tim Dyson, who lives near Warsaw, tallied no fewer than 532 monarchs in 2017, which was more than double his previous high. It is expected that the overwintering population in Mexico will increase from the 2.91 hectares of last year to 4 hectares or better this winter.

5. The evidence of a strong link between health and time spent in nature received increased attention this year – even by groups like the World Economic Forum. Human health is quickly becoming an important driver for conservation.

6. Local environmental organizations continued to do excellent work this year. The number of such groups is truly astounding for a community our size. They include Peterborough Pollinators, Peterborough Field Naturalists, Peterborough Greenspace Coalition, Peterborough GreenUp, Sustainable Peterborough, Camp Kawartha, Otonabee Conservation, Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre, The Land Between Conservation Organization, Transition Town, Kawartha Land Trust, For Our Grandchildren, Leap Manifesto Group, Natural Heritage Information Centre and many more. UNESCO also recognized Peterborough-Kawarthas-Haliburton as a Regional Centre of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development. No small accomplishment!

Peterborough Pollinators garden on Medical Drive – photo by Drew Monkman

Values

Like me, you have probably been asking yourself for years why humans allow climate change and other forms of environmental degradation to continue unabated. Research provides a clear but disconcerting answer: for most people, the environment is simply not a priority relative to other issues in their lives. This is true even in developed, prosperous countries like Canada. We are all caught up in a complicated web dominated by material culture and values such as perpetual economic growth and our separateness from nature – the very values that have allowed industrial capitalism to flourish. However, many social scientists would argue that a deliberate shift in what we value is unlikely. An optimist, I suppose, might contend that the huge change in attitudes vis-à-vis  the rights of women, homosexuals and minorities proves that profound value shifts are indeed possible. I just wish I was more convinced.

 

 

 

Jan 032018
 

I am quite sure I spotted an Elk in an open field on Jan. 6, 2018. It was just east of the village of Warkworth on County Road 29 (north side) around 11:45 am.  Doug McNabb

Elk – Division Road east of Peterborough – October 19, 2013 – John Morrit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great Horned Owl (Great Horned) (Bubo virginianus [virginianus Group]) (1)
– Reported Jan 04, 2018 14:00 by Matthew Tobey
– Peterborough–Harper Park, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “North end of the park, being harassed by ~12 American Crows”

Great Horned Owl – Fleming Campus in Peterborough – Drew Monkman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Barred Owl (Strix varia) (2)
– Reported Dec 30, 2017 14:30 by Basil Conlin
– Peterborough–Rotary Park & Walkway, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Media: 3 Photos
– Comments: “one being mobbed by chickadees near the gate at Hazlitt, another being mobbed by crows at the same time closer to the river near the London St. bridge.”

Barred Owl – Quarry Bay – Tim Dyson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) (1)
– Reported Jan 03, 2018 09:15 by Ben Taylor
– Town Ward, Peterborough, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “Being harassed by 2 crows in a tree by the west side of the Holiday Inn pedestrian bridge. Flew off across the river to the point (southwest).”

Peregrine eating Rock Pigeon – Jan. 13, 2015 – PRHC – Stephanie Pineau

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Iceland Gull (Larus glaucoides) (1)
– Reported Jan 02, 2018 12:00 by Iain Rayner
– PTBO – Edgewater road and Railway, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “Adult on ice in front of marina with HERG. White head. Similar size and colour to HERG but primaries mostly white with some grey. (pale end of kumleini spectrum)”

Iceland Gull (Crossley Guide) First winter bird is lower left. Some are browner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trumpeter Swans (Observed Jan. 1) I was driving up Water St. today and was surprised to see an adult Trumpeter Swan swimming with 3 large immature birds. They were in the open water below the dam at the zoo. The young ones were as big as the adult.  Bill Astell

Adult Trumpeter Swans and four immatures – Oct. 14, 2012 – Bethany, ON – Paul Anderson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pileated Woodpecker (Observed Jan. 2) This must be my lucky week; I sighted a Pileated Woodpecker at 2:00 PM in the lower part of Burnham’s Woods today. I hear them from time to time but rarely see them. Ross Jamieson

Pileated Woodpecker 2 – Jan. 1, 2016 – Mark St. Peterborough – Helen Keller

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bald Eagle (Observed Jan. 2) I was driving to work yesterday morning at 8:25am, and as I was crossing the Hunter Street Bridge a Bald Eagle flew over the bridge (quite low), heading south down the Otonabee River. It was unbelievable! Thought I’d let you know in the event there were other sightings.  Sarah Gencey

Bald Eagle – Jan. 14, 2014 – in flight over Woodland Drive – Bill Astell

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red-bellied Woodpecker (Observed Jan. 2 & 3) Female seen in trees at house at 85 Kelleher Rd, Campbellford. There was one all last winter, too. Don Munro

Female Red-bellied Woodpecker – Campbellford – January 2017 – Don Munro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peregrine Falcon (North American) (Falco peregrinus anatum) (1)
– Reported Jan 01, 2018 14:22 by Luke Berg
– Luke’s Yard, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “Hunting pigeons over the backyard and George street. ”

Peregrine – Karl Egressy

Jan 012018
 

The 32nd Petroglyphs Christmas Bird Count was held on Thursday, December 27, 2017 during very cold conditions. It was nearly -30 degrees C first thing in the morning and only warmed up to about -18 by mid-afternoon.

Participants: 24
Total species: 32 (close to the 10-year average of 33.5)
Total individuals: 1826 (10-year average is 2248)
As a result of the very cold weather there was virtually no open water and therefore no waterbirds.

Notable species and count highs (no new record highs) included:
BALD EAGLE: 7 (slightly higher than average)
GOLDEN EAGLE: 1 sub-adult bird seen soaring over the Kawartha Nordic Ski Trails

BLACK-BACKED WOODPECKER: 1 in the Petroglyphs Provincial Park (although previously recorded nearly every year this species has only been detected 3 times in the past 10 years)

GRAY JAY: a single bird was located in a bog along the Sandy Lake Rd (until 2009 recorded annually but since then only recorded in 2014 and during count period in 2016)

RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH: 146 (well above the 10-year average of 87 but nowhere near the count high of 526)

AMERICAN ROBIN: 2 (absent in most years)

CEDAR WAXWING: 6  (absent in most years)

AMERICAN TREE SPARROW: 122 (well above the 10-year average of 18; count high is 218)
DARK-EYED JUNCO: 134 (well above the 10-year average of 12 and near count high of 168)

American Tree Sparrow – Karl Egressy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Low Counts:
RUFFED GROUSE: 7 (below 10-year average of 15 and the count high of 77)ROCK PIGEON: only a single flock of 10 (well below the 10-year average of 58 and the count high of 89)
WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCH: 40 (well below the 10-year average of 80 and count high of 233)
EUROPEAN STARLING: 10 (below 10-year average of 26 and count high of 114)

Winter Finches:

PURPLE FINCH: 2

RED CROSSBILL: 41

WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILL: 8 including singing individuals

PINE SISKIN: 114

AMERICAN GOLDFINCH: 103

EVENING GROSBEAK: 2

Notable Misses:
SNOW BUNTING: recorded most years (has only been missed 5 times)

Colin Jones, Count Compiler

Male White-winged Crossbill – Wikimedia

Purple Finch (male) – Karl Egressy

Gray Jay -Tom Northey Algonquin Park – March 2014