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.

Feb 172017
 

Two juvenile (first winter?) Bald Eagles – Tim Corner

My friend Dave and I went for a drive up the River Road to see if we could spot some Bald Eagles at Lock 25, south of Lakefield. We were in luck as there was a pair. One bird was perched on a log and the other was on the ice. However, they we across the other side of the river. Later, we went down the 7th line of Selwyn to the end of the road on the west side of the Otonabee and as luck would have it, they were perched together in a tree. I have attached the shot.

Tim Corner

Feb 162017
 

“Lichens are fungi that have discovered agriculture” – lichenologist Trevor Goward.

Of all the conspicuous organisms in the landscape, lichens are probably the most overlooked. They are not rare, but people who see and appreciate them are few and far between. The eye cannot see what the mind does not already know. When you begin to pay attention, however, you will see lichens everywhere, starting with those curious, crusty green patches on the bark of mature maple trees on your street. In fact, the Kawarthas is home to hundreds of lichen species. With far fewer plants to compete for the eye’s attention, winter is a great time to get to know these hard-to-classify organisms.

Trumpet Lichen – Drew Monkman

Lichens are found in places where almost no other organism can survive. The type of substrate (surface) they grow on is often the first step in identifying them. Some species flourish on the ground, which can include bare soil, sand, humus, rotting logs and stumps. Others make a living on sun‑scorched rocks or cliff sides. Still other species prefer the bare bark and branches of deciduous and coniferous trees. Old trees often have the most lichen diversity – the bark of a single sugar maple may harbour a dozen species or more. The substrate’s only purpose, however, is to provide a surface to which the lichen can attach.

Biology

Lichens are actually dual or even triple organisms, consisting of a fungus, an alga and/or a cyanobacterium (blue-green algae) living together as a single unit. The latter two organisms – the “photobionts” – use sunlight to photosynthesize glucose both for themselves and for the fungus. Fungi are incapable of making their own food. In turn, the fungus provides a home and protective cover for the photobionts, protecting them from damaging ultraviolet rays. This type of mutually beneficial relationship in nature is called symbiosis.

Greenshield Lichen (or possibly a Parmelia species) – Drew Monkman

Although lichens are presently classified as part of the fungi kingdom, this is only a classification of convenience. Algae belong to the protista kingdom, while cyanobacteria are in the monera kingdom. In this respect, lichens are as much tiny ecosystems as they are individual organisms.

If you look at a cross‑section of a lichen body (thallus) through a 10x hand lens, you will find a protective outer skin (cortex) of fungal cells. This covers the photobiont layer of single-celled algal and/or cyanobacteria cells, which are mixed in among branching fungal filaments (hyphae). Finally, there is a third layer made up strictly of hyphae. Although lichens have no roots, they do have fungal strands called rhizines that attach the under surface of the lichen to the substrate.

Lichens are classified by the type of fungi they contain – usually a species in the ascomycete group. These fungi lack the typical mushroom cap and stalk and will only grow in a “lichenized” state. In other words, they can only survive when living in tandem with algae and/or cyanobacteria. They represent about a quarter of all fungal species. Conversely, the algae and cyanobacteria in lichens can live on their own. Many experts now refer to lichens as lichenized fungi or, more poetically, “fungi that have discovered agriculture.”

Green Reindeer Lichen – Drew Monkman

Growth forms

Lichens have been divided into three subgroups, based on differences in growth form. Foliose lichens (e.g., Rock Tripe) look somewhat like leaves and often have cup-like fruiting bodies (apothecia) that produce spores. Fruticose lichens (e.g., Reindeer Lichen) resemble shrubby or bushy growths, which stand upright or hang from branches. Crustose lichens (e.g., Dust Lichen) often bring to mind paint or powder sprayed on a tree or rock.

When and where

Lichens can be seen year-round, even now in the depth of winter. They survive the cold by drying out to the point of becoming brittle. If temperatures climb above freezing, however, and if sufficient moisture becomes available, photosynthesis can take place and the lichen will even grow.

Fluffy Dust Lichen on base of maple – Drew Monkman

Because the Kawarthas overlaps two physiographic regions – the Canadian Shield to the north and the St. Lawrence Lowlands to the south – we enjoy especially rich lichen diversity. Each region offers different substrates, especially in terms of geology and tree species. For example, some lichens prefer to grow on limestone (southern Kawarthas), while others opt for granite (northern Kawarthas). Some especially good lichen habitats include granite ridges and conifer swamps (e.g., Petroglyphs Provincial Park), limestone ridges (e.g., Warsaw Conservation Area) and hardwood stands with large sugar maples (e.g., Mark S. Burnham Provincial Park). Even Peterborough itself offers great lichen viewing. Look for them on old brick walls, gravestones, roofs and the trunks of mature trees.

A few lichens to get to know

A word of warning. It is not always easy to identify lichens to the species level. In many cases, you will have to be satisfied in recognizing the genus (the first word in the scientific name) or the group (e.g. shield lichens). Experts often use colour tests to be certain of the species. They drop a reagent on the thallus and look for a specific colour change.

A species of cinder lichen on snow-covered rock – Drew Monkman

On tree bark, the most obvious species are usually the foliose shield lichens like Common Greenshield (Flavoparmelia caperata). It has pale-green lobes with a black lower surface and resembles a thin, flat, leafy circle. A similar species is Hammered Shield Lichen (Parmelia sulcata). This foliose lichen has blue-gray lobes with a distinctive pattern of white cracks on the surface. It is pollution‑tolerant and easily found on the bark of city trees. A crustose species to look for is Dust Lichen (Lepraria lobificans). It is yellowish-green to pale mint in colour and resembles paint or dust on the bark. Common fruticose lichens include the various species of beard lichens (Usnea species). Bristly Beard (Usnea hirta) is very common on the branches of coniferous trees and birch. It has yellowish-green, densely branched, erect stems. Other species literally look like a beard hanging from a branch with hairs up to 40 cm in length. Many grow on spruce trees.

On rocks, watch for different rock tripes (Umbilicaria species), which are foliose lichens. They often resemble dark, leathery leathery lettuce leaves. Smooth Rock Tripe (Umbilicaria mammulata) grows on steep rock walls and boulders in forests. It has reddish-brown lobes and grows from a central stalk. The lower surface is pitch black. Cinder Lichen (Aspicilia cinera) is a common crustose species. It has an ashy-gray, cracked surface with multiple black spots. On limestone and limestone gravestones, you might come across other crustose lichens called firedots (Caloplaca species). Depending on the species, they are yellow or orange in colour. Sidewalk Firedot (Caloplaca feracissima) is common on limestone, including gravestones.

A species of beard lichen on a spruce tree – Drew Monkman

On ground substrate, you may come across the best known and most easily identifiable of all the lichens, namely British Soldiers (Cladonia cristatella). This fruticose species is named for its resemblance to the uniforms worn by English soldiers during the Revolutionary War. Look for greenish-grey stalks, topped with bright crimson red caps (the spore-producing apothecia). Another fruticose species, Trumpet Lichen (Cladonia fimbriata) often grows alongside British Soldiers. The grey-green thallus stands about 20mm tall with a distinctive trumpet or golf tee shape. Reindeer lichens (Cladina species), too, grow on the ground and belong to the fruticose group. They resemble tiny white, grey or greenish shrubs or coral with numerous branches. You can sometimes find three or four Cladina species in a single clump. Carpets of Cladina can cover huge areas. A common foliose genus, the pelt lichens (Peltigera species) have semi-erect, grey-green to brownish lobes and superficially resemble rock tripe.

Appreciation

Lichens are important in many ways. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds use shield lichens (Parmelia) to camouflage their nests; deer, moose, caribou and even flying squirrels eat lichens; and tree frogs take advantage of the camouflage lichens provide. Indigenous Peoples still use lichens as dyes for crafts and other artifacts.

By degrading rock surfaces and providing a site where organic material can collect, lichens are the primary colonizers of barren landscapes such as rocks. As the lichen grows, these processes speed up and occur over an ever‑expanding area. Eventually, mosses, grasses or ferns may take root in the modest accumulation of soil and replace the lichen.

British Soldiers – Drew Monkman

The degree of lichen diversity in a given area is also a good “bio-indicator” of the amounts of certain pollutants in the air. Some lichens are especially sensitive to sulfur dioxide. Part of the reason for this intolerance is their extreme efficiency in accumulating chemicals (such as sulphur) from trace levels in the atmosphere. Sulphur destroys the chlorophyll in the algal cells, which inhibits photosynthesis and kills some lichens. It is therefore possible to estimate the amount of sulfur dioxide in the air by observing the number and type of lichens growing in an area.

An extreme example of a lichen’s ability to absorb matter from the atmosphere was seen in northern Scandinavia after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Reindeer lichen accumulated so much radioactivity that reindeer feeding on it were considered unfit for human consumption.

Maybe the most important reason to appreciate lichens, however, is for their beauty. Take time to look at them through a good 10x hand lens. A beautiful world will be revealed. My favourite is the colour contrast between the frosted green stalks and the red tips of the British Soldier lichen. Close-up photography, too, is very satisfying. Put your digital camera on a sturdy tripod and use the macro setting.

As for resources, I especially recommend “Lichens of the North Woods” by Joe Walewski. “Forest Plants of Central Ontario” also has a small section on common lichens. A great online resource is the lichens page of the USDA Forest Service website.

Rock Tripe – Drew Monkman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feb 162017
 

I had a Barred Owl show up the morning of February 12. It hung around for about 20 minutes before the Blue Jays started squawking at it. It sat there and watched the snowmobiles fly by on the nearby trail that runs up the side of the 507. It was snowing quite hard. The Gray Jays are still coming around almost every day!

Marie Windover, Flynn’s Corners

Northern Barred Owl – Tim Dyson – NBR 051214 -2

Feb 152017
 

On February 14, I saw a Great Gray Owl at 5:00 pm, perched on a large oak tree, across the road from 765 Cordova Road. Marmora ON  Denise Doekes

I heard about a Great Gray Owl several days ago on the southern edge of Cordova Mines village, which would be several kilometres north of the Marmora bird (above),  so perhaps another bird altogether. Tim Dyson

At 4:30 pm on February 12, we found a Great Gray Owl on just south of Peterborough.  Sue Sauvé & Ian Attridge

In the afternoon of February 12, I saw a Great Gray Owl just outside of Omemee.  Scott Gibson

A Great Gray Owl was also seen south of Lindsay on February 12. Reported to Drew Monkman

On January 15, at the Harold Town Conservation Area east of Peterborough, a Great Gray Owl was “sighted in dense center understood, flew from perch once sighted. Much darker than barred owl, with no barring on chest.”  Michael Light

NOTE: In 2004-05, Tim Dyson figures he saw a minimum of 105 Great Gray Owls between December 24th and April 16th, mostly in Peterborough County.

Great Gray Owl in 2014 – Tom Northey

Great Gray Owl – Tim Dyson

Great Gray Owl near Cavan in March 2012 – Frank Batty

Feb 152017
 

Today, February 15,  I was at band practice at Living Hope Church on Lansdowne St. east beside the OPP building. There are 12 crab apple trees in front of the church and I counted 5-6 American Robins in each tree. That’s a lot of robins in one spot.! They were in a feeding frenzy.  Ron Craig

Today, February 15, I had 18 American Robins in my yard. They have been eating the apples from my flowering crab tree, which for some reason didn’t all drop in the fall. I have been throwing out dried cranberries and read on the Internet that they also will eat small pieces of apples, soaked raisins and possibly pieces of oranges.  Is there anything else I can put out for them? I am usually lucky to have two robins in the summer so this is such a treat to have so many! Also, the man who snowblows my driveway said he saw about 100 American Robins near the Holiday Inn on February 12.   Marg Byer, Chamberlain St., Peterborough

NOTE: You may want to try putting out mealworms. D.M.

Today, February 13, I had 9 American Robins feeding on berries in my mountain-ash trees. Nick Chaggares, MacDonald St., Peterborough

I saw this tree full of mostly American Robins when I was out walking on Dublin St. They were feeding on a mountain-ash tree across the road.  When I first passed the mountain-ash, I counted 25 robins feeding. So much for flying south.   Ron Craig

Mostly robins in tree on Dublin Street – Feb. 12, 2017, Ron Craig

Well who knew? We were walking through Beavermead Park near the campgrounds on February 6, when we saw a multitude of birds – over 30 – that we at first did not recognize. We were surprised once we realized it was a flock of American Robins Helen and Larry Keller

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

Today, February 7, we noticed at least 30 American Robins feasting on crabapples in our backyard. We have seen one or two robins in the crabapple tree over the years but never a small flock.  Jim Falls, Peterborough (west end)

Today, February 7, I saw at least 30 American Robins feeding in trees along the road off of Clonsilla Avenue that leads to the Dollarama / HomeSense parking lot. Michelle Monkman

At about 4:35 pm on February 6,  I noticed about 60 American Robins in my backyard treeline. I used to race pigeons so I’m pretty good at counting the number of birds in a flock! LOL   Gavin Hunter, Omemee

I live near the corner of Monaghan Road and Charlotte Street in Peterborough and saw a flock of ‘huge’ American Robins this morning. Quite round in shape! Sarah Thompson, Hazeldean Ave.

I continue to have a very large flock of American Robins and European Starlings feeding in the crab apple tree. Yesterday, Feb. 3, there were 4 dozen + robins and well over 100 starlings. With the flock was 1 Cedar Waxwing and 1 Bohemian Waxwing. Also, one of the robins was leusistic but it flew off before I could get a picture. There were birds everywhere!  Sue Paradisis, Tudor Crescent

Robins & Bohemian Waxwing in crab apple tree – Feb. 4, 2016 – Sue Paradisis

We have a flock of at least 50 American Robins showing up the last 3 days at our place on Chemong Lake, north of Fowlers Corners. Bob Hancock

We have a flock of at least 20 to 30 American Robins in our European Mountain-ash. Some waxwings, too. Rob Tonus, Farmcrest Avenue

I had 12 American Robins feeding on European Buckthorn berries in the tree behind my house on February 4. Drew Monkman, Maple Crescent, Peterborough

This morning, I had 25-30 American Robins feeding in my crab apple trees. Brad Gillen, Montcalm Drive, Peterborough

As of February 4, there are quite a few American Robins at 879 Parkhill Road west in Peterborough. Do you have any idea of what to feed them?   Cliff Mccollow

Note:  The robins will do just fine without feeding them at all. There is abundant wild food around this year, especially wild grape, mountain-ash berries, winterberry holly, crabapple and European buckthorn.  However, you could try putting out some raisins that have been softened by soaking them in water. Personally, I’ve never tried feeding them. D.M.

Feb 112017
 

On Feb. 10 at 1:30 pm, I was putting on my skis at the Kawartha Nordic Ski Club (Haultain). Something big caught my eye. A mature Bald Eagle flew right over the training flats. It was easy to see the white head and tail with my bare eyes.

Marilyn Freeman

Bald Eagle (Karl Egressy)

Bald Eagle – June 18-19, 2016 – Lower Buckhorn Lake – Robin Blake

 

Feb 102017
 

At 1 pm on Feb. 9/17, I saw 50+ Snow Buntings on County Road 10, just north of Ida. I didn’t have binoculars with me to check out if there were any other species with them.

Ken Rumble

Flock of Snow Buntings feeding in grain field

Snow Bunting (from Crossley ID Guide)

Feb 102017
 

I was at Lynde Creek, Whitby, on February 8 and came across this male Red-bellied Woodpecker. Is it true that this species is uncommon in the Kawarthas?

Brian Crangle

Note:  The Red-bellied is not a common woodpecker but its numbers are increasing each year. It now breeds in the Kawarthas south of the Shield and turns up regularly at a number of feeders, especially in wooded areas south of Peterborough. It is occasionally seen in the city, as well.  D.M.

Red-bellied Woodpecker – Lynde Creek, Whitby- Photo by Brian Crangle

Feb 092017
 

It’s hard not to love Black-capped Chickadees. Weighing no more than a handful of paper clips, their ability to survive long, cold winter nights and relative lack of food is nothing short of amazing. Although most people are familiar with chickadee behaviour at feeders – flying in, grabbing a seed and departing immediately – there is also a lot going on in the chickadee world that is not immediately obvious. However, by watching and listening closely, even at the backyard feeder, you can learn a great deal about their secret lives and interactions.

Baby chickadees have a very short tail. (photo by Drew Monkman)

Pecking order

A chickadee flock usually forms in late summer around a dominant pair of birds that has just completed a successful nesting. The flock will remain together until the start of the next breeding season. There are usually six to ten birds, but occasionally more if sufficient food is available. Some are paired adults, a few are single adults and the others are young birds born the previous spring. The latter, however, are generally not the offspring of the adult pairs in the flock. Other species, too, will often accompany chickadee flocks. They include kinglets, nuthatches, woodpeckers and, in the spring and fall, warblers and vireos. It’s interesting to note that these other species respond almost immediately to chickadee alarm calls, and fly in to see what all the fuss is about. These alarm calls can be imitated by using “pishing”. More about that later.

There is a surprisingly complex social system within the flock, which is based on a dominance hierarchy, or “pecking order”. Each bird is known to the others according to its rank. In general, older and more experienced birds are dominant over younger ones; males are dominant over females; and resident birds dominate intruders. The bird of lowest ranking is subordinate to all of the others. The rest have a ranking somewhere in between. Once a pecking order is established between two birds, it remains unchanged for years. Dominance can be expressed through vocalizations, body position, body size, chasing and sometimes even by fighting.

A friend actually witnessed the struggle for dominance taken to a rare extreme. While walking in the Trent Wildlife Sanctuary, her attention was drawn to a particularly strident version of the familiar “chick-a-dee-dee call”. The sound was higher and contained more “dees” than usual. Seconds later, she noticed some rustling in the snow. Two chickadees were actually in combat! One bird was on top, and the other was lying on the snow with its wings quivering. The only sounds were the fluttering of the combatants’ wings and the calls of a third bird that seemed to be observing the scene. The tussle lasted for well over a minute. Dominant birds rarely need to fight subordinates, however, once the pecking order of a flock is established.

Advantages of rank

High rank in the dominance hierarchy confers some important advantages. For starters, dominant birds enjoy the best and safest access to food. They tend to forage lower and closer to tree trunks than less dominant birds, who are relegated to the outermost parts of trees where an attack by a predator is more likely. At the feeder, the dominant bird can easily frighten all other chickadees away.

Black-capped Chickadee – (photo by Jeff Keller)

High-ranking chickadees enjoy greater over-winter survival – especially the males. These males are also much more successful in pairing with female flock-mates, and they enjoy greater mate fidelity. A lower ranked male is often cuckolded by his partner who tends to look for sexual opportunities with a higher ranked bird.

The female who is paired to the alpha male also enjoys better access to food and very little aggression from other chickadees. When the nesting season arrives, she will also lay more eggs than lower ranked females and her fledglings will have a greater chance of survival.

Surviving cold

Chickadees have also evolved special adaptations to survive freezing temperatures. One way they do this is by stuffing themselves with food each day, often gaining 10 percent of their body weight. They then minimize energy use (i.e., burn less food) at night by going into a state of hypothermia. When darkness falls, a chickadee is able to lower its body temperature by up to 10 C below its normal daytime temperature. This produces an energy saving of almost 25 percent. That’s a lot of sunflower seeds!

In cold weather, chickadees will often spend the night in a small tree cavity. They are able to excavate these roosting holes themselves in rotting wood. Birch is a favourite species for this purpose. The bird wedges itself in the hole, puffs up its feathers to trap air, drops its internal thermostat and burns fat all night.

Vocalizations

Considerable research has been done in recent years on chickadee songs and calls. Both are complex and language-like. Thirteen distinct types of vocalizations have been identified. The well-known “chickadee-dee-dee-dee” call, for example, is sometimes used as a predator alarm. The more “dees” in the call, the higher the perceived level of threat.

February and March are courtship months, and males can often be heard whistling their clear, descending, two or three note song. The second note is a whole-step below the first. A common mnemonic is “Fee-bee” or “Fee-bee-bee”. I like to think of it, however, as “Hi Sweetie”, since chickadees usually start singing around Valentine’s Day. Sweetie just seems more appropriate! The song increases in frequency as the winter advances and serves to advertise ownership or establishment of a nesting territory and to attract a mate.

Black-capped Chickadees start singing in mid-February. (photo by Karl Egressy)

Chickadees sing a great deal at dawn during the breeding period. Songs are also produced during the day in aggressive “countersinging” exchanges, where two males “duel it out” in song. Both frequency matching and song overlapping are important components of countersinging behavior. Females, of course, are listening in. Male performance during such exchanges influences female reproductive behavior. If a male in a neighboring territory out sings her mate, the female will sometimes fly off to the neighboring territory to seek an extramarital adventure!

Things to do

1. When chickadees come to your feeder, watch for short chases between members of the flock. This is an expression of dominance. Dominant birds will approach the feeder directly, scaring off other flock members. You will often see lower-ranked chickadees approach the feeder and then veer off without landing.

2. Can you find any of the seeds the chickadee hides? Seeds and other food items are placed in hundreds of different hiding spots, and the chickadee is able to remember them all!

3. Everyone (and especially children!) should have the experience of hand-feeding chickadees. Feeling the clutch of tiny feet and the brush of feathers is unforgettable. With patience and determination, you can train the chickadees at your feeder to feed from the hand. If you haven’t done so already, set up a feeder with black oil sunflower seed. Keep it well stocked. Go outside each day and stand quietly about six feet from the feeder, allowing the birds to feed. Move in a bit closer as the birds become more comfortable with your presence. Eventually, the birds won’t mind if you stand right beside them. Next, take away the feeder all together, and fill a small bowl with sunflower seeds. Hold the bowl with your arm outstretched, right where the feeder was. The trick is to keep perfectly still – even your eyes. After the birds are comfortable eating from the bowl, hold the seeds in your open hand instead. Soon you’ll be experiencing “that chickadee feeling”. Invite friends and family to try it too.

Chickadees can be trained to eat out of your hand. (Photo by Drew Monkman)

4. Chickadees are easy to attract by “pishing”. You can pish in chickadees in your own backyard or anywhere else you encounter the birds. Standing close to trees where the birds can land, pucker your lips and make a loud, forceful “shhhh” sound, all the while tacking a “p” on at the beginning: Pshhh, Pshhh, Pshhh… Make sure it sounds shrill and strident. Pish in a sequence of three, repeating the sequence two or three times. Wait a while and do it again. At first you’ll need to pish fairly loudly, but you can lower the volume once the birds get closer. With any luck, the chickadees will approach to within three or four feet. Nuthatches, woodpeckers and other birds may be attracted, as well. Just don’t give up too soon.

5. Like most birds, chickadees prefer feeders with nearby natural cover such as evergreens. This gives the birds an area to hide quickly when threatened as well as a protected night roost. I planted cedars for this purpose.

6. If you want chickadees to nest in your yard, build or purchase a birdhouse with a 1 1/8-inch entrance hole. Place the box at least five feet above the ground, near cover and facing away from the prevailing wind. Boxes should be placed outside by mid-March. Plans can be found at nestwatch.org.  In the wild, chickadees usually excavate a nesting hole in the rotting wood of a standing tree or enlarge an abandoned cavity dug out by a woodpecker.

 eBird workshop

A citizen science workshop entitled “Electronic Record-Keeping of Observations” will be held on Saturday, February 18, beginning at 1 p.m. at the Camp Kawartha Environment Centre, 2505 Pioneer Rd. The workshop will introduce eBird and eButterfly, two internet-based systems used to keep bird and butterfly observations recorded on centralized computer databases. For further information, call Martin Parker at 705-745-4750.

Feb 072017
 

Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) (1)
– Reported Feb 06, 2017 11:41 by Matthew Tobey
– Sir Sandford Fleming Dr at The Parkway, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “Adult flying northwest”

Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis) (1)
– Reported Feb 06, 2017 14:10 by Matthew Tobey
– Peterborough–Little Lake, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “continuing bird observed along Edgewater Blvd. Could not relocate the 2nd bird I found yesterday.”

N.B.  Gray Catbirds usually overwinter in the extreme southern U.S.

Northern Goshawk – Wikimedia

Gray Catbird – Wikimedia

Catbird at feeder in Peterborough – Colum Diamond

Feb 062017
 

This Eastern Screech-owl showed up in our drive shed in Ennismore on Saturday, February 4. We live just south of the Yankee Line.

Steve Plunkett, Ennismore

Note: Screech-owls may be increasing in the Kawarthas. A record four birds were tallied on the 2016 Peterborough Christmas Bird Count.  D.M.

Eastern Screech-owl – Feb. 5, 2017 – Ennismore – Steve Plunkett

Eastern Screech-owl – Feb. 5, 2017 – Ennismore – Steve Plunkett

Feb 042017
 

I had a male Red-bellied Woodpecker at my feeder on George street in Lakefield on February 2, 2017. It spent enough time on the feeder to identify and was confirmed by photo from David Wells. Great website!  John D’Andrea
For the past two days (Jan. 31, Feb. 1) our black sunflower feeder has been visited by a male Red-bellied Woodpecker. I’ve observed birds for a long time, but I have never seen one of these beautiful creatures. According to my Peterson Guide their range seems to be limited to south of the Great Lakes.We have quite a few Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers. They gorge themselves at the feeder and in the process throw seed all over the ground. In contrast, the Red-bellied grabs a couple of seeds and flies away to return a few minutes later – not unlike the behaviour of chickadees. We live on the 4th Line of Asphodel, 2 km north of highway #7.  Bill Hooper

Red-bellied Woodpecker – Nov. 30, 2013 (Robert Latham)

Feb 042017
 


Port Rowan, ON—A lot has changed since the first Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) was held in 1998. Each year brings unwavering enthusiasm from the growing number of participants in this now-global event. The 20th annual GBBC is taking place February 17-20 in backyards, parks, nature centres, on hiking trails, school grounds, balconies, and beaches—anywhere you find birds.
Birdwatchers from around the world enjoy counting their birds and entering the GBBC photo contest. Photo by Ann Foster, Florida, 2016 GBBC. Download larger image.
Birdwatchers count the birds they see for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count, then enter their checklists at birdcount.org. All the data contribute to a snapshot of bird distribution and help scientists see changes over the past 20 years.
“The very first GBBC was an experiment,” says the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Marshall Iliff, a leader of the eBird program. “We wanted to see if people would use the Internet to send us their bird sightings. Clearly the experiment was a success!” eBird collects bird observations globally every day of the year and is the online platform used by the GBBC.
That first year, birdwatchers submitted about 13,500 checklists from the United States and Canada. Fast-forward to the most recent event in 2016. An estimated 163,763 birdwatchers from more than 100 countries submitted 162,052 bird checklists reporting 5689 species–more than half the known bird species in the world.
“The Great Backyard Bird Count is a great way to introduce people to participation in citizen science,” says Audubon Vice President and Chief Scientist Gary Langham. “No other program allows volunteers to take an instantaneous snapshot of global bird populations that can contribute to our understanding of how a changing climate is affecting birds.”
Varying weather conditions so far this winter are producing a few trends that GBBC participants can watch for during the count. eBird reports show many more waterfowl and kingfishers remaining further north than usual because they are finding open water. If that changes, these birds could move southward.

Also noted are higher than usual numbers of Bohemian Waxwings in the Pacific Northwest and northern Rocky Mountains. And while some winter finches have been spotted in the East, such as Red Crossbills, Common Redpolls, Evening Grosbeaks, and a few Pine Grosbeaks, there seem to be no big irruptions so far. A few eye-catching Snowy Owls have been reported in the northern half of the United States.

Jon McCracken, Bird Studies Canada’s National Program Director, reminds participants in Canada and the U.S. to keep watch for snowies. He says, “The GBBC has done a terrific job of tracking irruptions of Snowy Owls southward over the past several years. We can’t predict what winter 2017 will bring, because Snowy Owl populations are so closely tied to unpredictable ‘cycles’ of lemmings in the Arctic. These cycles occur at intervals between two and six years.  Nevertheless, there are already reports of Snowy Owls as far south as Virginia.’

In addition to counting birds, the GBBC photo contest has also been a hit since it was introduced in 2006. Since then, tens of thousands of stunning images have been submitted. For the 20th anniversary of the GBBC, the public is invited to vote for their favourite top photo from each of the past 11 years in a special album they will find on the GBBC website home page. Voting takes place during the four days of the GBBC.

Learn more about how to take part in the Great Backyard Bird Count at birdcount.org where downloadable instructions and an explanatory PowerPoint are available. The GBBC is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society with partner Bird Studies Canada. The GBBC is made possible in part in Canada by sponsors Armstrong Bird Food and Wild Birds Unlimited.
Contacts:

Kerrie Wilcox, Bird Studies Canada, (519) 586-3531 ext. 134, kwilcox@birdscanada.org
Agatha Szczepaniak, Audubon, (212) 979-3197, aszczepaniak@audubon.org
Pat Leonard, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, (607) 254-2137, pel27@cornell.edu

Feb 042017
 

I live in the Youngstown subdivision in Ennismore, just up from the causeway. I was reading your recent list of birds in the area on your annual bird count. You noted that no Barred Owls were seen during the count. About two weeks ago now, I saw a Barred Owl fly into a tree behind my backyard which, runs down to Chemong Lake. He stayed on that branch for about 45 minutes.
Randy Hayes, Ennismore

Barred Owl – Feb. 2017 – Randy Hayes

Feb 042017
 

Wood Duck (Aix sponsa) (1)
– Reported Feb 03, 2017 10:16 by Iain Rayner
– Otonabee River–between Lock 24 and 25, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S34129948
– Comments: “Continuing male o n far shore halfway between both locs”

Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator) (1)
– Reported Feb 02, 2017 08:38 by Matthew Tobey
– Trent River–Asphodel 5th Line, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S34118931
– Comments: “Female with Common Mergansers. ”

Winter Wren (Troglodytes hiemalis) (1)
– Reported Feb 03, 2017 13:33 by Matthew Tobey
– Peterborough–Trent University Wildlife Sanctuary Nature Area, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S34135387
– Comments: “calling spontaneously from frozen wetland along the John de Pencier trail (west side of University Rd). Responsive to pishing, allowing for good views.”

Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis) (1)
– Reported Feb 02, 2017 12:15 by Ken Abraham
– Crawford Dr at SSF & Parkway, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S34134615
– Comments: “Bird sitting on shrub branch in slight opening about 4 feet above ditch with water, facing road. Blue head, shoulders, rusty-red upper breast interrupted by light abdomen clearly visible. In the midst of EUST and AMRO movement.”

Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis) (8) CONFIRMED
– Reported Feb 02, 2017 15:40 by Erica Nol
– Hannah Road, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S34127791
– Comments: “flock flew across Hannah Rd near intersection with Evertson Road; blue backs, smaller than robins but similar shape; may be same flock as seen previously in this area”

Winter Wren – Wikimedia

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

Feb 042017
 

Yesterday morning (Feb. 3), we saw a Bald Eagle perched on a post south of Lakefield on the shore of the Otonabee River. We thought it might be a Golden Eagle or immature Bald Eagle. On our way home, we drove along the same stretch and saw the first bird with two others… a mature Bald Eagle and another younger one. We thought the younger ones could have been different ages since one’s plumage was closer to that of an adult than the first bird’s. Quite a sight…   (N.B.  left to right, there is a 1st winter, a 4th winter, and an adult plumage birdTim Dyson)
There were also three Trumpeter Swans on the same part of the river.

Gwen Forsyth, Lakefield

Immature Bald Eagle 2 – Otonabee R. – Feb. 3, 2017 – Gwen Forsyth

(L to R) 1st winter, 4th winter and adult Bald Eagle  – Otonabee R. – Feb. 3, 2017 – Gwen Forsyth

Trumpeter Swans – Otonabee River – Feb. 3, 2017 – Gwen Forsyth

Feb 022017
 

When it comes to feeding birds, it’s important to be skeptical of ‘conventional wisdom’. There are a lot of myths out there, some of which might discourage people from putting out feeders. No one with an interest in birds should be missing out on such an entertaining and convenient way to enjoy contact with nature. Feeding wild birds also serves to develop a greater understanding and appreciation for the environment in general. It’s impossible to care about birds without becoming concerned about issues such as climate change and habitat destruction.

Male Indigo Bunting at nyjer feeder – Greg Piasetzki

The following list highlights some of areas of concern that people have when it comes to feeding birds. I have also included some suggestions to make bird feeding more successful and enjoyable.

1. Over-dependence on feeders. Birds do not depend on any one food source. They need a greater variety of food than feeders alone can provide. For example, studies with chickadees have demonstrated that even removing a feeder in mid‑winter does not result in greater flock mortality than would normally occur in flocks that do not visit feeders. Birds are well able to find other sources of food if feeders are unavailable. Putting out food for the birds can be important during extreme weather events, but birds will not starve if the feeders aren’t filled.

2. Impact on migration: People sometimes fear that feeding birds during the fall migration period might somehow stop them from flying south. Feeders will not keep birds from migrating. Migration is controlled by instinct and by external factors like daylight and weather. In fact, your feeders are providing an energy boost to help them survive these long journeys. I witness the allure of migration every October when hoards of white‑throated sparrows visit our yard. Despite a ready supply of black oil sunflower seed and millet scattered liberally on the ground, all of the birds depart by the end of the month.

Hairy Woodpecker – Karl Egressy

 

3. Hawks at feeders: It’s true that feeding birds might attract a Cooper’s hawk or even a barred owl to your yard. Personally, I feel privileged to witness the drama, even if a mourning dove or house finch pays the price. The raptor’s presence indicates that the food chain is healthy and working as it should. Raptors are also fascinating birds to observe in their own right. If predation becomes too much of a problem, you can simply take your feeders down for a few days and thereby disperse the smaller birds.

 

Cooper’s Hawk on Rock Pigeon – Helen Nicolaides Keller

4. When to feed: Many people make the mistake of waiting until winter has arrived before putting up their feeders. The greatest bird diversity at feeders actually occurs in the spring and fall. In early October, for example, a dozen or more species may turn up on a given day. The same can be true in late April. I usually start putting out sunflower seed and millet in late September, when large numbers southbound white‑throated and white‑crowned sparrows are passing through. They are easily attracted to our yards if seed is available on the ground. These sparrows come through again in late April and early May on their way north. Rose-breasted grosbeaks and indigo buntings may also show up at feeders in May and are a real treat to see. Grosbeaks are attracted to sunflower seed, while the buntings prefer nyjer seed. By putting out food in the spring and fall, you are also providing a welcome source of energy for the birds’ long flight to or from their wintering grounds.

There is no problem feeding birds in summer, either. I keep my peanut and nyger seed feeders filled all year long. Woodpeckers, nuthatches and chickadees dine on the peanuts, while goldfinches are a constant presence at the nyger seed. If you live in the country near a woodlot, rose-breasted grosbeaks and their young will often come to sunflower feeders during the summer months.

5. Metal perches: There is no reason to be concerned that a bird’s feet might stick to metal feeder perches in winter. The feet are made up mostly of scaly tissue and are well protected against the cold. Blood flow in the feet is minimal, and sweat glands are completely absent. This means that there is no moisture present to freeze to metal.

6. Peanut butter is dangerous: As far as I’m aware, there is no documented evidence that birds can choke on peanut butter. In fact, peanut butter is high in fat and therefore provides a great deal of energy.

7. Hummingbirds: Don’t wait until the warm weather of June to get out your hummingbird feeder. Hummingbirds arrive back in the Kawarthas in early May, when flower nectar is in short supply and frigid weather is still possible. At this time of year, a feeder might actually make a difference to their survival. I also recommend leaving it up until late September, when the last of the hummingbirds departs for Mexico and Central America. Whether the sugar water in the feeder contains red dye is largely irrelevant. The birds don’t need it to find the feeders. As to whether the dye can hurt the birds, the jury still seems to be out. I recommend erring on the side of caution.

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds – Nancy Cafik

8. Scattering seeds: You will attract a lot more bird species by spreading seeds on the ground. Yes, you may lose some to squirrels, but at the same time, you will attract some of the many birds that are strictly ground feeders. Who knows? A fox sparrow or an eastern towhee might even show up. I prefer to use millet to spread on the grass and snow; however, I try to scatter it widely enough so that the squirrels can only glean a small part of it. Scattering the seeds near hedges and other areas of cover seems to work best.

9. Where are the birds? The number and variety of birds coming to feeders varies greatly over the year. Why bird activity is slow at times is not always clear. However, there are several possible explanations. First, many species such as cardinals and house finches travel in flocks in winter and may only frequent a small number of feeders. Yours may not be on their list. The presence of a raptor in the neighbourhood may also explain why fewer birds are present on a given day. Habitat changes in your neighborhood such as trees being cut down can also have an impact. The loss of habitat is the number one cause for the rapidly declining populations of many bird species. Finally, birds like siskins, redpolls and pine grosbeaks can be completely absent in the Kawarthas some years. This is because the wild foods they depend upon – conifer seeds, birch seeds, berries, etc – fluctuate in abundance from year to year. When there is plentiful food available in their boreal forest nesting grounds, they simply stay put. This seems to be the case this year.

 

Juncos and White-throated Sparrows feeding on ground – Drew Monkman

10. Window collisions: Feeders do increase the danger of window kills. One way to reduce this problem is to place your feeder within ten feet of window glass. In this way, birds flying away from the feeder won’t build up enough speed to seriously injure or kill themselves, should they hit a window. You will find lots of other ideas for reducing window collisions at allaboutbirds.org

Great Backyard Bird Count    

Every year I like to encourage readers to further the cause of science by taking part in the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC). Launched in 1998, it was the first online citizen-science project to collect data on wild birds and to display results in near real-time. Now, more than 160,000 people of all ages and walks of life worldwide join the four-day count each February to create an annual snapshot of the distribution and abundance of birds. In 2016, GBBC participants in more than 130 countries counted 5,689 species of birds on more than 162,000 checklists.

This year’s count takes place February 17-20, which is the Family Day weekend. This makes the count a great activity to do with your kids or grandkids. For at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count, simply tally the numbers and kinds of birds you see. You can count from any location – not just your own backyard. If you’re new to the count, or have not participated since before the 2013, you must create a free online account with eBird to enter your checklists. During the count, you can explore what others are seeing in your area or around the world. Share your bird photos by entering the photo contest, or enjoy images pouring in from across the globe. All the information you need is at gbbc.birdcount.org

 

Feb 012017
 

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) (2) CONFIRMED
– Reported Feb 01, 2017 10:32 by Iain Rayner
– Trent River–Drysdale Rd, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S34091842
– Comments: “Seen in group of seven swans far downstream. Viewed through scope showed knob on bill and orange colour on bill. Have been at this location in previous two winters.”

Common Loon (Gavia immer) (1) CONFIRMED
– Reported Jan 31, 2017 15:20 by Martin Parker
– Otonabee River–Lakefield Waterfront, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S34087357
– Comments: “continuing individual”

Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) (1) CONFIRMED
– Reported Feb 01, 2017 12:15 by Iain Rayner
– Ptbo – Hwy 28 – Baxter Creek Golf Course, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S34092056
– Comments: “Seen well with naked eye as it glided low across Highway 28 heading E. Grey flight feathers and brown black body. Showed distinct dihedral and very tippy flight.”

Mute Swan (photo: Drew Monkman)

Jan 252017
 

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

 

 

 

 

Jan 242017
 

Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus) (1)
– Reported Jan 22, 2017 09:50 by Chris Risley
– Jackson Park and area, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “Seen at 476 Bonaccord Avenue at feeder, possibly continuing bird from Jackson Park trail near Bonaccord Avenue entrance, first sang and then we saw it by feeder and then on left (west) side of house, good view; small sparrow sized, white eyestripe, longish bill, cocked long tail”

Carolina Wren (Wikimedia)

Jan 242017
 

At 4:50 pm. January 18, at the corner of County Rd. #2 and Plunket Road, I spent 20 minutes with this Barred Owl, photographing the bird from about 50 metres. The owl seemed more curious than scared. Given the paucity of owls this winter, I was very pleased to entertain this fellow in my lens. Originally he was on a tall lamp post but then flew down to an old post in the field , perhaps having spied a mouse in the grass.

Michael Gillespie

Barred Owl – Keene, Ontario – Jan. 18, 2017 – Michael Gillespie

Jan 232017
 

On Jan. 22, from my backyard, I  saw 8 Bald Eagles. They were on open ice south of Campbellford on the Trent River  There was one pair of adults and 6 immatures.

Donald Munro

Adult Bald Eagles – Jan. 24, 2015 – Lock 24 – Tom Northey

Immature Bald Eagle – Otonabee River – Feb. 2016 – Nima Taghaboni

 

Jan 222017
 

I took a couple of pictures last Sunday, January 15, 2017 of this lovely Red-tailed Hawk sitting on our fence post and thought you might enjoy seeing them. We live on a farm just south of Peterborough and are fortunate to see a lot of nature on a daily basis. Hope you enjoy these and feel free to share!

Julie Johnson

Red-tailed Hawk close-up 01-15-17 Julie Johnson

Red-tailed Hawk 01-15-17 Julie Johnson

Jan 212017
 

Common Loon (Gavia immer) (1)
– Reported Jan 20, 2017 12:00 by Dave Milsom
– Lakefield Marsh, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “continuing bird diving near red marker buoy”

Great Gray Owl (Strix nebulosa) (1)
– Reported Jan 15, 2017 14:15 by Michael Light
– Harold Town Conservation Area, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “Sighted in dense center understood, flew from perch once Sighted. Much darker than barred owl, with no barring on chest.”

Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis) (1)
– Reported Jan 18, 2017 12:26 by Colin Jones
– Peterborough–300 Water St to Edgewater Blvd Loop, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “Continuing bird”
Eastern Screech-Owl (Megascops asio) (1)
– Reported Jan 14, 2017 14:30 by Maureen Smith
– Yard Warsaw On, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “uses wood duck box located across the river. Occasional visits”

Northern Shrike (Lanius excubitor) (1)
– Reported Jan 19, 2017 15:25 by Martyn Obbard
– John Earl Chase Memorial Park, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Media: 1 Photo
– Comments: “first observed perched on hydro line on Anchor Bay Rd., then flew and perched atop dead branch of deciduous tree in field to south”

Northern Shrike – Tom Northey

Eastern Screech Owl at nesting box – Nov. 2014 – Tim Dyson

Great Gray Owl – Tom Northey 2014

Common Loon – Lakefield – Dec. 19, 2016 – Sue Paradisis

Gray Catbird – Wikimedia

Jan 202017
 

I thought I’d pass along to you a couple of sightings from our home on the Indian River in the midst of the ice and freezing rain of January 17. From one window, we saw what was either a Sharp-shinned or Cooper’s Hawk sitting patiently, watching the bird feeders and hoping something would come along for his lunch. Then from another window we looked at the river, and saw a wolf or coyote standing for awhile in the rain on slushy ice, then he loped off upstream. I understand that wolves and coyotes can interbreed – this one looked more like a wolf than a coyote. It was a very healthy looking specimen with a large, square-ish head, a dark brown, grizzled coat and a definite black tip on the tail which was held low, between the back legs. Didn’t see him get anything to eat either!

Jane Bremner
Sawmill Road, Douro-Dummer

My guess is that the hawk was a Cooper’s. They are more common than Sharp-shinned Hawks and bolder, tending to sit out in the open more. As for the coyote/wolf, you probably saw an Eastern Coyote. I’m not aware of Eastern Wolves being seen south of Algonquin Park and the northern Haliburton Highlands. Also, it’s almost impossible to distinguish a wolf from a coyote visually. The real difference is in the weight, the wolf being much heavier.  D.M.

 

Cooper’s Hawk on bird it had captured (Karl Egressy)

Sharp-shinned Hawk – Lakefield  – Gwen Forsyth

Eastern Coyote on Otonabee River – Tom Northey.

 

Jan 192017
 

Between mid-December and early January, birders in over 2000 localities across North, Central and South America took 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 one of the longest-running Citizen Science projects in the world. The information collected by thousands of volunteer participants forms one of the world’s largest sets of wildlife survey data. The data are used daily by conservation biologists and naturalists to assess the population trends and distribution of birds. The counts are organized at the local level, often by a birding club or naturalist organization.

The count area is always a circle, measuring 24 kilometres in diameter. The circle is then sub-divided into sectors, each of which is covered by a group of birders. This involves driving as many of the roads in the sector as possible and walking or skiing into off-road areas of different habitat types. The basic idea is to identify and count – as accurately as possible – every bird seen or heard.

Once again this year, two counts took place locally – one centred in Peterborough and the other in Petroglyphs Provincial Park. Martin Parker of the Peterborough Field Naturalists organized the Peterborough count, while Colin Jones compiled the Petroglyphs count.

Peterborough Count

The 65th Peterborough Christmas Bird Count was held December 18 under cold but sunny conditions. Forty-one members and friends of the Peterborough Field Naturalists spent all or part of the day in the field, while seven others kept track of birds visiting their feeders. One observer was also out before dawn listening for owls.

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

By the end of the day, participants found 13,860 individual birds, which is a new high. A total of 59 species was recorded. There were two new species for the count, a Horned Grebe and two Eastern Bluebirds. The grebe was found on the Otonabee River at Millennium Park, while the bluebirds turned up near the intersection of the Lang-Hastings Trans Canada Trail and County Road 35. The grebe and bluebirds bring the total number of species found on the count its 65-year history to 130.

The biggest story of this year’s count, however, was the huge number of American Robins. These birds clearly missed the memo that it was time to migrate! The 1,943 robins recorded more than doubled the previous high of 759 tallied in 2011. Observers described seeing flock after flock of robins flying across roads and fields to thickets full of wild grape – a favourite winter food and the main reason why so many robins took a pass on flying any further south. If the birds can get enough to eat, cold is not a problem. It will be interesting to see if there is sufficient food to keep the robins remain here until spring.

Record highs were also tallied for Bald Eagles (5), Eastern Screech Owls (4),   American Crows (953), White-breasted Nuthatches (120), and Dark-eyed Juncos (543). Previous highs were tied for Sharp-shinned Hawks (5) and Red-bellied Woodpeckers (8).

Three rarely seen species also turned up, namely a Lesser Black-backed Gull, a Snow Goose and a Brown Thrasher. This was only the second time the latter two species have ever been found on the count. Thrashers are usually in Louisiana at this time of year!

American Robin in mountain-ash March 2014 – Jeff Keller

As is the case every year, there were also some notable low numbers. For instance, observers only found only 71 Canada Geese. This was because cold weather just before the count had reduced the amount of open water. As has been the pattern in recent years, the number of Great Horned Owls (1) and Ruffed Grouse (2) was also very low. To put this into context, 82 grouse were recorded in 1979. It is well known, however, that grouse numbers fluctuate a great deal from year to year and even decade to decade. The factors responsible for these periodic fluctuations remain poorly understood. As for Great Horned Owls, the Canadian population has declined by over 70% since the 1960s.

The overall data for the Peterborough count is as follows: Snow Goose 1, Canada Goose 71,  American Black Duck 5, Mallard 1006, Long-tailed Duck 1, Bufflehead 1, Common Goldeneye 95, Hooded Merganser 2, Common Merganser 1, Ruffed Grouse 2, Wild Turkey 88, Horned Grebe 1, Sharp-shinned Hawk  5, Cooper’s Hawk 1, Northern Goshawk 2, Bald Eagle 5, Red-tailed Hawk 25, Rough-legged Hawk 2, Ring-billed Gull 71, Herring Gull 131, Lesser Black-backed Gull 1, Great Black-backed Gull 1, Rock Pigeon 1006, Mourning Dove 515, Eastern Screech-Owl 4, Great Horned Owl 1, Belted Kingfisher 1, Red-bellied Woodpecker 8, Downy Woodpecker 64, Hairy Woodpecker 40, Northern Flicker 5, Pileated Woodpecker 7, Merlin 2, Peregrine 1, Northern Shrike 3, Blue Jay 261, American Crow 953, Common Raven 29, Black-capped Chickadee 1722, Red-breasted Nuthatch 15, White-breasted Nuthatch 120, Brown Creeper 6, Eastern Bluebird 2, American Robin 1943, Brown Thrasher 1, European Starling 2674, Bohemian Waxwing 4, Cedar Waxwing 220, Snow Bunting 1010, American Tree Sparrow 344, Dark-eyed Junco 543, White-throated Sparrow 2,  Northern Cardinal 104, Brown-headed Cowbird 1,  House Finch 44, Purple Finch 1, American Goldfinch 533, and House Sparrow 147.

Petroglyph Count

The 31st Petroglyph Christmas Bird Count took place on December 27, in less than favourable weather conditions. The day was dull and overcast with strong winds and intermittent periods of light snow and freezing drizzle. The strong winds made listening difficult for the 24 participants. A successful Christmas bird count depends not only on seeing the birds but also on hearing them. Calm days are therefore best. Only 28 species were found, which is six lower than the 10-year average. The number of individual birds (1937) was also below average.

Although no new species were recorded, there were some notable sightings. A record 318 Bohemian Waxwings was more than four times the previous high of 76. A Cooper’s Hawk was recorded for only the fourth time on the count, and a Rough-legged Hawk turned up for only the sixth time. The 11 American Robins counted was only two shy of the previous high.

Bohemian Waxwing (Karl Egressy)

As for low counts, only six Ruffed Grouse were recorded. This is well below the 10-year average of 22 and the count high of 77. Blue Jay numbers were down, too, with only 74 putting in an appearance. The 10-year average is 271, and count high is 653. A poor acorn crop probably explains the Blue Jay’s relative scarcity. Most jays simply chose to migrate south this year in search of more abundant food. Numbers of Pileated Woodpeckers, Red-breasted Nuthatches and Golden-crowned Kinglets were also much lower than average.

A worrisome miss was the Gray Jay. A pair was visiting a feeder just before the count but was not present on count day. An average of five birds was recorded every year up until 2009. Since then, however, they have only been tallied once on the day of the count. Gray Jays are one of many species that are expected to decrease in number as the climate warms, especially at the southern edge of their range such as here in the Kawarthas.

No Barred Owls were found this year, either. This very vocal species had been recorded every year since 1995 except for 2012 and this year. With the exception of reasonably good numbers of American Goldfinch (326) and Evening Grosbeaks (44), no other finches were found.

The overall data for the Petroglyph count is as follows: Ruffed Grouse 6, Wild Turkey 43,  Bald Eagle 5, Cooper’s Hawk 1, Red-tailed Hawk 1, Rough-legged Hawk 1, Rock Pigeon 34, Mourning Dove 5, Downy Woodpecker 23, Hairy Woodpecker 25, Pileated Woodpecker 4, Northern Shrike 1, Blue Jay 74, American Crow 10, Common Raven 65, Black-capped Chickadee 676, Red-breasted Nuthatch 32, White-breasted Nuthatch 92, Brown Creeper 24, Golden-crowned Kinglet 4, American Robin 11, European Starling 45, Bohemian Waxwing 318, American Tree Sparrow 22, Dark-eyed Junco 19,  Snow Bunting 26,  American Goldfinch 326, and Evening Grosbeak 44.  A Gray Jay was also seen during the count period but not on the day of the count.

Ruffed Grouse – Parry Sound – via Rob Moos

Kids Count

In order to help young people develop an interest in birding, the third annual Junior Christmas Bird Count (CBC 4Kids) also took place on the same day as the Peterborough count. Organized by Lara Griffin, the Peterborough Field Naturalist Juniors scoured the grounds and nearby trails of the Camp Kawartha Environment Centre on Pioneer Road. The birds they found were added to the Peterborough count data. The junior event incorporates many of the same features as the adult version. However, it is far less rigorous and designed more like a game.

Great Backyard Bird Count

If you are interested in contributing to Citizen Science and maybe introducing your children or grandchildren to birding, consider taking part in the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC). This year, it is taking place February 17-20. The GBBC engages bird watchers of all levels of expertise to create a real-time snapshot of the whereabouts and relative abundance of birds in mid-winter. 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 count from any location, anywhere in the world! Go to gbbc.birdcount.org for details.