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.

Jun 032018
 

 Blue-winged Warbler (Vermivora cyanoptera) (1)
– Reported Jun 01, 2018 12:33 by Thomas Unrau
– Big (Boyd/Chiminis) Island (Kawartha Land Trust), Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “Good visual id- full white wing bars. Good song”

Blue-winged Warbler – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sora (Porzana carolina) (2)
– Reported Jun 01, 2018 12:05 by Donald A. Sutherland
– Lakefield–Centre Road at Douro Line 3, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:

Sora (Porzana carolina) (1)
– Reported Jun 01, 2018 11:32 by Donald A. Sutherland
– Sawer Creek Wetland & Wildlife Area, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:

Sora (rail) – Wikimeda

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yellow-billed Cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus) (1)
– Reported May 30, 2018 10:20 by Chris Risley
– Otonabee River–Whitfield Landing, Peterborough, Ontario
– Map: http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&t=p&z=13&q=44.2117853,-78.3550294&ll=44.2117853,-78.3550294
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S46169464

Sedge Wren (Cistothorus platensis) (1)
– Reported May 30, 2018 04:57 by Iain Rayner
– Miller Creek Conservation Area, Peterborough, Ontario
– Map: http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&t=p&z=13&q=44.3866915,-78.3501577&ll=44.3866915,-78.3501577
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S46172173
– Comments: “Much louder and closer today. Heard well from patch of sedge just beyond second “lookout”…which isn’t a lookout at all.”

Cerulean Warbler (Setophaga cerulea) (1)
– Reported May 31, 2018 11:13 by Donald A. Sutherland
– Deer Bay Reach Road, Peterborough, Ontario
– Map: http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&t=p&z=13&q=44.5740226,-78.2863426&ll=44.5740226,-78.2863426
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S46182776
– Comments: “singing around 50-100 m E road at hydro pole 3232 (picnic bench)”

May 312018
 

All eight species of Ontario turtles are now designated as at risk

With the arrival of June, turtles are once again on the move. Unfortunately, this migration often  involves a hazardous trek across busy roads and highways. Clearly, a turtle’s shell is no match for the crushing weight of a motor vehicle. The result is that thousands of turtles are killed or injured by cars and trucks in the Kawarthas each spring and summer. The carnage is devastating for turtle populations, since egg-bearing adult females are usually the victims. On the bright side, an increasing number of people are now aware of the potential presence of turtles on the road and are adjusting their driving accordingly. It is not hard to avoid striking a turtle if you are driving at a reasonable speed and scan the road ahead.

Snapping Turtle digging nest on roadside (Danielle Tassie )

Starting in late May, turtles begin searching out a place to lay their eggs, preferably with well-drained, loose, sandy soil or fine gravel. This helps to explain the popularity of road shoulders as nesting sites. The female scrapes out a hollow with her hind legs before proceeding to deposit the eggs. Painted Turtles lay five to ten white eggs, elliptical in shape and about two centimetres long. Snapping Turtles may lay as many as 70 eggs! They look remarkably like ping-pong balls but are much smaller. When the turtle has finished laying, she uses her hind legs to fill in the hole and press down the earth around the eggs. She then drags her shell over the nest and sweeps the area with her hind feet as if to cover up any sign of her presence.

Peterborough County is home to six species of turtles, although only three, the Painted, Snapping and Blanding’s are commonly seen. Seven of Ontario’s turtle species have been classified by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forests as species at risk. The situation for Spotted Turtles is so critical that they are now listed as endangered, meaning they face imminent extinction or extirpation. Both the Blanding’s and Eastern Musk turtles are classified as threatened. The Snapping Turtle, along with the Northern Map Turtle, are designated as species of special concern. Just last month, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) also designated the Midland Painted Turtle as a species of special concern. This means that all of Ontario’s turtles are now at risk of disappearing from the province.

Turtle populations are in decline for a number of reasons. First of all, turtle eggs stand a very poor chance of surviving the long incubation period. Predators such as Raccoons and Striped Skunks usually discover the nests within the first 48 hours after egg-laying, dig up the eggs and enjoy a hearty meal. They leave behind a familiar sight of crinkled, white shells scattered around the nest area. Since these predators tend to flourish anywhere there is human settlement   – Raccoons are probably twenty times more abundant than 50 years ago – very few turtle nests go undiscovered. You can help our beleaguered turtle populations by not feeding Raccoons and by assuring  they do not get into your garbage.

As already mentioned, roadkill is also a very significant cause of turtle mortality, especially during the June nesting season. Killing pregnant females not only removes reproductive adults from the population, but it also means all their potential future offspring are lost as well. According to Dr. Ron Brooks, professor at the University of Guelph, even a loss of 1 to 2% of adults annually from the “extra” mortality of roadkill will eventually lead to the disappearance of local populations.

So, what can drivers do to protect turtles? It’s mostly a matter of slowing down and watching the road carefully at this time of year, especially when travelling near wetlands, lakes and rivers. If you see a turtle on the road, consider stopping and moving it to the shoulder in the direction it was heading. Don’t return the animal to the side of the road it came from, because it will simply turn around and march right back into the traffic. You must, of course, be sure that there is no danger from oncoming cars before you perform this kind of intervention.

If the turtle is small, you can simply carry it across the road. If you are dealing with a Snapping Turtle (which can bite) the safest technique is to push and prod the animal along with a stout stick or shovel. You can also lift or pull the turtle, holding onto the rear of the shell. A Snapper can reach its midpoint so do not pick it up near the middle of the shell. Nor should you ever pick up a turtle by the tail, since this may damage its spine. It is also important not to straddle a Snapping Turtle with your car. Snappers jump up when they feel threatened, thereby hitting the undercarriage of the vehicle as it passes over them. This results in serious head trauma and shearing injuries to the carapace.

As for nesting turtles, you should never dig up a turtle nest in order to protect the eggs. You may damage them and it is also illegal. However, if you find a nest that has been disturbed by a predator, carefully place the eggs back in the hole and bury them, or bring the eggs to the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre (see below) to be incubated. Record the location of the nest as precisely as possible and be careful to keep the eggs right side up during transport. You can also help to protect new nests by lightly sweeping the surface of the nests (to disperse the scent) or temporarily covering the nest with a board for the first few days. If you have a turtle that is nesting on your property, keep an eye out for hatchlings from late August until snow and then again in spring the next year.

Painted Turtle nesting (Rick Stankiewicz)

Since June 2002, the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre (OTTC) has been saving injured native turtles and releasing them back to where they were initially found. Because so few turtles ever reach sexual maturity – females don’t reproduce until they are 18 years of age – each adult turtle is part of an extremely important group. This is why it is essential to rehabilitate turtles – especially females – that have been injured as a result of run-ins with vehicles. As long as they can avoid human-related threats, turtles can live and breed for decades and thereby perpetuate the species.

If you have found an injured turtle, call the OTCC at 705-741-5000. Do not email because an injured animal needs medical attention as soon as possible. Remember to note the location (road, major intersections and/or distance from a given landmark) where the turtle was found. This is necessary in order to ensure that the turtle can be released back into the wild according to provincial regulations. Carefully place the injured animal in a well-ventilated container – plastic, if possible – with a secure lid. Do not transport turtles in water and do not offer the turtle anything to eat. Be sure to visit the OTTC website at ontarioturtle.ca or drop in at the Centre itself. It is located at 4-1434 Chemong Road, just north of Peterborough.

Nearly all of Ontario’s amphibians and reptiles – snakes included – are in a steep decline. In order to monitor changes in the ranges of these animals and fluctuations in their population numbers, volunteers are needed to submit their observations. Take note of the date and location and report your sighting to the Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas. Observations can be submitted via an online form at ontarionature.org/programs/citizen-science/reptile-amphibian-atlas/  Most importantly, be sure to vote next Thursday for a political party that take species conservation and climate change seriously. This means providing greater habitat protection and assuring adequate funding for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. The future of the natural world is in a race against the clock.

 

May 282018
 

Whimbrels, Dunlin and Cattle Egret:  Seen in Brighton, Ontario, on May 27.  Don Munro

Whimbrels & Dunlin – Brighton, ON – May 27, 2018 – Don Munro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cattle Egret – Brighton, ON – May 27, 2018 – Don Munro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue-winged Teal (Spatula discors) (1)
– Reported May 26, 2018 11:03 by Bill Crins
– Lakefield–Sewage Lagoons, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:

male Blue-winged Teal in flight (Wikimedia)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clay-colored Sparrow (Spizella pallida) (1)
– Reported May 27, 2018 11:00 by Dave Milsom
– Lakefield water tower, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “watched it singing from branch of an apple tree.Continuing bird.”

Clay-colored Sparrow – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Orchard Oriole (Icterus spurius) (1)
– Reported May 27, 2018 13:20 by Bill Crins – Rice Lake–Island View Drive, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Media: 2 Photos
– Comments: “mature male; small, slim oriole with black head and breast, wings, tail; dark auburn lower breast, belly, undertail coverts, shoulder patch, white wing bars; occasionally sang warbling song with more burry notes interspersed; active, seen at close range in small shrubs, and at wet pool on road, heard singing from large silver maple at lodge; found where Islandview Rd. veers sharply to the east, at the lodge driveway”

Orchard Oriole – Wikimedia

May 252018
 

I’ve just returned from my annual birding trip to Point Pelee and Rondeau parks in southwestern Ontario. And, yes, the birds of spring were present in all their diversity and beauty. Every year, however, I notice something deeply unsettling: the reduction in abundance. Take the Wood Thrush, for example. Instead of seeing and hearing dozens or even hundreds of individuals, we maybe counted ten.

Wood Thrush – Greg Piasetzki

The park experience is changing in other ways, too. Each year, more and more trees are being blown over by severe windstorms. This spring, near-record rainfall also caused so much flooding at Rondeau that the campground was closed and rubber boots were a necessity to access several of the park trails.

The upcoming provincial election only adds to my anxiety level when it comes to issues such as these. The front-runner, Doug Ford, is clearly unconvinced – or simply doesn’t care – that a conservation or climate change problem even exists. He is promising to get rid of Ontario’s cap and trade climate tax. He was also prepared to open up part of Ontario’s Greenbelt to housing development, until he reversed his position for largely unknown reasons. Despite the reversal, this speaks volumes of where his heart lies – and it’s not with land conservation or enlightened urban planning.

Ford is also promising to reduce government spending to find billions of dollars in savings. This will probably mean drastic budget reductions to government departments as the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forests and the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change. We can also expect rollbacks to the Liberal’s urban planning legislation – the most progressive in North America and a key tool against urban sprawl. I’m sure that progressive urban planners across the province are shaking in their boots about what may be coming. As for Peterborough, a bridge over Jackson Park will probably be much more likely.

Doug Ford in Thunder Bay in May 2018 – Wikimedia

The Great Thinning

British environmental writer Michael McCarthy describes the reduction in wildlife numbers such as those I’ve alluded to as “The Great Thinning”. Thinning doesn’t grab headlines or spur campaigns the way that extinction does. It inhabits a space below the radar, especially to those who aren’t really paying attention. Something similar could be said about climate change. Unless people are flooded out of their homes or forced to evacuate because of forest fires or sea level rise, a changing climate remains an abstraction. The mountains of science-based data about how dire things are becoming don’t resonate with those not directly affected. Polls still show that climate change remains far down the list of concerns for most Canadians.

As a naturalist living in the 21st century, everything that means the most to me – beyond the well-being of family and friends – is under siege. I live in a world of loss – a thinning in abundance of everything from bees and butterflies to reptiles, mammals and birds. Where diverse, abundant nature was once at our doorstep, most Ontarians now have to make a concerted effort to see many species and experience healthy, rich habitats.

When I lived on Westbrook Drive in the 1980s, Barn Swallows nested each spring in our carport; the calls of Common Nighthawks resonated over downtown Peterborough on summer nights; large swarms of bats fed over the pagoda pond in Jackson Park; and Monarchs were so common that we hardly noticed them. Even a car drive on a summer night spoke volumes of species abundance. I clearly remember how the windshield and headlights would become so splattered with moths and other flying insects that I sometimes had to stop to wipe them clean before carrying on.

The predictability of climate, too, was taken for granted. Snow usually arrived in early December and stayed until mid-March. The odd January thaw would occur, but it was still possible to have a backyard rink for most of the winter. Extreme heat, rain and wind events occurred on occasion but were far less common.

Peterborough is already feeling the effects of climate change such as the flood of 2004 – Janine Jones photo

Fast-forward three decades. With luck, you might find a barn where swallows still nest; you sometimes see nighthawks during their fall migration; if you know exactly where to go, there are still a few small colonies of martins on Rice Lake; I still hear of the occasional single bat turning up in older homes; and seeing one or two Monarchs in the garden has become an event of great excitement, rather than the norm. As for night-flying summer insects, our windshields are eerily clean.

When it comes to climate and weather, we no longer know what to expect, other than it will be an extreme of some sort. Over the past 15 years, Peterborough has experienced an epic flood, numerous severe wind and freezing rain events with a huge loss of trees and record-cold winter months interspersed with record-warm winter months. More and more, our weather is delivered in extremes. All of this is playing out against a background of three months out of four being warmer than the 1971-2000 average.

Sad and frustrated

In light of all these changes, the feelings I experience most are sadness and frustration. Sadness that my granddaughters who love nature will probably never experience its richness and diversity the way I have, and frustration that I can’t even convince many close friends that aggressive action on climate change has to be a bare minimum for anyone seeking public office. I find it appalling that politicians like Doug Ford can get away with putting short-term political gain ahead of the kind of world we are leaving for our children and grandchildren. Just as Ontario is making progress on fighting climate change, Ford is promising to undo it all by getting rid of the cap and trade agreement with Quebec and California. That a political party could get itself elected in 2018 on a program that includes ditching a price on carbon is horrifying. It’s almost like someone saying, “Vote for us and we’ll roll back the laws on same sex marriage, restrictions on smoking in public places and equal pay for work of equal value”.

Everywhere we look, climate change predictions are being confirmed. If you believe in science – humankind’s best way of discovering what’s true – you have to believe that forecasts for the coming years will prove true, as well. Yes, it’s difficult to think beyond the present moment and the many worries and stresses of everyday life. However, we can’t put our heads in the sand. Parents who are outraged when their child is exposed to second-hand smoke or unsafe playground equipment remain somehow paralyzed when it comes to the infinitesimally  greater threat represented by climate change.

Our very civilization depends on a stable, predictable climate, but we fail to grasp the enormity of the climate calamity at our doorstep. In most areas of our lives, the majority of human beings are kind, moral people. However, where is the morality of ignoring what science is telling us? Do we really think we’re better informed than the scientists are? Where is the morality in letting a politician like Doug Ford get away with cancelling a carbon tax and muse about opening protected land to housing development? Ford is making us look like a bunch of fools.

We have no true sense that the Earth is our larger body that we breathe, drink, eat and turn to for inspiration and spiritual well-being. We still haven’t learned to look at nature – be it wildlife or climatic systems – as part of ourselves, as something in which we are deeply embedded. It remains something “out there” and apart. If we truly understood the importance of nature – for our spirits, our souls and our physical and emotional well-being – the on-going destruction of species, habitats and climate systems would never be tolerated. At the very least, we wouldn’t let politicians get away with campaigning on policies that will only lead to greater destruction.

Hope

I still hope that there might be “a great turning” — a transition from a society shaped primarily by unbridled economic growth and the savaging of the natural world to a more life-sustaining ethic. And, to be fair, progress is being made. We see it in ways of generating energy, producing food, learning from the wisdom of indigenous people and even new metrics for measuring prosperity, happiness and wealth. I think our love and awareness of nature is growing, too. In Peterborough, this is apparent in things as simple as the number of “I brake for turtles” bumper stickers on cars and the many people who now garden with pollinators in mind. Respect for smaller-scale, more conservation-minded agriculture can also be seen in the huge public support for locally-produced food.

Now is not the time to turn our back on this progress. Climate change and conservation are not problems like the others. We are in a race against the clock. If greenhouse gas emissions are not brought down to almost zero in the next couple of decades, the very worst impacts of climate change are a near certainty. As for conservation, once species and habitats have disappeared, they are gone forever.

On June 7, vote for a party that is honest about the climate threats we face, supports a tax on carbon and believes in conservation and progressive urban planning.

 

May 222018
 

Orange-crowned Warbler (Oreothlypis celata) (1)
– Reported May 23, 2018 07:23 by Donald A. Sutherland
– Peterborough–Trent Rotary Rail Trail, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “singing”

Orange-crowned Warbler by Karl Egressy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Upland Sandpiper (Bartramia longicauda) (1)
– Reported May 21, 2018 09:11 by Iain Rayner
– Ptbo – Centre Line Rd Smith, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “Heard calling. Known location”

Greg Piasetzki – Upland Sandpiper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cliff Swallow (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota) (2)
– Reported May 22, 2018 10:15 by Bill Crins
– Lakefield–Sewage Lagoons, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:

Cliff Swallow building nest – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vesper Sparrow (Pooecetes gramineus) (2)
– Reported May 21, 2018 15:43 by Donald A. Sutherland
– Sand Road–between Asphodel Line 7 and 4, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:

Vesper Sparrow – Karl Egressy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Orchard Oriole (Icterus spurius) (1)
– Reported May 21, 2018 15:43 by Donald A. Sutherland
– Sand Road–between Asphodel Line 7 and 4, Peterborough, Ontario
– Map: http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&t=p&z=13&q=44.3472688,-78.025353&ll=44.3472688,-78.025353
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S45902970
– Comments: “adult male singing from roadside Bur Oak at gravel pit”

Orchard Oriole – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

American Wigeon (Mareca americana) (2)
– Reported May 21, 2018 11:55 by Dave Milsom
– Lakefield–Sewage Lagoons, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Media: 2 Photos
– Comments: “males”

Greater Scaup (Aythya marila) (1)
– Reported May 21, 2018 11:55 by Dave Milsom
– Lakefield–Sewage Lagoons, Peterborough, Ontario
– Map: http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&t=p&z=13&q=44.4180879,-78.2587266&ll=44.4180879,-78.2587266
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S45912749
– Media: 1 Photo

Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis) (6)
– Reported May 21, 2018 11:55 by Dave Milsom
– Lakefield–Sewage Lagoons, Peterborough, Ontario
– Map: http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&t=p&z=13&q=44.4180879,-78.2587266&ll=44.4180879,-78.2587266
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S45912749
– Media: 1 Photo
– Comments: “head with slight bump at rear, small bill.Coarser markings on mantle.”

Whimbrels:  I was out kayaking this morning, May 21, and got a very good look at four Whimbrels standing on a log on the edge of Lakefield Marsh. Annamarie Beckel, Lakefield

Whimbrel – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More shorebirds:  At 11 am, Monday morning (May  21) there were 2 female Wilson’s Phalaropes in remnants of pond on south side of 2nd Line about 500 metres east of  Highway #28. This is the pond which held several rare geese in April and early May. Also there were 2 Lesser Yellowlegs, 3 Semipalmated Plovers, 2 Dunlin, Killdeer, and many Least Sandpipers. No sign of male Wilson’s Phalarope on Choate Road, Port Hope, but 4 Black-bellied Plovers flew in. Sanderling and Dunlin on breakwall rocks close to harbour in Port Hope.   Dave Milsom

Rose-breasted Grosbeak:  This morning, May 21, I had a visit at my feeder from a male and female Rose-breasted Grosbeak.  Derry Fairweather, Buckhorn Lake

Rose-breasted Grosbeak – May 21, 2018, Derry Fairweather

 

May 212018
 

 

Great Horned Owl:  I took this owlet picture yesterday, May 17, at a nest 1 km west of Springbrook, Ontario. Don Munro

Great Horned Owlet – May 17, 2018 – Springbrook, ON – Don Munro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea) (1)
– Reported May 17, 2018 11:45 by Ben Taylor
– Peterborough–Mervin Line, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “Small bluish gray bird with white eye ring singing softly in a tree quite near Mervin line. As seen by previously.”

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher – Karl Egressy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue-winged Warbler (Vermivora cyanoptera) (1)
– Reported May 17, 2018 09:39 by Mike V.A. Burrell
– Otonabee Gravel Pit Conservation Area, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “Singing normal song, visually confirmed. At the small clearing immediately east of the lower gate.”

Blue-winged Warbler – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sora (Porzana carolina) (3)
– Reported May 13, 2018 08:27 by Matthew Garvin
– Peterborough–Fairbairn Street wetland, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist:
– Media: 1 Photo
– Comments: “Responded immediately to So-RAh playback with rattle calls”

Sora (rail) – Wikimeda

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leucistic American Robin:  This robin was in the backyard at 71 Pellissier St. S. in Campbellford.
Paul Smith

leucistic American Robin – Campbellford – via James Burrett – May 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

American Bittern: This bittern was caught on a trail cam video at Gannon’s Narrows Conservation
area May 12, 2018 @ 2:30pm.  Kingsley Hubbs

AMBI – May 12, 2018 – Kingsley Hubbs – Gannons Narrrows

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red-bellied Woodpecker:  We have had these Red-bellied Woodpeckers coming back to nest for about five years. They are here all through the winter at the feeder. I think that they nest in the maple in front of the house. We are located at 1520 Blezard Line. Nancy Salonius

Red-bellied Woodpecker – Nancy Salonius

 











Orchard Oriole: This Orchard Oriole has been eating oranges at my feeder on Ford 
Crescent in Cavan since May 9.  Ken Rumble

1st summer male Orchard Oriole – May 11, 2018 – Ken Rumble

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brown Thrasher:  We spotted this Brown Thrasher in our Peterborough yard this lovely May 5 morning. Helen and Larry Keller

Brown Thrasher – Peterborough – May 5, 2018 – Larry Keller


		
May 182018
 

From botanical gardens and wildlife centres to museums and coffee farms, the San José area has much to offer

As we boarded the bus to San Isidro de Heredia, we were sorry to leave Puerto Viejo, but felt satisfied that we’d experienced much of what Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast has to offer. Our friends, Mike and Sonja Barker had especially enjoyed the music scene and yoga; my wife, Michelle, was enamored by the restaurants and cafés; while all of us were enchanted by the prodigious wildlife  However, we were also looking forward to our final 10 days of the trip in the much cooler San Isidro area, located in the Central Valley northeast of San José.

San Isidro, and nearby Santo Domingo, have wonderful farmers markets – Drew Monkman

Although the region of San Isidro is much more developed and not as biologically rich as Puerto Viejo, it offers much of interest, including farmers markets, picturesque villages and great dining. Michelle was able to find us a very comfortable, modern house through VRBO. The American owner, Steve Huffstutlar, was everything you could expect in a host:  tour guide, problem solver and authority on all things Costa Rican. I especially enjoyed chatting with him about Costa Rican Spanish, which has some unique features. For example, the familiar personal pronoun “tu” is not used at all, while the use of “usted” is ubiquitous, even between parents and their children. The signature Spanish expression of the country is “pura vida” which means “pure life”, but is commonly used as a salutation or exclamation.

Mike Barker and my wife Michelle watching some of Costa Rica’s amazing birdlife (Photo by Drew Monkman)

I also enjoyed chatting with Steve’s bilingual on-site manager, Eduardo Chumpitasi, who is a very knowledgeable amateur lepidopterist. He showed me his huge collection of moths and butterflies, many of which he had collected in his own yard. His wife, Agnes, showed me the Monarch caterpillars she was raising with her grandchildren. Monarchs are a non-migratory, resident species here and surprisingly common.

Steve’s property had a good selection of flowering shrubs and trees – including many conifers – which attracted a wide diversity of birds. Blue-and-white Swallows coursed overhead, while Grayish Saltators sang from trees and Rufous-collared Sparrows fed on the lawn. Every night, a Common Pauraque – a bird closely related to the Whip-poor-will – serenaded us with its loud, whistled “kweeeuu” call. The laneway, which crossed a nearby creek, turned out to be a great place to see North American migrants like Baltimore Orioles, Summer Tanagers, Wilson’s Warblers and Louisiana Waterthrush. In all, I was able to find 37 species within five minutes of the house.

Steve provided us with a long, detailed list of places to visit within an hour or two of San Isidro. This included a number of museums in San José. We especially enjoyed the National Museum of Costa Rica with its butterfly conservatory and amazing exhibit of pre-Colombian artifacts. The only downside of going into the capital was the horrendous traffic.

Bougainvillea Hotel

The number one destination on Steve’s list was the Bougainvillea Hotel. The grounds are essentially a two-acre botanical garden. The plants are all identified, so a visit here provides a great introduction to Costa Rican flora. There are even ponds created specifically for endangered frogs. The grounds also attract a wide variety of bird life, including motmots, tanagers and many migrants like Tennessee Warblers. My favourite viewing spot was an observation tower, which afforded great photography opportunities. At only a half-hour from the airport, I would recommend the hotel to anyone travelling to Costa Rica and wanting to spend a restful night or two upon arriving or departing. The hotel is very environmentally conscious and the dining is superb.

The observation tower in the botanical garden at Hotel Bougainvillea – (Photo by Drew Monkman)

La Paz Waterfall Gardens

One of our most memorable days was a visit to La Paz Waterfall Gardens, situated northwest of San Isidro on the way to the Poas Volcano. We loved the scenic drive as we passed by coffee farms and grazing dairy cattle. The views of the valley below were spectacular. La Paz Waterfall Gardens is the most popular privately-owned ecological attraction in Costa Rica and offers a marvelous introduction to Costa Rica’s iconic wildlife. It has the most esthetically-pleasing wildlife enclosures and beautiful waterfalls I’ve ever seen. La Paz has been developed in such a way as to combine environmentally conscious design with maximum educational impact.

Among the highlights are a huge, jungle-like aviary with numerous species of native birds, a butterfly observatory and exhibits of live frogs and snakes. You can also see some of the country’s iconic mammals like Howler and Spider Monkeys, Three-toed Sloths, Ocelots and even a Jaguar. Seeing these animals up close gives a real sense of how precious – and fragile – Costa Rica’s wildlife actually is. If you’re interested in plants, the orchid and Heliconia gardens are a must-see, as well. The high point of the day for Michelle and me, however, was the hummingbird garden, where feeders attract wild birds living in the area. No fewer than 26 different species have been documented here. The birds are so close that you can feel the air displaced by their wings as they zip by your head and feed only metres away. Just make sure your camera has a memory card with lots of space!

Hanging out with the Black-mandibled Toucan at La Paz Waterfall Gardens – Michelle Monkman

Finca Cristina and Ark Herb Farm

On another occasion, we drove southeast of San Jose to Finca Cristina, an organic shade-grown coffee farm. It is located near Cartago, which has the country’s grandest colonial-era church, the Basilica de Nuestra Senora de Los Angeles. Finca Cristina is dedicated to producing Arabica coffee while at the same time protecting and preserving native flora and fauna. The farm is located in the middle of a major flyway for neo-tropical migratory birds and provides important habitat for threatened North American species like Cerulean and Canada Warblers. While we were tasting some of the outstanding coffee the farm produces, we watched the fruit and nectar feeders and the constant coming and going of both resident and migratory species.

We toured the farm with one of the owners and learned about the labour-intensive process of producing shade-grown organic coffee. I have a new appreciation for why it’s more expensive! Managing the shade trees, most of which are banana plants, is nearly as involved as tending to the coffee trees themselves. Pest management, too, is also a huge part of the operation.

Another memorable tour was at the Ark Herb Farm, which has one of the largest collections of herbs and other medicinal plants in Central America. It is a focal point for herbalists, botanists and plant lovers. The plants are all identified and marked with symbols signifying how they can be used. Our guide was a wonderfully informative   ethnobotanist who regaled us with all kinds of anecdotes and stories. He was especially passionate about the dream-inducing qualities of Brugmansia and how the leaves can be used to treat skin problems. We also tasted incredibly sweet Stevia leaves and learned about the relationship between passionflower vines and Heliconius butterflies. The study of these butterflies has helped scientists to understand how new species are formed and why nature is so diverse.

 Barva Volcano

My birding highlight of this second leg of our Costa Rican trip was a visit to Barva Volcano, north of San José. At nearly 10,000 feet above sea level, it is home to beautiful cloud forest habitat with trees draped in lichens and moss.

When I arrived at 6 am with my guide, Michael Jimenez Quesada, we were greeted by    the ethereal song of the Black-faced Solitaire and the far-carrying calls of Prong-billed Barbets. It wasn’t until the sun climbed higher in the sky, however, that bird activity really increased. Much of it came courtesy of hummingbirds. Tiny Volcano and Scintillant Hummingbirds dashed around like over-sized bumble bees, while male Green Violet-ears chipped their incessant two-note song. A beautiful female Purple-throated Mountain-gem posed obligingly for us for several minutes, its orange breast and throat standing out clearly against the green leaves.

As we walked along the road towards the park entrance, we quickly added other high-altitude species like Mountain Elaenia, Long-tailed Silky Flycatcher and Golden-browed Chlorophonias. The latter were carrying lichens to line their nest in a bromeliad, nestled on a tree branch. A rare but obliging Black-billed Nightingale Thrush hopped out onto the road and allowed close-up views.

My guide, Michael Quesada, watching a quetzal at Barva Volcano – Drew Monkman

Upon entering the park, we took a trail that eventually led to the Barva Lagoon, the largest caldera on the volcano. The climb was quite a workout in the thin air, and I swore to myself that if I ever return, I’ll do so 20 pounds lighter! When I stopped to catch my breath, I tried out some pishing. Almost immediately, a beautiful male Golden-winged Warbler popped out of the vegetation and lingered on a branch only metres away. It was soon joined by a pair of Collared Redstarts that posed for us for nearly five minutes. It was then that Michael heard the plaintive call notes of a pair of Resplendent Quetzals. Only seconds later, the male flew in and perched briefly above the trail, its emerald green chest and crimson-red belly glowing in the sunlight. When it flew off, the tail coverts streaming behind the bird were as long as its body. Michael was as excited as I was and remarked, “I often have birders that cry when they see their first quetzal!”

Arriving at the observation platform over the lagoon, we had amazing views in all directions. On a clear day, it’s possible to see both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The birding had not been easy, but adding nearly 10 life birds to my list made it all worthwhile.

Our six weeks in Costa Rica was everything we hoped it would be. We are destined to return!

 

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

May 032018
 

The Beekeeper’s Lament

“O bring me palanquin, All my companions have scattered”  Renée Sarojini Saklikar in “Listening to the Bees”

Several years ago, a Letter to the Editor appeared in this paper that struck me as particularly poignant. It was from a former Trent University student, Rick Fisher. In the 1980s, he was engaged in an intensive study of bumble bee ecology in the Peterborough area. After moving to New Zealand, he returned to Peterborough in 2013 for a summer visit. Rick wrote, “Despite intensive searches of all the areas where the bees used to be abundant, and despite favourable weather, I’ve found no evidence to support the existence of any of the bumble bees that were so common 30 years ago. To me, the woods and glades of beautiful places like Jackson Park now fill me with an aching sense of loss, and despair. Little did I know that my thesis studies would be more epitaph than ecology. What have we done?”

Tri-coloured bumblebee on sweet clover. Like honey bees, native wild bees face an uncertain future. (Drew Monkman)

Pollination Summit

Anyone paying attention to the degradation of our natural world is aware by now of the plight of native pollinators like bumble bees and of colony collapse in honey bees. It is a vexing problem with no single cause. It is happening by a thousand tiny cuts as a result of habitat loss, disease, parasites, climate change and pesticide use. It is estimated that one-third of our food items depend on pollinators. They also play a key role in biodiversity, as over 85% of the world’s flowering plants require bees, wasps, flies, bats and even hummingbirds for their reproduction. Any organism that consumes seeds, fruits or vegetables, is dependent on the services provided by pollinators. This includes not only human beings but countless other species as well.

World bee expert Mark Winston will speak at Market Hall on Saturday, May 5 

No one is more familiar with bee decline – and the lessons it contains for the future of human society – than Dr. Mark Winston, a world bee expert and Professor of Biological Sciences at Simon Fraser University. Mark is also a senior fellow at Simon Fraser’s Centre for Dialogue, which creates a space for “respectful conversations between diverse stakeholders, where mutual curiosity and collaborative inquiry act as alternatives to adversarial approaches.” As a former director of the Centre, he achieved international recognition by creating leadership development opportunities for students that contribute to social change in communities. Much of his work still involves advancing communication skills and engaging public audiences with controversial issues through dialogue. Effective public interaction and honest dialogue are especially important right now. Pending decisions on oil pipelines, fossil fuel resource development and carbon taxes threaten the delicate balance between economy and environment.

This weekend, Mark Winston will be the keynote speaker at a Pollinator Summit hosted by Peterborough Pollinators. In collaboration with local non-profits, businesses and community members, the summit will be a two-day celebration of bees, pollinator gardens,  community-stewarded urban beehives and, maybe most importantly, of dialogue. Dr. Winston will be speaking Saturday evening at 8 pm at Market Hall. It promises to be a presentation rich in storytelling, connecting to nature and learning what lessons bees have for humanity. A book signing and a Honey Fair showcasing the products of local honey producers will start at 7 pm. Tickets are $28 ($18 for students) and can be purchased at the door.

On Sunday, May 6, there will be an opportunity for people to visit some of Peterborough’s outstanding pollinator gardens and urban beehives. The public is also invited to participate in a community dialogue with Dr. Winston and local community dialogue practitioner Ben Wolfe. It will take place at Lett Architects on Simcoe Street. This “cross-pollination” dialogue, which is almost full, will bring together community members, beekeepers, gardeners and conservationists. It will explore the question: How do we empower citizens to protect pollinators and, in doing so, create, restore and celebrate natural environments?

For the past three years, Peterborough Pollinators has focused on this very question. The group has been working to encourage the creation of pollinator habitat including gardens of all sizes throughout the Kawarthas and on educating the public about the importance of pollinators. Not only do these gardens help pollinators, but they also bring greater food security, sense of place and community development to our neighbourhoods.

Books  

Drawing on a three-decade career researching killer bees, pollination and honey bee communication, Mark Winston is an eloquent and impactful communicator of science to the general public. He is that rare scientist who can take complex science and repackage it something a general audience can understand and appreciate. In addition to being a frequent guest on radio and television, Dr. Winston has had a distinguished career writing and commenting on environmental issues. His award-winning book “Nature Wars: People vs. Pests” has been recognized as the most probing and thoughtful discussion of pesticide use since Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring”. Winston is also the author of “Bee Time: Lessons from the Hive”, which won a 2015 Governor General’s Literary Award.

Most recently, Winston is the co-author of a new book, “Listening to the Bees”, with Canadian poet Renée Sarojini Saklikar. The book is something quite rare – an interaction between the poet and the scientist. It is a compendium of Winston’s research, accompanied by Saklikar’s poems inspired by this research. Saklikar, who is best known as the author of “Children of Air India”, has had a life-long interest in bees. She takes the poems in directions that connect to what the research was about and to her own Indian culture.

Listening to the Bees

Lessons for humanity

Like us, honeybees represent a pinnacle in nature of animal sociality. How they submerge individual needs into the colony collective provides a lens through which to ponder human societies. In “Bee Time: Lessons from the Hive”, Winston explains how bees process information, structure work and communicate. He also examines how corporate boardrooms are using bee societies as a model to improve collaboration, how bees have altered our understanding of agricultural ecosystems and how urban planners are looking to bees in designing more nature-friendly cities. Bees inhabit a world of chemical communication, which involves more than 40 different compounds. It is a world we neither see nor hear. Winston’s focus on bee communication has made him realize how poorly we humans communicate with each other – do we really see and listen? – and how little we understand the various channels we use.

Bees have other important lessons to teach us. For example, a typical honey bee colony contains residue from more than 100 pesticides. Taken singly, each is relatively benign, but together their interplay can have serious impacts. These include reducing the effectiveness of bees’ immune systems, which leaves them more susceptible to disease. What’s happening to bees as a result of pesticides is a useful lens to consider human health. Winston believes that the interactions of pesticides on bees can be compared in some respects to the interaction of prescription drugs on humans. Each, on its own, provides benefits, but when numerous drugs are used together, the interaction can cause harmful side-effects, particularly in patients who are already diseased-compromised.

As human beings, we cannot afford to ignore what the demise of bees tells us about our own tenuous relationship with nature. There is much to learn from bees in how they respond to the many challenges they face. In sustaining their societies, bees teach us ways to sustain our own. It is his hope that by communicating about the glory and the plight of all our pollinators, maybe we can make a positive difference in their future – and ours.

Winston also has much to say about wild native bees. In a 2014 New York Times article, he wrote that beyond honey bees, there are thousands of wild bee species that could offer many of the same pollination services needed for agriculture. Yet wild bees — that is, bees not kept by beekeepers — are also threatened by heavy pesticide use, by the destruction of nesting sites by overly intensive agriculture and by the destruction of diverse nectar and pollen sources from highly effective weed killers. Winston’s laboratory at Simon Fraser discovered that crop yields, and thus profits, are maximized if considerable acreages of cropland are left uncultivated to support wild pollinators. “The current challenges faced by managed honey bees and wild bees remind us that we can manage too much. Excessive cultivation, chemical use and habitat destruction eventually destroy the very organisms that could be our partners. There is a lesson in the decline of bees about how to respond to the most fundamental challenges facing contemporary human societies. We can best meet our own needs if we maintain a balance with nature — a balance that is as important to our health and prosperity as it is to the bees.”

In a recent interview on the PolliNation Podcast from Oregon State University, Winston describes his research and science communication as teasing around the edges of great mysteries we’ll never fully understand. “To me bees are unknowable, and I say that as someone who has done a lot of research… I love that mystery. I’ve felt that mystery ever since I opened my first bee hive. As I get older I find myself revelling even more in the unknowable.”

For more information on the Pollination Summit, please go to peterboroughpollinators.com.

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
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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
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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:
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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
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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
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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:
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– 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:
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– 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 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