Jan 052020

This week, I’d like to share more nature sightings from the past year that readers have shared with me. I am always pleased to learn about what people are seeing and to try to answer nature-related questions. To stay abreast of the latest sightings in Peterborough and the Kawarthas, please visit my website at drewmonkman.com and click on the Sightings tab. You will also find information relating to climate change in the Kawarthas.


  • My neighbour, Ed Kloosterman, showed me some pictures of an albino raccoon that ran across his backyard on the edge of Little Lake in early July. At first it was hard to make out just what the creature was! Ken Brown, Engleburn Avenue
  • Merlins are using a tree just off our Reid Street balcony in Peterborough to exchange songbirds they’ve caught. We’ve been seeing them do this five or six times a day. Quite a spectacle, to say the least. Mike Fought
  • On July 12, a leucistic (i.e., lacking normal pigmentation) common grackle was feeding its fledgling in my backyard.  It hung around the feeder most of the day. Sharon Watson, County Road 36, Lindsay.
  • We have now protected three painted turtle nests. At least two of these nests definitely have eggs as a skunk has been trying to dig around the edge. We also found a fourth nest, which had been dug out. Eggs shells were lying around the hole, along with four tiny, dead painted turtles, all rather desiccated. This must have been a nest from last year, since the hatchlings overwinter in the nest after they emerge from the eggs in fall. Stephenie and Peter Armstrong, Warsaw
  • The other day, we found an enormous bug – probably five inches in length – stuck to the patio screen. We’d never seen an insect this big in our lives. I gently swept it off the screen and it landed on the patio. The wing cover was silver and blended well with the patio bricks. Any clue what this creature is? Gord Young, Armour Road (Note: Gord’s visitor was a male dobsonfly. Males have huge mandibles (pincers), which are used only in competition for females. In the aquatic larval stage, they’re called hellgrammites and are a popular fish bait. D.M.)


  • Regarding my efforts to re-establish near-extinct American chestnut trees, I have lots of good news. First, all of the seedlings that I started in the spring have survived and seem to be thriving. Second, for the first time, all three of my most mature trees produced catkins this spring. I’m hopeful I’ll be able to harvest many more viable seeds this autumn than last. Third, and maybe most important of all, I discovered an American chestnut sapling that must be at least five years old and only metres away from the three original trees that I planted. Given its height (about a metre and a half) I surmise that it was planted by squirrels in the first year that the trees produced nuts. This is the proof I needed that the trees could self-seed. Michael Doran, Kinmount
  • On the evening of August 29, Tim Dyson & I counted migrating common nighthawks from Back Dam Park near Warsaw. We tallied 133 birds, with one “flock” comprising at least 48. Quite a sight! Tim had already had several evenings in late August with more than 100 nighthawks. Nighthawks have declined by 68% since 1970, but the species still seems to be quite common in suitable boreal forests habitats.
  • People continued to report red-headed woodpeckers in the Trent University Nature Area. On August 11, Matt Mair saw three individuals at once in the silver maple swamp off the blue trail. They were unmistakable with their fully red heads and black wings with a white patch. The birds were first seen in June.


  • We have several endangered butternuttrees on our farm. There were no nuts last year, but this year the crop is abundant. As for wild grape, the amount of fruit is overwhelming. We’ve also seen more monarchs this year than ever before. Darienne McAuley, Bland Line
  • On August 31, I came across a scene that intrigued me. Caterpillars of both the monarch butterfly and milkweed tussock moth were feeding on the same leaf. At times they seemed to face each other in an aggressive fashion but then just turned away and continued to eat. Gwen McMullen, Warsaw


  • A leucistic “Halloween ghost robin” was eating berries in our yard today.  Fred and Marg Forster, Keene
  • On October 6, an eastern towhee spent the entire day in our yard. It was on the ground but did not go up onto the feeders. Carol and Bruce Forsythe
  • A number of people reported interesting birds in the Lakefield area. On October 22, Chris Risley had two mute swans at the Lakefield Marsh. At the same time, a rare female canvasback duck was at the Lakefield-Sewage Lagoons.


  • I found a snowy owl this week at the north end of Post Road, just east of Lindsay. Then, on November 26, I was able to get good pictures of two beavers along Hooton Drive where it crosses the Cavan Swamp, just west of Peterborough. Carl Welbourn
  • On November 21, at around 5:30 pm, I was driving up to Lakefield along County Road 32 and was surprised to see dozens – or perhaps even hundreds – of frogs hopping across the road towards the river. It was raining lightly, and I know that frogs often move on nights like that. However, given the late date, the long period of frigid weather we’d had, and the fact that it was only 3 C, I was quite surprised to see this!  Carrie Sadowski (Note: I’m not aware of frogs “migrating” towards the river at such a late date and especially not after such a long period of cold, with temperatures as low as -20 C. I imagine most of them were leopard frogs, which overwinter on the bottom of large bodies of water like the Otonabee River. I wonder if they got “caught” by the sudden arrival of cold whether before being able to make it to the river. They do feed in upland locations during the late summer and fall. D.M.)
  • On November 30, I had gone up to the north part of the field here to move some rocks. Just as I got there, I looked up and saw a lovely adult golden eagle soaring right above me. High in the background, there was an upper tangent arc caused by the sun lighting up the hexagonal ice crystals of the cirrus cloud deck. Wow! A golden eagle with a vivid rainbow backdrop! Tim Dyson, Douro 1st Line
  • My granddaughter, Grace Mackie, observed an opossum running along Oriole Boulevard during the week of November 16. I knew that opossums had made it to Toronto but did not know they were in Peterborough. I am intrigued by how they would survive our winters – under decks, garages, wood duck tree nests? Perce Powles (Note:Virginia opossums are definitely present in the Kawarthas but still relatively uncommon. They probably do take advantage of all the shelters that Perce mentions. In early December, Andrea White saw an opossum on Edmison Drive, not far from Oriole Boulevard. D.M.)


  • On December 3, I was able to get some pictures of a rough-legged hawk dining on a carp at Lock 25 on the Otonabee River. Carl Welbourn
  • Throughout November I had three young raccoons coming to my yard and eating birdseed. As of mid-December, two are still around. I managed to get a picture of one peering at me through the feeder. Pretty cute! Bet Curry  
  • On the morning of December 15, I watched four river otters and three bald eagles on the Trent River in Campbellford. I was able to get a picture of a young eagle flying in and stealing a catfish that one of the otters had caught and brought up onto the ice.  Donald Munro, Campbellford

What to watch for this week

                  Identifying and interpreting mammal tracks is a fascinating pastime and adds a great deal to a winter outing. Don McLeod, a local naturalist with a special interest in tracks, has detailed pictures of the tracks of local mammals on his wonderful blog at https://www.donaldmcleod.com/Keyword-Galleries/Mammal-Tracks.

Climate Crisis Update

The COP25 climate talks wrapped up in Madrid last Sunday. Here are six takeaways. 1. There was no agreement on a global system of carbon markets and offsets. The issue is back on the agenda for climate talks next year. 2. There was agreement on a call to boost emissions reductions. 3. Finance remains a major sticking point as developed nations watered down any calls for new financial support for those nations most vulnerable to climate change. 4. The divide between old emitters (e.g., the U.S) and new emitters (e.g., China, India and Brazil) over the responsibility to cut emissions remains. 5. There is a widening gulf between the expectations of climate activists – especially youth – and climate negotiators. “The climate talks are over for this year, but citizen activism is not,” May Boeve, the executive director of grassroots movement 350.org, said Sunday, pledging “to keep marching and disrupting and pressuring our politicians.” 6. There is a sense that global climate efforts are in a political and procedural crisis. Jennifer Morgan, Greenpeace International’s director, said that “governments need to completely rethink how they do this, because the outcome of COP25 is totally unacceptable.” The bottom line is that for most corporate and political leaders in the world, there is still no sense that we’re in the midst of a climate emergency.

Nov 182017

The news about the American Chestnut trees that I have been bringing along up near Kinmount for the last 15 years is not good, I’m afraid. First: None of the nuts I planted last Fall sprouted so I had no new seedlings to plant this year. Second: I think because we had such a cold and wet Spring, only one of my three trees produced blossoms. Being dioecious (separate male and female trees), this meant there was virtually no hope of producing viable nuts this Summer, unless there are surviving American Chestnut trees nearby. Third: I hope it was due to a late frost but the new growth of leaves on all three of my trees exhibited noticeable deformation, although the remainder of the trees remained healthy-looking until they dropped their leaves. I’m hopeful that this isn’t a symptom of that devastating blight.
I am happy to report though that we saw bats at our cabin regularly through the Summer. I would say that their numbers are coming back up there. We also saw quite a few Monarch butterflies; more than in the past several Summers. We have never seen so many Moose as this summer: Two siblings (I presume) together on a game camera in the Spring, one big bull Moose in September and another, different bull Moose just a couple of weeks ago. Unfortunately, only two days after we saw the first bull Moose in our meadow, huge rack and all, my wife had a collision with him on Crystal Lake Road. Miraculously, and thankfully, she was completely unhurt, although the car was extensively damaged. The only other bit of good news coming from that is that the Moose ran off into the woods, apparently unhurt. The Moose we caught on camera a couple of weeks ago was younger, with a smaller rack and he appeared healthy.
We saw a Quail crossing Fire Route 397, and I believe they are considered endangered in Ontario now. For the first time ever we captured a Pine Marten (I believe) on a game camera. We also caught many does, a few bucks, several foxes, turkeys, raccoons, porcupines, rabbits, coyotes/wolves/coywolves . . . and a hunter trespassing on our property, shotgun in hand, who stole one of our game cameras. As always, notifying the police is a waste of time. He better not have shot one of our quail, or anything else for that matter.

Michael Doran, Peterborough

Pine Marten – Gord Belyea

American Chestnut leaves and nuts (Wikimedia)

Dec 182016

Volunteers on Jack Lake have participated in the Canada Lakes Loon Survey (CLLS) since the program was initiated in the early 1980s.  In recent years we have engaged additional volunteers so that the entire lake could be surveyed during the months of June, July and August.  We recently made an effort to consolidate all loon observation records over the past 34 years.  This document is attached for your information and records. A copy has also been sent to Bird Studies Canada as well as being posted on the Jack Lake Association website. We plan on participating in this survey again in 2017.

Steven J. Kerr, Environment Director, Jake Lake Association


Common Loon (Karl Egressy)

Common Loon (Karl Egressy)



Jul 122016

Black-crowned Night-Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) (1)
– Reported Jul 11, 2016 07:20 by Iain Rayner
– Ptbo – Water St., Peterborough, Ontario
– Comments: “Adult perched on snag overhanging river near W end of London St. footbridge. Quite far from my vantage point but with binos I could clearly make out squat shape, pale grey sides/front and black back. 4th year in a row BCNH has showed up at this location at this time of year.”

Black-crowned Night-Heron (American) (Nycticorax nycticorax hoactli) (1)
– Reported Jul 11, 2016 08:35 by Luke Berg
– Peterborough-Quaker Park – West side of London Street Footbridge, Peterborough, Ontario
– Media: 2 Photos
– Comments: “Continuing adult found this morning by Iain Rayner. Originally it was very hard to see as it foraged in the dense vegetation around the west end of the bridge but it flew up onto an exposed perch about 50 north of the bridge on the West Bank of the river, giving excellent views. It was still there when I left but it may return to the shoreline to feed.”

Black-crowned Night-Heron - Wikimedia

Black-crowned Night-Heron – Wikimedia

Black-crowned Night Heron - Drew Monkman

Black-crowned Night Heron – Drew Monkman

Jun 252016

The Spring 2016 swift watches gave us some really interesting numbers.  The peak was on May 17 when Dan Williams saw 123 enter the roost. A Merlin was seen by several people harassing the swifts and keeping them from getting into the roosts. Heavy rain before normal roost time seemed to make them enter early. Thanks for your help.
I have sent in the following data to SwiftWatch Ontario at Bird Studies Canada.  Observers all across the range of the Chimney Swift in Canada will have made observations on most of these same dates so it will be interesting to see the BSC report in a few months time.
See below the table for the eBird checklists for these visits.

Chimney Swift Roost Observations for Chimney at Peterborough at 311 George St. N.

Date: May 9
Start time: 7:54
Finish time: 8:50
Observer: Chris Risley
Number entering main roost: 66
Total entering all roosts and seen: 68

Start time:
Finish time:
Number entering main roost:
Total entering all roosts and seen:

Here are the eBird checklists if you want to learn more about any of the roost counts.
May 9: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S29562432
May 13   http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S29680047
May 17  http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S29757618
May 21  http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S29827573
May 25  http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S29914902
May 29  http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S30051053
June 2  http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S30050964
June 6  http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S30114387
June 10  http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S30173022
June 14  http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S30244387

Nov 302015

On November 11, 2015 at 1:30 pm, I spotted a Short-tailed Weasel (ermine or stoat) on the Trans-Canada trail to the east of Ackison Road. It had a pure white belly and legs with slightly darker shade on back and black end to tail (see attached picture). I was hanging around on the trail doing some nature photography. I heard a rustling behind me and looked around to see a small stoat standing on its hind legs looking at me. I raised my camera and managed to snap the attached photo as it leaped through the grass. It then headed in the direction of Jackson Park along the side of the trail.

Abby Webster  (awebs76@yahoo.ca)

Stoat - Abby Webster - Nov. 11, 2015 - TC Trail

Stoat – Abby Webster – Nov. 11, 2015 – TC Trail


Nov 192015

Although it might seem counter-intuitive, there are actually many ways in which digital technology can inspire all of us to get moving, exploring and enjoying nature. For instance, the act of sharing your experiences through social media, together with the feedback from others that often follows, can keep the outdoor experience alive for days. At the same time, however, it is important to sometimes unplug our devices and savor the natural world unfiltered – simply through our senses. As someone once remarked, “There may not be Wi-Fi in the forest, but I promise you’ll find a better connection.”

Finding the right balance

If you are a parent, consider having a system in which your children receive screen-time in exchange for time spent playing outdoors. When the weather is warm, you might even want to set up an outdoor reading or homework station with Wi-Fi access. Use digital resources, too, before heading out on a nature walk. For example, children can research a new nature activity by visiting a website such as “Activity Finder” from the National Wildlife Federation. Technology is also wonderful for outdoor nature games such as a scavenger hunt in which you have to find and photograph items on a list. Finally, adults should try to model healthy media habits. Have a designated time each day for checking Facebook, email, and texting.


The “computer in your pocket” is a wonderful device for both enhancing and simplifying the experience of nature. For example, thousands of nature apps are now available for smartphones, and an app is much lighter than lugging field guides around! Use your phone, too, as a camera for both photographs and video. You can even buy a digiscoping adapter to take pictures with your phone directly through your binoculars or spotting scope. Use the video function and/or voice recorder to record nature sounds (e.g., a frog chorus) and to take field notes. I usually use voice recognition to dictate notes, using the “Notes” app on my iPhone. Don’t forget that most phones also have a built-in flashlight, which you can use to illuminate small or darkened objects. Have fun, and be sure to take lots of selfies beside a favorite tree or in a favorite habitat!

Nature apps 

Like websites, nature apps are constantly changing and improving. Two of the very best are iNaturalist and Project Noah. iNaturalist helps you keep track of your own observations with everything from journals to life lists. It also allows you to get help from the naturalist community in identifying what you have observed. Project Noah, too, is an online community of naturalists. You can, for example, post pictures of species for identification by others. As for field guide apps, I would recommend the Audubon series. You can find Audubon apps for just about everything.

Other recommendations: 

1.      Birds –  Merlin Bird ID (walks you through identification process and free); Sibley eGuide for Birds

2.      Trees & plants – Leaf Snap, TreeBook (beginner), FloraFolio

3.       Astronomy – Star Walk, Skyview, Google Sky Map

4.      For kids – Nature Tap, Hippo Season, Parts of Plants, Parts of Animals, Backyard Scat and Tracks

Using social media

There are countless ways to share your nature experiences through social media. Below, you will find a brief description of some of the more popular platforms and how they can be used. When posting to social media, remember to keep your comments short and to the point. If you are posting to Facebook, for example, don’t go beyond five or six sentences. Remember to use one or two hashtags (a word or phrase preceded by a hash or pound sign and used to identify messages on a specific topic) each time you post and to include interesting visuals. Finally, make a point of sharing other people’s content. This is a great way to post on days when you don’t have any of your own content ready. Maybe just add a few comments of your own.

1. Instagram – This is a photo and video sharing site. Kids love taking pictures and will love posting them online. Use that love to help them pay attention to nature. Upload the pictures to Instagram, add a hashtag, and share them with friends. Some common hashtags include #Nature, #Wildlife and #Wildlifephotogrpahy. Use filters, too, for searching for the thousands of photos other people have submitted.

2. Flickr – This well-known site is for photo-sharing, commenting, and photography-related networking. There is a very active and passionate wildlife photography community on Flickr.

3. Facebook – This is a general social media site for sharing pictures, videos, blogs, apps and the like. Be sure to create Facebook Interest Lists, which are a collection of pages or profiles on Facebook. They are wonderful for managing your Facebook content. For example, they could include pages of people with special expertise in “gardening for wildlife

4. Twitter- This is a “micro-blogging” site that is great for sharing sightings, photos, videos, opinions, news stories, etc. It is also an excellent place to find like-minded individuals. If you are interested in finding wildlife watchers on Twitter, use hashtags such as #wildlife, #birding, #enviroed.

5. YouTube – Upload your videos to YouTube and share them with the world.

6. Pinterest – Pinterest is a “virtual pinboard”, which allows you to organize and share most anything you find on the web. You can browse pinboards created by other people to discover new things or make your own board on any nature-related topic you wish.


A fun way to share your adventures in nature is through a family nature blog. WordPress, Tumblr and Blogger are all excellent, easy-to-use platforms. You can find information on setting up blogs for your children by Googling “How Help Your Child Set up a Blog”. Deciding what to blog about should not be a problem. Nature is all around us, including right in your own backyard. Be sure to include photographs. If you don’t have a photo for a given topic, go to the Wikimedia Commons website. This is a database of freely usable media files, including video, audio, and photos. A great way to involve younger children in blogging is by using a speech-to-text program. Not only does this save time, but it will also give the blog a conversational feel. Each family member can describe a different part or aspect of an experience. Even if your “public diary” doesn’t attract a lot of readers, it will still serve as a family record of memorable experiences with the natural world. In fact, a blog doesn’t even have to be shared publically. It can still be a great place to post pictures and stories – almost like a modern and much improved photo album!

Videos and slideshows

Young people today love sharing experiences through video. Why not help your children create videos and slideshows of the nature images they have taken? A good place to start is Stupeflix, a slick and easy-to-use video creation website. It is also free. Stupefix allows kids to create professional-looking audio-slideshows from their pictures. Ready-made themes, transitions, and music are all provided. ShadowPuppetEdu, a free iPad app, is also excellent.


As you can well imagine, the number of nature websites is staggering. However, here’s a few of my favourites.

1. Google Images – a great site for seeing and comparing pictures of the same plant or animal species but taken by different people. This is often helpful for identification purposes.

2. YouTube – great nature videos, both amateur and professional. If you are uncertain about what a given species sounds like, simply do a YouTube search (e.g., American robin singing).

3. eNature – the web’s premier destination for information on plants, animals and the night sky

4. Understanding Evolution (Berkeley) – a one-stop source for easy-to-understand information on evolution. It includes teaching materials.

4. All About Birds – the premier site for on-line bird identification, including songs. There are also pages such as bird cams, a beginner’s guide to the bird identification process, bird photography and much more.

5. eBird – make checklists of the birds you see, share your sightings, contribute to Citizen Science and check the seasonal abundance of birds. eBird will also notify you each day of interesting bird species in the area.

7. BugGuide – an online community of naturalists who enjoy sharing photographs and other observations of insects, spiders, and other invertebrates. The community will help you with identification.

8. Step Outside Nature Guides – a three-time monthly compilation of events in nature (e.g., migrants arriving, flowers blooming) in central Ontario and beyond. There are also lots of learning activities.

You will find more information on connecting with nature in the digital age in “The Big Book of Nature Activities”, which I am co-authoring with Jacob Rodenburg. It is due out in the spring of 2016.




Jun 212015

Last weekend I stayed at my daughter’s house on Northey Bay, Stoney Lake. A Blanding’s turtle was seen for 3 evenings in a row attempting to lay eggs in the driveway. Not sure if she succeeded as we came back to town. I counted over a dozen sunfish nests along the waterfront being guarded by the mother fish. It is so easy to spot the circles kept clean by the swimming of the fish because of the colour contrast on the bottom. A barred owl was calling in the evening.
This weekend camping at Silent Lake I also saw the sunfish nests and heard barred owls. Lots of veerys too. When we got home from camping we found a eastern red-backed salamander in the back of the van when unpacking. It now lives in Burnham’s Woods.
Sue Paradisis

Blanding's Turtle Rick Stankiewicz

Blanding’s Turtle Rick Stankiewicz

Veery - Wikimedia

Veery – Wikimedia

May 262015

Yellow Warbler (Karl Egressy)

Yellow Warbler (Karl Egressy)

This afternoon, I walked the Trans-Canada Trail between Jackson Park and Lily Lake. I was surprised by the amount of frost damage. Worst hit were the Virginia Creeper, Wild Grape, Sensitive Fern, Hay-scented Fern and ash trees. Many of these species showed quite a bit of dead foliage and, in some cases, dead flowers. The temperature early Saturday morning was almost -3 C, according to Environment Canada.

May 23rd frost damage on Wild Grape - photo taken May 25, 2015 - Drew Monkman

May 23rd frost damage on Wild Grape – photo taken May 25, 2015 – Drew Monkman

On a more positive note, among the species in bloom right now – almost all with white blossoms- are hawthorns, dogwoods, American Bittersweet, Tartarian Honeysuckle (pink), Canada Anemone, Nannyberry and Black Cherry.

Red-osier Dogwood - D. Monkman

Red-osier Dogwood – D. Monkman

Dec 292014

We looked randomly out the window into our yard yesterday (Dec.28th) only to observe a hawk sitting on top of a pile of white feathers! We stood and watched until it flew away with the remainder of its prey. On further inspection the only things remaining on the ground were feathers and a leg. We weren’t quick enough with the camera, so really have no idea what kind of hawk it may have been. The location is Ridgewood Rd. (Woodglade & Sherbrooke).
Perhaps 3 feeders are 2 too many?

Wendy Marrs

Note: The populations of birds that frequent backyard feeders are all quite healthy, so I wouldn’t stop feeding just because the odd individual falls prey to a hawk. D.M.

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

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

Dec 022014

Of all the months on the calendar, November is the one that we can expect to see the most Barred Owls exposed and active in daylight on and south of the Canadian Shield in southern Ontario. I believe there are many contributing factors to this, and sometimes, they will all come together at once. And when they do, Barred Owls seem to be everywhere.

1) We do indeed have a healthy breeding population of Barred Owls in the Kawarthas, and especially on the Shield. By the time the leaves have fallen in mid-autumn, most locally-produced young have dispersed out of their parents’ breeding territories. So now, we have “more” of these owls around than we did before, (assuming that production of young owls during the previous nesting season was reasonably good). These younger owls are not so experienced, and through hunger alone, can sometimes be forced to hunt at dusk, and/or earlier in the afternoon and evening, (or during any time of the day, for that matter).

2) As is the case with all other raptors, there is an annual and roughly southward movement of young Barred Owls into and through this area from places further north, and so, even more Barred Owls will appear on the southern Shield, and southward at this time of year. If you are, (like I am), one who keeps up with the bird postings on the Ontbirds site, you will notice that nearly every fall, (and most often in November), that there is an influx of Barred Owls reported, from many southern locations from Toronto, Whitby, Brighton, eastward to Kingston and beyond, that have reached Lake Ontario.

3) It is also interesting to note that during years when reported Barred Owl sightings in southern Ontario in November are in higher-than-normal numbers, this usually, (more than 80% of the time), follows some of the largest catches of Saw-whet Owls during the same autumn season(s) at many of the banding stations that track their movements each October. (Although Barred Owls do use Saw-whet Owls as food when the opportunity presents, I am by no means suggesting that the former are “following” the latter into southern Ontario). Apart from voles, (which are used as food by all owls in Ontario), Deer Mice are important foods for both Saw-whet and Barred Owls, and it has been said in the past that when Deer Mice populations crash in the north, and in central Ontario, that these two owl species are recorded in the south in larger numbers in the fall and winter than they do during years when the mouse populations further north are more abundant and stable.

Something that I find of added interest to all of this, is that preceding each of the past three large irruptions of Great Gray Owls into southern Ontario (1995-96, 1996-97, and 2004-05) higher-than-normal numbers of Barred Owls were recorded in southern Ontario in November, and greater numbers of Saw-whet Owls were netted at banding stations in October of the same year(s). I will do a little digging, and find out from some of the owl banders that I know, and see if October of 2014 was in fact a bumper year in terms of large numbers of Saw-whets caught and banded in Ontario. How/if it may relate to Great Gray movements, (as it appears to have in the past), is unclear to me. But, if the past three large irruptions are somehow connected to earlier Barred and Saw-whet Owl movements, then maybe we`ll see some Great Grays later on in the coming winter this year. Perhaps there is no connection, just something that happens, and only looks somehow related.

It would be worth checking, (if the increase in Barred Owls continues in the coming weeks), how many are true adult birds, and how many are young of the year. This can be easily determined, (and I`ll try to post photos showing the differences later). If a Barred Owl is a youngster, generally, it will look not un-like any adult of its own kind. But, if you are viewing one at close range, and have a good pair of binoculars, a spotting scope, or a fine zoom on your camera, you can determine just about any first winter young Barred Owl, from an adult bird. It is important however, that you get a good view of either the back or one side of the owl, (and if you have not done this before, it may take some practise before it becomes routine for you).

First; most young Barred Owls are browner (and some, almost leaning towards “rusty”). Adults are most often decidedly grayer than the rich brown of the young ones. I am talking about the coloration of the head, neck, back, tops of the closed wings, and the upper surface of the tail. (Underparts show no difference among age groups to speak of). If the bird does have a rich brown, (or even rusty) look to the back as it is perched, just check what you can see of the secondary wing feathers and their greater coverts. If they appear to all be of an even tone, (with no feather appearing lighter or darker than the one next to it), then it shows that the bird has likely not ever moulted. Hence, a first year immature owl. If the bird seems grayer than browner, check those secondary wing feathers as above, and if you notice that in a random pattern, some are darker (indicating new feathers), while others are paler, (indicating older faded feathers) then your bird has moulted, and thus, is an adult, (or at very least, is a second year bird). The brown vs grayish coloring is not 100% reliable to determine the age of the bird, (as a few can be grayer in their first year, and there are some very brown adults out there), but it is reliable enough, that it is a good place to start. Most young are browner, and most adults are grayer,,,,, to put it simply.

Barred Owl with Winterberry in background - Tim Dyson

Barred Owl with Winterberry in background – Tim Dyson

Nov 292014

I know nothing about Ruffled Grouse but thought you might like this story. Monday was a nice warm day and we worked outside all day decorating pots and putting up the Christmas lights. Around noon I wanted to go to clip some more branches that I see on my morning walks which are not on anyone’s property. Peter pulled the car into a clearing and I got out to go into the woods. I kept hearing this soft noise but couldn’t see anything until some movement caught my eye. It was a grouse. I spoke softly to it and it came closer and closer…so very camouflaged in the leaves.  I didn’t make any sudden movements and continued to speak to it. When I decided to walk down into the woods further – about 30 feet – it followed me, and when I turned around to come back, it came back with me. We took some pics with Peter’s cell phone.

I went up today to the same spot with some corn, nuts, and sunflower seeds – not really knowing what to give it – and it was still there. It gladly ate the corn but left the food to follow me again and back.. I call it “Pretty Boy” but don’t know if its male or female  Do  you know anything about them? It seems so tame and friendly and now I want to go up to see him all the time. I feel so privileged. My husband is calling me the “bird whisperer!”

Jennie Gulliver

Note from Drew Monkman:  For  reasons that are not completely clear, some grouse lose or never develop a fear of humans and will walk right up to you. This seems to occur mostly in the fall. Fall is also called their “crazy season,” because they will often fly into all manner of objects: garage doors, windows, badminton nets, etc. These may be inexperienced young grouse leaving the family group to establish their own separate territory. Clearly, some are not the greatest navigators!

Here is an explanation for the tame behavior that I was able to find on-line. “Actually this is not as rare of an occurrence as you might think,” said Gary Zimmer, the Ruffed Grouse Society’s biologist in Wisconsin.  “I get reports of ‘tame’ ruffed grouse each year across their range and have seen three individual birds exhibit this ‘strange’ behavior myself.”  Several factors associated with grouse make this possible, he said:

• Male grouse in particular are mostly solitary individuals at least once they seek out and set up their small territory, which usually covers 6-12 acres.

• Ruffed grouse are notably territorial birds that challenge intruders.

• They often let other males know they “own” the area by doing their drumming sound at various times of the year.

• Hearing the drumming sound stimulates an established grouse to come out and protect its territory. Most of the “tame” birds have responded to a sound that is close to the drumming sound, such as the noise from an ATV, chain saw or old truck with a bad muffler.

“We assume the drumming-like noise elicits a response by the male grouse to go and confront this intruder,” Zimmer said. ”When he finds its not a competing grouse he checks things out. As long as he isn’t shot (and eaten), he might adopt a new buddy to escort around his territory.

“The birds I’ve encountered would only follow me to certain spots, which I suspected was the edge of their territories, and then they’d leave.

“Also most of the birds that exhibit this behavior have been males, and that would make sense as males are more territorial than females.”

Andy Weik, Ruffed Grouse Society regional wildlife biologist for New England, also said he hears numerous cases of ruffed grouse forming bonds with humans each year.

He suspects that the grouse drop their guard after the first territorial standoffs simply because humans walk upright, as do grouse.

“I haven’t noticed grouse acting this way toward four-legged animals, such as a fox or fisher – probably because it would end badly quickly for the grouse,” he said.


Pretty Boy eating corn

Pretty Boy eating corn

"Pretty Boy," the Ruffed Grouse - Peter Gulliver

“Pretty Boy,” the Ruffed Grouse – Peter Gulliver

"Pretty Boy," the Ruffed Grouse - Peter Gulliver

“Pretty Boy,” the Ruffed Grouse – Peter Gulliver

Nov 222014

I was surprised to look out yesterday morning to see a Baltimore Oriole feeding at my finch feeder. I was able to shoot a few photos through the dirty window, I watched it for about 10 minutes, then it flew off, and hasn’t been seen again since. I believe it is a first year male bird. I have posted photos to the Ptbosightings group website, and on my Facebook page.

Carol Horner Ham

Photo Galleries

immature Baltimore Oriole - Wikimedia

immature Baltimore Oriole – Wikimedia

Aug 242014

Young Osprey - Derry Fairweather - August, 2014

Young Osprey – Derry Fairweather – August, 2014

Each year around our property on Buckhorn Lake we enjoy watching the Ospreys and their young as they learn how to fish. As we know, most fly above the waters and eventually dive for the fish. This year we have been fortunate to watch a new born and for whatever reason, it loves to stay on top of our cedar tree in the bay and wait patiently for fish to show up. Then it dives and collects his reward. Hoping one day to get the actually dive!

Derry Fairweather, Upper Buckhorn Lake

Aug 012014

This past month was cold and wet for most of Ontario. Overall, July 2014 sets itself apart due to the absence of any heat wave. The mean temperatures for July were, for many locations, colder or very close to those of June. The largest departures from normal values were seen in the Golden Horseshoe, eastern Ontario, northeastern Ontario and North of Superior. This was most pronounced in Wawa and Windsor, where for each it was the third coldest since recordings first began in those locations, back in the 1940s.

The rainfall amounts received this month were above normal values for locations throughout the province, except for North of Superior and parts of northeastern Ontario. In fact, for Moosonee it was the second wettest July on record, with observations beginning at that location in 1932.

Peterborough had 107.2 mm of precipitation, compared to a normal of 66.7 mm. This is a difference of 40.5 mm, making it the wettest July since 2009.

Source: Geoff Coulson Warning Preparedness Meteorologist Environment Canada …. 416-739-4466

Jul 012014

Tornado Tuesdays, flooding and heavy rainfall events will remain on Ontarian’s minds when looking back at June 2014. Precipitation continued to be well above normal values in Northern Ontario, especially in the Northwest, with many locales receiving more than double the expected precipitation for the month of June. Central and Eastern Ontario were also significantly wetter-than-normal. On the other hand, the northernmost portions of the Far North, Northeastern and Southwestern Ontario experienced drier-than-normal conditions this month, receiving about a third of the precipitation expected in June.

In terms of temperatures, across the province, mean temperatures ranged from normal to warmer-than-normal. The largest departures from normal were 2-3 degrees above the expected values for the month.
source: Geoff Coulson Warning Preparedness Meteorologist Environment Canada …. 416-739-4466

Jun 162014

I was at the cottage on Horseshoe Island on Stony Lake Friday afternoon. I went to look at a crop of Ox-eye Daisies and found, to my delight, several tiny native bees! Before the talk on native bees by Susan Chan at the Peterborough Field Naturalists, I would have overlooked these beautiful little creatures. I took some pictures at different times over the weekend. Also, a variety of other insects were enjoying the pollen and nectar on the daisies.   I am now in love with tiny bees!

Sandy Lockwood

Juniper Hairstreak butterfly - Stony L.  June 2014 - Sandy Lockwood

Juniper Hairstreak butterfly – Stony L. June 2014 – Sandy Lockwood

Syrphid fly - Stony Lake - Sandy Lockwood

Syrphid fly – Stony Lake – Sandy Lockwood

Agapostemon bee - Stony Lake - Sandy Lockwood

Agapostemon bee – Stony Lake – Sandy Lockwood

unidentified bee on daisy  Stony Lake  June 2014 -Sandy Lockwood

unidentified bee  Stony Lake June 2014 -Sandy Lockwood

Jun 152014

Sora (Porzana carolina) (1)
– Reported Jun 14, 2014 19:01 by Paul Frost
– Peterborough–Loggerhead Marsh, Peterborough, Ontario

Upland Sandpiper (Bartramia longicauda) (1)
– Reported Jun 14, 2014 19:30 by Luke Berg
– Peterborough–Cameron Line b/w CR-2 and Elmhirst Rd, Peterborough, Ontario
– Comments: “Singing from field on the west side of the road just south of Elmhirst Rd.”

Greg Piasetzki -  Upland Sandpiper

Greg Piasetzki – Upland Sandpiper

Sora (rail) - Wikimeda

Sora (rail) – Wikimeda

May 262014

I’m sending you a picture I took of a White Trillium with four petals. It’s the first I’ve seen like this. I saw it while taking photos on our property out on Hayes Line, west of the city, this past Monday (May 19)

Ruthanne Sobiera

(Note: Trilliums are apparently quite prone to genetic mutations. It is therefore not uncommon to see trilliums with multiple petals, sepals and leaves beyond the usual three of each.  D.M.)

aberrant white trillium - -Ruthanne Sobiera

aberrant white trillium – Ruthanne Sobiera – May 19, 2014

Mutant Trillium - Robert Moos - Selwyn C.A. May 23, 2011

Mutant Trillium – Robert Moos – Selwyn C.A. May 23, 2011

May 242014

My parents recently bought an oriole feeder and one day later a pair of Baltimore Orioles showed up!  They are here everyday and take turns feeding with a Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

Billy Turner, Lakefield

Baltimore Orioles at Lakefield feeder - Heather Turner

Baltimore Orioles at Lakefield feeder – Heather Turner

Apr 292014
- Reported Apr 28, 2014 19:40 by Erica Nol
- Fairbairn marsh, Peterborough, Ontario
- Map: 
- Checklist: 
- Comments: "gave whinny call and per-wee calls from marsh"

Peregrine Falcon  
- Reported Apr 28, 2014 06:00 by Luke Berg
- Luke's Yard, Peterborough, Ontario

Cliff Swallow building nest - Wikimedia

Cliff Swallow building nest – Wikimedia

- Map: 
- Checklist: 
- Comments: "Beautiful adult bird circled several times over the house!"

Cliff Swallow (4)
- Reported Apr 28, 2014 16:48 by Erica Nol
- Bike path bridge, Peterborough, Ontario
- Map: 
- Checklist: 
- Comments: "flying under foot/bike bridge on Trent campus, previous nesting location"

Sora (rail) - Wikimeda

Sora (rail) – Wikimeda

Feb 252014

Purple Finch (male) - Karl Egressy

Purple Finch (male) – Karl Egressy

On February 23, there was a pair of Long-tailed Ducks actively diving in the open lead below the Ptbo. Zoo “Pumphouse dam”, viewed from Meadowvale Pk. on the east side of the Otonabee, opposite TASS School. Nearby, a backyard chipmunk took a peak outside today. Also near TASSS, a male Northern Flicker has been coming to my backyard suet since Feb. 1 and two female Purple Finches visited last week. On clear days, crows have been chasing one or two Red-tailed Hawks that attempt a mid-day soar. I haven’t seen any small wintering flocks of Cedar Waxwings since the month began. A Sharp-shinned Hawk took a House Finch in my yard last week. Starlings are wandering more widely and even investigating nest holes.

European Starling in winter plumage (white spots)

European Starling in winter plumage (white spots)

Sean Smith, Ashdale Crescent