Sep 222018
 

Peterborough Field Naturalists Sunday AM Nature Walk (Sept. 30)

Today, a group of us walked along the hydro corridor west of Hetherington Dr. (just south of Woodland) and into the north end of University Heights Park. We enjoyed the abundant asters (e.g., New England, Heath, Panicled, Heart-leaved), Zig-Zag Goldenrod, White Baneberry with its doll’s-eye fruit and a single Jack-in-the-Pulpit with its ball of red fruit. Birds of interest included White-throated Sparrow (20), White-crowned Sparrow (1), Song Sparrow (12), Ruby-crowned Kinglet (1), Golden-crowned Kinglet (1), Eastern Towhee (1), Nashville Warbler (1), Palm Warbler (1), Belted Kingfisher (1), Pileated Woodpecker (1), Northern Flicker (1) and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (1). Earlier, we found a single Swainson’s Thrush on the Parkway Trail, just south of Cumberland Drive. Drew Monkman

White-crowned Sparrow (immature) – University Heights Hydro Corridor – Sept. 30, 2018, Reem Ali

 

The Ruby-crowned Kinglet has a prominent eye ring. (Karl Egressy)

Golden-crowned Kinglet – Karl Egressy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lincoln’s Sparrow (2) via eBird
– Reported Sep 30, 2018 07:36 by Donald A. Sutherland
– Peterborough–Trent Rotary Rail Trail, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:

Lincoln’s Sparrow – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

Barred Owl (1) via eBird
– Reported Sep 27, 2018 13:01 by Daniel Williams
– Ingleton-Wells Property (Kawartha Land Trust), Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:

Barred Owl on Northey’s Bay Road – Jeff Keller

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peregrine Falcon  (1) via eBird
– Reported Sep 27, 2018 08:12 by Iain Rayner
– Peterborough–Millennium Park, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “Large adult eating bird atop 300 Water St.”

Peregrine – by Stephanie Pineau – Jan. 13, 2015 – PRHC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue-winged Teal (2) via eBirds
– Reported Sep 23, 2018 10:36 by Rene Gareau
– Lakefield–Sewage Lagoons, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:

Blue-winged Teal – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Squirrels hoarding rocks:  I just found your site and wanted to add my comments regarding gray & black squirrels stealing rocks. Here in Chilliwack, BC  we have been observing squirrels stealing hundreds of rocks every fall and winter. They steal all sizes, types, and work all day to take away their treasure. This usually starts when seasons change with wet and cooler days arriving. I think they hoard the rocks to stabilize their dreys and also putting the flat ones inside the nest to warm the bed over the winter for the young when they are born and vulnerable. I’m basing this on many hours of watching squirrel behavior from our living room which faces a heavily forested back garden. My husband and I are constantly renewing our landscaping rocks with humour at the hard work of these amazing little critters. Jenne Breedon, Chilliwack, BC

(Note: For other reports on this behaviour, see November 30, 2014 )

Gray Squirrel with stone – Nov. 2014 – Ginny Clark

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lincoln’s Sparrow (2) via eBird
– Reported Sep 23, 2018 13:53 by Luke Berg
– LHT Redmond Rd to Drummond Line , Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:

Lincoln’s Sparrow – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

Starry Stonewort, a new aquatic invasive species:  I want to let you know about a (new to me) threat to our Kawartha Lakes. A macro  algae has infested Lake Scugog and is now thriving in parts of Stony, notably the Lost Channel. Starry Stonewort has no roots and forms masses up to six feet deep floating below the surface.  Carol Cole, a cottager on Stony Lake writes: “It was first noticed there a couple of summers ago.  The channel is not open water really; it is more of a wetland environment.  The alga is now covering large sections of the wetland and has spread incredibly quickly into the bays on either end.  One of the bays is now almost totally covered.  It used to be a very weedy area but now it looks clear of weeds – unless you look down.  The bay at the other end isn’t quite as bad but it will be by next summer.  Both of these bays lead directly to the main boating channel of the Trent-Severn Waterway.  Both have cottages and boat traffic. Not far from the bay already covered is a wetland that has been declared provincially significant. Starry Stonewort spreads by fragmentation and the only way to stop it from spreading to other lakes is to clean, dry and drain out boats, canoes or kayaks before leaving the lake. Since this is already in Stoney Lake there isn’t anything we can do about it. All we can do now is prevent it from reaching other lakes. ”

Please spread the word! Sandra Burri, Kawartha Park, Clear Lake

Starry Stonewort from Lake Scugog – Scugog Lake Stewards photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More about Starry Stonewort:  CLIMATE CHANGE REALITY IN SCUGOG SHOULD CHANGE OUR PEOPLE-CENTRIC VIEW OF OUR LAKE. Ours is a shallow lake held at its current height by a dam at Lindsay. As a result of increased temperatures, increased storm water runoff, difficult invasive species due to our location in Southern Ontario and increased development, ours is an ecosystem that is vulnerable and susceptible to change. This year, the lake has generally been excellent for recreation and surface aesthetics because of a vast understory of the invasive alga, Starry Stonewort (SS) and abundant zebra mussels that enjoy co-habiting with SS. But is this good habitat for everything else that lives in, on or above the lake? The Stewards and our colleagues at U.O.I.T. and Kawartha Conservation are studying this new invader which seems to be spreading rapidly up throughout the hard-water Kawartha Lakes and Lake Simcoe. We have one more year in our Trillium grant funding for research, but we hope to extend our research for two more years, trying to ascertain the Ontario-wide spread and effects of this nasty invader. Use a rake to pull up a sample from the lake bottom. If you find a crunchy, green fishing line type bottom cover that is the algae — Starry Stonewort. CLEAN, DRAIN, DRY your boat before coming into, or going out of, Lake Scugog.  Scugog Lake Stewards, City of Kawartha Lakes

Cooper’s Hawk: We have a bird feeder outside our condo living room at the corner of Parkhill and Ravenwood Dr. On September 21, we were able to get this picture of a Cooper’s Hawk. We had never seen this bird before.  John & Stephanie MacDonald

Cooper’s Hawk – John MacDonald – Sept. 22 2018 – Peterborough

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eastern Hog-nosed Snake: My nephew and sister came across this Eastern Hog-nosed Snake recently at Wolf Lake near Apsley. Bill Astell, Peterborough

(Note: The Eastern Hog-nosed is a species at risk in Ontario and only rarely seen. DM)

Eastern Hog-nosed Snake – via Bill Astell – Sept. 2018 – Wolf Lake near Apsley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A “dew” bath: I witnessed something absolutely new for me on the morning of September 18. At about 7:30 am, I saw two Song Sparrows giving themselves a bath in the heavy dewed grass. They burrowed down and splashed the dew on by rapidly flicking their wings onto their backs. Michael Gillespie, Keene

Song Sparrow – Karl Egressy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sandhill Cranes: It is that time again when the Sandhill Cranes begin to gather before migrating south. In the area west of Lindsay (Black School Rd area) the gathering has already started. These pictures were taken on September 18.   Tim Corner

Sandhill Cranes – Lindsay area – Sept. 18 2018 – Tim Corner

Sandhill Cranes – Sept. 18 2018 – Lindsay area – Tim Corner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poecila Sphinx:  On Friday, September 14, we came across the caterpillar of the Poecila Sphinx Moth (also called Northern Apple Sphinx). It measured about two inches long. We had  never seen one before.  The caterpillar was on a Sweet Gale bush, a species that dominates the banks of the Indian River near our home. This plant can be used as an insecticide, can treat scabies, used with discretion to flavour soups and stews, flavours Gale beer, repels fleas, and the roots and bark produce a yellow dye for wool.  Quite a list!  The scent on the leaves was rather faint when I checked but given the time of year that’s not surprising.    Stephenie Armstrong, Warsaw

Poecila Sphinx Moth caterpillar on Sweet Gale – Indian River – September 2018 – Stephenie Armstrong

Poecila Sphinx Moth caterpillar on Sweet Gale shrub – Indian River – September 2018 – Stephenie Armstrong

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eastern Screech-Owl (via eBird):  – Reported Sep 13, 2018 20:10 by Patrick Scanlon- Indian River Road., Peterborough, Ontario- Map: – Checklist: – Comments: “Singing from the west side of the river.”

Eastern Screech-owl – Beaches area of Toronto – via Jamie Brockley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Merlin: My husband, Michael, noticed this Merlin while we were having lunch on September 13. We watched it for about 10 to 15 minutes. It was looking at our bird feeder (and doing a bit of head bobbing) from the top of the umbrella of our outdoor picnic table. A few minutes  later it landed right on top of the bird feeder. Our feeder has been quite active with American Goldfinches, Purple Finches, chickadees, cardinals,  a few jays and some sparrows. The bird sort of half-heartedly swooped downward toward a scurrying squirrel before it left our yard. There were no smaller birds during the time of the visit of the Merlin. Not surprising. It was very cool!!  Helen Bested, Lynhaven Road, Peterborough

Merlin – Lynhaven Road – September 13, 2018 – Michael Bested

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Imperial Moth caterpillar: On September 7, this Imperial Moth caterpillar, a member of the Giant Silkworm Moth family, was making its way along our side path, heading for river rocks abutting a flower bed.  I gather it feeds on a variety of plants including pines and oaks which we have in abundance.  And later that day, I saw another one floating vertically, head out of water, in our small creek that empties into the Indian River. I managed to retrieve it but there was no sign of life.  I hope one day to actually see this beautifully colored moth, though it is said to be in decline.  As you have explained in your book ‘Nature’s Year’, it is extremely attracted to light making it highly visible to predators.  Stephenie Armstrong, Warsaw

Imperial Moth caterpillar – September 2018 – Indian River – Stephenie Armstrong

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jul 292018
 

Another fox in city dining on Gray Squirrels

There was a large number of squirrels in our neighbourhood. Then came a large, gray-coloured fox, easily the size of my fifty pound Springer Spaniel. I’d often see it at first light, and thrice seen carrying a black-phase Gray Squirrel. The squirrel population has dropped dramatically. As of July 23, I have not seen the fox for about three weeks. I presume he has moved on to another neighbourhood where the roof rabbit harvest is more promising. When I first saw the fox, I was not sure what I was looking at.  I thought perhaps it was a coyote/fox hybrid, but that probably does not happen.  Larry Love, Norwood Terrace, Peterborough

P.S. By the way, there is lots of Black Bear activity in Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park.  Last Thursday while stopping for dinner on Campsite 301 (Wolf Lake) I  saw a handwritten “Bear Warning” note, concerning a juvenile nuisance bear.  The sign was tacked to a tree at the site.   During our two hour stay, there were a number of gawkers who came into the bay to see if there was a bear around.  One kayaker told me about an MNR culvert trap set on a cottager’s property, not far from Site 301.   Two years ago, I put a small bear off of an adjacent island.  He had been gorging on blueberries.  The bears are everywhere in KHPP, but this boldness is new.

Red-headed Woodpecker at Gannons Narrow (July 21)  This is the first year we have ever seen one in the area. He has been around since early June and just in the last week or so has found our black oil sunflower seed feeders. He is a feisty fellow who will scare away the other birds and not give way to blackbirds or jays who try to get him to move. Kingsley Hubbs, Gannons Narrows, Selwyn Township

Red-headed Woodpecker – July 2018 – Kingsley Hubbs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Black-billed Cuckoo near Warsaw:  At around 8 pm this evening (July 20), I heard (twice) the call of a Black-billed Cuckoo in our bush near the Indian River. I didn’t see it, but its call was unmistakable. It moved to 2 different locations within the bush. We’ve been here 19 years and haven’t heard a cuckoo every year.   Jane Bremner

Black-billed Cuckoo – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Black-crowned Night-Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) (1) from eBird
– Reported Jul 19, 2018 15:13 by Daniel Williams
– Peterborough–Millennium Park, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “Flew out from willow tree on island, landing on dead tree near sand bar. Presumably same individual reported here a few weeks back. ”

Black-crowned Night-Heron – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eastern Screech-Owl (Megascops asio) (4)  from eBird
– Reported Jul 17, 2018 20:50 by Daniel Williams
– Peterborough–Beavermead Park, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “1 adult, 2 young, and presumably a 3rd young calling. Adult giving steady hoot calls similar to NSOW, but mixed with clicking and whinnies. In ecology park hopping around. Seen previous night as well but only as silhouettes. ”

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our neighbor has a family of Mallards visiting regularly. What is remarkable, however, is that all  of the ducklings have, so far at least, survived. They have survived the Great Blue Heron that has totally cleaned out the Eastern Chipmunk population. Sad. Yeah, I know, nature. But, the maddening part, of course, is that the Great Blue is really, really lazy. He has decided to stop fishing, and go chipmunking!  Gord Young, Armour Road  

Mother Mallard and eight ducklings – Dianne Tyler

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We have had 3 Pileated Woodpeckers in our yard at the same time this month. However, I couldn’t get all three in the picture below. We know there are a male and a female juvenile, but we’re not sure about how many adults/parents. The Osprey nests around here all seem to only have one baby this year but its really hard to tell. We  watch the nest behind us in the ball diamond, the nest on the Bridgenorth-Selwyn Road, and the one at the corner of Yankee Line and Robinson Road across from the trailer park.  Jennie and Peter Gulliver, Communication Road, Bridgenorth

Two or the three Pileated Woodpeckers in our yard – July 16, 2018 – Jennie Gulliver

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On July 12, we were camping on Secret Lake in Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park and saw a pair of Sandhill Cranes and 2 half-grown chicks foraging along a marshy shore. Secret Lake is located north of Long Lake and Loucks Lake. It is reached by a short portage from Loucks Lake. Gary Moloney

Sandhill Crane with chick – Barb Evett – Buckhorn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It seems that my leaving wide swaths of my orchard uncut to establish zones of biodiversity, which  include apple trees, nesting boxes as well as many milkweeds, has paid off. This morning, July 9, I noticed quite a few Monarchs fluttering about and visiting multiple milkweed plants that are happily blooming – having escaped the blades of my bush hog! Michael Gillespie, Keene

Monarch caterpillar on milkweed  – Drew Monkman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have lived outside of Millbrook for 20 years & have noticed a large decline in birds and bees. I’ve also seen very few fireflies, whereas they were abundant a few years back.  Ludvik Kouril (July 9)

Photinus pyralis – a common firefly – Art Farmer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have a very large patch of Himalayan Balsam in my backyard. I’ve been fighting this invasive species for years, and I was just about to start pulling these plants out when, on July 7, I saw a Monarch laying eggs on them. Wendy Hicks, Peterborough

 N.B. Don Davis, a Monarch expert, told me that this is very unusual. D.M.

Himalayan Balsam, an invasive species in Ontario – Wikimedia

 

 

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

Sep 262017
 

Over the past ten years, we’ve seen a marked decline in the number of Red Squirrels and a steady increase in the number of Gray Squirrels on our property. This year that imbalance may change. For the first time that we are aware, we have had two broods of Red Squirrels rather than just the one.

Back in May, an adult Red Squirrel was seen transferring her young family from a birth site in one tree to a nest cavity in our signature tall White Pine. The trunk separates into two part well above ground level, possibly providing a more commodious home. By May 21, five young were darting back and forth from the nest, exploring their immediate surroundings. It was most entertaining!

By the last week of May, only one youngster was still staying close by the nest cavity when an adult female Gray Squirrel took possession of the nest with five of her own family, chasing off the one remaining Red Squirrel. Again we were entertained by the little ones running about the tree branches and eventually out exploring the surrounding landscape.

On September 6, a Red Squirrel with five young took possession of the same nest cavity. She spent some time gathering new nest material to refurbish the bedding, then possibly tired and hungry after her exertions, took a break to consume fallen sunflower seeds below a nearby bird feeder. (In all three cases the adult female had teats visible on her underside.)

For the third time, we enjoyed the antics of little ones chasing each other about the tree until they too abandoned the nest to make their own way in the world. On September 7, I was able to capture a few photos of the youngsters in the tree and close up at the cavity entrance.

Here’s hoping the survival rate is good.

Stephenie Armstrong, Warsaw

Red Squirrel in White Pine – Stephenie Armstrong

Young Red Squirrel at nest cavity in White Pine  – Stephenie Armstrong

Young Red Squirrel emerging from nest cavity – Stephenie Armstrong

Dec 042016
 

On November 20, we had 8 Pine Grosbeaks at our feeder. They only stayed for an hour or so, however, and we haven’t seen them since. During this past summer, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, along with their young, came to the feeder regularly. Two families nested in the woodlot behind our house.

Also, about 20 years ago, I witnessed an amazing interaction between a Gray Squirrel and a Hairy Woodpecker. The squirrel had scared the woodpecker off the ground feeder – a piece of plywood – on which I’d scattered sunflower seeds. Seconds later, however, the woodpecker returned, and actually landed on the squirrel’s back!  It then proceeded to hammer away on the poor animal’s head. I guess it got in a few good blows before the squirrel took off, because there was blood on the feeder!

Neil Boughen, Warsaw

Rose-breasted Grosbeaks - Drew Monkman

Rose-breasted Grosbeaks – Drew Monkman

Pine Grosbeak - Wikimedia

Pine Grosbeak – Wikimedia

Hairy Woodpecker - Karl Egressy

Hairy Woodpecker – Karl Egressy

 

Nov 202016
 

I thought you might be interested in the following: a Gray Squirrel and a Cooper’s Hawk dueled it out on the top rail of our split rail fence in mid-October. For at least 15 minutes they charged at each other fearlessly before the hawk called it quits. (When the hawk took the initiative the squirrel retreated to a lower rail.)
Burke Doran

Cooper's Hawk - Nancy Cafik

Cooper’s Hawk – Nancy Cafik

Apr 082016
 

We returned to our home on Dodworth Island on Stony Lake on Monday and immediately filled the four feeders. The activity is the most ever….We have 10 usual species but two things stand out. There are no Common Redpolls, but we have over 50 Pine Siskins. At least one Osprey is back..no loons here yet. The ice went out on April 1.  Rob Welsh

NOTE:  Pine Siskins are showing up in large numbers all over Peterborough and the Kawarthas right now. Flocks of 60+ have come to our feeder in recent days, along with close to a dozen Purple Finches. Drew Monkman

I was about to send out an APB. However, this evening around 5 pm. our pair of Common Loons finally arrived (Buckhorn Lake near Six Foot Bay) . Unfortunately, our “lone loon”, who usually arrives before them (as early as April 1) hasn’t appeared yet. Fingers crossed he’s ok.  Toni Sinclair, Buckhorn Lake

On April 6, I had 12-15 Purple Finches at our feeder for most of the day. No, they were not House Finches! Mostly females but at least 4 showy males.   Jim Cashmore, Wallis Drive, Peterborough

I heard the first Spring Peeper chorus for me this year, on March 31 @ 9th Line and County Road 32 (east bank along Otonabee towards Lakefield). Susan Chow

I saw my first Mourning Cloak butterfly on March 27,  just south of Keene.  Michael Gillespie

On the Indian River outside Warsaw, we heard an Eastern Phoebe calling March 28 at about 8:30 am – our harbinger of Spring!  Jane Bremner, Warsaw

Jerry Ball and I covered some of the side roads off Hwy 507 in the northern part of Trent Lakes Municipality and found Compton Tortoiseshell butterflies on three different roads. Martin Parker

We’ve had a weasel around all winter (a Long-tailed, we think), but never managed to get a photo until Easter Sunday, March 23… its white winter coat has started changing. Gwen Forsyth, Lakefield

I saw a pair of Sandhill Cranes on March 23. They were flying northeast over Centre Line of Smith at the 7th Line.  Jim Watt, Peterborough

I was outside March 23 cleaning the snow off the deck and about 20 feet above my head flew this magnificent adult Bald Eagle. He went upwards and landed on top of the pine tree on our point. Waited there for about ten minutes.  Derry Fairweather, Upper Buckhorn Lake

Today, March 22, my wife saw a pair of Gray Squirrels mating in our yard. It seems far too late, since Gray Squirrels give birth to their first litter this month. I haven’t been able to find a reference to mating in March anywhere online. Drew Monkman

Bald Eagle - March 23, 2016 Derry Fairweather

Bald Eagle – March 23, 2016 Derry Fairweather

Compton Tortoiseshell - Wikimedia

Compton Tortoiseshell – Wikimedia

Long-tailed Weasel - March 23 - Gwen Forsyth

Long-tailed Weasel – March 23 – Gwen Forsyth

Mourning Cloak - Maple Cr. - Apr. 2014 - Drew Monkman

Mourning Cloak – Maple Cr. – Apr. 2014 – Drew Monkman

 

Pine Siskin (by Karl Egressy)

Pine Siskin (by Karl Egressy)

Eastern Phoebe at nest - David Frank

Eastern Phoebe at nest – David Frank

 

Mar 162016
 

I am writing about the phenomenon of squirrels gathering stones. I found reports from a couple of folks, but my case is quite different. I have a heated bird bath on my porch, just 8 feet from my glass door. I clean it every few days. About two months ago (January 2016) I noticed some small river stones in the bath. They were about the size of a penny. I scratched my head and threw them out. A few days later, there were a couple more stones. I decided to leave them this time. Ever since, about every two to three days, a new stone appears in the water bath. At the moment, there are 15 stones and they are still coming (Feb 20th). We live in an older neighborhood in Fayetteville, Arkansas. There is a fair amount of trees and cover.

The squirrels visit the bath many time every day. It is part of their routine. Still, I have not been able to see one drop or carry a stone. I suppose another suspect might be a raccoon but we have never seen one in our yard before. They could certainly be here at night. Or a pack rat? We have seen a rat once this year below the bird feeders. Somehow, I feel it is the squirrel.

The stones finally did stop at 18. I still have them in the bird bath, hoping more will appear. However, I still haven’t caught the squirrels in the act.

I am deeply moved by this act somehow. I can think of no explanation, but it somehow make me feel affection for the squirrels. I’d love it if anyone can explain what is happening here. That would be thrilling!

Kelly Mulhollan, Arkansas

Stones in bird bath - Kelly Mulhollan

Stones in bird bath – Kelly Mulhollan

Note: More stories of squirrels gathering stones can be found in my post from November 30, 2014. D.M.

Nov 302014
 

I have recently received several emails recently describing Gray Squirrels gathering stones. There is very little on the Internet about this behaviour, so it would be interesting to know if other people have seen it too. Below, you will also find a possible explanation for this behaviour from Don Sutherland, a zoologist at the Natural Heritage Information Centre in Peterborough.    Drew Monkman

Gray Squirrel with stone - Nov. 2014 - Ginny Clark

Gray Squirrel with stone – Nov. 2014 – Ginny Clark

From Craig Kesselheim and Beth Dilley, Southwest Harbor, Maine, Dec. 29, 2014: We have just noticed this same behavior in our yard on the coast of Maine, and have been intrigued and mystified. It’s good to know that others have seen the same phenomenon. In our case the stones and the cache are about 20 feet apart, so we can watch the full event. The stone supply is a skirting of 1 – 3 inch stones around our garage. The cache location is among leaves under one of our ornamental shrubs.

From Ginny Clark, Peterborough, ON, Nov. 26, 2014: I finally got some pictures of the squirrel with a rock. He likes to lick it all over before he runs away along the fence to the woods behind us. I went back there, but could see no evidence of burying them, although there seem to be lots of places to hide stuff in the underbrush. It does not look like they are carrying them to their nests way up in the trees. Still a mystery!

From Carl Hymers, Peterborough, ON, Nov. 14, 2014  “Late this past summer and during the fall (September through October), we noticed that the smooth, washed, river rock stones we had used as ground cover for a garden feature were gradually disappearing. We then noticed that at least two different Gray Squirrels (black colour morph) were carefully selecting particular sized and shaped stones, placing each stone in their mouth and carrying the stones along the top rail of our fence, across two neighbour yard fence tops to disappear in the distance. Finally we decided we better remove the remaining stones, as they now had collected and removed more than a large bag and a half worth – for whatever purpose they had.  It was quite intriguing to observe their behaviour, while at the same time hoping it would soon stop . This went on almost daily from September thru October and did not stop  until we made the stones unavailable. The squirrels also collected the larger chunks of bark in the mulch layers on our flower beds. Who knows how the stones are being used, but maybe there are some very stable, wind proof, secure, comfortable dreys in the nearby trees with the enterprising effort of these squirrels using our stones and mulch bark as the foundation of their nest! There are at least 6 dreys visible from our surrounding trees now that the leaves are down. I will be getting larger stones for our ground cover next and the very fine chopped mulch for the flower beds next spring!”

From Ginny Clark, Oct. 15, 2014: We have noticed a squirrel gathering small rocks (around one inch) from under our deck, then racing along to the forest area at the back of our property. It’s been happening for a few weeks now, so obviously the squirrel has not clued in that they are rocks and not nuts! This behaviour does not seem to be common. Are you aware of any reason that this would happen?”

From Don Sutherland, zoologist, Natural Heritage Information Centre, Peterborough, ON:    “I’ve never seen this myself. I’ve never seen a definitive explanation for this behaviour. An alternate explanation in the literature has been that this sort of behaviour may be an attempt to disguise food caches and foil cache-pilfering by other squirrels. Gray Squirrels are scatter food-hoarders, caching food items in a wide variety of sites. When squirrel populations become dense and/or when food becomes scarce, the pilfering of caches by other squirrels becomes a problem. Caching stones, pebbles or other items may be an attempt to confuse/foil potential pilferers.”

 

 

 

 

 

Nov 192014
 

I was happy to see your Nov. 13 column on Gray Squirrels. Having on two occasions been in close contact and cared for squirrels, I can say that they are a very interesting and smart animal. Each one has its own personality. In the 90’s, while living in Scarborough, we had an adult female, Blackie, who would visit us outside for about four years to get peanuts. She’d show up as soon as our car pulled into our driveway and even climb up and sit on our laps. This June, I raised two orphaned baby males between two and four months old. We slowly released them in July, so they could learn to forage and set up dreys before winter, only to have a neighbour a few weeks later capture them (and many other squirrels) to release outside the city.

I’ve seen squirrels enter their dreys from the top. My two males tried to fix an abandoned drey in a cedar tree, only to have a dominant male attack and chase them out. They finally built their own drey somewhere else. In hot weather they’re active in the morning and late afternoon, rest during the day, and in their dreys before dark. Mine would sometimes stretch out on our deck and lay together in the sun. When I had them still in the dog crate, they would rest during the afternoon, curled together under a towel until their next feeding. After I released mine they would show up every morning and evening for food, and we have lots of video of them playing like two kittens and grooming each other.
Squirrels also eat rose hips which are rich in vitamin C.In the wild, they live only about one year (predators, weather, roads) but in captivity up to fifteen years. I’ve sent some pictures of the squirrels we’ve been lucky enough to spend time with.  Darlene McLaren

Feeding one of our orphaned Gray Squirrels - Darlene McLaren

Feeding one of our orphaned Gray Squirrels – Darlene McLaren

Blackie - Circa 1994 - Darlene McLaren

Blackie – Circa 1994 – Darlene McLaren

Our two orphaned male squirrels - Darlene McLaren

Our two orphaned male squirrels – Darlene McLaren

 

Nov 152014
 

Your article on squirrels was a very interesting read. A few years ago, I chanced upon a baby squirrel (eyes still closed) laying on the ground in my neighbour’s backyard. Through the supervision of a provincially recognized squirrel rehabilitator, my family raised the squirrel (Whirley), and re-released her in our backyard. We had a mature Silver Maple, which Whirley made her home. There was a drey in a branch that overhung our back porch, and she would spend her nights there. In the mornings, I would call up to her, and watch as she would peek out of the drey, stretch and yawn, before slowly making her way down for breakfast.

Whirley grew up quickly. We had first found her in the spring; she was living in our tree all summer, but by late August she had moved into a tree in a neighbour’s backyard, coming back most days for visits. At some point in September, her daily visits stopped. This is an amazing part… she came back for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, and Father’s Day. By summer, she was visiting pretty regularly again, and vanished in the fall. After that, we would see her occasionally, and after the next summer she did not come back.
I will admit that prior to this experience, I assumed that squirrels were dirty and unintelligent creatures. I enjoy animals and wildlife, and I have had some experience with rodents, such as pet mice, rats and rabbits… none of which impressed me other than their “cute” factor. Whirley, however, has given me cause to change my mind. She was one of the most interactive and intelligent creatures that I have ever had the good fortune to know. Some of my stories leave people amazed.

Click here for a link to a montage of photos and videos of her. I hope you enjoy.

Paul Laufer, Peterborough

Black colour morph of Gray Squirrel -Wikimedia

Whirley was a black colour morph of the Gray Squirrel and similar to the squirrel in this picture.

 

Nov 052014
 

For years I have had grey and black squirrels visiting my yard and deck. This is the first time I have seen this little guy. He is a beautiful brown with a yellow blond tail. I can’t tell for sure but his eyes seem to have a red hue to them. Is he a mutant?

Barb Evett,  Fairbairn and Highland Rd

(Note: There is a lot of colour variation in Gray Squirrels, which results in white, brown, black, grey, and silvery-grey colour phases. The black phase is most common in Peterborough. D.M.)

Brown-phase Gray Squirrel - Barb Evett

Brown-phase Gray Squirrel – Barb Evett