I would like to take time this week to thank the many people who have contacted me over the past 12 months to share their nature sightings and photographs. Although I have already posted these sightings on my website (drewmonkman.com), I thought I would share them once again as a kind of year-end review. I always look forward to receiving sightings such as these and am continually inspired by the interest in nature that so many people in our community share. These reports are also a testimony to the rich biodiversity of the Kawarthas.
· Hawks, eagles and owls figured prominently this month. On January 2, Sue Paradisis had a Cooper’s hawk in her Tudor Crescent yard. “The hawk sat there for quite some time, before I noticed a female cardinal in another tree. The cardinal stayed perfectly still. This went on for over half an hour with neither bird moving. Finally, I intervened. I know the hawk needs to eat, but not the only cardinal that comes to my yard! I went outside and the hawk flew off. Seconds later, the cardinal was gone in a flash.” In mid-January, Mike Pineau and his daughter watched a peregrine falcon eat a pigeon in the courtyard of the Peterborough Regional Health Centre. Now, that’s what I call entertainment for the patients!
· On January 3, Murray Palmer had an uncommon long-eared owl in his Wildlark Drive backyard. It may have been attracted by all the feeder activity, since long-ears will prey on other birds. Eventually, crows drove it away. On about the same date, Graham Yates found a beautiful barred owl in Jackson Park. “The bird was napping but kept an eye on me every so often by swiveling its head. Made my day!” Brian Tinker of Warkworth also had a barred owl, this one in his backyard. He watched it sweep down and catch a mouse from under the snow – a one-claw pick off! Tim Corner reported one of the few snowy owls sighted last winter. He found it in a field west of Lindsay on January 24.
· A number of people also reported seeing eagles. Michael Gillespie, who lives near Keene, reported, “It has taken me 70 years, but today, January 13, was the first time I saw both a bald and golden eagle in the same morning. The bald was savaging a frozen carcass… while the golden flew overhead while I was talking with a friend.” On January 23, Ross Jamieson also saw a bald eagle flying south of Lansdowne Street. Rob Welsh watched an eagle feeding on the ice near Lock 24, south of Lakefield, while Tom Northey photographed two bald eagles perched in a pine tree in the same area.
· Red-bellied woodpecker sightings continue to be more common in the Kawarthas. Sue Hill reported a male coming regularly to her sunflower feeders on Merino Road. “It’s the first time I’ve ever seen this species. However, this bird was more yellow on the belly than red, which is confusing, given the name!”
· As for mammals, Gord Harrison used his trail camera to snap some amazing photos of an eastern wolf (Canis lycaon) at his property north of Minden. Mike Barker reported a dozen or more flying squirrels at a friend’s feeder at Sandy Lake near Buckhorn. “It was incredible… and hilarious! The squirrels were soaring in from all directions.”
· On February 7 and 8, Nima Taghaboni spotted both an adult and an immature bald eagle along the Otonabee River, while Trudy Gibson photographed a pair of adult eagles on Simmons Avenue, right in Peterborough.
· You will probably recall how mild it was last winter. On February 4, Bill Snowden reported from Ennismore that his Japanese witch-hazel was in full bloom, and the snowdrops were already showing flower buds.
· Derry Fairweather saw an osprey on March 13 on Upper Buckhorn Lake. It was his earliest ever. The next day, Kinsley Hubbs of Gannon’s Narrows had a sharp-shinned hawk sitting on his feeder. On about March 20, Ashley Holland found a dead great horned owl on her property in Lakefield. The bird had a tag on its leg. By checking the tag number online, she discovered that the owl had been banded five kilometres north of Lakefield in 2009.
· Ken Guthrie, who lives on Langton Street, emailed me to say that a “white-capped chickadee” has been visiting his feeders for the last three years. ‘Its tail and wings are those of a normal chickadee but everything else is pure white.” This would have been a “leucistic” individual.
· The sandhill crane population continues to expand in the Kawarthas. Gavin Hunter saw a pair on March 18, southeast of Kirkfield, while Jim Watt saw two cranes flying over County Road 24.
· As for other early migrants, Marilyn Freeman heard a song sparrow singing in her city front yard on March 18. Jane Bremner listened to an eastern phoebe calling March 28 on the Indian River, just outside Warsaw. “Our harbinger of spring!” she wrote.
· Swans, too, attracted attention. In mid-March, Martin West saw two trumpeter swans on Scollard Bay on Buckhorn Lake.” They were cool to see and a first for me!” Sharon Simpkins reported no less than nine pairs of trumpeters at Kent Bay on the Otonabee River.
· As you may remember, pine siskins were everywhere last spring. Rob Welsh wrote, “We returned to our Stony Lake home on April 4 and immediately filled the four feeders. The activity is the most ever….We have 10 usual species but over 50 pine siskins! At least one osprey is back, too.” A week later, Sheelagh Hysenaj saw an osprey on the nesting platform on the bridge at Young’s Point.
· Bloodroot is one of the earliest wildflowers in the Kawarthas. Catherine Paradisis wrote, “I went out for a walk on April 20 at Beavermead. My favourite sighting was one I look forward to every year: a large patch of blooming bloodroot in the wooded area behind the chip truck.” On April 29, Margo Hughes reported that bloodroot had been blooming for several days on the rail-trail near Cumberland Drive. “The patch has grown in size! Very beautiful!”
· On April 14, Sue Paradisis stopped at the corner of Woodland Drive and the Lakefield Highway to listen to the huge chorus of spring peepers, chorus and leopard frogs. She glanced down and discovered that she was surrounded by several ‘mating balls’ of garter snakes. “When I stepped back, they quickly fled down holes in the shoulder of the road.”
· Ducks are a favourite subject of local photographers in spring. On April 15, Jeff Keller got some great photos of green-winged teal and wood ducks on Lynch Road, east of Lakefield. On April 29, Carl Welbourn came across 10 wood ducks in Mark S. Burnham Provincial Park.
· May brought a number of mammal sightings. On May 4, Joanne O’Heron saw a mother black bear with FOUR cubs on Beaver Lake Road in Trent Lakes Township. Janet Duval, who lives on Deer Bay Reach, sent me a picture of no less than six river otters on the dock belonging to her neighbour, Jim Franklin. Jody Gozzard had a beaver in her Cameron Street flower garden. It had just cut down one of her cedars. “I watched in amazement as the beaver dragged my poor tree down to the waters edge. I now have an assortment of tree branches at my shoreline that the beaver has cut down on my yard.” On May 16, Tim Corner was out for a morning walk near the Holiday Inn on George Street when an American Mink jumped out of the brush along the edge of the river.
· On May 6, David Johnson was watching a turkey vulture circling overhead at Curve Lake, when a large, bright white bird with black wing tips and long legs flew past it. David quickly ruled out both wood stork and American white pelican and was left quite convinced that he had seen a whooping crane. These critically endangered birds do turn up occasionally in Ontario.
· During a trip to Boyd Island on Pigeon Lake, Warren Dunlop saw two golden-winged warblers and heard two others. Marie Windover had a voice from the past calling near her home on County Road 507 – a whip-poor-will.
· June is a great month for insect watching. Kim Mitchell reported a beautiful female Luna month on June 1 in Bridgenorth. “What a treat to see this species, as I have never seen one before!” On June 4, Gwen Forsyth saw her first hummingbird-like gallium sphinx moths of the year. They were nectaring during the day at petunias in her Lakefield garden. In Havelock on June 9, Ulrike Kullik had a viceroy butterfly land on her lawnmower. “At first I thought it was a monarch, but I then noticed the black, horizontal line on the hind wings,” she wrote.
· On June 2, Jacob Rodenburg reported a pair of loons nesting close to the shore of the Otonabee River, just south of Lakefield. The birds went on to successfully raise two young.
· David Johnson informed me that there were two nesting pairs of bald eagles on Buckhorn Lake in June. One nest was on Joe’s Island and the other on Flat Island.
· On June 18, Roy Bowles photographed two sandhill cranes on Northey’s Road west of Young’s Point.
I will continue with sightings from July through December in my next column. Happy Holidays to everyone!