Owls and Ottawa birds part 4

Here is the last post from my visit with family to do some winter birding around Ottawa this year. These are some of the highlights from around the city of Ottawa.

These Bohemian Waxwings were part of a group of about 125 which were gorging themselves on berries right beside the road allowing incredible close views. Always a bit tricky even in good winters, it was nice to have such good luck.

A close up of one of the Bohemians on the tree.

A funny male Mallard shot with my point and shoot up close for fun!

The Hilda Road feeders near Shirley's Bay provided incredible opportunities for viewing and studying Common and Hoary Redpolls. We had maximum counts of 300 Commons (including several Greenlands) and up to 5 Hoarys at one time. 

Owls and Ottawa part 3

I headed to Algonquin Provincial Park for a night and had some nice birds and mammals. Although it was cold and the roads were snow covered, I had a great time.

This Boreal Chickadee was hanging around the trailhead for the Spruce Bog boardwalk trail right near the visitor center turn off. This species is much  more difficult to capture than Black-caps which readily pose and come to sunflowers.

The Visitor Centre feeders were great for getting close views of a good variety of birds. This male White-winged Crossbill was a regular visitor.

 At least fifteen Pine Grosbeaks were visiting the feeders and this handsome male was one of at least five in the group.

 On my way out of the park in late afternoon, I came across this very tame Red Fox right beside the road. I got some fantastic close images before it sauntered off.

One of the big targets for the visit was Pine Marten. This was one of three I managed to come across in the Mew Lake Campground.

Owls and Ottawa part 2

So here are a few of the owl highlights starting with the Great Grays...

I know this is just a portrait shot but I really love this image. It just captures the magic of a Great Gray to me and the subtlety of the white and dark around the face just pops!

So here is the classic image of a Great Gray on the hunt. This bird has just left a perch and has tone on a meal!

In Algonquin Park I came across this fresh set of plunge marks in the snow from what I concluded was very likely a successful hunt by a Great Gray (which had been seen exactly here just a few hours before). Note the mouse tracks coming from the bottom left which turn abruptly in the middle top and then end suddenly!!! 

This was a pretty good year for Barred Owls which meant it wasn't a good year for small owls. The Barreds will often predate the smaller Saw-whets and even Boreals that are roosting in the same wood lot. This one was near Montreal.

It took a lot of searching but eventually I had superb views of two Northern Saw-whet Owls. Unfortunately birders had been withholding information on these sightings. As someone who straddles both communities I find that practice incredibly short sighted. Indeed in the end it meant missing a Boreal owl in Ottawa. My view on this is simple - withholding information on birds is not part of the hobby and is shameful and short sighted.

After a lot of effort, on my last morning I finally found this Northern Hawk Owl. It was in a spot within a kilometer of where the owl had been seen two or three times over a two month period. This site was clearly a more reliable location as this post had a lot of pellets right underneath it! 

Ottawa winter owls trip

For the first time since 2005 I spent some time this winter in eastern Ontario. The trigger was a number of Great Gray and Snowy Owls which had been seen consistently in the Ottawa area. I also took a trip to Amherst Island near Kingston where I managed to see several Snowy Owls including the one above. The highlight though was an amazing encounter with two improbable birds.  As I scanned the ducks in the channel ahead of the ferry I noticed a Great Black-backed Gull which appeared to be attacking one of the ducks. It was about 800 meters away when first spotted, but the ferry really chugs along and soon I could see that the gull had a female Common Merganser in the water which was still alive an struggling! The gull would not give up its prize and as we got closer and closer I just kept firing away fully expecting that the gull would take flight. The ferry was on a collision path with the gull and duck but it wouldnt let go!! Incredibly the ferry drove RIGHT OVER THE GULL AND MERGANSER with the gull holding on to its prey and then popping up in the stern wake of the ferry. It was an amazing event to witness. The photo below was taken just a few seconds before both were submerged!

Fort Myers Hilites

Kathi and I made a quick five night trip to Fort Myers Beach for her winter mini-break. The weather was not that warm, but we had excellent photo opps and really had a great time. Below are a few hilites. As you can see, we saw a lot of predation taking place!!

This cormorant was mighty ambitious, and certainly never downed this huge mullet. 

We watched this Great Egret stalking and catching six Cuban Brown Anoles in less than twenty minutes! Lets hope this single handed attempt to remove an invasive exotic is successful!

I find Ding Darling is often an over-rated photo experience, but not on one of our visits. The cold temps seemed to have caused a lot of fish to be in stress and there were pelicans, vultures, eagles, ospreys and a host of herons and egrets feasting at close range.

Estero lagoon is still one of my favourite sites to photograph in south Florida and it didnt disappoint as we had incredible close encounters with four or five large herons and egrets including this adult Little Blue Heron.

Prairie Warblers were already singing and on territory in the coastal mangroves and we had superb views of several males including this one.

The Yellow-throated Warbler was a constant fixture in the palms just outside our hotel room. Nice backyard bird!

Hybrid Common Goldeneye x Hooded Merganser

On Feb 21st morning I spotted a puzzling male duck mixed in with Common and Red-breasted Mergansers and Common Goldeneyes just north of Port Huron, MI. The bird had very striking pied plumage with characters reminiscent of both Common Goldeneye (without the eye spot) and Hooded Merganser (without the salmon tones). Bill and head shape were intermediate between these two species. I checked on line for images of hybrids of these two species and the bird was a dead ringer for on line images of what are presumed to be hybrids of COGO and HOME. The bird was swimming just south of the main viewpoint and parking area at Fort Gratiot County Park a few miles north of Port Huron, MI. It was still present when I left at 10:30 am. I managed to secure a few images that show the overall appearance of the bird.