June 4th Brookside Cottage Garden & Artisan Tour

Covered Bridge

Covered Bridge

My friend and colleague Corinne Van de Grootevheen  owns a most amazing and extraordinary rural property in Tyrone, Ontario where she has planted over 60 different species of trees. It has gardens, a covered bridge, a brook and inspiring outdoor art.  Every year for the past 20 years she has shared this space with other artists for a free open house.   Each artist as a booth to display and sell their artistic works.   It is a beautiful setting and makes a lovely day out to meet artists and enjoy their work.  I will be there with my keepsake photo cards, trays and framed pictures!  Join me in Corinne’s Annual  Brookside Cottage Garden & Artisan Tour DATE:  June 4th, 2014 TIME: 10:00AM – 4:00PM  COST: Free  Bring a bag lunch or enjoy the meal provided at Hayden School House (fees) Jane

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Ducks in Dire Straits

Every once and a while I get lucky and capture a beautiful image of some form of wildlife.  Today, I had the fortune of taking the attached photo. It is a male red-breasted merganser, one of my favourite diving ducks. Note the “punk rocker” hairdo….!
Male Red-Breasted Merganser

Male Red-Breasted Merganser

I went back to Bond Head today, drawn by my curiosity about the many ducks that are facing hardship and dying due to the cold. All around the Great Lakes, even down in the U.S., many water birds are unable to survive this bitterly cold winter. Over the last few years, our mild winters have encouraged the ducks to stay here in the north rather than migrating south.  This year has been a disaster for a lot of them.
The channel at the Newcastle Marina keeps freezing over and with the ice, the source of food for both the dabbling ducks and the diving ducks, is inaccessible a lot of the time.  There are some aerators near the few boats that people live in year round so some little areas of open water about the size of large puddles provide a haven for some of the ducks. This channel and docking area also has a large population of zebra mussels which, although undesirable, are providing a source of food for the diving ducks. I am unsure of what the dabbling ducks like the mallards are eating unless it is some of the corn brought by concerned residents to feed the swans and geese.  I counted 11 swans there on Sunday.
Somehow this post was published before I completed it. Not sure if this newer version, with photos attached, will reach my readers.  So sorry for this technical glitch!
More photos below….I hope!
Bufflehead Landing

Bufflehead Landing

White-Winged Scoter Swallowing a Large Zebra Mussel

White-Winged Scoter Swallowing a Large Zebra Mussel

White -Winged Scoter \

White -Winged Scoter
\

Scaups having a discussion

Scaups having a discussion

IMG_6944

Scaup with Zebra Mussel

Scaup with Zebra Mussel

Female Greater Scaup

Female Greater Scaup

Female Goldeneye and Male Greater Scaup

Female Goldeneye and Male Greater Scaup

Channel Entrance to Newcastle Marina

Channel Entrance to Newcastle Marina

Male Greater Scaup

Male Greater Scaup

Female Scaup

Female Scaup

Golden Eye and Scaups

Golden Eye and Scaups

IMG_6742 IMG_6738

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Great Gray Owl Up Close ……. Another First for Me

The same week that I photographed the Snowy Owl on the shore of Lake Ontario at the Newcastle Marina, I also saw my first Great Gray Owl. It was north of Whitby and many birders and photographers had reported sightings on a country road. On 2 previous occasions the very cold temperatures and windy conditions had sent me the 40 miles back home without seeing the G.G.O. This time I was prepared with warmer clothing and a longer timeline.

Others saw the Great Gray before I did. He or she was way off in the distance along the treeline but eventually came up to the side of the road and landed in a tree. My telephoto lens wasn’t long enough for the distance shots and was too long for the owl in flight shots (also I was not quick enough!) On the positive side, the late afternoon sun was behind me and provided interesting lighting for my “perched” shots.

Great Gray Perched

Great Gray Perched

Great Gray Eyeing the Photographers

Great Gray Eyeing the Photographers

Great Gray with Setting Sunlight

Great Gray with Setting Sunlight

Look me ion the Eye(s)

Look me in the Eye(s)

Not my best flight shot but the only one

Not my best flight shot but the only one

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Bond Head Revisited …….. Another Amazing Sight!

Last Sunday, I made an another amazing discovery when I took a short drive down to the shore of Lake Ontario. Normally I’m on the east side of the “channel” but that day I was on the west side where the sandy beach is covered with icy “dunes” created by the waves during this year’s very cold and windy winter.

I was actually looking for ducks to photograph or even the mink from the previous blog. There were many beautiful ducks in the channel including white-winged scoters, blue bills and golden eyes as well as the “usual suspects”. Then, as I glance down the beach, something caught my eye. To my naked eye, I saw something that at first appeared to be a piece of ice in some short frozen grass. But, when I looked through my telephoto lens, I couldn’t believe what was sitting on the icy beach!  It was a snowy owl!

I had not seen one since I was 5 years old, living in Thunder Bay. I have been watching and hoping for years to see one of these magnificent creatures and looked enviously at photos taken by others.

I was able to circle around and approach the snowy from the west and actually moved in fairly close to take some photos before she flew away and landed on the ice beside the lighthouse. I was unaware, until she took flight, that she had her prey hidden underneath her. I’m so excited to be able to share a few of the photographs of what I believe is a female or perhaps a juvenile snowy owl.First Sighting of the Snowy Snowy Owl Peeking Over Drift Snowy Owl in Profile Snowy Owl Looking at Me Snowy Owl Taking Flight Snowy Owl Heading for the Lighthouse Snowy by the Lighthouse

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Furry Mammal Identified

My previous post resulted in many comments and also in identification of the creature who killed the duck.

Consensus is that it is a mink. Thank you for to everyone who took the time to send links to websites and those of you who shared your own knowledge and that of your friends.

I've been identifies!  I'm a mink.

I’ve been identifies! I’m a mink.

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Nature Can Be Cruel …… Death of a Duck at Bond Head

I observed an event today which I have never seen before.  I was unsure if I should post the story and the photos on my blog as I normally share only “pretty” pictures but decided that some people might find the situation interesting.

While taking photos today of the many ducks down at Bond Head on the shore of Lake Ontario, I noticed a small furry mammal crawling over the ice shelf on the break wall.  It was some distance away from me and across the narrow channel.  I decided to move closer and as I did, I  noticed that the creature was dragging something which he dropped about 10 feet from the edge. I was shocked to see that it was a merganser and it seemed lifeless.

The furry creature came back to the edge of the ice leaving the dead duck behind.  He then watched the many ducks below him, perhaps identifying his next victim. He finally dove into the water but I later spotted him peeking out of hole in the side of the ice shelf.  He finally came out of the tunnel, crawled on top of the shelf, and went to retrieve the dead duck. He dragged it to the edge of the ice by it’s neck and then jumped into the water taking the duck below the surface with him.  I did not see him resurface.

If someone familiar with brown, furry mammals can help me identify this creature, please respond to my blog.IMG_5281-Bond Head Bluffs 1024 signed IMG_5303-Edit Merganzer 1024 signed IMG_5323-Feeding Frenzy 1024 signed IMG_5347-Dragging the Kill 1024 signed IMG_5360-Back for More Unsuspecting Ducks 1024 signed IMG_5409-Creature at Tunnel 1024 signed IMG_5417- Creature at Bond Head 1024 signed IMG_5424-Creature Dragging Duck 1024 signed IMG_5425-Creature and Duck 1024 signed

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Winterland Continues …… Frenzied Feeding Viewed Through the Window

Cardinal and Junco "sharing" black-oiled sunflower seeds.

Cardinal and Junco “sharing” black-oiled sunflower seeds.

Feeder nearly empty but there's a port for each of the cardinals and the junco

Feeder nearly empty but there’s a port for each of the cardinals and the junco

Female cardinal at the recycled solar light "feeder".

Female cardinal at the recycled solar light “feeder”.

We can barely see the seeds.....cardinals and gold finch.

We can barely see the seeds…..cardinals and gold finch.

Downy woodpecker on veranda taking refuge from the snow storm.

Downy woodpecker on veranda taking refuge from the snow storm.

View (or lack of it!) down the driveway.

View (or lack of it!) down the driveway.

Another snowy day. Thank goodness for Jane feeding us!

Another snowy day. Thank goodness for Jane feeding us!

Please make it stop!

Please make it stop!

That's it. I'm gettin' out of here.

That’s it. I’m gettin’ out of here.

It seems to be empty!

It seems to be empty!

Another winter day in Ontario.

Another winter day in Ontario.

Sheltered from the storm ... A branch under a snow drift.

Sheltered from the storm … A branch under a snow drift.

We have to tolerate one another on days like this!

We have to tolerate one another on days like this!

Finally, the wind's died down. Female cardinal at the home-made feeder.

Finally, the wind’s died down. Female cardinal at the home-made feeder.

First sighting of a starling since the Fall.

First sighting of a starling since the Fall.

Let it snow...NO. Please stop!

Let it snow…NO. Please stop!

When I awoke yesterday morning, there was no doubt that the weather forecast had again been accurate. It was snowing and blowing and visibility here on the farm was almost zero.

My computer is situated close to our front door and just in front of the porch I have a few bird feeders and hanging seed bells. As I sat there I was amazed to see so many birds …… male and female cardinals, blue jays, doves, gold finches, chickadees, a downy woodpecker, a hairy woodpecker, numerous juncos, a starling, and a tree sparrow. Birds which normally will not share feeders seemed willing to tolerate one another as the storm swirled the light snow around them.

From experience, I know that the minute I approach my feeders that most of the feathered visitors leave until I’m back in the house. I decided to try taking photos through the windows of the 2 doors. I knew that they wouldn’t be very good quality but that they would “tell a story”.  Above are some of the better photos.

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Windy Winterland

Okay, my “Winter Wonderland – Not Quite Black and White” post from December 20th. spoke of the beauty and featured lovely photos of the winter.  Now, a month later, I have to say that I am getting really tired of it!

In south-central Ontario, we have had one of the coldest and snowiest winters in many years.  Day after day of temperatures well below normal, not to mention high wind chill readings, have made outdoor activities quite unappealing. For the past 24 hours at our farm on Lake Ontario, we have experienced winds in excess of 80 kilometers (50 miles) per hour along with a light snowfall.  I’d like to share some “record shots” of what I saw when I found a door that I could open this morning. These photos are certainly not of good enough quality to enter in any of my Oshawa Camera Club competitions but they certainly do “tell a story”…..a story of a winter that is a REAL winter! Today I will sit at the computer or by the fire and do “indoor” things until the winds die down. Then I’ll head out for some bird pictures and yes, a bit of shovelling!

Zero Visibility

Zero Visibility

I think there's a bird feeder somewhere under here!

I think there’s a bird feeder somewhere under here!

This shovel is accessible...maybe some shovelling a bit later!

This shovel is accessible…maybe some shovelling a bit later!

Snowshoes Waiting For a Walk

Snowshoes Waiting For a Walk

Path to the Barn, where is it?

Path to the Barn, where is it?

Maybe I don't Want to Go Outside

Maybe I don’t Want to Go Outside

Now If I Could Just Get to the Shovel....

Now If I Could Just Get to the Shovel….

No backing Out of this Garage!

No backing Out of this Garage!

Newest Bird Garden Buried in Snow....where are the other feeders?

Newest Bird Garden Buried in Snow….where are the other feeders?

Can't Get out the Front Door

Can’t Get out the Front Door

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Fabulous Feathers! ……. My Best Red Bellied Woodpecker Shots

My “mission” the last 3 months has been to get a fabulous photo of a red bellied woodpecker. My last post featured 3 different types of woodpeckers that I have seen almost daily in my backyard. The red bellied in that post is a female. Her bright red cap covers only the back of her head. I’ve been hoping to see a male and take some good photos.

Two days ago at Lynde Shores, my friend Vanessa and I were following the call of a red bellied hoping to locate it along the path. With the assistance of a very helpful photographer, we chose spots with good lighting and waited for the red bellied to land on the old wooden fence where some peanuts had been placed to entice him …… the bird, not the photographer! Moments later, we had our chance and over the next 30 minutes, we all had numerous opportunities to “capture” this male who seemed to be posing for us.

Here are a few of my best ………..

Red Bellied looking cautiously for food

Red Bellied looking cautiously for food

Looks like he's posing

Looks like he’s posing

"Head Shot"

“Head Shot”

Showing off with his "find".

Showing off with his “find”.

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Woodpeckers at Work

Compared to the last winter, there were fewer birds at my feeders until late December.  After the first big snowfall, followed by the unforgettable ice storm on December 21st.,my bird feeders were suddenly needing to be replenished twice a day.  The trees and bushes were covered with at least one inch of ice making it a challenge for the birds to access seeds and bugs. Many varieties of birds, not to mention the squirrels, began “flocking” to the feeders!

As well as the black oiled sunflower seeds which I normally provide, I began putting out processed suet cakes and real beef suet in metal holders and even in mesh bags. The suet was mainly for  the woodpeckers which I had noticed in increasing numbers pecking at the old maples in our yard. I was delighted to see that as well as the little downy and larger  hairy woodpeckers, a female red bellied woodpecker was coming into the yard  every day. Many people who feed birds, have never seen a red bellied woodpecker and “ours” is now a regular visitor!  Time after time, I could hear her unusual call from high in the trees and tried many times to get a nice clear photo of this 9 inch woodpecker when she was not clinging to one of the feeders. In the photos that follow, you will see that I “captured” her closer to eye level and also got some nice close-ups of the other woodpeckers.

NOTE: The red bellied woodpecker has a red “cap”…the female’s does not extend over the top of her head like a male’s. The name “red belly” is for me a bit misleading as you hardly ever see the light pink feathers on their “tummies”.

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