Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Coots & Ice

I went around my 'usual' birding route yesterday.  As always, there are thousands of geese at Boundary dam reservoir; most are Canadas but a small portion are Cackling.  I saw a few feeding flocks that had a few of these small Canada Goose look-alikes.  (No photos to show today).

A young Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) was patrolling the water and circled around to check out the dirty white vehicle arriving in its territory.  I had time for a quick snap through the windshield. 

This is part of the reservoir.

At the boat launch, wave action and steam rising during the deep freeze last week coated the floating wharf with an attractive layer of ice.  One of the seven or so resident American Coots (Fulica americana) was over having a snoop around.  Usually the coots stay on the opposite side, close to the hot water outflow. But, it was a lovely, +1C day yesterday.

During last week's dive in temperature (-30C) with -41C wind chills for several days, I worried about the Snowy Owls (and everything else having to survive outside).  I drove around a bit on Saturday but didn't see any owls.  Yesterday, however, one of the juvenile Snowy Owls  (Bubo scandiacus) was back on its favourite pole.  Too far away to show clearly, but there is some blood on the bird's right might be holding down a freshly caught, very unfortunate, rodent of some sort.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A Strange Looking Grackle

This Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula) has been around my neighbourhood on and off for the past month.  It first flew into my yard and feeders after an icy rain.  I thought it had bits of ice clinging to its feathers and probably wouldn't survive for long.  Turns out, it is just a teensy bit leucistic.

Leucism is a genetic abnormality wherein pigment, particularly melanin, is not properly deposited on the feathers resulting in white patches or diluted colour or in extreme cases, no colour at all.

I think 'piebald' seems appropriate.

Better yet, polka dot.

And another example of my stellar photography!

Up-Date:  I guess I don't look up Common Grackles in my many field guides very often.  I was looking at this last photo this morning and realized how bronze this bird is.  There are two subspecies of Common Grackles:  'Bronzed Grackle' Q. q.versicolor and 'Purple Grackle' Q.q. quiscula

The bronzed type is the one most frequently found throughout the grackle range in North America.

The purple subspecies is found in the SE states.

More leucistic birds to come! 


Never Doubt.....

Back shortly with a couple new bird posts....but in the meantime, let's revisit my favourite quote by Margaret Mead:

Friday, January 13, 2012

This Female Green-winged Teal

shouldn't be here - at least, not in the Winter.  She should be down in the southern states. 

At first I thought she was wounded as she would just hop out of the water (at the sewer lagoons*) when I drove by.  However, one day she rose up with the Mallards.   Who knows why a few birds miss the last migration bus leaving late Fall, but there are always a few, especially around areas which have year-round open water (such as here).

This little duck - and Green-winged Teals (Anas crecca) are tiny at 14" in length, wing-span 23" - was easily spotted among the mammoth Mallards (length 23", wing-span 35").

Of course, the bright green wing patch (speculum) made for a quick identification.

Green-winged Teals prefer shallow ponds and mudflats so it isn't surprising this one would be at the lagoons.

* Sewer lagoons are great places to look for birds, especially shorebirds during migrations.  No, not the nicest smelling places at times, but hey, it is our own waste by-products, after all.

More info on Green-winged Teals at

Thursday, January 5, 2012


Well, this was a nice start to the 2012 Bird List!  A white Gyrfalcon (Falco rusticolus) on top of some old strip-mining overburden piles (in a way, I hope these piles aren't reclaimed and levelled off into rolling hills - this will be the only time anyone ever hears me say such a thing.)

See it, way up there?

Warning:  fuzz-zee photo.  I did not have a tripod but I also wouldn't have had time to set-up.  We didn't know how long this bird would perch.  I think this is a juvenile white-morph, but the vote is still a little bit out among my fellow birder Guy Wapple (and fellow-sighter of this bird) and some of his pals. 

The Gyr is the largest falcon; a stocky bird, about 22 inches in length, with a wing-span of 47".  It is a very strong, swift flier, with slow wing-beats.  

Falcons use their large powerful feet to knock prey out of the air and/or otherwise disable.  Falcons have notched beaks (you can sort of see that in this pic) which enables them to sever or crush the neck vertebrae of their prey. 

Gyrs are Arctic breeders, nesting on scrapes on the ground.  Some come south in winter, as you can see.  In summer, they feed mostly on ptarmigans.  Down here, this one will be looking for Sharp-tailed Grouse, Ring-necked Pheasants, and ducks.  We have many, many ducks on the open water at Boundary.  It won't go hungry.

This is only my third Gyrfalcon (pronounced GER-falcon)  I posted about a juvy grey-morph here

Info on Gyrfalcons: