Saturday, April 26, 2014

Happy Anniversary!

We were married on a very cool, breezy Saturday in April. Mom lamented the fact that the forsythia bush was not blooming and we ended up having all our pictures taken indoors. Today is a cool, breezy Saturday and the forsythia bush has not flowered. It is our anniversary and my husband told me he had no flowers or cards, but another surprise instead. Early this morning we headed to the house of one of his business acquaintances and followed him to the location pictured above along the banks of a river. High in the top branches of the lone pine tree was...

another Bald Eagle nest! We were able to get closer to this nest than was possible at the nest I observed earlier this week. Once the leaves are out on the deciduous trees and the tall vegetation grows along the river bank it will be more difficult to get a good view of this nest.

We then drove to Hamilton and hiked the Princess Point Trail at Cootes Paradise. This large marshland drains into Lake Ontario and has several access points and I have never been there before. We walked one small section but will have to return to do more in the future. It was a pleasure to see Tree Swallows swooping around and caring for their nests.

After lunch at a nice restaurant we returned to our usual stop in Burlington at Lasalle Marina. It was cloudy and cold initially and we saw none of the usual tame chipmunks and familiar birds. It seemed ominously quiet as if the hard winter had caused all the wild life to leave. But the sun came out, Chickadees ate from our hands, the chipmunks appeared and birdsong was heard again.

The water birds were not abundant but there was a good variety present. I noticed some Grebes and expected that they would be the usual Pied-billed Grebes found in our rivers and streams at home.

Several pairs of Horned Grebes in their mating plumage swam near the shoreline. I have only seen these birds in the Finger Lakes region of New York state.

We found a few anniversary flowers. Red Maples which usually flower in March were abundant today and other early blooms poked up through autumn's dead grass and leaves.

I really couldn't think of a better way to celebrate our 39th wedding anniversary!

Some birds we saw: Bald Eagle, Turkey Vulture, Red-tailed Hawk, Horned Grebe, DC Cormorant, Common Merganser, Red-breasted Merganser, Bufflehead, Mallard, American Coot, Mute Swan, Trumpeter Swan, Belted Kingfisher, RW Blackbird, Common Grackle, Tree Swallow, White-throated sparrow, Song Sparrow, BC Chickadee, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, White-breasted Nuthatch, Northern Cardinal

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Bald Eagle Nest

Eagle Street runs parallel to the Speed River before it turns and joins the Grand River. I wondered why this old street was named "Eagle Street" but assumed that eagles were found along the river at one time. Bald Eagles were on the verge of extirpation in Southern Ontario for decades as DDT weakened the shells of their eggs causing them to break. DDT was banned in the 1970s but it took many years to get the chemical out of the food chain. In the past few years we have seen more Bald Eagles over-wintering along the Grand River especially where the water is open. They generally return north by March but this year a pair decided to stay and build a nest just a few minutes from our home. Eagle nests are closely monitored by naturalists at Bird Studies Canada and their success rate is slowly improving. Time will tell if these new arrivals will raise any young birds this year.

The nest is in a small bush in the middle of a cornfield approximately 700 m from the river's edge. The pine tree was heavily damaged in last December's ice storm but the eagles found a strong crook to anchor the nest. I stood near a busy roadway to take this picture but the nest was not visible without binoculars. It is good that this field is private property as it would be a great temptation for some photographers to get too close to the nest and harass the birds for a picture.

I pulled into a park on the opposite side of the road and saw the female Bald Eagle sitting on the nest. Close to the river is an Osprey nest that has been occupied for several years. A female Osprey sat on her nest and the male was very vigilant. He flew low over the field then soared above the Bald Eagle nest several times. The female Bald Eagle was very vocal when the Osprey entered her territory. 

Osprey Nest and male Osprey flying over Bald Eagle nest

It will be interesting to see how these two different eagles will share adjacent territories that are within visual range. Some local photographers have captured pictures of intimidating sparring between the male birds on the corn field.

The male Bald Eagle returned with a stick for the nest. Both birds spent time building up the nest by moving branches around with their beaks. 

I sat on a rock and watched the action for about an hour. These cropped pictures were taken with a 50x optical zoom and it was challenging to hold the camera steady without a tripod in early morning light.

I was very fortunate to be clicking the shutter when the male Bald Eagle decided to fly away to find more sticks. Bald Eagles are magnificent in flight and are considerably larger than the Osprey although the Osprey were more aggressive here. 

These Bald Eagles have a local fan base and several friendly people stopped to watch them as the morning progressed. I know I will be checking by throughout the season to see how the birds are getting along.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

One Year Later

It is a year today that Mom left this world in the dark hour before dawn. It is true that life goes on but each event is coloured by her absence. She lives on in each of her children, their children and in our hearts and memories. On Easter weekend we watched a DVD of Dad’s home movies from 1954-1960. Mom and Dad were so young when they boarded a plane to London England and then took a ship through the Mediterranean Sea, Suez Canal and down the east coast of Africa to South Africa. Travel was a big part of their lives.

Blogger Larry also said goodbye to his mother last year. He posted an excerpt of a poem by Henry Van Dyke that is found widely on the internet, but was very meaningful to me. Mom crossed oceans four times by ship in her lifetime and then she headed for another shore in 2013. I miss her every day but know I will see her again. 

Mom starting ocean crossing #3 with my brother Nathan and myself

Gone From My Sight

I am standing upon the seashore. A ship, at my side,
spreads her white sails to the moving breeze and starts
for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength.
I stand and watch her until, at length, she hangs like a speck
of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.

Then, someone at my side says, "There, she is gone."

Gone where?

Gone from my sight. That is all. She is just as large in mast,
hull and spar as she was when she left my side.
And, she is just as able to bear her load of living freight to her destined port.
Her diminished size is in me -- not in her.

And, just at the moment when someone says, "There, she is gone,"
there are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices
ready to take up the glad shout, "Here she comes!"

And that is dying…

Henry Van Dyke

Monday, April 21, 2014

Season Opening

My blogging hiatus lasted almost half a year which is about the length of the winter that just ended. Early December brought a damaging ice storm and then we were visited with interminable snow, deep cold and no January thaw. I went birding once and got a flat tire half an hour from home on a very cold day. No winter hawks or owls swooped by as I waited for a tow truck. I even stopped feeding our yard birds when the squirrels destroyed my “squirrel-proof” feeders and Costco ran out of black sunflower seeds. 

The Mallard Duck and I were both prepared for muddy pathways
Winter finally ended in Narnia and spring arrived here in due course. Mother Nature has flicked the fast forward switch to make up for lost time. I walked outdoors for several hours today and felt more like myself than I have in a year. City crews started working last week to clear local trails of downed branches and trees from the December storm. 

Brown Thrasher, Skunk Cabbage, Spring Trail, Hermit Thrush

My bird count was most impressive! Birds are very vocal right now and there is no vegetation to hide them on the ground or trees. 

Bald Eagles, Osprey, Red-tailed Hawk, Turkey Vulture, Brown Thrasher, Hermit Thrush, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, Red-winged Blackbirds, Blue Jays, Northern Cardinals, American Tree Sparrows (leaving), White-throated Sparrows (coming) Song Sparrows, Belted Kingfishers, Tree Swallows, American Robins plus our usual year round Black-capped Chickadees, American Crows, House Finches, Goldfinches, Nuthatches...about 30 species in all. 

The sweetest spring song belongs to the White-throated Sparrow. The Becka heard one earlier this week and I was surrounded by them on the trail today with the help of some hulled sunflower seeds.

Oh Sweet Canada Canada Canada....

Yes, spring is sweet and life is good!

White-throated Sparrow