Welcome to Birds & Musings!

thumbs-up-friendlyThanks for visiting this blog, especially if you’ve come here from my keithricflick Flickr site. Hope you find something interesting. It has been a work in progress since 2015. I want this to be as user friendly as possible!
This is called a sticky post, which means, for the time being, that you’ll see it first every time you visit this blog….

Wood Duck (Aix sponsa)
Wilbur Woodie of Belmont Pond…                               …..For more Wood Duck images, click About this blog on the banner above….

My goal is to share photos and stories of wildlife, particularly birds, in the Okanagan Region. You’ll also find “bonus information” from other places I’ve travelled to.  Secondly, when the muses dictate, you’ll find some rambling about politics and other topics of general interest.

To get you started quickly and easily, I’ve posted links to some popular posts just below. I’ll change the links from time to time.

For full Navigation Instructions, click here.

Recommended posts: (changes occasionally). Click a blue underlined link to see the post.

It’s always nice to hear from you. If you’d like to comment,

  • first click on the title of the post to open it in its own window.
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  • As administrator of the blog, I will deal with the comments as I see fit….

Have a GREAT day!

Some goofy stuff for a change….

I’m known in a few places for my goofy sense of humour — my predilection for anomalies, ironies, childish imagination. So, if you’re not into such silliness, you’re in the wrong place! Run away, NOW!

But if you can tolerate a certain amount of not-so-serious-stuff, here’s a little to snack on:

Remember: if images show a Hand icon cursor icon, click to enlarge in a new tab….

Waterfowl who wannabe predators:

Last spring we saw a goose that was roosting on a cleanly topped tree trunk probably 20 feet above Mission Creek. Her mate (it had to be a female, right? It was during breeding season when all kinds of new ideas float in the air….) stood in the creek below, looking up as if to say, “So that’s it? You’ve left me for ‘a room with a view’?” Well, unfortunately, I wasn’t able to capture that situation (we saw it there a couple of times over several days), this year we’ve something similar again, several times in various places with different geese and a female Mallard.

April 13, 2017:

Cangosprey? (1).jpg
This pair of Canada Geese, wanted, I believe, to be designated Cangosprey. After Momma Osprey returned for the breeding season,  then apparently abandoned this nest on what I call the Lightship, these two landed here several times over a couple of days and showed a definite liking for the perch. I don’t think they had any intention of nesting here; it was just a chance to enjoy an AirB&B staycation in an Osprey’s domicile. They even chased off another goose who showed interest in renting the place. Eventually they moved on from romance to serious domestic duties, Momma O. returned, and life resumed as normal….

April 21, 2017:

While visiting Robert Lake, I noticed something plopped on top of a post of the white fence at an adjacent horse farm: on closer examination, here’s what I found:

Never did see how she resolved her situation.

Later that afternoon, on a quick visit to Munson Pond around sundown to check out the local North American Beaver, Castor canadensis, we also encountered this rabble rouser; I think her name is Forrest Goose, and she spoke with a thick tongue like a great Political Science professor from the Philippines I was enjoyed:

2017: Closer to home, we have the ongoing saga of the Turtle Sitters of Belmont Pond….

Last year (2016), the duties fell to the Wood Ducks. Could be the reason they eventually moved to a different location to raise their own brood.

And, in 2017, Mergus has a new mate, and guess who’s been handed the Turtle-sitting chores? You guessed it! Miranda Merganser. And Kilroy’s a year older and bolder….

Common Merganser female (Mergus merganser).jpg
“Look! I don’t like this arrangement any more than you do, Kilroy, but you will do as I tell you!
Now where did that dang Kilroy get to?!.jpg
Dang! Now where did that little brat go this time??!

Hope you found something to chuckle over, or, as the poet asks, “What’s the point?”

Wood Ducks — sheer beauty!

Some of you have already seen a large chunk of my Wood Ducks collection on the About this blog page that you’ve accessed from the banner at the top of the website! But, having been obsessed with these gorgeous waterfowl for nearly three decades, and photographing them for several years, now, I have more I’d like to share.

So, fotos first; discussion delivered at de end

From Belmont Pond 2017: if images show a Hand icon cursor icon, click to enlarge in a new tab….

Wood Duck (Aix sponsa)
Wilbur Woodie of Belmont Pond…
Wood Duck female (Aix sponsa)
and Wilma Woodie….

Caught them canoodling (WODU- style) recently in the smaller Belmont Pond. One of these photos was very well received on Flickr (Affectionate Wood Ducks).

Click on any photo in the cluster to enlarge all of ’em. Once enlarged, you can scroll down in a photo and click View Full Size to enlarge that image in a new tab…. Close the cluster by clicking the small x in top right corner of enlarged photos.

Single shots of Wilbur, 2017:

And from years past, other WODUs I have known:

From Burnaby Lake, 2016:

From Belmont Pond, 2016, a photo with a twist…taken on a very calm day!

Wood Duck drake - 2a
Giggle if you get this!

WODU-lings, Burnaby Lake, 2016:

“Mom’s gonna be REAL mad if you get us lost, Winki!

There are more images, but that’s enough for now. Here’s a little background on these wonderful Wood Ducks from a couple of Internet sources.

Wood Duck migration range Audubon.png

From Audubon.com: (quotations combined)

Beautiful and unique, this duck of woodland ponds and river swamps has no close relatives, except for the Mandarin Duck of eastern Asia. Abundant in eastern North America in Audubon’s time, the Wood Duck population declined seriously during the late 19th century because of hunting and loss of nesting sites [due to cutting of large trees, combined with hunting pressure]. Its recovery to healthy numbers was an early triumph of wildlife management. Legal protection and provision of nest boxes helped recovery; many thousands of nest boxes now occupied by Wood Ducks in U.S. and southern Canada. In recent years, apparently has been expanding range in north and west.”

From Cornell Lab of Ornithology (LoO):

“These birds live in wooded swamps, where they nest in holes in trees or in nest boxes put up around lake margins. They are one of the few duck species equipped with strong claws that can grip bark and perch on branches. 

Cool Facts

  • Natural cavities for nesting are scarce, and the Wood Duck readily uses nest boxes provided for it. If nest boxes are placed too close together, many females lay eggs in the nests of other females.
  • The Wood Duck nests in trees near water, sometimes directly over water, but other times over a mile away. After hatching, the ducklings jump down from the nest tree and make their way to water. The mother calls them to her, but does not help them in any way. The ducklings may jump from heights of over 50 feet without injury.
  • Wood Ducks pair up in January, and most birds arriving at the breeding grounds in the spring are already paired. The Wood Duck is the only North American duck that regularly produces two broods in one year. [In my observations, however, the male often departs after the brood reaches water, leaving all rearing chores to his mate!]
  • The oldest recorded Wood Duck was a male and at least 22 years, 6 months old. He had been banded in Oregon and was found in California.

Nesting Facts

  • Clutch Size: 6–16 eggs
  • Number of Broods: 1-2
  • Egg Length: 4.6–6.1 cm (1.8–2.4 in) Egg Width: 3.5–4.2 cm (1.4–1.7 in)
  • Egg Description: Glossy creamy white to tan. Incubation Period: 28–37 days
  • Nestling Period: 56–70 days
  • Condition at Hatching: Chicks hatch alert and with a full coat of down. A day after hatching they leave the nest by jumping out of the entrance.

Nest Description

  • Nest cavities can have openings as small as 4 inches across, and these may be preferred because they are harder for predators to enter. Wood Ducks sometimes use much larger openings, up to a couple of feet across. Cavity depths are variable; they average about 2 feet deep but in rotten trees can be 15 feet deep (the young use their clawed feet to climb out). Nest boxes of many designs have proved very popular and successful with Wood Ducks*, though plastic nest boxes can overheat in strong sun. The female lines the nest with down feathers she takes from her breast.
  • *We are waiting to see if the 3 WODU nest boxes installed in Belmont Pond (winter of 2016-7) will be accepted by any of the species that visit the pond this spring.

Nest Placement

  • Breeding pairs search for nest cavities during early morning. The male stands outside as the female enters and examines the site. They typically choose a tree more than 1 foot and often 2 feet in diameter, with a cavity anywhere from 2–60 feet high (higher sites seem to be preferred). These cavities are typically places where a branch has broken off and the tree’s heartwood has subsequently rotted. Woodpecker cavities are used less frequently. Wood Ducks cannot make their own cavities. The nest tree is normally situated near to or over water, though Wood Ducks will use cavities up to 1.2 miles from water.”

Finally, for those who made it this far, when Nana and I purchased a signed print of Robert Bateman’s wonderful “On the pond — Wood Ducks” (below), I had the chance to ask the artist whether he preferred the Wood Ducks or the Mandarin Ducks that he had done in Asia. I explained that I had seen both in the wild, the latter in Japan in my days in Sapporo. He was eager to discuss for a moment as he was about to head off to Hokkaido and wanted to know if I could tell him anything about the marsh he was headed to. (I could and did, but that’s not the story.)

He answered my question without hesitation, partly by avoiding it. He said that “Wood Ducks” was far more memorable because it had become his bête noire — a work he had struggled with off and on for 11 years before he finally declared it was as good as it was ever going to get. The light* was the main issue that he felt he couldn’t quite resolve.

On his affection for Wood Ducks, Bateman has said,

“My admiration does not stop at their appearance. I love the kind of place where they live. I have a soft spot in my heart for swamps with the lushness, the still water, the reflections, the complex light and the abundance of wildlife. Some of my happiest hours have been spent in and around swamps, watching and listening. Perhaps if I am very lucky I will hear a prothonotary warbler. But It is always a thrill to hear the shrill, questioning call of a wood duck as a pair (virtually always a pair) takes off and swiftly, almost miraculously, dashes between the trees and disappears. The glimpse is worth it.”

Now that I’m committed to photography, I believe I know what he means….

The Bateman print hangs in our dining room where we can enjoy it every day!

*In his memoir, Life Sketches (Simon & Shuster Canada, 2015) Bateman discusses light on p.219:

“Light, I tell students, is critical. I love backlit scenes, or scenes lit from the side. I like diffuse light, the kind offered on a cloudy day. I love mist and fog and ambience. But when you paint a scene where there is any kind of light, the key question is this: Where is the light coming from? Every shadow in that painting must be true to the source of light. I tell students: Be a slave, not to the creature you’re depicting, or the feathers on that bird’s body, or the landscape your describing, but to the light source and the form that it reveals.”

Wise words: a challenge I can spend the rest of my days working on….

BLRd Bonanza, part two — Say’s Phoebe

For Navigation Help, click here.

For Part 1Mountain Bluebirds, click here.

Finally, a bird I’ve been very pleased to see in widespread locations this Spring. I understand they’re even abundant at The Coast this year: the Say’s Phoebe (Sayornis saya). I’ve been fascinated with them for decades, but only starting finding them in the last 7 years or so — always in the Okanagan. The group below could have been put into a cluster, but, as they’re my best shots of this species, so far, I’m giving them full feature treatment!

Say's Phoebe (Sayornis saya) - 1
Say’s Phoebe —as well as I can capture one! Can’t determine the gender….
Say's Phoebe (Sayornis saya) - 2
A little more subdued, I think. SAPHs often offer a delicate side….
Say's Phoebe (Sayornis saya) - 3
Extremely subtle differences from the first shot above…. I like the first one better, but I’d have been delighted with this one if it had been the only one I got!
Say's Phoebe (Sayornis saya) - 4
And finally, this one, the “Ain’t I sweet?” pose. A female, perhaps? No matter! We see each other….

Thanks to Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology for the maps above and the description below.

Like other phoebes, the Say’s Phoebe is seemingly undaunted by people and often nests on buildings. These open-country birds have cinnamon-washed underparts and a rather gentle expression. They sally from low perches to snatch insects in midair or pounce on them on the ground. Say’s Phoebes often pump their tails while perched on a wire, fence post, or low bush. They breed farther north than any other flycatcher and are seemingly limited only by the lack of nest sites.” (https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Says_Phoebe/id)

Cool Facts about Say’s Phoebe (https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Says_Phoebe/lifehistory)

  • Charles Bonaparte, a nephew of Napoleon, named the Say’s Phoebe after American naturalist Thomas Say, the first scientist to encounter the bird, at a site near Cañon City, Colorado, in 1819. During the same expedition, Say also collected 10 additional bird species. Despite finding several new bird species in his career, Say is perhaps better known as the “father of American entomology.”
  • Say’s Phoebes have been in the U.S. for a long time. Paleontologists discovered Say’s Phoebe fossils in Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas dating back to about 400,000 years ago (the late Pleistocene).
  • The Say’s Phoebe breeds farther north than any other flycatcher and is seemingly limited only by the lack of nest sites. Its breeding range extends from central Mexico all the way to the arctic tundra. It may be following the Alaska pipeline even farther north, nesting on the pipeline itself.
  • When a Say’s Phoebe finds a good nesting site, it often uses the nest year after year. In central Kansas a Say’s Phoebe reused the same nest 5 years in a row.
  • Say’s Phoebes will nest just about anywhere: in mailboxes, on machinery, and even in old nests built by other species. Researchers reported them using nests built by Black and Eastern phoebes, Cliff, Bank, and Barn swallows, and American Robins.
  • Say’s Phoebes tend to perch on low shrubs or even grasses from which they sally out to grab flying insects. They often wag or pump their tails when perched, although they do this less often than either Eastern or Black phoebes. Their flight is direct, buoyant, and graceful. They form pair bonds early in the spring, although it is unclear if pairs stay together for multiple years. Males escort females around to potential nest sites. He flutters his wings while chattering to the female until she selects a spot to build a nest. One or both phoebes often return to the same territory year after year, sometimes even reusing nests from the previous year, but it’s not clear if it is with the same mate. During the nonbreeding season, phoebes are mostly solitary.”

Again, thanks to Cornell LoO for this info. Please be sure to visit their site, too!

BLRd Bonanza mid April: part one — MOBLs

For Navigation Help, click here.

Part 1 (below): Mountain Bluebirds.

For Part 2, Say’s Phoebe, click here.

Lots of photos here from my April 14th trip up Beaver Lake Road (out of Winfield, BC, just north of Kelowna). The goal was Mountain Bluebird (Sialia curricoides) images. Had quite a time paring down from the dozens I took. So, today, less text, more images! For more on Mountain Bluebirds, see my earlier post, here:

The pair at Nest Box 12 were still there, and on this day had some friends along. More on them in a bit! Click image below to enlarge it in a new tab. Scroll down on any enlarged cluster image, and click View Original Size to see it fully blown up!

Mountain Bluebird male (Sialia curricoides) - 11
Best shot of the day, I think. Click image to enlarge in a new tab….
Mountain Bluebird male (Sialia curricoides) - 1
MOBL male at #12 nest box.

I was quite enjoying myself. There’s some challenge in getting this close to Mountain Bluebirds; over the years, I’ve gotten to know a few secrets…. On this occasion, I witnessed something for the very first time — a bird choking and coughing up the source of its distress. Sadly, the the images didn’t start out well, as the rail is in better focus than the bird. But all’s well that ends well, right? Check it out: click any photo in any cluster below to enlarge them all.

MOBLs are my favourite bluebird. I never tire of seeing them. Photographing them is always challenging, trying to get the right pose and right bokeh. Here are some against the hillside rather than the sky.

 And finally, for the male MOBLs, some Blue on blue images…. Did I say blue is my favourite colour?

I did not do so well with Moby’s mate this time out, as you can see in this pair of image:

Mountain Bluebird female (Sialia curricoides) - 1
Female Mountain Bluebird, Beaver Lake Road near Winfield, BC. – 1
Mountain Bluebird female (Sialia curricoides) - 2
Female Mountain Bluebird, Beaver Lake Road near Winfield, BC. – 2

But the trip also revealed a couple of mutual friends of MOBLs and me, like this fellow below. The other friend is found in Part 2: click here.

Columbian Ground Squirrel (Urocitellus columbianus).jpg
Columbian Ground Squirrels were abundant! I’ll get lots of photos of them here and elsewhere over Spring and Summer. In this one, was just trying to be creative….

Nothin’ here but Osoyoos Ospreys….

For Navigation Help, click here.

For my favourite presentation of the young Ospreys of Kelowna Rec Field in August 2015, click this link: it will open in a new tab….

April 12, 2017: Although one of the Ospreys of Mission Rec Field returned last Saturday, with a softball game going on right below, it took off and headed towards the mouth of Mission Creek. Haven’t seen it since despite checking the Field regularly. Something similar happened last Spring, so haven’t given up hope just yet. Still, if they have abandoned this site, where MayB refused to stay last Autumn, and which Red-tails and Bald Eagles have defiled this winter, I will be left with a big hole in my heart! Prey for us!

Sooo, in lieu of photos of “our” Ospreys, here are some shots from our trip to Osoyoos River’s floodplain yesterday. To read about the trip, click this link. On this post, all you can do is see photos: click any photo to enlarge ’em all….

Warning: some of the shots here are not worthy of posting to Flickr or other photo websites, but I’ve posted them herefor illustrative purposes. Sometimes, all they illustrate is that they deserved trashing in the first place, heh-heh-heh!

Poppa Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)
Poppa Osprey is not quite all there!

To enlarge photos in a cluster and see captions, click on any one….

There are a few things I hoped you noticed. For starters, the sky colour is inconsistent — for a couple of reasons. First, processing for light and colour can create differences. Second, as the series was taken, the sky itself changed as clouds came and went. Third, the bird was in different parts of her orbit at different times….

Momma put on a great aerial show! One thing I hope you picked up on is her necklace — pretty much absent in the male. Also, she has one dark, central tail feather that’s quite obvious in these shots. I’d never noticed this in other birds; it’s not obvious in Poppa’s flight shot. After going back through photos of other Osprey, it appears that this feature may be present to some degree in both genders. Now, it’s something I’ll be looking for….

Finally, it would be hard to justify so many photos in one Flickr series. Here, however, I’m able to post shots that seem quite similar, but which, upon more careful observation, reveal some of the fine adjustments an Osprey makes in flight….

Out and about or ‘South, for a last time’…

For Navigation Help, click here.

Yes, you are meant to sing this posts’s title’s last five words — à la Johnny Horton!

Okanagan South map.pngApril 11, 2017: With strong assurance that we had a sunny day at last, Nana and I set out for White Lake and Osoyoos hoping to discover whatever we could. There’s less disappointment with such vague objectives, you know….

Truth be told (and shouldn’t it always?), we were looking for Mountain Bluebirds (Sialia curricoides), Western Meadowlarks (Sturnella neglecta), and Nature-willing,  Yellow-rumped Warblers (Setophaga coronata). Won’t keep you in suspense — we found ’em all right, yet came home with not one decent photo of any of ’em. Not the right day. Nice to see, but far too far off to fotograph!

Click the map at left (or any graphic where the cursor turns to a pointing hand) to enlarge it….

Before you start commiserating, however, let me finish. We did not return empty-memory-carded! At White Lake, right off the bat, I got some decent shots of a Western Bluebird (Sialia mexicana). Actually wished later that I’d spent a little more time there, right across from the parking lot, but we had our targets and figured they were down the trail. We had some fun with meadowlarks, but they were smarter than we. As for the warblers, found that we could do better at home….

Click on any photo in the cluster to enlarge them all….

Violet-green Swallow
(Tachychineta thalassina) female in the stone foundation of our condo, Kelowna.

We didn’t linger long at the lake. Instead we headed south to Osoyoos and famous Road 22 which crosses the Osoyoos River floodplain just north of Osoyoos Lake. At this time of year we can expect to see Ospreys freshly returned from their winter homes in the States, as well as a few other migrants navigating northwards. As we crossed the river and turned south onto the dike road, we saw a flight of Violet-green Swallows (Tachychineta thalassina), a couple of hundred I’d guess, swarming around the bridge area. As we have these at home, we didn’t take time to shoot any….

We did enjoy some success with the Ospreys, however. There are three nests in the floodplain that I’m aware of, and pairs occupied each one . We focused on the largest and most colourful nest, perhaps in the whole Okanagan Valley, maybe in BC, maybe even the world, (!) not that it matters. I’ve provided just three Osprey shots here but if you want more, click this link….  To enlarge the photos, below, click on the —oh, you know…!

On our way back to Oliver, we chose to take the Nimkip Road through Osoyoos Indian Band lands (the road is provincial). Near the junction of Rd. 22 and Sage Rd. sits an old barn and, across the road, some other sadly deteriorated ranch buildings. There we enjoyed great looks at some Say’s Phoebes (Sayornis saya), which seem to be in abundance through their BC range this year. Came away with one acceptable photo.

Say's Phoebe (Sayornis saya).jpg

From Oliver, we drove to Vaseux Lake and up McIntyre Rd. (which Google insists on calling Dulton Creek Rd. Apple Maps, for once, gets it right!)  This area is collectively referred to as McIntyre Bluffs (or sometimes Vaseux Bluffs). See map above.

It’s home to a variety of wildlife, both avian and four-legged. We saw (and interacted again) with meadowlarks (still denied the quality shots we got last year).  We saw four mule deer, which, after spotting us, turned their attention to a predator they could see, but we couldn’t. Although they stayed put, the here was giving it undivided attention. As the Mulies were too far away to photograph, we didn’t.

On the way up to the ranch on McIntyre Bluff, we stopped to appreciate a rather thin and tired looking California Bighorn ewe. Nana wanted to go look for the rest of the herd, but that came later on our way home….

Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)
Turkey Vulture at the ranch above Vaseux Lake near Oliver, BC.

After turning around, a km or so past the ranch, we were startled on our way back down, just as we approached the feedlot, to find a wake of Turkey Vultures (nine altogether) mostly on the ground but also flying in and out. Must admit that I was struck with vulture fever! Stopping the car as close as I could on the opposite side of the road (with no traffic, that was a mistake!), I rolled down the window and attempted to shoot between strands of the barbed wire fence. While the opportunity was fabulous, the fence was a foil. To get the results I wanted, I had to get out and hope that in their frenzy, the ol’ buzzards would stay put and let me shoot. Alas, not happening on this day! While I got the closest ever to TUVUs, the images produced are not nearly as good as they should be. Were I doing it again, I’d drive to the wrong side of the road close to the fence; I think the TUVUs were oblivious to the machine but not to the man…. One of those situations where one is seen exulting and beard-muttering at the same time!

Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura).jpg
Sort of what I felt like doing when I got such a feeble result!

On the way down the highway, located “our Ewe” again, and observed her and 21 others in the herd, by Nana’s count. There may have been more. No rams, however…. To enlarge any photo below, click on it!

Vaseux Lake Bluff.jpg
The view of Vaseux Bluff from McIntyre Bluff. Can you spot “Ewe”?
California Bighorn ewes and lambs.jpg
Ewe is a sweetheart!
California Bighorn ewes and lambs (1).jpg
One dozen of the herd. Nana counted 22 in all….

Finally,  from the new tower-blind at the Vaseux Lake “Important Birding Area” (a lot more on this fraud some other day!), one last look at Vaseux Lake and Bluff.

Vaseux Lake from the IBA blind.jpg
Vaseux Lake from the beautiful new tower-blind. Sadly, the same old lousy birding spot!

For the post on Osoyoos Ospreys only, click this link….

Kessie, the American Kestrel update

April 2017: Recently, I discussed the winter raptors of “my beat” in the Thomson and Michaelbrook Marshes that mark the boundaries of Kelowna’s Recreational Fields in Lower Mission. I began that post by featuring a female American Kestrel that I have been flirting with (actually, I have to give her most of the credit, here) since Spring 2015.

I named her “Kessie.” Seemed reasonable, I thought. Last year, I had the privilege of watching her mate with “Amke“, a handsome but less interactive bird not far from their nesting tree on the southwest edge of Michaelbrook Marsh. This Spring, sometime in late February and through March, she began spending more time in that part of my beat.  In the first week of April I have twice watched them copulate on different days. Most of the photos  in this post are not spectacular, but I’d like to share them with Kestrel lovers everywhere:

American Kestrel pair
Kessie on the left and Amke, her mate, on the right above Michaelbrook Marsh.

Click on clusters of photos like the ones below to open them in a new tab….

The parents to be….

Getting together looked pleasant enough:

American Kestrels breeding (Falco sparverius)
Not the most glamorous place for a romantic occasion. Two days later I watched them re-couple on a branch near the nesting tree.

Preparing for the trials of parenthood starts with nutrition….

Kessie greets us on an evening visit.

Kessie in the evening near nest
I whistle and she gives me her attention; this has been going on for four months….
Kessie in the evening near nest
Basking in some evening sunshine, April 9, 2010.

(Above) Kessie looks more serious, somehow, than she did two months ago (below)….

Kessie, January 31, 2017.

We’ll keep an eye on this pair and hope to see offspring in due course.

Belmont Pond wings back to Life!

Belmont Pond—late November.jpg

Belmont Pond in late November 2015 with a light veneer of ice….

Belmont Pond and Park map.png



Sometime in March, little Belmont Pond — surrounded by homes, a park with the same moniker, a church and private school and its fenced off playground — melts back to life. In winter it may be — or not — frozen for weeks at a time depending upon the severity of that season. In 2015, it froze long enough for a skating area to be cleared, while in 2016, an El Niño year, it was open except for brief spell when it wore a thin veneer of ice.……………………

Through January, February, and much of March 2017, thick ice sealed the pond. Kids hauled hockey nets onto it; residents took to watering the surface from time to time so the folks would have smooth skating.

Belmont Pond 170114.jpg
Belmont Pond, February 2017
Hider pays a visit to a brand new nest box
Hider Heron checks out one of Belmont Pond’s new nesting boxes.

And a group of neighbours got together to make and install three Wood Duck nesting boxes in hopes that in Spring we’d be able to enjoy the thrill of watching Woodies, and possibly Hooded Mergansers, Common Goldeneyes, or Buffleheads use them to raise young. It’s too soon to say, of course, but we remain hopeful. The ducks have returned to the pond. How long they’ll stay is still a guess.



By mid-March, the ice had thawed enough to allow some ducks to return, like this Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula) who was obviously pleased to be here!

Common Goldeneye drake (1).jpg
Clarence is one happy COGO!

He grew even happier as the water opened up….
Noteclick on any image in a group to enlarge it!

And soon he had company!

Hooded Merganser drake (3).jpg
Howard the Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus) applauded the change of seasons….

By late March the Wood Ducks (Aix sponsa) were back. Whether they noticed the new nesting boxes is not known by anyone not fluent in Woodduckese…. We have to wait and see.

Wood Duck (Aix sponsa) (2).jpg
Wilbur Woodie in all his glory,  April 1, 2017….
Wood Duck female (Aix sponsa).jpg
And wife, er, partner, Wilma, who was about to greet one of our Western Painted Turtles, obscured for this photo by a cattail blocking the way….

The WPTs appeared at the end of March as well: click on any image in a group to enlarge it!

Soon, the entire pond was clear, and the Hoodies were asserting themselves, especially Howard who likes to think he’s the boss, but whom no one else takes as seriously as he takes himself….

Hooded Merganser drake (Lophodytes cucullatus) (5).jpg
I’m a happy dude, clap your wings! I’m a …..

Click on any image in the group to enlarge it!

If he becomes too full of himself, however, one way to Howard Hoodie can be back to earth, er, water, is by his partner, Hester, who has her feathers full!

Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus) (3).jpg
Hester pins his Howard’s hood back from time to time….
Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus) (7).jpg
and appreciates it when he does his job when interlopers start getting too cute….

Howard did ask that I include the photo below with his question in the caption:

Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus) (6).jpg
Do you think this ‘do makes by butt look big?

It’s been a bit much for Clarence Cogo, all this Hoodie kerfuffle. His partner apparently isn’t keen on Belmont and it appears they have bade us farewell….

Common Goldeneye drake (Bucephala clangula) (1).jpg
Clarence, it was nice to have you with us for your staycation. Be happy!

With no intent to downplay the supporting cast, the real stars of Belmont every Spring are the glorious Wood Ducks, Wilbur and Wilma. So here’s a closing look at them.
Click on any image in a group to enlarge it!

(The Passerines of Belmont — coming soon.…)

Things Spring Brings….

I don’t want to belabour the point that Spring’s arrival is more eagerly anticipated than any other season’s, yet it’s not only a fact, but a particularly poignant one in 2017 when its is taking so long to extract Winter’s talons from the back of the land….

So I thought I should share this poem I started writing many years ago and have updated many times as my insights have evolved. I think it’s especially relevant now:

Spring Birds

what first excites
about the return of Spring
is the birds....

Aesop's Fables _the wind and the sunas southern Sun duels 
tired North Wind
for Soil's allegiance
we search,
each day, 

maple blooming

more suddenly than bursting buds,
new green,
or arctic blooms,
our winged friends reappear
almost as if
they’d never left...

Cang in fligiht

First, the geese
in majestic undulating wedges
pointing the way —
their unmelodic greetings still
music to
starved ears...

then one
.....by one
......and more
..........and more
...........they find us —Merganser & Mallard

mergansers and mallards darting
in and out of marshes and shores
squabbling for space.

Click images below to enlarge….

sparrows and finches trilling in hedges,
....bluebirds riding fence rails,
.......robins and flickers pulling treasure from the lawns,
blackbirds, red-flashed and furious, grating like rusting barbed wire stretching on fences crossed,
..........staking their claims and pleading for mates,
.................killdeers kri-kri-ing in charade,
..........and, here and there,
.......juncoes investigating everything.

Western Bluebird on post.jpg
they jog our memory —
are these the fledglings
last seen camoufrocked
in battle fatigues?

bright plumage now
restored by tropic sunshine
costumed to suit the operettas
rehearsed for eternity
now broadcast on sunbeams
to our winter-weary souls....