Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Bufflehead: Duck on the Pond

A small duck swims across the pond on the Abbey farm — to my eyes, based on the small white oval patch on its head, a female or perhaps more likely, a juvenile Bufflehead.

(And these, the Sibley's guide says, are our smallest North American ducks...)

Bufflehead duck swimming on the Abbey pond, early morning. © SB 
For comparison, a pair of Bufflehead ducks - in different light,
in a different place... The male, at left, has much more white. 
© SB 

What are these? Bufflehead ducks
Location: Top: Near Muenster, SK; bottom: Wascana Lake, Regina, SK
Photo dates: Top: July 8, 2014; bottom: May 4, 2012.


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Bobolinks in field, near Muenster, Saskatchewan

I saw my first pair of Bobolinks today when I walked the grid road mile (times four) around St. Peter's Abbey. Their songs are so joyful— these, like many birds, remind me of exuberant human laughter!

Bobolink, perched on stalk of dock.   © SB 

One swooped down onto a stalk of dock, while the other... Well, it disappeared from my view, as I was focused on the more sedate Bobolink (if such a word could possibly fit these happy, clown-like birds), trying for a picture of it far off across the pasture. I was also trying to test how close I could creep without startling this stunning little blackbird, with its yellow cap and white wing and back feathers.

These birds have an amazing annual migration, flying from across North America down to Paraguay. I'm glad I got closer today than in my last Bobolink photo attempt, last summer at Grasslands.
Bobolink, in flight over the field, displaying feather colours.  © SB 

What is this? A Bobolink
Location: Near Muenster, Saskatchewan, Canada
Photo date: July 8, 2014


Monday, June 2, 2014

Tennessee Warbler in the Impossible Apple Tree

After the rain, a Tennessee Warbler landed high in the impossible apple tree in our Regina, Saskatchewan, back yard.

Tennessee Warbler, checking for bugs in the new apple shoots.   © SB

At least, that's what I think this tiny migrating songbird must be, based on its colours: its back, a vivid bright green; belly, white; and head, soft gray with white eye arcs.

Warblers are fairly rare visitors for us. I think more visit the trees and houses in the parts of Regina near Wascana Lake and along Wascana Creek. But we live on the dryer high ground, to the north. (Odd for such a small city to have such clearly distinctive zones...)

And about that apple tree? Impossible, because we live so far out of normal apple range... And because its fruit, though reasonably plentiful, is bitter-sweet, not great for either eating raw or cooking — although these apples can be delightful if mixed with firmer fruit in pies.

Tennessee Warbler - view of back feathers. © SB

What is this? A Tennessee Warbler, as far I can figure from my bird books. 
Location: Backyard, Regina
, Saskatchewan, Canada.  

Photo date: May 20, 2014


Sunday, June 1, 2014

White-crowned Sparrow - with a very white head

Mystery bird - looks like a White-crowned Sparrow © SB
An unusual bird visited our Regina, SK, backyard feeder many times this spring — one like nothing I've seen in bird books, but which we think is likely a White-crowned Sparrow with partial albinism.

Its head and neck are white, except for a few fine, lingering black traces on its crown.

Its markings were so striking that I started calling it a Ghost-crowned Sparrow.

At first, it was very timid — as all of the newly arrived migrating sparrows seem to be.

But it quickly realised that this was a fairly safe food source (our cats stay indoors, though others wander through... And a Sharp-shinned Hawk has landed here, too.)

In any case, it settled in for several weeks, then flew on.

White-crowned Sparrow - if that's what it really is - posing in the backyard.  © SB

A beautiful White-crowned Sparrow - with a difference!  © SB

For reference, here is a White-crowned Sparrow with typical markings. Others that arrived this spring are shown a few posts down: White-crowned Sparrows in my Regina backyard - Spring!

A typically coloured (and curious) White-crowned Sparrow   © SB

What are these? White-crowned Sparrows (the one at top seems to have partial albilism).  
Location: Backyard, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.  
Photo dates: Top photo, May 6, 2014; others, May 9, 2014.


Saturday, May 31, 2014

Gadwalls at Dusk in Wascana Park

Last night, I walked through Wascana Park and saw a pair of Gadwalls in the fenced waterfowl area.

At first glance, these big gray-brown ducks are less than spectacular, compared — just for example — to the common Mallard... But look closer at the male's velvety feathers and striking black tail, and at the female's crisp plumage.

Female Gadwall rising in the water, dusk in the Wascana Waterfowl Park   © SB

Gadwalls at dusk in the Wascana Waterfowl Park   © SB

Male Gadwall in clearer lighting, near Lumsden, SK  © SB

What are these? Gadwalls.
Location: (top), Wascana Park, Regina, and (bottom) 
near Lumsden, Saskatchewan, Canada.  
Photo date: Top two: May 30, 2014; bottom, April 21, 2012. 


Friday, May 30, 2014

Chipping Sparrows - Micro Migratory Birds

Chipping Sparrow with full red crown   © SB
The spring migratory birds in our Regina, Saskatchewan, backyard include Chipping Sparrows.

I call Chipping Sparrows micro birds. Not only are they tiny, but they look far less than half the size of the resident House Sparrows.

Most of our Chipping visitors have bright rust-red crowns, while a few have a more mottled ruffous appearance.

And their song? It's a sweet, high "chip-chippp!"

Chipping Sparrow with slightly more mottled head.    © SB

What are these? Chipping Sparrows.
Location: Backyard, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.  
Photo date: May 27 and 22, 2014.


Thursday, May 29, 2014

Brown Thrasher at the Backyard Feeder

Brown Thrasher on the lilac tree   © SB
There are Brown Thrashers in our
Regina, SK, neighbourhood again this year — shy, beautiful singers that perch high on tree-tops and chatter, chant, whistle and generally carry on.

The Brown Thrashers are also attracted to the suet that was put out to draw in the woodpeckers that never arrived.

(The robins also like this suet, so it's not going to waste... Still, it would be great to see a woodpecker here...)

The Brown Thrashers are fairly regular visitors — we see them flit through the yard several times a week — so are likely nesting somewhere nearby. (I hope they bring their fledgling thrashers to visit, too.)

Brown Thrasher at the suet feeder.    © SB

What is this? A Brown Thrasher.
Location: Backyard, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.  
Photo date: May 22, 2014.


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Rose-breasted Grosbeaks: New Regina Backyard Bird

Male Rose-breasted Grosbeak  © SB
The recent rain brought many beautiful birds to our Regina, Saskatchewan, backyard — including our first-ever Rose-breasted Grosbeaks.

Perhaps oddly, I find the females, with their crisp brown markings, almost as beautiful as the males...

But the male Rose-breasted Grosbeaks are truly gorgeous in black and white with that rosy red bib!

And as for the beaks that give Grosbeaks their names, they really are huge. From other images, I'd thought perhaps they were finch-like, but no, they are so very much bigger than that.

The birds at the feeders, below, display this beakly magnificence.

These birds arrived one evening, then reappeared the next morning, with visits to the feeders in the front and back yards off and on throughout the day. 

And now, they seem to have flown on. To wherever Rose-breasted Grosbeaks go — to wherever they've been every other spring, when I haven't seen them.

For two more photos of these birds, see Male and Female Rose-breasted Grosbeaks on my photography blog

A Pair of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks.     © SB

Female Rose-breasted Grosbeak  © SB
Male Rose-breasted Grosbeak © SB

What are these? Rose-breasted Grosbeaks. 
Location: Backyard, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.

Photo Date: May 20, 2014.   


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Baltimore Orioles in Regina Backyard: Our First Ever

I was called downstairs for a surprise this morning:

Three Baltimore Orioles were on our bird feeders — the first we've ever had in our Regina, Saskatchewan, backyard.

Early Morning: Baltimore Oriole on one of our Regina bird feeders. © SB

(We even had a special feeder hung for them one year, a sign of our somewhat misguided, though eternal, optimism.)

What astonishingly, brilliantly orange birds Baltimore Orioles are!

What is this? Baltimore Orioles. 
Location: Backyard, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.   

Photo date: May 20, 2014.   


Monday, May 5, 2014

White-throated Sparrows in my Regina Backyard

What a pretty fellow! White-throated Sparrow  © SB
Another migratory bird of spring has arrived in my Regina, Saskatchewan, backyard: The White-throated Sparrow.

Like White-crowned Sparrows, these little birds look similar to every other little brown bird...

Until you really look at them and realize that they are not at all like House Sparrows or the rest.

In addition to the white stripes on their heads, they also have bright yellow lores (spots above their eyes) and white bibs.

White-throated Sparrows are also known for their Sweet, sweet, Canada, Canada, Canada song, which Audubon calls an appropriate interpretation of their call, as most breed here in Canada.

Sometimes, I call them Grandfather Birds, because it looks to me like they sport white moustaches and beards... But that may be inappropriately aged and gendered, and just plain biologically innaccurate.

As for the condition of my backyard, still lots of patches with no spring grass, but now that the snow has finally melted and the dirt has begun to thaw, I have raked up that bird seed...

Snowbird heading north: White-throated Sparrow
stopping over in my backyard  
© SB
Yes, this bird looks a little scowly and old to me... 
White-throated Sparrow. © SB

What is this? White-throated Sparrow, stopping during its migration north.
Location: Backyard, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.   

Photo dates: April 29, April 30 and May 1, 2014...  


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