Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Bobolinks Singing at Condie Nature Refuge

Bobolinks. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
Bobolink, resting on a branch before the rain.  © SB
I've only seen Bobolinks a few times — once common, these grassland birds seem scarcer these days, perhaps because their nesting habitat is being lost.

But today, I saw and heard two lovely male Bobolinks, singing right beside the road into the Condie Nature Refuge, near Regina, SK. One flew off; the other Bobolink stayed and sang.


To me, these birds, relatives of Red-winged and other Blackbirds, have a somewhat clownish appearance, with a soft yellow cap and light back feathers.

And their song is pure gurgling joy!

Storm clouds were rolling over, so the backdrop for these photos is a dark gray, mid-morning sky. 

Bobolinks. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
Bobolink, stretching its body high as it sings. © SB
Bobolinks. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
Partial look at the Bobolink's lighter back feathers © SB
Bobolinks. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
Yes, there were two in this Russian Olive - the one at left, also in pix above, and one at right.  © SB

What are these? Bobolinks
Location: Condie Nature Refuge, near Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
Photo date: May 24, 2016

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Friday, May 20, 2016

Spotted Towhee: A New Bird for my Regina Yard

While having breakfast, I saw a Spotted Towhee hopping under our backyard bird feeder. I glanced away, and it was gone. I thought perhaps I'd mistaken the black-and-white markings on its back for another bird...

Spotted Towhee. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
Spotted Towhee cautiously checking out the grass under the bird feeder, in Regina. © SB

I've only seen a Spotted Towhee once in Saskatchewan — and that was in the distance, at Grasslands National Park. And I've only seen one up close — but that was near the water, along the West Dyke Trail in Richmond, B.C.

But this Spotted Towhee came back to our yard several times during the day. Never brave. Never coming close to the house, or staying long. But clearly identifiable, from its black head, red eyes, rusty sides, and spotted wings.

Spotted Towhee. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
Spotted Towhee in Richmond, B.C. - unlike my Regina bird, this one was not shy! © SB

What are these? Spotted Towhees
Locations: 1) Backyard, Saskatchewan, 2) Richmond, B.C., Canada
Photo dates: May 13, 2016, and June 18, 2014.

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Thursday, May 19, 2016

White-crowned Sparrows: Here today, gone tomorrow

White-crowned Sparrows are another migratory Spring songbird that lingers in my Regina, SK, backyard for too short a time. I don't know why the numbers vary from year to year, but we have only had a few this spring.

White-crowned Sparrow. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved
White-crowned Sparrow, in my Regina, SK, backyard.  © SB
What is this: White-crowned Sparrow
Location: Backyard, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.
Photo dates: May 7, 2016.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Chipping Sparrows: Brief Spring Visitors to Regina, SK

I always like seeing the Chipping Sparrows arrive — and I know it's a fallacy created by their bright rust crowns, but to me they are cheery little birds. They never stay long in our yard, though. A few days, usually in early May, and then they're gone.

Chipping Sparrow. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved
Chipping Sparrow, with pale, unmarked chest, eye-stripe and rust head.
(This feeding shelf concept didn't last long, either.) © SB

Chipping Sparrow. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved
Chipping Sparrow feeding in Regina, SK, backyard  © SB

What are these: Chipping Sparrows
Location: Backyard, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.
Photo dates: May 2, 2016.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Rose-breasted Grosbeaks: A break to feed, then flying on

Rose-breasted Grosbeak. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
Rose-breasted Grosbeaks arrived in our Regina, SK, neighbourhood this week.

First, I saw a male Rose-breasted Grosbeak at the feeder in the front yard, then more males showed up at the back of the house.

Finally, a female Rose-breasted Grosbeak made a quick — though all-but-hidden — touchdown on the bird feeder, too.

They may be gone now... A few days lurking, and the Rose-breasted Grosbeaks are on their way further north. (Not terribly far north; the All About Birds map looks like boreal forest, to me. I wish we had more trees to keep them longer here!)

Rose-breasted Grosbeak. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
What a bird of contrasts! Black and white, with a rosy-red breast - Rose-breasted Grosbeak. © SB
Rose-breasted Grosbeak. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
Yes, that's a pair of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks... The female is hiding.
(This 2014 post has a better view of the female)  © SB


What are these? Rose-breasted Grosbeaks.
Location: Backyard, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.
Photo Date: May 12, 2016.

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Saturday, May 14, 2016

Baltimore Oriole arrives to feed on suet

We've discussed putting out slices of oranges to attract migrating Baltimore Orioles, but before we had a chance to try that, a brilliant black and orange oriole arrived in our Regina, SK, backyard, attracted by suet. 

Baltimore Oriole. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved
Baltimore Oriole, waiting to dive onto the suet branch.  © SB

We saw this Baltimore Oriole on and off over three days — but perhaps it's now moved on. Yesterday morning was our last sighting. 

What a lovely sign of spring! 


What is this? A Baltimore Oriole  
Location: Backyard, Saskatchewan, Canada. 
Photo dates: May 13, 2016.
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Friday, May 13, 2016

Lincoln's Sparrow: Micro Sparrow on Migration

Lincoln's Sparrow. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
Lincoln's Sparrow in my Regina, SK, backyard.  © SB
The micro-sparrows are now arriving, stopping off for bugs and seeds on their way to their more northern breeding grounds.

This week, Lincoln's Sparrow showed up — and despite its best efforts to remain hidden in the shrubbery or in constant motion in the sunshine, I managed to catch a few photos.

These small birds are a little drab. At a distance, in fact, they look to be a uniform gray-brown. Mouse-coloured. (With their size and darting movements, they strongly remind me of mice...)

But on a closer look, they are very attractive, with strong red-brown streaks against light feathers. And they are fun to watch, as they dart through the grass looking for food. (A challenge to photograph, but fun.)

Lincoln's Sparrow. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
Tiny Lincoln's Sparrow, after a successful bug-foraging expedition in my garden.
(Bug in Beak - Yum!) © SB
 

Lincoln's Sparrow. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
Lincoln's Sparrow, in the shade of the lilac bushes. © SB

What are these? Lincoln's Sparrows
Location: Backyard, Saskatchewan, Canada.
Photo dates: May 2, 2016.

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Monday, May 9, 2016

Turkey Vultures flying over Regina, Saskatchewan

A sunny evening. Supper on the deck. A Turkey Vulture flying overhead — no, make that a pair of Turkey Vultures. That doesn't happen everyday/everywhere, so worth noting (for me) in this blog.

Turkey Vulture. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved
What a cheery sight when you are eating your evening meal outside.
Is this Turkey Vulture scoping out a snack?  © SB

In Saskatchewan, there seems to be an increasing population of Turkey Vultures, which now nest in abandoned barns and other buildings, as opposed to their traditional caves and natural crannies. 

Part of the fun of spotting these large birds in flight is the chance to look for wing tags — which these particular birds lacked. So we don't know where they were born, but here they are, flying over Walsh Acres, Regina, Saskatchewan. 

Magnificent — and to my mind, tropical — backyard birds.

Turkey Vultures. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved
Okay, here's the pair of Turkey Vultures - and no wing tags on either,
even when I zoom in (to my great disappointment!) © SB

What are these? Turkey Vultures
Location: Backyard, Regina, Saskatchewan
Photo date: May 8, 2016.

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Sunday, May 8, 2016

Black-headed gull #2: Franklin's Gull at Chaplin and Wascana

Franklin's Gull. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved
Franklin's Gull, near Chaplin, SK  © SB 
I first saw a Franklin's Gull several years ago at the edge of a lake near Chaplin, Saskatchewan, part of the Western Hemispheric Shorebird Reserve Network site.

With its clown-wide white eye-rings, bright orange bill, black head and white chest, Franklin's Gull is an unforgettably striking bird of contrasts.

And yet, when I saw Franklin's Gulls far out on Wascana Lake last week, I had difficultly at first distinguishing them from another black-headed gull, Bonaparte's Gull.

(Note to self: Carry binoculars. The differences were clear through the telephoto viewfinder, and on the computer at home. Although also small, Franklin's Gull seemed a little larger than Bonaparte's, but more critically for me, the Franklin's Gull's beak is orange, not black; its white eye-rings are more startlingly large; the black feathers creep further down its neck; its wing feathers are a darker gray — and no Franklin's Gulls that I saw had feathers that ruffled in the wind.)

Franklin's Gull. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved
Franklin's Gull, overcast day, Wascana Lake, Regina, SK  © SB

Named for the Arctic explorer, Franklin's Gull nests on the Prairies, aka the Northern Great Plains, and Audubon.org says it's sometimes called the "Prairie Dove." (Audubon also labels it as "Climate Threatened.") As for their winters, these "highly migratory" birds spend those along the west coast of South America.


What are these? Franklin's Gull — Mouette de Franklin.
Location: Near Chaplin, and at Wascana Lake, Saskatchewan
Photo date: June 29, 2012, and April 26, 2016.


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Saturday, May 7, 2016

Black-headed gull #1: Bonaparte's Gull on Wascana Lake

Bonaparte's Gull. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved
Bonaparte's Gull, Wascana Lake, Regina, SK  © SB
Several days ago, I saw two species of black-headed gulls on Regina's Wascana Lake.

Today, pictures of the smaller one, Bonaparte's Gull. (Pix to follow of Franklin's Gull.)

Bonaparte's Gull is a sleek bird with a black beak, black head and tail feathers, soft gray wings, bright white eye-rings — and, from what I saw on the lake, feathers that ruffle in the wind.

Bonaparte's Gull winters in the southern and coastal U.S. and the Caribbean, and spends its summer breeding season in Alaska and northern Canada.

It also — says All About Birds — has the unusual practice of nesting not on the ground, but in trees.

Bonaparte's Gull. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved
Bonaparte's Gull, described as a small, delicate gull.   © SB

Audubon.org calls it the smallest gull usually seen in North America, and describes Bonaparte's as delicate, and tern-like in flight. (I'd like to say that I personally noticed both of these things... However, while I could see that it was smaller than the Franklin's Gulls and large Ring-billed Gulls also on the lake, it was a very long way out across the water...

As for the name, Aududon says Bonaparte's Gull honors French zoologist Charles Lucien Bonaparte, a distant cousin of Napoleon. 



What are these? Bonaparte's Gull — Mouette de Bonaparte.
Location: Wascana Lake, Regina, Saskatchewan
Photo date: April 28, 2016.

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