Thursday, December 8, 2016

Cackling Goose - Like Canada, but Smaller

When Cackling Geese landed on the waterfowl display pond in Regina's Wascana Park recently, I thought they were Canada Geese. But when they swam closer, I realized that despite the similar markings, they looked quite different. Not only were they much smaller — closer to duck-sized — but they had rounded heads, with steeply sloped foreheads and small triangular beaks. Kind of stub-faced, in fact.

Cackling Goose. Copyright © Shelley Banks, All Rights Reserved.
Small Cackling Goose in Regina, SK  © SB 

The Cackling Goose used to be a sub-species of the Canada Goose, but it's now recognized as genetically distinct, and as a separate species that in summer flies far further north to breed. We get them here during migration, as we're on their flyway from their winter grounds.  

For comparison, here's a large, long-billed Canada Goose that was patrolling its territory in the same park, where some of its species live year-long.

Canada Goose. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
Large Canada Goose in Regina, SK.  © SB

What is this? A Cackling Goose (Bernache de Hutchins), and a Canada Goose (Bernache du Canada).
Location: Wascana Park, Regina, SK
Photo dates: Cackling Goose: September 29, 2016; Canada Goose: April 26, 2016.


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Brewer's Blackbirds: Iridescent with brilliant eyes

It's a delight to see a male Brewer's Blackbird in full sunlight — I usually see these birds as only black shapes with glowing eyes, high in the trees at Wascana Park. But when they are well lit, these birds glisten with shimmering iridescence. And those eyes! Those bright, shining yellow eyes.

Male Brewer's Blackbird. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved
Male Brewer's Blackbird, strutting across Wascana Park, in Regina, SK  © SB

The females, however, are somewhat less brilliant, both in feathers and eyes, which in the case of the female Brewer's Blackbird I saw with the flashy guy above, were both dull brown.

Female Brewer's Blackbird. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved
 Female Brewer's Blackbird in Wascana Park, Regina, SK   © SB

What are these? Brewer's Blackbirds (Quiscale de Brewer) 
Location: Wascana Park, Regina, Saskatchewan
Photo date: May 4, 2012.


Thursday, November 24, 2016

Gray Catbird along Wascana Creek in Regina SK

Gray Catbird. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved
Gray Catbird, singing its hoarse cat-like song. © SB

During one of my regular, but long-ago, walks along Wascana Creek, I saw a Gray Catbird.

I understand that they're not uncommon in Regina, SK, in the summer, but this is one of the few I've photographed so far.

These mid-sized birds have an overall gray colouring, with black caps and dark reddish orange under-tail feathers.

(The picture below shows a better view of these rufous feathers. In that shot, this bird looks paler, too — a trick of harsh light in deep shadow, I suspect.)

Although they sometimes mimic other birds, the Gray Catbird's standard song is an odd, cat-like mewling.

This one stayed firmly in the shade of nearby trees, as if determined to thwart me and my camera-clutching hands.

(It would be nice if birds didn't do that... I would have liked a closer look at this Gray Catbird!)

Gray Catbird. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved
Gray Catbird, along Wascana Creek, Regina. © SB

What is this? Gray Catbird (Moqueur chat)
Location: Wascana Creek, Regina, Saskatchewan
Photo date: July 6, 2012.


Saturday, November 19, 2016

Gray Jay - Canada's National (Northern) Bird

When I see the range map for the Gray Jay, I can understand why the Canadian Geographic magazine has declared that the Gray Jay should be Canada's National Bird. This seriously is a Canadian bird — and it was even once called the Canada Jay, a name it still holds in French: Mésangeai du Canada. 

Gray Jay. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
Gray Jay - welcome in my backyard, but lives too far away... © SB

Sadly, though, we don't have Gray Jays in Regina as they aren't part of our Prairie Nature, but they are found across Saskatchewan's boreal forests. 

If I'd known on my last visit to the Banff area that this honour would be falling where it did, I'd have tried a lot harder to capture a good (with cheeky forward head tilt, and clear back feathers) image of this bird! 

What is this? Gray Jay (Mésangeai du Canada)
Location: Deadman's Flats, near Canmore, Alberta
Photo date: October 12, 2016


Friday, November 18, 2016

Marsh Wren on a wetland cattail in the marsh

Yes, we have Marsh Wrens in Saskatchewan, but so far they don't want to pose for me. As I've been trying to learn the different kinds of wrens today, I thought I'd post a picture of a Marsh Wren anyway, taken along the Dyke Trail in Richmond, B.C.

Marsh Wren. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
Marsh Wren on a cattail, in the - what else? - marsh. © SB

What is this? Marsh Wren (Troglodyte des marais)
Location: Along the dyke, Richmond, B.C. 
Photo date: April 26, 2014 


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Flycatchers - Alder or Willow - Regina SK

What I know is that this little bird is a Flycatcher. I've been told it's a Traill's Flycatcher, a former species now divided in two — the more northern Alder Flycatchers and more southern Willow Flycatchers. (In terms of the North American continent, that is.)

Alder Flycatcher (or Willow Flycatcher). Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
A Flycatcher in Regina, SK.
Thoughts on this being an Alder Flycatcher?  © SB

As Flycatchers are very difficult to tell apart unless you know the species well, get a close look, and hear them sing, I will leave this bird ID at that. A Flycatcher. Maybe Willow, although in our part of Saskatchewan, perhaps more likely to be an Alder Flycatcher. Whatever it was, I appreciated the visit and chance to photograph this little backyard bird. 

Alder Flycatcher (or Willow Flycatcher). Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
Beautiful long wings and soft colours
on this little (Alder? Willow?) Flycatcher.    © SB

What is this? A Flycatcher — perhaps an Alder Flycatcher (Moucherolle des aulnes). Or if not, a Willow Flycatcher (Moucherolle des saules.)
Location: Backyard, Regina, Saskatchewan
Photo date: May 19, 2012


Sunday, November 13, 2016

Golden-crowned Kinglet at AE Wilson Park

I was lucky — or perhaps not, given the quality of the photograph — to catch a picture of a Golden-crowned Kinglet in the underbrush at Regina's A.E. Wilson Park this month. It was with a group of other small birds, but so much smaller. It was also flitting quickly, in deep shade...

Golden-crowned Kinglet.
(I hope my luck with this species improves!)  © SB

What is this? Golden-crowned Kinglet (Roitelet à couronne dorée)
Location: A.E. Wilson Park, Regina, SK
Photo date: Nov. 6, 2016 


Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Swainson's Thrush: Rare backyard Regina visitor

Swainson's Thrush is a rare backyard visitor for me in Regina, SK. In fact, I've only seen one, and that was a few years ago. This small, gray-brown secretive bird with pale spectacle marks from its eye to its beak landed in the lilac hedge one May morning, pecked under its shelter for a while, then disappeared. (Which always makes me wonder how many other one-time birds I miss...)

Swainson's Thrush. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
Swainson's Thrush, backyard Regina, SK   © SB
Swainson's Thrush. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
The Swainson's Thrush spent a lot of time half hidden under branches. © SB
Swainson's Thrush. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
Swainson's Thrush   © SB

What is this? Swainson's Thrush
Location: Backyard, Regina, Saskatchewan
Photo date: May 9, 2014


Friday, November 4, 2016

Greater Yellowlegs - A Regina SK Shorebird

This summer, I saw several Greater Yellowlegs, tall long-legged shorebirds, in various parts of Wascana Creek, Regina, SK. The one pictured here was near the airport; others were around A.E. Wilson Park.

Greater Yellowlegs. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
Greater Yellowlegs wading and fishing in Wascana Creek, Regina, SK.  © SB  

Shorebirds, for me, are somewhat of a challenge to identify — in part because I'm rarely really close, and even the mid-sized and large ones don't look very big or clearly distinguishable at a distance. I was lucky with this bird, as it stayed fairly near in the creek, even while I walked further along the path to catch its sunlit side. 

What is this?
Greater Yellowlegs (Grand Chevalier)
Location: Wascana Creek, near the airport, Regina, Saskatchewan
Photo date: September 16, 2016.


Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Palm Warbler minus red crown plus yellow tail

I've never seen a breeding Palm Warbler with its lovely rufous crown, but I was lucky to have a non-breeding fall Palm Warbler visit my Regina, Saskatchewan, backyard to flaunt its bright yellow tail coverts a few years ago. (We're not near a lake, and get only drop-in exotics. And yes, Palms — in fact, any Warblers are exotic to me...)

Palm Warbler. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved
This Palm Warbler landed near the feeder in our lilac trees,
then soon flew away. I always wonder how many birds
I miss when I'm not sitting at my window in Spring and Fall... © SB

What is this? Palm Warbler (Paruline à couronne rousse)
Location: Backyard, Regina, Saskatchewan
Photo date: Sept. 7, 2013

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