30 Jun 2011

Wildlife portrait : July

This Spotted Sandpiper definitely caught my eye.  So much so that I just had to highlight it's beauty.

Spotted Sandpiper pecking at plant stalk

Please don't hesitate to leave me a comment about this picture, or anything at all about my site and my posts.  I would appreciate the feedback.


25 Jun 2011

Nature sorts things out: Happy ending for Too cute Gosling

Gosling with ducks ignores Geese
I wont pretend to have the answers, in fact I wont even try to figure it out, but today I got the most delightful surprise which just made my day.  The last time I saw the Gosling he was still bedded down with Mama duck and her brood.   He stayed with her even when a pair of Geese arrived.  In fact he totally ignored them.  You can see him in the back ground with the ducks in the photo just to the left.

I hadn't been to the pond to check on the little Gosling in a couple of days and decided today it was time to check on him despite the fact that I had many things to take care of.  When I arrived at the pond there was one lone male Mallard on the water and two adult Canada Geese at it's edge on one side.  No sign of Mama duck and her brood, or the gosling.  I decided immediately to do a walk about the pond to search for them.

Guarding the Gosling
Imagine my surprise when I made to walk past the adult Geese, only to spy the Gosling lying in the grass between them.   Both the adults were on guard and quite obviously in protective mode.  The Gosling on the other hand was completely relaxed and curious about my presence, although he didn't move until the adults did, and then it was to stay close to them.  As is my habit when I come upon any wildlife, I first stand very still and just observe, making no threatening movements of any kind.  When I do move it is slowly and deliberately.
Balanced on both feet
The Canada Geese reacted suspiciously at first and moved closer to the edge of the water and a quick escape.  However, a few minutes later both laid down on the ground and relaxed just a little, although they still kept a wary eye on me.  The Gosling of course followed.  I was delighted to see that although he was still limping somewhat, he was no longer walking on his ankle.  He was in fact putting all his weight on both feet, both of which now face the right direction.  He was also no longer silent.  It was the first time I've heard him peeping since he was hurt, and this time his peeps held a distinct lack of distress.

At this point I must admit that, although I was happy that Mama duck appeared to have adopted this gosling, I was a little concerned about how he would learn Goose behavior being in constant company of ducks.  Obviously I need not have worried, since mother nature has sorted everything out.  Mama duck was apparently a temporary babysitter.  Are these Canada Geese his parents?  Or are they adoptive parents who have maybe lost their own little ones?  Guess I will never know.  Some things just remain mysteries.


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22 Jun 2011

Mama duck adopts Too Cute Gosling

Canada Goose
Canada Geese have many more natural enemies than one might think.  These include the Wolf, Fox, Coyote, Bear and Eagle, as well as Hawks, Crows, Ravens, Herons and Bass.   The last five prey on  goslings, while the first in this list prey on the adults.   All my research on the Canada Goose indicates that they would never abandon their young, not even when one of a pair dies.

In view of these facts, I can really only speculate about what might have happened, but when I went back to the pond to check on the Canada Geese and their gosling,  the adult geese were no where to be seen and the gosling was limping around on a broken foot peeping with distress.  It was early morning and I was on my way to work.   I immediately called wildlife rescue to give them his location and condition, thinking that the gosling would be taken care of before the day was done.

Gosling with broken foot
Unfortunately when wildlife rescue called me back a few minutes later, I was informed that they did not have the resources to pick up the gosling, however, if I could pick him up after work, there is a vet clinic in the city that would care for him.   By this time I was really upset.  I have no vehicle, I have two cats at home and therefore no place to keep the gosling safely overnight.  I also didn't have a clue as to how I might capture the little guy without hurting him further, although wildlife rescue did tell me how I might care for him if I caught him.

Mama Duck on alert
When I went back to the pond after work, the adult Canada Geese were still missing.   The gosling was in the middle of the pond still peeping and following around some of the young ducklings.  He seemed lost and lonely, and still obviously very much in distress.  Despite the fact that this is a really small pond, I couldn't reach him.  There were a lot of people around, some with dogs, and all the ducks on the pond were extremely nervous.  It was obvious I had to wait before I could act.  Reluctantly I went home.
Baby Goose cuddled up with baby ducks

Overnight the rain began.  My next trip to the pond was fruitless.  It was pouring buckets and the pond was devoid of all creatures with wings.   Sunday morning I tried again, despite the rain which had slowed down only a little.  By the time I arrived at the pond the rain stopped for a short time and I decided to walk around it, hoping to find the Gosling hiding in the rushes.

Gosling swimming with new family

I did.  He was bedded down with Mama duck and five of her ducklings.  As soon as the Mallard female heard me approach, when I was still about twenty feet away, they all headed for the water.  I couldn't get any closer.  The little Gosling stuck to mama duck like glue and took his cues from her.  If she wouldn't come near me, neither would he, and that was that.   I spread some oats out in the water and then the ground hoping they would come out of the water for the food, but no way.  They didn't come out until I was a long ways away.

Nervous Mama Duck

The Gosling was still limping, but seemed healthy otherwise and content with his new family.  Mama duck acted very much like he was her own.  How do I know this?  When I turned back to try and get a little closer, once they were all feeding on the oats I had spread out on the ground, Mama Duck immediately herded all the ducklings back into the water.  She didn't care that one of her ducklings was almost twice the size of the rest.

As for me I'm happy that he has been adopted.  Still I'd like to catch him to take him to the vet.  His broken foot will slow him down and hinder him throughout his life.   However, other than using a net and / or coaxing  him closer with food, there really is no other means for me to catch him.   This pond is surrounded by nothing but grass and rushes.   There is no place for me to set up a blind so he doesn't see me.   No cover big enough to hide behind so I might set a box trap, the only thing that I could think of  to catch him without causing him further harm.


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17 Jun 2011

Wildlife Encounter: Woodchuck

Typically, when I am out on bird watch, I encounter more than just one species of bird.  It is rare that I do not.   Sometimes I even have an encounter with a different wildlife species altogether.  One that I recognize.  However my first trip to the river valley here in the city was unique.  I actually encountered a species of wildlife I had no knowledge of whatsoever.   It was absolutely amazing.  Here I was, very suddenly facing a small live being, not much smaller than my cat, that I had never seen before in my life.

My first reaction when I saw him, was to freeze and whisper "and what are you?"   This was followed immediately by enchantment and then joy over the fact that he wasn't running off to hide.  I felt very much like a child again with the newness and glowing wonder of the experience.   In fact, I was so enchanted and delighted, that it took a few minutes before I actually remembered that I had a camera and knew how to use it.

I also realized that the little creature, which I learned when I got home is a Woodchuck, was frozen in either fear or shock at the sight of me.   So I began making soothing noises to get him to stay, and moved at a pace of an inch every few seconds in order to get a better view and better photos.   And wonder of wonders he stayed right where he was.

In fact the Woodchuck didn't become really uncomfortable with my presence, until I was only a couple of feet in front of him.  At which point he started making motions like he was going to disappear, but I kept whispering non sense to him and he hesitated in delaying his departure.  Eventually however, I stepped over some invisible boundary in his personal space and he ducked into a hollow under the wooden step that you can see in the photo.  I got a couple of more photos of him after that, with him watching me from the hollow, but of course he didn't emerge again.  The wonder of moment had passed, and that was that.

Once I got home I immediately searched the internet to find out just what wildlife species he was.  I had already ruled out Otter and Gopher by this time, and was thoroughly puzzled about what I had seen.   When I learned that he was a Woodchuck, I naturally recalled learning a children's rhyme about this beautiful little creature.  It was very popular with children, in fact it still is, although, somehow, I never connected the rhyme with a real live wildlife species.  This is a good thing.  Had I made the connection, I wouldn't have felt like a child again, which is what made this experience so very special and precious after all.


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15 Jun 2011

Yellow warbler

The River
Those of us who live in Edmonton are extremely fortunate, in that there are many parks with hiking and biking trails throughout the city.  For bird watchers this is very, very good, as it gives many choices as to places to go in order to view and photograph birds.  This weekend I decided on a trip to the river valley.  I needed someplace new to explore and had never gone hiking there.  I chose the trails on the south side of the river, next to the Muttart Conservatory, although there are trails on the downtown side as well. 
The Trail
Male in song
I didn't see an abundance of birds, however, I did see many yellow warblers.  I was delighted of course, as this gave me greater opportunity to photograph this bright and beautiful little bird.  The first hint that I was about to encounter a new bird species was the bird song all around me.  There were two distinct and unfamiliar songs.  One of these belonged to the Yellow warbler. 

Yellow warbler
Yellow warbler sings
This little bird, it turns out, is very shy.  So it took repeated effort and patience to get some photos.  The Yellow warbler does not like to come out into the open and blends in quite well with the leaves of trees, despite it's bright yellow plumage.  This is also a tiny bird, a couple of large leaves will effectively hide it, which only adds to the difficulty in spotting it.

At first I was pretty much forced to track the bird by it's song, and once I spotted it I used the camera lens to keep it in view.  Lucky for me the Yellow warbler is a flycatcher and because of that my photographic opportunities became more numerous.  It helped a great deal that the males of the species apparently do venture out into the open, or semi-open, to belt out their seductive song to the females of their species.

In the end that is precisely how I got the photos I am sharing here.  Although I did get some photos of a female Yellow warbler, she is partly or mainly hidden.  The photos displayed here are all of a male.

Male Yellow Warbler
This last photo, just above is my favorite.


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10 Jun 2011

Red Tailed Hawk

Red Tail's mate
Every spring I visit the nesting site of a pair of Red tailed hawks,  in hopes of sighting and perhaps even photographing their young.   The timing of my visits though have so far been off the mark, either that or this pair has yet to meet with success in their mating.   Although I sincerely hope that is not the case, it is a likely possibility.  Unfortunately their nest is situated in an area where pesticides and herbicides are sprayed often and freely, and many of these chemicals have very negative affects on the reproduction of birds.

Still, this pair of Red Tailed hawks do defend their nest site from intruders, by attacking and chasing off any possible threat, including other Hawks, Ravens and Crows.  Even Eagles.   Which serves to keep me hoping.

Adult Red Tailed Hawk
Although I never get any closer than forty feet to the nest when I visit, and only do so once or twice at most, lest they abandon the nest, their reaction is quite clear.  They consider me to be a threat and want me gone.   Circling above me screaming and performing mock stoops, aimed at me, is very effective communication on their part to let me know that in no uncertain terms. 

Taking flight

Once they realize that I will not approach the nest directly, they do calm down somewhat and retreat to the tree tops to scream at me from above.  However, if I once again wander too close to their nest, which I must do in order to leave the area, they take to the sky immediately to repeat their previous behavior.   This time when I visited was no different.

Circling above me
While it was definitely too late in the year for nestlings and fledgelings to be in, or near the nest, I had hoped to spot a juvenile Redtail or two.   But considering my late arrival at the site this season, I was doomed to disappointment.  Nevertheless I will be content with these latest photos until early next spring, when I fully intend to try again.


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1 Jun 2011

Too Cute: Baby Canada Goose

Canada Geese and Gosling

Sometimes I have the most wonderful experiences on bird watch.  I visited a pond that I haven't gone to regularly this year, even though it is really close to my work.   Mostly because there wasn't much to see.  This time however, I was greeted with the joyous surprise of a soft and fluffy baby goose.

I have never seen geese nesting at this particular pond, and since I was there just last week and never saw any geese at all, they must have been hidden really well.  Canada Geese usually visit this pond for several weeks in the spring, before they disappear again until fall migration starts.  There are simply too many people around this pond most of the time, many of them walking their dogs.

Baby eating Flower
Too Cute

So naturally it was totally unexpected to see this little one toddle around behind it's parents, who despite my presence, were very relaxed.  No doubt this was because I stopped walking towards the pond as soon as I saw the gosling and when I did move, I moved in a slow and relaxed manner, and never towards the little one.  To my delight, I was rewarded with the parents moving towards me, followed closely by the gosling, which allowed me to get these photos.

Canada Goose and Gosling
Since Canada Geese lay anywhere between 3 to 8 eggs, I find it really strange that these Canada Geese have only one hatchling.  However, as I have a soft spot for baby geese in particular, this one little gosling captured my heart and made my day. 


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