30 Jul 2011

Wildlife Portrait: August

This photo of a Crow didn't need modification, as it speaks for itself.  Many people do not like Crows or Raven's but I admire their intelligence.

Crow Carrying nesting material


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27 Jul 2011

Bird world whistler: White-throated Sparrow

White Throated Sparrow perched

The White-throated Sparrow is a bird that often difficult to catch sight of, unless you watch for him on the ground, low in the bushes, or at the bird feeder.  Although quite common, he is a beautiful bird, and once you have heard him, you are likely to listen for him unconsciously throughout the year.  His simple, whistled song carries wide and far and hits you right in the center of the self, where it lingers, rendering it unforgettable.

White throated sparrow Peeking through the leaves
This is a species of bird, the only one I am aware of to date, whose female sings as well as the male.

Wary White Throated Sparrow

White throated Sparrow almost in full view

As you can see from these photos, this is a bird that prefers to keep well hidden.  To see this bird perched out in the open and higher up in the canopy of a tree is a rare occasion.  If you wish to hear this bird's song just follow this link:


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20 Jul 2011

Ruddy Duck: the Donald of the duck world

The Duck with the upright tail
This is a duck that really reminds me of Disney's Donald Duck cartoon.  Just look at the way he holds his tail.  Notice that, like the cartoon character, he has a large head, round, short body and prominent bill.  The Ruddy Duck even sounds somewhat like Donald Duck when he voices a sound, other than his mating call.  However, the best description for this duck is quite simply "charming." 

Round duck

The Ruddy Duck is a duck that you notice almost immediately on the water, and when you do, you can't help but watch him.  The black and white head, combined with the bright blue bill, is like a beacon calling your attention.  His upright posture and quick, alert movement give the impression of intelligence.  His diminutive size, half that of a Mallard, makes him seem somehow friendly.

                                                But don't let this fool you.  The Ruddy Duck has a temper, just like Donald.  Especially when he is competing for the charms of the female of his species, or defending his nest and young.

Ruddy duck Female
Girl Duck
The Ruddy Duck is also very shy.  If he feels himself watched, he immediately swims away, usually in a diagonal line.  However, if you get too close and frighten him, he simply dives from view, instead of flying off like other ducks do.

Ruddy Duck Male
I wonder if the Ruddy Duck really was the character model for the Donald Duck cartoon.  It would be interesting to find out.


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12 Jul 2011

The Magnificent Golden Eye duck

Golden Eye Ducks synchronized flight

The weather has been abysmal throughout most of June.  In fact it has rained so much that several of the ponds I visit have overflowed their natural boundaries.  As a result I haven't been able to go out much on bird watch.  Not because I don't like the rain, but because my camera equipment doesn't.

So I did what I usually do when I can't get out for long periods of time.  I gathered information about birds and went through my collection of photos in preparation for new blog posts.  As I was sorting through my photos on this occasion, I noticed that I have quite a few half decent photos of the beautiful Golden Eye Duck.  Like most people I am attracted to color, especially if it includes lots of contrast.

Golden Eye Duck Males
The Golden Eye duck has color in plenty, even though at first glance it doesn't seem that way.  However the first thing that will grab your attention about the male of this species, is his striking combination of black and white.  A closer view, in bright sunlight, will reveal the green iridescence of his head, although you might notice his golden eyes first.

Even the female of this species is quite striking with her golden eyes and brown and white color.  It was the golden eyes of the female of the species which first called my attention to this duck.  That and her size.  Golden Eye ducks are quite small when compared to the Mallard duck.
Golden eye duck female
Two of the species of Golden Eye duck are very similar in appearance.  The Golden Eye duck  featured here is the Common Golden Eye.  The other, which I have yet to come across, is the Barrow's Golden Eye. Unfortunately the Barrow's is seen less often.  Although when they are seen, it will usually be within a group of Common Golden Eye ducks.

Male in flight
When searching for the Barrow's Golden Eye, look for a blue iridescent sheen on the head of the male.  The Barrow's Golden Eye also has a tear drop shaped white spot, which curves upward around the bill, while the Common Golden Eye has a large rounded spot, as you can clearly see in these photos.  The Barrow's Golden eye has several prominent white bars in diagonal on both wings.  In comparison, the Common Golden Eye has several gracefully thin black lines which streak his sides, as you can see in the photo below. 

Female take off
Common Golden Eye male

The Golden Eye duck is a diving duck.  They can dive up to 20 feet below the water's surface to forage for food, such as aquatic plants and crustacians.  They prefer the fresh water bodies in the Boreal Forest in summer and nest in tree cavities, like those excavated by the Pileated woodpecker, although they will use nest boxes if nothing else is available.  In winter they prefer salt water, usually in shallow, sheltered coves on the coastline.

Pair of Golden Eye Ducks taking off
This species of duck is surprisingly aggressive given it's size.  I have seen the male dive beneath the water in order to attack another duck from below, be it another Golden Eye or a larger Mallard.  However, it is also easily startled.  If you wish to enjoy viewing this species of ducks, be sure to move in a relaxed and slow manner.


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7 Jul 2011

Shocked by White Pelicans

Large birds in the sky
When I was out on bird watch in the ravine not too far from my home, I caught a glimpse of some very large birds way up in the sky through the canopy of trees.   I was puzzled because of the shape of the birds, and finally decided that perhaps they were Cranes because the wings were long and dark.  At least from my field of view.  Still, these birds were in part silhouette, so I wasn't certain.

Despite the distance to the birds, which wasn't conducive to a good focus, I brought the camera up anyway to take the shots.  It took several seconds for the camera to focus.  In fact, it took so long that I didn't think it would, and was surprised when it finally did.  Still I held little hope for clear photos because my camera lens isn't a telephoto lens after all.

A closer look with the crop tool

A few minute later I saw another group of large birds, but this time, due to too much light the camera simply wouldn't focus.  Which was kind of frustrating, because this group appeared to be the same bird and seemed to be a little closer.  Unfortunately, I didn't have time to make the necessary adjustments to my camera for that kind of lighting.  Which is often the case.  Birds can disappear from view very quickly, even in the open sky.

Rapidly leaving my field of view

Several hours later I headed home to load my photos onto the computer.   When I finally looked at my pictures, I stared in stunned surprise at the images of the large birds that I had managed to get somehow.  I was so shocked that I asked my brother to have a look, because what I saw on the screen, just couldn't be.  At least not to my knowledge.  He confirmed it.  I had Pelicans.  White Pelicans that is, and now I was absolutely delighted.

White Pelican

No wonder these photos turned out marginally well.  The Pelican's wingspan can be anywhere from seven to nine feet in length.  This is a very large bird.  Pelicans in Alberta?  Definitely!  A little research verified it, and here I thought if I ever wanted to see Pelicans again, I would have to return to the Caribbean, or at the very least Miami.  Happily that is not so.

I love surprises like this, don't you?


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4 Jul 2011

Beautiful Swans in flight

Like many people I love Swans.  When I was growing up in Germany, many years ago, my father used to take me to visit the canals in the city where my grandmother lived. There were always Swans there, both white and black, floating magestically among the many colorful ducks.   I haven't seen a Swan close up since then, but I did manage to get some photos of Swans in flight during spring migration.

Migrating Swans
A closer view

There are only two species of Swan that inhabit North America.  The Tundra Swan and the Trumpeter Swan.  However, because these Swans are flying so high up, I won't even venture a guess as to which species I captured on camera here.

Graceful Swan
Hopefully someday soon I will see the Swan close up again.  When I do I'll be sure to take lots of photos to share.


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