31 Aug 2011

Wildlife Portrait: September

Red-winged Blackbird photo modified


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24 Aug 2011

Cedar Waxwing's hummingbird hover

Sometimes when I am out on bird watch, I see the most amazing things.   Who knew, for instance, that Cedar waxwings are capable of hovering like a hummingbird for even an instant.  It's a good thing I had my camera ready at eye-level, otherwise I would not have been able to capture the following images for you to see, as moments like this typically happen in the blink of an eye.

Cedar Waxwing swooping down
Cedar waxwing going up

Up and Under
Reaching for the fruit

Successful gleaning

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18 Aug 2011

Edmonton River Valley: Trip two

The Edmonton river valley has many trails to explore, both paved and unpaved.  On this trip I explored some of the unpaved trails used mainly by people on bikes.  I am very glad that I did, because the bird song here indicated various species.  As it happens these birds were not shy about showing themselves.  The following photos represent just some of the bird species I came across.

Red-eyed Vireo frontal
Red-eyed Vireo
The Golden Crowned Kinglet, below was difficult to capture due to it's size.  About the size of the length of my thumb. It was also constantly in motion.

Golden Crowned Kinglet
Golden Crowned Kinglet side view
Yellow Warbler
Yellow Warbler male
The crowning jewel of this trip was the Peregrine Falcon I spotted as I explored a trail right next to the river itself.   My attention was captured by a flock of seagulls, who were in panicked flight.  When I moved closer to the edge of the embankment, I spotted the falcon in the river, where he was in the act of drowning his prey, and then later at the top of a tree. 

Peregrine Falcon on a Sandbank in the river
Peregrine Falcon Close-up


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11 Aug 2011

Jeweled Wings, Masks and Cinnamon

Pair of Cedar Waxwings
At the very beginning of this year our neighborhood was blessed with the presence of gorgeous Bohemian waxwings for several months.  Shortly after they departed for more northerly climes in late April, their cousins, the equally gorgeous Cedar waxwings moved in to take their place.  This neighborhood, you see, has an abundance of the foods that both of these birds favor, and that is fruit and berries.   Fruit and berries, in turn attract many insects, a food source that the Cedar Waxwing seeks out mainly during the breeding season.

Cedar Waxwing jeweled wings

If it weren't for their red jeweled wings, and rakish black mask, this species of bird would be rather plain.  As it is, these two physical features of the Cedar Waxwing enhance their light cinnamon and yellow coloring to produce an absolutely gorgeous bird.   Male and female are colored alike, unlike many bird species.

Cedar Waxwing rakish mask

Cedar Waxwing yellow edged tail
Their cinnamon crest and yellow edged tail only add to their beauty and render them more noticeable.  Once noticed, the Cedar Waxwing is also a delight to watch, because they are very social creatures that have the habit of cooperation down.  For example, if all of the fruit on a branch is clustered at the end of the branch, one Cedar Waxwing will pass the fruit down to its neighbor, who will pass it along until all have had a taste.  You will see them giving each other gifts of feathers and flower petals, or just passing them back and forth as if at play. 


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4 Aug 2011

Red Tailed hawks present an awesome surprise

Pair of Red Tailed Hawks
Sometimes I think the universe sets out to play little innocent pranks on me to teach me lessons.  In fact, I ended up laughing at myself on my way home from bird watch.   I was thinking, when I began walking back, that I was delighted on the one hand, but disappointed on the other, because I hadn't seen a new species of hawk.

Then I recalled that I told my brother when I left, that my goal for the day was to try to catch sight of some different hawks.  Well the joke is rooted in the fact that I did see different hawks, but only in so far as individuals of the same species are concerned.  I had no grounds for disappointment, the hawks I did see, presented me with an awesome surprise after all.  Here is how it came about.

Screaming Red Tail
Back in June I introduced you to a pair of Red Tailed hawks in one of my posts.  This pair has been nesting in the same area for several years now and as stated in that post, I had some doubts about their reproductive ability due to heavy pesticide and herbicide use in the area.  This year there has been very little, and perhaps even no spraying due to the heavy rainfall we have been experiencing throughout June and July.  In any case I went back to the general area of the nest site, because there are often other species of hawks hunting in the vicinity, which includes several blocks in all directions.
Wing over

Although I hadn't intended to go to the nest site itself, when I arrived, I was both surprised and puzzled to find the Red Tailed hawks still in residence.  Even more surprising was the fact that the adults were still clearly protecting the site, by flying over me, performing mock stoops and screaming.  There had to be a reason and so I started looking around a little more closely.  The nearer I got to the nest itself, the more agitated the adults became and then I heard the unmistakable sound of a hungry or distressed juvenile hawk, over the screams of the adults.

Juvenile Red Tailed Hawk
Although I have never approached the actual nest, and wouldn't attempt to do so knowing that the hawks might abandon it, I was definitely closer to it than I have been as I followed the juveniles voice.  Finally, to my great delight, I spotted a juvenile through a thick screen of trees and managed somehow to get several photos before I retreated.  I circled around and away, to get some distance between myself and the juvenile.  I had no wish to cause these hawks any more distress.  However I also wanted to get some photos of another bird species that I kept hearing.

Second Juvenile Red Tail
Adult Red Tail Coming out of a stoop

Again I was surprised.  Instead of calming down and settling on a tree top to keep and eye on me like they usually do, the adult hawks kept up their aggressive/defensive behavior.  It was then that I spotted another large hawk some several hundred yards from the nest, perched at the very top of a tree.  Thinking it was another species of hawk altogether which was causing the Red Tailed hawks' continued agitation, I headed that way.

The adults kept circling back and forth between the juvenile that I had spotted and the second hawk in the distance, while continuing their flyover of me.  Again I was puzzled, until I realized that the hawk in the distance was yet another juvenile.  This one was the larger of the two juveniles and so clearly a female.  Going with the assumption that these juveniles have only recently become fully fledged, I left the area, since it became very obvious that my presence caused these beautiful raptors too much distress.

Even though in doing so I missed the opportunity to get some photos of those other birds, all in all it was an extremely lucky bird watch for me.  My lesson for the day? Gratitude! 



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