Thursday, November 21, 2013

A Red-tail's Buffet!

Today while at work I was putting something away in the fridge when a movement out of the corner of my eye caught my attention. I turned to look out the window and noticed a Red-tailed Hawk on the ground! 

"Well....That's a strange place for a hawk to be", I thought to myself. As I looked closer I noticed a dark lump that it was standing on, and realized that I had JUST missed it catch a squirrel for dinner.  I ran to try and grab my camera, binos (which I didn't find) and our Co-op student who I figured would love to also see this!  We ran downstairs and slowly walked outside to near where the bird was. We of course hung back quite a ways (Thank goodness for zoom lens!) and just watched it.

I took a few shots that turned out to be pretty good I think and wanted to share them!  My favourite (probably the one most people would call the "shocker") is in this as well!  I was so lucky to have snapped a photo as it was taking off with squirrel in feet, amazing.  It is certainly not everyday that you get to see the food chain occurring right in front of your face and also in the middle of a city like North York (Toronto).

What can I was one of the best coffee breaks I've ever had!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

TTP Last Day: Other Blogs

Well, our last day of banding did not turn out as eventful as we may have hoped...but we had a really great season ending off with over 4,700 birds being banded.  With all the high winds and slight rain there was barely a peep from anyone outside, though we did manage to catch a belted kingfisher and recaught a Downy Woodpecker.

If our day could be summarized in one would probably be this one:

Marina at TTP
I was super excited having to make my way from watching the banding, to becoming an extractor of birds, to eventually banding my first two: a mallard duck, and a Belted Kingfisher (our only new bird for the last day)!

Kingfisher...not really as happy as his smile leads on!


 Since there were very few birds, I was able to take a little walk around the paths at the banding station and took a peek at the very empty cormorant colony.  The empty cormorant nests looked pretty eerie in the distance with no birds on them.  This area is now open to the public to walk around in, and I must say that I am very tempted too!! From far away it reminds me a little of the scenes in the Lion king of the elephant graveyard, except instead of bones scattered everywhere it’s dead trees. I think it would be certainly an interesting site, and hopefully not too stinky!

One of my best friends, Emma, was able to come out with me on the last day and experience banding.  I did feel really bad that we didn’t get more birds for her, and instead she mainly helped us out with the take down. I must say…she’s a natural at getting rebar out of the ground!!  We were able to see some pretty awesome birds throughout the day still. The family of Trumpeter Swans are still out and about, the babies still being harassed by the Mutes (will be a later post!).  Quite a few ducks were also in the area last weekend (and probably still this weekend!)  Buffleheads, long-tailed ducks, hooded mergansers, gadwall, American widgeon, and shovelers were all in fairly large numbers, while Pintail, wood ducks, green-winged teal and a few coots (not waterfowl tho) were in smaller numbers.  We were also incredibly excited to have seen a few long-eared owls flying around the park in the wee early hours of the morning!!

Emma excited about some hard labour!
Despite the less than flattering weather we had gotten this weekend, the always..was wonderful.  The group of people who run the banding station have such a great chemistry that you never feel like the "newby" in the group, which is what I was.  I have to thank them SO much for letting me come out with them every weekend and for everyone of them teaching me so much about these wonderful creatures and sharing their passions (or as come call it obsessions) with me.  I encourage everyone to check out the station once the springtime comes around as they will be back up and running with beautiful birds in full breeding plumage!  

There are two fantastic people who were at the station (one working and one a regular visitor) who have amazing blogs that I would like to share!

The first is from Debbie, a mom, writes about how to enjoy nature in an urban setting that is Toronto.  It is a great blog with tons of ideas of how you can enjoy nature either by yourself, or with your family!  To read, please visit: Wild City

The second is a blog by Jay, a regular visitor to our station and the Park.  This is a great place to keep up to date on what critters are visiting Tommy Thompson Park throughout the weeks the station is closed.  To read his blog visit: Northershrike

Happy Naturing!!

Me and the awesome Kingfisher

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Last Days at TTP!

It's the last weekend that the Banding Station is open at Tommy Thompson Park, after the day tomorrow we will be closing up all the nets until Springtime comes around!  Tomorrow will be your last chance to not only drop by the station to see what we catch during the day, but it is also the last day for the Sunday morning bird tours.  The bird yours meet at 8am by the front gates of the park and end around the banding station!
Toronto Skyline
The past two weekends have been a little slow when it comes to numbers, but wonderful when it comes to variety!  Owl banding has still been happening full swing and we have almost hit 30!  The only owls we have banded have still been only Saw-whets, but really you can never get enough of these little guys!  I posted a few of my most favourite photos from the past two weeks!  One of the Saw-whet Owls is in a little different of a position..this feisty gal decided to show us her angry side and give us a few looks!  

Second on my favourites list was a surprising flock of Eastern Bluebirds!  These beauties showed up and treated us to a new bird at the station as well an amazing sight to the banders and the lucky visitors who were there to see them up close and personal!  The first time I had the pleasure of seeing these stunning birds was surprisingly at the Cambridge, ONT Christmas Bird Count. The second time was in a much more usual place for them, the Carden Plain.  These are grassland birds, meaning that they are usually found in grassland habitats, such as meadows, pasture, prairie, etc.

Eastern Bluebird Group Shot

Today, we were able to get a really pretty bird that I had yet to "officially" see, a Snow Bunting!  I know that I have probably seen them before while birding, but I had never been able to ID them and say "hey!  over there is a snow bunting!" These little guys are starting now to migrate into the area where you will be able to see them all winter!  The lower Great Lakes is about as far as they go as they normally are in the very high arctic regions!

Snow Bunting
Snow Bunting

Lastly, we had a surprise visitor today from the nearby pond...a Mallard! This guy was a happy surprise puddling around in one of our water nets!  Cat carriers were used to bring them back to the banding station where I was very excited to have gotten my first banding tick! (Minus the Canada Geese I've done!).  This lovely bird was certainly very full of energy and didn't forget to give me a slap across the face with it's wing when it took of!

Hopefully we will be able to get some great birds (in great numbers too!) tomorrow!!  So if you have some moments make sure to stop by the Park and see what you can see! 

Happy Birding!