Thursday, September 30, 2010

Putting food by

It's been a while since I've gotten a close look at a red squirrel. I've seen them moving about in the tree canopies, and heard their chattering, but nothing close. This morning I saw one run down a big Scots pine tree in the wooden section, and start to move across the ground in my direction. Then he disappeared down a hole! I waited a few seconds, and he came back up and peeked out at me, then moved back into the tree and sat on a low branch watching me. It wasn't until I got the photos into my editing program that I noticed he had an acorn in his mouth, and what he was doing was adding it to his winter's store. (In the top photo, the hole is seen in the lower right corner of the picture. The bottom photo has been put through the 'poster edges' filter to make it less blurry.)

Don't get too close

This juvenile male Wood Duck was perched on one of the dead trees at the edge of the marsh this morning. When I moved into the woods to check out another of the Wood Ducks' hiding places, I must have taken one step too many, as all of a sudden, about 50 ducks flew up from the marsh edge. I'm not sure they were all Wood Ducks, but at least now I know where they have been hiding out.

Busy as a bee

There were still a fair number of birds around this morning, including several chickadees noisily moving about in the trees in the wooded section of the trail. This one was digging something out of a knob on an alder tree, likely some kind of insect. (Its head was a little blurry in the shot I got, so I used a 'poster edges' filter in my photo editing program to make it clearer and salvage the shot.)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Quiet presence

I had stopped at one spot in the trail this morning where there are trees on both sides, usually a good place to spot birds and the occasional chipmunk. I had just been thinking that it had been a while since I had seen a deer at the marsh, when to my surprise I caught a glimpse of one through the trees on the side facing the French Basin. It soundlessly faded deeper into the trees before I could get a shot. But then I saw it move into the open, and I was able to get this shot as it paused when something caught its attention. It is a young doe, and she was only about 30 feet from me at the time.

Enjoying the sun a little longer

I disturbed another Leopard Frog as I walked toward the viewing stand this morning. This fellow was larger than the previous ones I've seen there. It won't be long now before it will return to the water and tuck itself into the marsh bottom for the winter months.

The usual - and the unusual

I saw the Great Blue Heron in the top photo in the cove at the sailing school yesterday. It was acting in typical heron fashion, jabbing its beak into the water for fish, lifting its head to swallow, moving slowly around the cove. This morning, at the edge of the stream next to the marsh where the black ducks and cormorants are often seen resting, I spotted something different. When I got closer, it turned out to be a Great Blue Heron - in a sitting position (or would you call that kneeling??)! I have never seen one in that position - nor could I find a photo of one on the internet sitting like that.

Bringing home the bacon...

Yesterday I spied this little fellow in a big old apple tree at the marsh. Once he became aware of me, he didn't move a whisker. His cheeks were so bulging with whatever he had been collecting that he looked like he had the mumps! He probably was ready to stash whatever he had collected, but maybe he didn't want me to see where his cache was located...

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Name that bird

I could use some help identifying this bird I saw this morning among a group of Yellow-rumped Warblers. I wasn't going to post the photo due to its poor quality, but I thought I'd take a chance that someone might be able to tell me if it might be a Pine Warbler. It's the closest I could come after studying my field guides. (I thought at first possibly a Palm Warbler, but they don't have wing bars.) Pine Warblers usually frequent pine trees, and this one was in a gray birch, however, apparently during migration they are also seen in deciduous trees. AND, my 1961 edition of Tufts' The Birds of Nova Scotia says that one was seen in Wolfville "on September 26, 1955, foraging with a small troop of Myrtles..." (Myrtle Warblers are the same as Yellow-rumps.) 55 years ago to the day! How coincidental. Unless, of course, I'm way out on a limb here (pun intended).

Debonair ducks

There had to be at least 100 ducks feeding out on the marsh this morning, along with others resting on the islands. These Ring-necked Ducks were part of a group of about 40 birds that I saw on the far side of the marsh. With their erect posture, it's fairly easy to pick them out by their silhouettes. Plus they are usually the only duck on the marsh that dives to feed rather than 'dabbling'. (The grebes are not ducks, but are related to the loons.)

Avian propagator

There were still a goodly number of land birds around this morning. Along with the usual Yellow-rumped Warblers, chickadees, sparrows and at least two Palm Warblers, was a flock of about twenty Cedar Waxwings, particularly in the berry-bearing trees. I caught this one in a glossy buckthorn bush, feeding on the fruit. I was thinking: Oh no, another way those pesky bushes multiply!

Nature's harsher side

I've been seeing a pair of Black Ducks feeding at the edge of the marsh the last several days. When I come along they move out into the water. This morning I was dismayed to find the body of one floating, belly up, at the marsh's edge, close to where I've been seeing them. A little farther on, I came across this female, perhaps the companion of the dead one. I was surprised to see the carcass, as I would think that if it were killed by a fox or other predator, it would have been devoured or carried off.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Standing out in the crowd

Since it was raining this morning, I didn't do my regular walk at the marsh - not because I didn't want to get wet, but because my camera isn't waterproof. However, a fellow marshwalker called about 9:30 a.m. (he doesn't carry a camera) to tell me that the Canada geese were still on the marsh (about 75 birds), along with their white counterpart. (A white goose has been seen in the company of our resident population, although not by me up till now.) Figuring that the geese could be leaving the marsh any moment, I donned my rain gear, grabbed my camera, drove to the marsh, hurried to the viewing stand - and got this shot. Lady luck was with me, as within three minutes of my arrival they had all taken off for the river. Now I'm hoping someone can tell me what kind of a goose that is. Is it a Snow Goose?? Apparently it is not unheard of for a Snow Goose to be traveling with Canada geese here in the province.

Keeping a low profile

I did a thorough search for the Wood Ducks yesterday, and found about fifteen of them (all but two of which were males) perched in the dead trees at the edge of the marsh. This shot shows five of six I found at one location; in another there were at least eight. In addition, there were two juveniles feeding in an open spot. The remainder of the flock are likely around someplace. It was nearly the end of October before they left the marsh last year, so I expect them to be here for a while yet.

Bundle of energy

I didn't see any of the migrant Palm Warblers yesterday, but the Yellow-rumped Warblers were still much in evidence, flying from one tree to another, moving about within the trees, darting out from the trees and then dipping back in. You can see from this shot how they got their name.

Still as she goes

This Great Blue Heron was patiently poised at a spot on the cove of the sailing school yesterday morning. It was one of two I spotted at the marsh. I expect them to be around for a while yet, as I have seen them into November in past years.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Summer's End

Saying good-bye to summer at the marsh was a bit poignant for me. So much occurs here during those three short months. This place bursts with new life in the summer. Being able to observe just a fraction of what goes on in a place that is hatchery, nursery, kindergarten, and bootcamp for many wild things deepens my respect for the natural world.

Although some of our feathered friends have already left the marsh for their wintering grounds and most of the remaining ones will depart in the next few weeks, I know that the important stuff of their lives happens here at the marsh. They're just leaving for their winter holidays...

In the quiet of the evening

It was relatively quiet in the marsh this evening, but I saw a few things moving about, including a muskrat, a pair of black ducks, two young wood ducks, and this female Green-winged Teal.

Power pole perch

There was still some sun left when I made my way to the marsh early this evening. The first sights (and sound) to greet me were the masses of starlings lined up on the power lines, swooping over the meadow, fluttering in and out of the trees. And creating a unique pattern on the guy wires of this power pole set in the marsh...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Still around

Just as I was on my way out of the marsh this morning, two male Red-winged Blackbirds flew into a dead willow shrub. I still hear or see the occasional one feeding in the phragmites. The buff-colored edges on some of this fellow's feathers can just be made out.

Pairing up?

I came across a pair of Canada geese feeding in the duckweed this morning, as evidenced by the duckweed clinging to the beak of this one.

Where oh where did the wood ducks go??

The water was quite rough on the marsh this morning, due to the wind, and many of the ducks were resting on the islands rather than out feeding. I could only find one adult male wood duck, plus two female and one male juveniles. The two juveniles above were in a fairly secluded spot out of the wind. The rest of the wood ducks may have gone into the woods to feed on seeds and berries. Apparently they are also fond of acorns and other nuts, and will swallow them whole. Their gizzards break down the shells.

One step ahead

More Palm Warblers were in evidence around the trail this morning. They tend to stay lower in the trees and brush, and this one was no exception. It kept moving ahead of me as I slowly moved along, trying to get as close as possible.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Stuck in his craw

The cormorants are still plentiful on the marsh, perched in the dead trees or on stumps, wings spread to dry, or swimming about and diving for fish. This one was feeding fairly close to the shore this morning. It was trying to dislodge the piece of vegetation it had gotten caught in its beak.

Bird call bootcamp

Yesterday I mentioned hearing various bird calls from the cattails at the marsh. This time of the year, the sounds we hear songbirds make are their various calls. They sing in the spring (or the males do, usually) to attract a mate - or perhaps to defend territory. This time of the year, they use calls to communicate with one another. The problem is, to the amateur (me included) so many of the calls sound alike! And if you can't see the bird, which is often the case, it's difficult to identify it. Case in point. The call of the young Yellow-rumped Warbler above (according to my bird guide) is a low chep. The call of the Savannah Sparrow, a regular at the marsh, is a high stip. That of the Common Yellowthroat sounds like chelp. And that of the Palm Warbler, shown yesterday, is a husky chik. You can see how confusing this can get. I'm getting pretty good at recognizing the call of the Yellow-rumped Warblers, probably because they are plentiful and fairly visible, but the others are still pretty much a mystery. That's why I call back, stand and wait and hope they get curious enough to make an appearance...

Nature's cloud show

At one point this morning the clouds in the sky formed an unusual pattern, and that pattern was reflected in the still waters of the marsh. The marsh is a good place to view stunning skyscapes.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Another marsh hopper

I disturbed another young leopard frog on my way to the viewing stand this morning, and got a good shot, but I also startled a small grasshopper that landed in a wet spot. It turned out to be a Marsh Meadow grasshopper, common in the grasses of wet areas. It could be one of the insects heard 'singing' in the tall grasses around the trail in late summer.

All by his lonesome

There have been many ducks feeding way out on the water the last few days - blue- and green-winged teals, mallards, ring-necks, American wigeons, and black ducks - plus a few Canada geese and the pied-billed grebes. I caught this juvenile Pied-bill fairly close to the shore this morning.

Another yellow warbler

I spotted a yellow bird in a gray birch this morning, and quickly took a number of shots before it flew away. It turned out to be a Palm Warbler, seen here at the marsh around this time of year. The bird's habit of pumping its tail up and down makes it easier to identify.

Funny fungi

This morning, under one of the many gray birches that borders the trail I noticed what first looked like apples that had fallen to the ground, but on closer look turned out to be mushrooms. Checking them out in my mushroom field guide, I found they were Common Earthballs. Not edible, by the way.

Calling the wild

Fog to start off with again today. Several bird calls greeted me from among the cattails alongside the the trail. I 'returned the call' and waited to see what would appear. Eventually a swamp sparrow, a savannah sparrow, and then this female Common Yellowthroat emerged from the vegetation. It takes patience to get them to come out in the open, but well worth the wait.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Common inhabitant

While trying to find the leopard frog that had hopped out of my way as I walked down to the viewing stand today, I heard some rustling in the cattails. It turned out to be this Savannah Sparrow. These sparrows are common in grassy and weedy habitats, so are often seen here in the marsh. It should be around for a while yet, probably not heading south until later next month.

Like falling off a log . . .

I was happily surprised to see this Painted Turtle sunbathing this morning, I don't think I've noticed one this late in the season before. It seemed to be lying in an awkward position, but I guess it must have been comfortable, as it was fast asleep.

Shouting from the treetop

I thought perhaps I wouldn't see many birds around today, as it was close to noon when I walked the trail. I needn't have worried; bird calls sounded from many of the trees. There was a small flock of Cedar Waxwings, mostly juveniles, that was moving from tree to tree at one spot, including these two. With the abundance of berries this year, some of the waxwings may remain for the winter.

Blending in

While looking at spider webs this morning, I noticed this crane fly land on a weed stalk. They are strange looking flies, with their long, long legs. This one only seems to have five legs instead of the six it should have; apparently they can shed their legs under stress. Imagine.

Gossamer trap

After the rain yesterday, and then the fog earlier this morning, many spider webs could be seen in the vegetation around the marsh. I found this sheet web built by a grass spider, with the funnel evident at one side where the spider lies in wait for its unsuspecting prey.

Friday, September 17, 2010

A sign of the season

This shot was a response of my artistic side. I was struck by the contrast between the brightly colored Indian Pear leaf and the dull, wet alder leaves. The scattered Scots pine needles add interest to the composition. A reminder of the changing of the seasons, the impetus that impels migration and the preparation for winter among the wildlife that remains here.

Infrequent visitors

When I was searching for the Wood Ducks yesterday, I caught a glimpse of a bird sitting close to the water's edge. A closer look through my binoculars revealed the tell-tale eye smudge of an American Wigeon, seen sleeping in the top photo above. (It's difficult to tell if it was a female or a male in eclipse plumage.) It soon became aware of my presence, and swam away - with its partner. Wigeons have been seen here in small numbers, usually at this time of the year.

Hen party?

These young Wood Ducks, mostly females, were grouped together in the dead trees yesterday. I also saw ten or more adults, females and males, some in full dress, perched in the dead trees and swimming among them. Last year, it was late October before they left for their wintering grounds in the southeast United States.

Permanent resident

The woods are definitely quieter now since many of the migrants have departed, although there are still a fair number of Yellow-rumped Warblers about, and I saw one Yellow Warbler yesterday. This Blue Jay was one of two that I saw flying from one tree to another. He's seen here perched atop a Hawthorn tree.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Cleaning up his act

While watching Yellow-rumped Warblers in a big clump of chokecherry trees, I heard the sound of something continuously falling through the leaves to the ground. I suspected something other than birds was in the tree. Sure enough, high on a branch was this little chipmunk, busily chewing on some of the chokecherries, spitting the flesh out, and filling his cheek pouches with the pits. When he had finished the job, he proceeded to wash his face! His mother brought him up right, apparently.

Berry picker

This morning at the marsh was another fruitful day for bird sightings. The Yellow-rumped Warblers were especially evident. A small flock of Cedar Waxwings was flitting among the trees near the entrance to the trail, including this young one.

Dressed to kill

I was looking for Black Ducks when I spied two Wood Ducks, the male on the left and the female in the centre, perched in the dead trees. Then another male jumped up beside them. Finally, I thought, a male woodie in his full sartorial splendour. How beautiful.

Munchkins of the marsh

Yesterday at the marsh there was still a fair number of birds evident. In the wooded section of the trail, close to the water, I found these two little birds common to marsh habitats: a Swamp Sparrow (top), and a female Common Yellowthroat (bottom).

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Masters of precision

This is a common sight at this time of the year, Starlings all lined up on the power lines. I'm reminded of a swarm of bees when I see them, whirling around the sky, forming and reforming their groups, pouring down into trees and then peeling off again. I watched this group for a while this morning. When other birds flew in to join the group, the ones sitting on the lines would all move down, one after the other, to make room for the newcomers.