Friday, December 31, 2010

Snow sign

When I walked the trail on the 29th, again, very little wildlife in evidence, but I did see signs in the snow of their presence. These tracks are those of one of the red squirrels that live in the wooded area. BTW, a number of the Scots pines along here were uprooted by the high winds of the recent storms.

The door is open

When I visited the marsh the day after Christmas, I didn't see much wildlife activity, but I did notice this particular muskrat lodge (top photo), which seems to have an above-ground entrance (usually the entrances are underwater). The shot at the bottom is the same lodge when it was in its early stages of construction, back on November 30th. I think the muskrats must do their lodge building in the early morning or around dusk (apparently their most active times) as I've never noticed any building going on during the daytime.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Not camera shy

Just as I entered the wooded section of the trail today I spotted this female Hairy Woodpecker, which I watched for at least ten minutes. It was foraging, quickly moving from one tree to another, checking for tidbits. In the top photo above, close to the ground in a clump of willows, it has just found what appears to be an insect pupa, a common winter diet item. Shortly after this shot, the bird sat back on it haunches and rested for a few minutes, which is when I took the middle shot. It then flew to the pine tree in the lower shot, right in front of me, and posed for the camera. During the whole time I observed the bird, it showed no sign of alarm at my close presence.

A closer coot

I got a much closer look at the American Coot at the marsh this morning. It was with a group of the hooded mergansers which flew away when I approached the viewing stand - but the coot flew toward the shore instead. It looked weird as it flew, with its feet pawing the air. Coots are not true ducks but belong to the same family as the rails.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Home sweet winter home

I couldn't believe all the Hooded Mergansers at the marsh this morning. I counted nearly 30 in total. It's encouraging that so many have decided to make this area their winter home, which seems to be the case. The ice can be seen in the top half of the shot.

Mink alert

I saw three of my muskrat friends this morning, including this one that just seemed to be taking everything in. I can now see eleven muskrat houses at various locations around the marsh, with probably others I have yet to find.

It's a stretch

There was the usual contingent of Black Ducks in the open water at the rail bed end of the marsh. Being 'dabblers' they feed by tipping over, as you see by the 'bottoms up' position of this group. The ice is visible across the lower edge of the shot.

Mystery critter

This sighting was an unusual one. I first saw this animal sitting on the edge of the ice, then it started to run, jumped into the water and swam about, then back out on to the ice, and then when it heard some people approaching along the trail it took off toward the shore. The top shot is just its silhouette, as I was facing into the sun, while in the bottom shot it's just a blur as it headed back toward shore. It must have disappeared into a hole in the bank, because I could see nothing when I reached the spot.

I'm pretty sure what I saw was a mink. When I did a little research online to see what their winter diet is, I found that mainly at this time of the year they feed on muskrats (plenty of them here!), other small rodents and waterfowl.

A bird in the bush

Not many land birds evident on this morning's walk, but I did catch this Song Sparrow when it lighted in a bramble patch. That's not a crest on its head, it's just wind-blown feathers.

Can't miss that white bill

The weather, no sightings of note, or Christmas projects have led to no recent postings, but today makes up for it, I hope. The majority of the marsh's surface was skimmed with ice this morning, but there was still ample open water for the waterfowl that were about. This lone American Coot was feeding along the edge of one of the long berms that reaches out into the marsh.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Trees decked out in feathered finery

I heard this buzzy, trilly chorus soon after I got to the marsh this morning, which I discovered was coming from a flock of birds perched in the treetops. My first thought was starlings, but as I got closer I could see they were sporting crests. My next thought was cedar waxwings, although I thought it was a big flock for Cedars - there were some 130 birds in total. When I got home and got the photos into Photoshop, I discovered I had seen a flock of Bohemian Waxwings, a first for me. The Bohemians are chunkier than the Cedars, and their wingtips are more colorful, as seen in the lower shot above. Apparently Bohemians are irregular winter visitors to Nova Scotia. Their nomadic behavior led to their being named Bohemian.

The loner

The mallards are still present on the marsh, as seen here, which isn't at all unusual for this time of the year - but what is unusual (although not unheard of) is for this one lone male Green-winged Teal to still be around.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Did he forget to leave??

What to my wondering eyes should appear but a young Double-crested Cormorant at the marsh this morning. He was busily diving for food as if it wasn't unusual for him to still be in Nova Scotia in early December (although not unheard of, apparently).

Nosing around

Yesterday at the marsh I caught this Blue Jay busy poking around in an old tent caterpillar nest. I don't know what he may have been finding there. I have seen chickadees checking them out as well.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

And siskins make three

Those same catkin-laden gray birches were alive with little birds again this morning. This time it was a mixed flock of American goldfinches and Pine Siskins, one of which is shown here - a male with its yellow wing bars. These are the first pine siskins I have seen at the marsh so far this fall, although they have been coming to my bird feeders at home for the past few days. These two tiny birds plus the Common Redpoll are close relatives, and are often seen together.

Behaviour interpretation exercise

This morning I spied the Red Squirrel above running down a pine tree in the wooded area, so I moved closer in the hopes of getting in a shot or two. I stood and watched that squirrel for at least 10 minutes run up one tree and down another, under piles of brush and out the other side, through thickets of multiflora rose bushes, never more than 15 feet away from me, until he/she finally picked up a pine cone and sat and gnawed away on it. I figured there had to be a reason for the behaviour he was exhibiting, but the reason escaped me until he ran off and I took a closer look at the top of the brush pile where he had been eating. On it was a big patch of discarded cone scales, whole cones and cone 'cobs'. After a bit of searching on the internet, I found I had discovered a squirrel 'midden', or "central storage depot" as one article described it. Every squirrel has one, and they are vigorously defended. Some of them can be enormous. I had been standing close to the midden - I was encroaching on his territory but a little too big to chase off, so perhaps he was trying to divert me. This could have been a juvenile squirrel, and according to Wikipedia: "Juvenile American Red Squirrels must acquire a territory and midden prior to their first winter. Juveniles without a midden don't survive their first winter."

Fickle weather

Yesterday the marsh was still ice-covered, so I checked to see where the ducks may have relocated. I found a group of about 35 black ducks and mallards in the cove at the sail center, a few of which are seen here. However, the sewage lagoon drew the most of the displaced; some 65 black ducks, buffleheads and at least one of the hooded mergansers were enjoying the ice-free water. Back they all came today, though, when the ice went out with the return of mild weather.