Monday, 13 February 2017

Preparing for a New Season: Duck Box Cleanout

Mid to late winter marks a time that I look forward to every year, checking in and cleaning out various nest boxes over the farm.  I remember making the rounds to check the boxes with my dad and the excitement of what we might find inside.  It's been two years since he passed away, but it brings back happy memories to make the rounds every year. We have nine nest boxes located on multiple ponds and creeks on the property and this is the best time of year to check when the ice is solid enough to access them. 

Last weekend, I loaded my supplies onto the tractor and set off to start the cleanout.  I set up the ladder at the first box, climbed up and carefully opened the side.  I wasn't quite high enough to see right inside, so I raised the camera and took a couple pictures.   I was extremely surprised to see what I had found.

Although not an unusual occurrence in nest boxes, it has been many years since I have found an eastern screech owl in a box and this was the best view I have ever had of one.  It appeared to have been in residence for a while based on the pellets in the box.  Anyway, I didn't bother it and carefully closed the box back up, planning to come back and clean out later.  Based on what little I saw inside the box, it appears that there was indeed a successful duck nest last year based on shell fragments.

Not all boxes show the evidence of a successful season, and abandoned nests do occur.

The final box was also quite interesting.  It was an abandoned nest, but I found some different looking eggs in there along with the wood duck eggs.
Wood duck egg on left and hooded merganser on right.

After consulting my nest box guide, it appears they are the eggs of a hooded merganser.  Back in the summer of 2015 we had a successful batch of mergansers raised on that pond and I was fortunate enough to watch the hen with her seven ducklings swim over the pond.  I didn't see them last year, but apparently they had visited. 

The fun thing about cleaning out nest boxes is that you don't know what you might discover.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Post From the Past: Snowy Owl in June

Way back in June of 2012, I was informed of a snowy owl that had been spotted a couple blocks from home.  I was just starting to get interested in birds at the time and was eager to see a snowy, and yet had no idea at the time how unusual it was for one to still be around in June.  The drive out to see the bird was a successful one and I obtained multiple distant but identifiable photos of the species. 

Years went by and I remembered seeing the owl, but could no longer say for sure what time of year exactly.  Then yesterday, upon going through old pictures, I found my photos from that day with an attached date of June 17th 2012.  Now, years after the sighting, I can indeed say that I saw a summer snowy owl.  Recent examination of old ebird records also indicates that other observers saw the bird, which further helps confirm the sighting.

Snowy owl is not an unexpected species in this area during the winter months, but they don't seem to invade Perth county in the same numbers that they sometimes do elsewhere.  This makes every one seen, a special sighting.

I was curious to see how often snowy owl shows up in the general southern Ontario region in the winter compared to odd summer sightings like this.

The ebird map below shows submitted snowy owl reports between the months of November to April, the time of year when snowys are more common visitors.

And this map shows the records from May to October.  It's quite self explanatory.

Needless to say, I was very glad to have seen that owl back in 2012.  It was the first snowy that I had seen and the fact that I can now confirm that it was an odd time of year, makes it even more special.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

2016 Year in Review

Seeing that the end of the year is upon us, I thought I would put together a post of some of my nature highlights of the year.  Many of those are birds, but there are are many other aspects of the natural world that deserve to be included as well.  The following photos represent the highlights of various posts of each individual month.  Some photos are poor quality, but I associate with a memorable experience.  Some photos are of common species, but are ones that I feel show that species in a good way.

Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to read my posts over the past year and I have very much enjoyed following along on many other nature blogs.  I may not post as regularly this year as I have done in the past, but when I do, I will try my best to make it worth your while to read.  Best wishes for the new year and hopefully you will enjoy getting outdoors and discovering Ontario's birds and wildlife.


Harris Sparrow, Embro ON


Glaucous Gull: Avon River, Stratford ON

Great-Black-Backed Gull: Avon River, Stratford ON
Mallard/Black Duck hybrid: Avon River, Stratford ON

Bufflhead: West Perth Wetlands, Mitchell ON

Partially Leucistic American Robin: West Perth Wetlands, Mitchell ON

Northern Cardinal: Old Cut Field Station, Long Point ON

Lesser Scaup: Home farm, Amulree, ON

American Wigeon: Avon River, Stratford ON

Trumpeter Swan: Home farm, Amulree ON

Trumpeter Swans: Home farm, Amulree ON

American wigeon: Home farm, Amulree ON 
Moon: Home farm, Amulree ON
Fox sparrow, Home farm, Amulree ON


White-crowned sparrow, Home farm, Amulree ON

Marsh Marigold, Home farm, Amulree ON

Yellow-rumped warbler, Home farm, Amulree ON
Northern Mockingbird, Pennsylvania USA

White water lily, Pinery Provincial Park, ON

Common whitetail, Pinery Provincial Park, ON
White trilliums, Home farm, Amulree ON

Yellow warbler, Home farm, Amulree ON
Black swallowtail, Home farm, Amulree ON

Lady's slipper, Home farm, Amulree ON

Launching the canoe at Proulx lake, Algonquin Park ON

Common merganser family, Algonquin Park ON

Common loon, Algonquin Park ON

Viceroy, West Perth Wetlands, Mitchell ON

Painted Turtle, Point Pelee Provincial Park ON

Pipevine Swallowtail, Tennessee USA

Black Vulture, Tennessee USA

Summer tanager, Tennessee USA

American Snout butterfly, Tennessee USA

Five-lined skink, Tennessee USA
Bald eagle, Bird Studies Canada Headquarters, Long Point ON

Golden eagle, Bird Studies Canada Headquarters, Long Point ON

Autumn Scene, Home farm, Amulree ON

Mallard, Avon river, Stratford ON

Black-Capped Chickadee, Stratford ON

Rough-legged hawk, Stratford ON