Category: Birds

Peregrines of Niagara Falls

As residents of cliffs (alternatively, downtown office towers), it should come as no surprise that peregrine falcons breed at Niagara Falls. My first visit was in 2008, when they nested on the Canadian side and entertained photographers and birders at length. From my understanding they then bred on the American side for several years, which is not well-suited for photography. This year (2012) they once again nested on the Canadian side, in the old OPG building. This put them directly below the sidewalk along the edge of the gorge, just hundreds of yards from the falls’ edge.

I visited on several occasions, and while opportunities are never guaranteed, one day in particular was incredible, with the young peregrines testing their wings, chasing each other and learning how to take food from their parents – all in midair. It is one of a kind sight to see a peregrine rapidly coast upwards on thermals, just inches from the gorge’s fall, spiralling hundreds of feet up, only to tuck its wings back in a rapid stoop in pursuit of prey. These spectacular stoops are almost too difficult to photograph at close range, as these have been measured at nearly 200mph! Here’s to hoping they return next year to entertain onlookers. To be honest, I think the birds are almost more curious about us at times than we are of them.

Adult peregrine plucking Spotted Sandpiper prey

Adult peregrine plucking Spotted Sandpiper prey

Juvenile peregrine with Spotted Sandpiper

Juvenile peregrine with Spotted Sandpiper

 

Adult peregrine in flight with pigeon prey

Adult peregrine in flight with pigeon prey

Adult peregrine banking sharply in flight

Adult peregrine banking sharply in flight

 

View more, or order a print at my gallery!

Wilson’s Plover family

I can’t help but think how appropriate this photo is for today: a female Wilson’s Plover “brooding” her 3 chicks on a Florida beach. This process is used to regulate the chicks’ body temperatures, especially when they are very young. For comparison, the mother is about the size of a robin, and the chicks are literally little fuzz balls.

Wilson's Plover family

Wilson's Plover female brooding her chicks

Signs of spring: Tundra Swans

With reports of early migration of tundra swans, I went back to process some of my photos of them. They are a species we typically only see in early spring, as they pass through. Present year round in Southern Ontario are Mute Swans, a non-native bird which is the most common swan. Less common, but still present in large numbers in winter are the trumpeter swans, the largest of the native swans. They can still be found throughout the summer, but mostly in marshes (such as Wye Marsh) in central Ontario where they breed.

I hope to add some more photos this year!

Tundra Swan portrait

Tundra Swan Portrait - notice the distinctive yellow mark - Canon 1DIV - 800/5.6IS

Tundra Swan (foreground) and Trumpeter Swan (click to enlarge)

Tundra Swan (foreground) and Trumpeter Swan (click to enlarge) - Canon 1DIV - 800/5.6IS

Bull moose eating vegetation

Tundra Swan on calm water (click to enlarge) - Canon 1DIV - 800/5.6IS

View more, or order a print at my gallery!

Snowy Owls in sweet light

I’ve added two more images of snowy owls from last winter, photographed here in Ontario, Canada. I have many more photos to go through. I really liked the light on both of these, and it was great to have this co-operative female snowy to photograph as she hunted.

Snowy Owl hunting prey (male)

Snowy owl hunting prey (click to enlarge) - Canon 1DIV - 300/2.8IS

Snowy owl landing in corn field at sunset (male)

Snowy owl landing in corn field at sunset (click to enlarge) - Canon 1DIV - 300/2.8IS + 1.4x

View more, or order a print at my gallery!

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

A very sharp looking woodpecker, the yellow-bellied sapsucker is quite common further north in Ontario, especially in the Algonquin Park area. Their distinctive “wells” that they drill in trees serve as a food source for hummingbirds, who arrive in the northern forests well before plants begin to flower, and are thus very dependent on the sapsuckers for the sap their wells produce. The sap attracts bugs and other prey items for the sapsucker. As a result of the damage to the tree, sapsuckers are important agents of change in the northern forests.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (male)

Male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker with food (click to enlarge) - Canon 1DIII - 800/5.6IS

Male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker at its wells

Male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker at wells (click to enlarge) - Canon 1DIII - 800/5.6IS

View more, or order a print at my gallery!

Greater Scaup

Greater Scaup is a duck species in decline in North America. They winter in significant numbers locally, and are seemingly more common then their Lesser Scaup cousins. Here are a few photos taken from a dock in Hamilton as they mingled with the other ducks.

Greater Scaup male

Greater Scaup (drake) (click to enlarge) - Canon 50D 600 f4 IS

Greater Scaup hen/female

Greater Scaup hen (click to enlarge) - Canon 50D 600 f4 IS

Greater Scaup preening

Greater Scaup preening (click to enlarge) - Canon 50D 600 f4 IS

View more, or order a print at my gallery!

Eastern Screech Owl youngsters

Eastern Screech owls are among one of the most common owls in many areas, but their small size and retiring nature make them very difficult to find. Nesting in cavities, their whinnying and spooky calls can be heard most readily at night in the mating season. Many people are shocked when they find out that these owls often live close to their homes in ravines and other natural areas.

A few years ago I was fortunate enough to learn of an Eastern Screech owl family that had nested in a local park. While extremely hard to find (and often only found because of other birds mobbing them), I had a few successful photo sessions with them. The young “owlet” fledglings were especially cute with their comical, big eyes and downy feathers. To my surprise and disappointment, I have not been able to find them this year, and only saw them briefly early in the season last year.

I’ll post some adults next!

Eastern Screech

Eastern Screen Owl youngster (click to enlarge) - Canon 1DIII 600IS x1.4

Baby Screech Owl

Curious baby Screech Owl (click to enlarge) - Canon 1DIII 600IS x1.4

View more screech owls, or order a print at my gallery!