Sunday, April 20, 2014

Wildlife Notes.

Photo by Greg Hume.

Zach Neal

In the last few days the boys and I have been fortunate to see quite a bit of wildlife.

The other day, we spotted an owl. He must have been sitting on the opposite side of a big tree trunk when we came along the trail. He dropped off the branch and flew fifty metres, and found himself another perch. Their heads really do bob around and he was clearly taking a look.

When we moved on again, he flew off, going across in front of us and we had a chance to take a good look. The head is massive in side-view, and the bird in flight, certainly up close, is unmistakable for anything else. The wings are deeply curved on the beats, which are moderately fast. It’s an extremely quiet bird in flight, and impressively large down amongst the limbs and branches of a mixed evergreen/hardwood forest.

Photo by Fish Cop.
Not too much further along, we broke off to the right from the trail, which was angling towards a creek. As we approached the brow of the bank, the wind was on our right, or at our backs coming in. A deer must have been down at the creek drinking. So, a white-tail deer finally heard us, (he must not have smelled us coming) and off he went, bolting up the far bank and then dashing through the woods in a zig-zag, bounding lope, cocking his eye back once or twice to watch for pursuit.

Photo by Linda Tanner.
It’s actually a fairly impressive list.

In the last few days we’ve seen a scarlet tanager, cormorants, blue herons, mergansers, painted or box turtles, a weasel or a small ermine, something like that. We saw vultures, garter snakes, kingfishers, coots, and some sort of black and white ducks that I can’t immediately identify. If you know the name, it’s pretty easy to Google a specific animal. But for this kind of job a good old-fashioned bird book is handy. Unfortunately, mine’s put away somewhere. 

We saw quite a number of the green-backed, white-bellied swallows, those are tree swallows, as the barn swallows are sort of iridescent blue or purplish with more deeply forked tails.

We saw a few jackrabbits, wild turkeys, and any number of very small songbirds. Many of those look a lot alike and it takes a real expert.

The number of sparrow species is impressive.

Photo by Bear Golden Retriever.
When in doubt, I just call it ‘some kind of sparrow’ and move on.

What else did we see?

Oh, yeah. We saw a guy land a trout, a big one about two feet long. That must have been five or ten pounds of fish on the line.

Muskrat. We saw a few of them too.

All in all, it’s been a pretty good start to our spring.

So far, this has all been within ten or fifteen kilometres of our own home.

I guess that's why they call it Canada.


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