This Spring’s Spark Bird

Every year, I become more intrigued with the act of watching birds.  The book, Birds Art Life by Kyo Maclear put some of that into perspective for me…in fact, when I poured over the pages, it was the first time that I could really connect with why I am so driven to investigate Frank’s Flats; the wildlife, landscape, atmospheric changes and ecosystems.

I think that Maclear proposes that there is a single spark bird that draws the everyday person into the act of bird watching.  However, for me, it seems that every year, in springtime, I am renewed to the experience by a particular bird.

This year, that bird is this one, a Merlin.  And…I could be wrong in my identification and challenge my readers to look at its markings and confirm with me if I am mistaken or correct.  About three years ago, in my neighbourhood park, I noticed a nesting couple and likely heard them first.  They have a very particular high pitched call.

Merlin

Adult male (Prairie)
  • Light blue-gray crown
  • Pale face with no distinct pattern
  • Streaked breast
  • Dark eye with pale eyebrow
  • Prairie subspecies occurs in Great Plains states and southern Canada

This year, I’ve been close enough to the nesting pair to have received a bit of an annoyed reaction.  They are very defensive birds and protective during the nesting period.  As I’ve discovered on line, their talons and beaks provide for some very nasty feeding frenzies on pigeons, sparrows, mice and I’m guessing that they could do a mean attack on young children or dogs if they felt challenged.

So, for now, I’ll watch from a distance.  They are just beautiful!

Usually, one remains in a sparse deciduous tree or atop a power pole some distance from the nest, while the other stays tucked into the evergreen tree, a nest that was stolen from a mating magpie pair three seasons ago.

Recent photographs have helped me to make some distinctions in the small raptor, however, I’m still learning.  I got some good shots of the nesting adult yesterday.  I invite any feedback about these or other raptors as I expand my knowledge.

IMG_3740

For the Birds

I never imagined I would be so overcome by the mystery and magic of birds.  My body, mind and imagination are being blessed by the standing-still of this…the breath and light and patience of entering into a seldom-noticed world.  If I sit/stand still, it is as though a secret world unfolds to me…even comes to me.  And I remain still, in awe and in gratitude.

The Cormorants are on a migration and have been stopping in to the pond of late.  A Great Blue Heron is alternating between this location and over where the Osprey nest is located, just south of 22X.  At one time I thought that there were two herons, but recently, have decided that there is just one.  The Coots did very well this season and I’ve been watching the juveniles running on the water with their paddle feet, preparing for the next step, flight.  I’ve seen, but not been able to archive, yellow finches.

I’ve recently watched adult Hawks sitting on light standards alongside their offspring, teaching them the ins and outs of stalking and hunting down field mice. I’ve been intrigued by the hunting techniques and feasting of these raptors.  Compare the length of the tail feathers on the adult hawk with those of the juvenile.

Kath's Canon August 24 and 25 Birds 044

Kath's Canon August 24 and 25 Birds 069

©Kathleen Moors :Adult Marsh Hawk

Today I captured a photo of the youngsters, on its own.  From what I can tell, this is likely a male Marsh Hawk, also known as a Northern Harrier.  You can tell  it’s a juvenile based on its size, length of tail feathers and the maturity of the feathers.

©Kathleen Moors

©Kathleen Moors

The three juvenile Osprey and one adult have been hunting together from the deadwood and the power poles that edge the pond for the past week and a half.  The other adult is most often seen now, closer to the river. I have not seen any of them at the nest until today.

It’s Sunday and I think that as a special treat, a fish was again dropped at the nest because for the first time in quite a while, all three juveniles were in the vicinity of the nest and the adult hung out some distance away.  I didn’t stay long because alarm calls were being given by the two birds that were feasting at the nest.  A somewhat obtrusive photographer with a two foot long lens was laying down in the grass above the nest…so, I don’t know if I was the problem or if the other photographer was.  My photos are taken from a long way off and as a habit, I never get out of the vehicle.  Radio off.  Engine off.  Silent.  Max seems to know the drill also…and even though he is sitting in the driver’s seat, he remains seated and perfectly still.

I like this little series of images of the one left standing on the pole…

Kath's Canon August 29, 2015 Osprey, Hawk, Kingfisher 044Kath's Canon August 29, 2015 Osprey, Hawk, Kingfisher 036 Kath's Canon August 29, 2015 Osprey, Hawk, Kingfisher 039 Kath's Canon August 29, 2015 Osprey, Hawk, Kingfisher 040 Kath's Canon August 29, 2015 Osprey, Hawk, Kingfisher 041 Kath's Canon August 29, 2015 Osprey, Hawk, Kingfisher 042 Kath's Canon August 29, 2015 Osprey, Hawk, Kingfisher 044 Kath's Canon August 29, 2015 Osprey, Hawk, Kingfisher 046 Kath's Canon August 29, 2015 Osprey, Hawk, Kingfisher 047 Alarm calls coming from the nest.Kath's Canon August 29, 2015 Osprey, Hawk, Kingfisher 048Today, Max was very co operative at the pond when I sited the Belted Kingfisher that I had noticed yesterday.  I had no camera with me yesterday, so today, I made certain that my battery was charged.  I heard the Kingfisher’s call today and grabbed a few photographs to celebrate my first siting of this species in nature.  It was very thrilling.  I sat down on the worn path and just watched for the longest time, Max on leash and tied to my waist so as not to disturb the moment.

Kath's Canon August 29, 2015 Osprey, Hawk, Kingfisher 134Kath's Canon August 29, 2015 Osprey, Hawk, Kingfisher 096The Great Blue Heron, while elusive, has been a constant companion at the pond for two weeks.  Continually relocating as I travel the circumference of the pond, I have seen it fly and watched it feed at the shore.  It’s been heavenly.

Kath's Canon August 26, 2015 Heron Dying Bird 084 Kath's Canon August 26, 2015 Heron Dying Bird 021

IX. As Patience

Then it picks up one stem leg. This takes time.
And sets it down just beyond the other,
no splash, breath of a ripple, goes on
slowly across the silt, mud, algae-
throttled surface, through sedge grass,
to stand to its knees in water turning
grayer now that afternoon is evening.

Now that afternoon is evening
the gray heron turns blue, bluer than sky,
bluer than the mercury blue-black still pond.

     –from "The Blue" by David Baker