Peeps in transit

 

When I spotted five little sandpipers along the muddy outwash of a creek, I knew that they were not our local staple, the Spotted Sandpiper. It was only when I shared pictures with other birders that I learned that I had seen peeps.

In North America, there are only three species of peeps: Western Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper. I had just seen the last two together. Seeing these birds was unexpected as they breed far to the north and winter far to the south. During their long migrations, a few may stop briefly and feed.

The five peeps were all over the place as they foraged and it was difficult to get more than one in any picture, but here is a shot showing the two species. The Semipalmated Sandpiper is on the left and the Least Sandpiper is on the right. At first glance, I had thought they were all the same species; peeps are difficult to tell apart.

The Least Sandpiper is more colourful, has a longer bill, yellowish-green legs, and no webbing between the toes.

The Semipalmated Sandpiper is less colourful, has a short, blunt bill, dark legs, and partial webbing between the toes (after which it is named).

When a comestible was found, it was quickly eaten, so catching a grub still in the bill of this Least was lucky.

South America is a long way away and we are off again.

 

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Eagle, fish, raven

 

This is a saga of an eagle (two-year old Bald), a fish (refused to offer ID), and a raven (bad guy of this piece).

“I don’t know why you are looking up at me. This is my fish and you cannot have it.”

“There are few pleasures greater than feasting on tasty fish guts.”

“However, here is the deal: I prefer to eat alone.”

“So, when an obnoxious Raven (surely a tautology) tried to intimidate me into sharing my fish, I demurred.”

“Raven, I am over three times your weight with a sharper bill and claws. I am unimpressed by your posturing.” 

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Osprey attacks heron

 

The first evidence I heard of the titanic battle was the repeated cries of a heron sounding the cacophony of a harassed soul.  

Far out onto the Lake, in the dim light of a driving rainstorm, two birds waged war. I knew at once that one bird was a heron, but thought that the other must have been an eagle (Did I mention the low light?). I grabbed my camera and managed only a few shaky hand-held shots. Only later when I looked at those flawed pictures did I realize that the aggressor was not an eagle, but an osprey. 

Why was the osprey harassing a heron? I have no idea. But the battle passed through a dozen or more swoops and banks by the osprey over a period of perhaps a minute or two. 

When first spotted, the cacophonous battle was taking place in the air over the Lake. It took me a moment or two to grab a camera and begin to record the final few encounters of this portion of the conflict. Here the osprey (top) is diving on the heron (bottom).

The heron was forced into the Lake, and the osprey repeatedly dived on it from above.

The osprey coursed back and forth, first attacking from one side and then wheeling and attacking from the other.

Each of these shots corresponds to a separate attack.

Perhaps the best view of an attack was the last one of an osprey with it claws out and the heron expressing horror at what was happening. In the end, the osprey gave up and moved on. Why did it happen? I don’t know.

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Cedar waxwing

 

The Cedar Waxwing is neither a common summer visitor nor a rare one. While I have taken shots of it before, this view shows the red waxy feather tips after which the bird is named.

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Heron leapfrog

 

It looked rather as if it were an avian version of leapfrog.

Two juvenile herons repeatedly shifted their foraging location along the shore. Yet, as they moved one at a time, and the second always flew past the first, in my imagination, theirs was a game of heron leapfrog.

Two pictures show different leaps. 

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Dragon hunting

 

Guest posting: The pictures and text are from my nine-year old grandson, Finn.
Alistair

Preparation is important before going to hunt dragons with your grandfather. After all, dragons are wily and skittish. So before heading out, we checked our equipment and refined our stalking technique.

Although flying darners proved too elusive for the equipment, perching meadowhawks yielded to my skilful stalking. 

Here is the result of an hour that I spent stalking and shooting dragons in the Park.

Male Cherry-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly

Female Cherry-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly

Male White-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly

Female White-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly

Detail of the head of female White-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly. Notice the cellular structure of the compound eyes.

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Muskrat shopping

 

A muskrat heads out to do the morning’s shopping,

and returns with salad for lunch.

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Damselfly mating

 

Damselflies are mating again.

Courtship is simple: The male looks for a good egg-laying site and then shows it off to a potential mate. Usually the site is an aquatic weed near the water’s surface, but this particular damselfly male has ineptly chosen a muskrat. Lots of luck with this one, buddy.  

Once a male (blue) finds a female (brown), he grabs the back of her neck with his cerci and seeks a landing spot. Mating takes place in the wheel position.

Female damselflies seem happy to mate with many males and use the fertilization principle: last in, first out—that is, the last sperm deposited is used to fertilize the eggs. So to protect his investment, a male maintains his grip on her neck and accompanies her to an egg-laying spot. Here, she is depositing eggs on an aquatic weed. 

Normally, that is that. However, on a few occasions I have seen him force her head below the water’s surface while she lays. Such a sight is a tad jarring: Is he now drowning her? Actually, no. An insect breathes through openings (spiracles) in its abdomen rather than nostrils on its face. Holding her head underwater presents no more of a breathing problem than it would be for a human with a hand in the water. Note the two potential suiters on the left just awaiting the opportunity to take over.

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Derek’s bats

 

In a recent posting, I told of an evening’s visit to the lakeshore with Derek Kite to watch bats feast on mayflies.

Derek has persisted in his attempts to record bats feasting and his pictures have progressively improved as he became more familiar with their behaviour. I have combined his best shots of last evening into two composites. 

Alas, we yet don’t know which bat species this is.

This two-shot composite of a single bat fits his description of how “they go up about 6 feet, stall, drop and continue in the opposite direction, sometimes… [while eating] a mayfly.” The bat on the right is ascending towards the mayfly (the speck above it); a moment later this same bat is eating that mayfly as it descends on the left.

This eight-shot composite of various bats fits his description of hunting as they “turn staying at the same level, 6″ to 18″ above the water.” The specks are mayflies.

Derek Kite’s pictures are used with permission.

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Toadpoles

 

Ok, I admit it: biology does not recognize the term, toadpole, and instead speaks of a toad’s tadpole. However, not only is toadpole a delightful portmanteau, it is the original form, the tad merely being a corruption of toad

These tadpoles were observed on a pond, not far from where an adult Western Toad was seen this spring. Following that there was a posting about a passion of toads. It seems that once again this year we may see toadlets aplenty. Three pictures follow.

 

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