Saturday, February 28, 2009
There were ten rounds, each round containing the following categories, "What's that called", Pop Culture, Public Sector, Wine, General Knowledge, Wildlife, Music, Sports, Entertainment, and Canadiana. After the fifth and final rounds were bonus questions, "daily doubles". The questions were read first so the teams could ponder the question and wager an amount based on their knowledge of the subject. On seeing the wildlife category I thought they wouldn't have any bird questions. Well they did! Not one but a total of four out of ten wildlife questions were specific to birds. What were the questions you mad crazy birders are asking? They were as follows. I'll place the answers lower down so you can all play along.
1. True or False. The male owl has a higher pitched call than the female owl.
2. New Guinea has many interesting birds, what unique feature does the Hooded Pitohui possess?
3. What bird is known as a "trickster" in native folklore and is the official bird of the Yukon Territory?
4. What member of the cuckoo bird family has a long tail, can reach a running speed of 15 miles per hour, and eats snakes and lizards?
Officially we answered two questions correctly. In our opinion the only wrong answer we submitted was for question number one.
We answered the first bonus question correctly, doubling our points. Many thanks to Jean and her obsessive reading of horse books. Of the 18 teams of eight, she was the only one in the hall, besides the judges, that knew the offspring of a male horse and female donkey is known as a "hinny". Our team led by 29 points going into the final bonus round. Thinking teams behind us were betting all their earned points we wagered too many points on a solar system question. Hind sight is 20/20. Our wrong answer dropped us from first to fourth overall. It was a great evening with our friends, raising money for a worthy cause. Hopefully more bird questions and less pop culture questions involving Madonna and Britney Spears will be encountered during our next night of trivia.
Now for the answers.
1. False. The female owl has a higher pitched call than the male. (We answered this as true)
2. Poisonous feet and skin.
This one was a point of contention for our team. We simply answered poisonous. We were ruled incorrect. Groan! Jean did well with an educated guess on the Hooded Pitohui, Pitohui dichrous.
3. The Raven.
Saturday, February 21, 2009
the usual marina waterfowl were observed. Unfortunately no Redheads here this day. We would find them at the next stop, Jones Beach, on the east side of the Welland Canal, along with some Lesser Scaup.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Images of a Worcester's Buttonquail were captured for the first time before it was sold as food.
Friday, February 13, 2009
Monday, February 9, 2009
This demonstrates how difficult it can be to identify owls. Even with many years experience it can still be arduous. After Saturday's phone conversation, I consulted our February 2009 issue of 'Birder's World'. Here is an excerpt from the ID tips article by Kenn Kaufman on identifying Long-eared, Short-eared, Great Horned, and Stygian Owls.
Perceived only visually, the owl could potentially be confused with a couple of species. Long-ears perched in trees may be mistaken for Great Horned Owls, or vice versa. The Great Horned is a much larger bird (it can weigh five times as much), but the size difference can be surprisingly hard to judge.
When Jean and I observed the owls, one of the Short-eared was almost completely hidden by the tree's branches. The Long-eared was the most exposed of the three. We could definitely make out the cinnamon-brown facial disks but I did not note the black marks above and below the eyes, one of the keys to identifying Long-eared Owls. Experiences of this nature can only make one a better birder.
Birding Saturday and Sunday was well enjoyed. On Saturday, visits to Jaycee Park and the marina in Port Dalhousie produced a variety of waterfowl but no additions to the year list. We did however have a lovely conversation with Jean's Aunt Joyce and Uncle Gino in the parking lot of Lakeside Park.
Late Sunday afternoon we visited 5th Avenue in west St. Catharines. Saturday night, Kayo informed me that he had observed a Snowy Owl in the same area we had observed the Short-eared Owl. Our first visit Sunday afternoon, travelling the entire 2.5 kilometres of the road, produced only Mourning Dove, House Sparrow and Red-tailed Hawk. We continued along more rural roads eventually reaching Rockway Conservation Area on the Niagara Escarpment. A solitary Northern Mockingbird guarding a stand of Sumac and chasing more than 120 European Starlings from his territory was observed. We continued in our car along more rural roads, descending the escarpment and stopping at the conservation area's entrance on 9th Street. American Tree Sparrow and Black-capped Chickadee were found, not easily I might add, amongst the mixture of deciduous and coniferous trees.
We returned to 5th Avenue a little more than an hour later and upon reaching the vineyard, we discovered the Snowy Owl we sought. There it stood, perched on a post and bobbing its head, as we viewed it through our scope. No lamenting this time. Not only was it interested in the humans admiring it but the coyote north of them as well. This was not the same Snowy we observed in December. There were less markings on the rear of the head of this owl.
Wow, minutes away from the downtown and we were looking at a coyote and a Snowy Owl. Best not let the St. Catharines Park and Recreation Department know of their presence, they may get the same treatment as the beavers recently did.
As we were enjoying the amazing view of the Snowy Owl, less than 50 metres away from our position, who would pull up in a vehicle from the opposite direction? Kayo and his wife, followed by two more birders (Blayne and Jean whom we met on the duck count) in a second vehicle. During our brief conversation, we all shared in an excellent view of the Snowy. You don't get many chances to be this close to an owl outside of captivity.
My wife Jean, a SPCA agent, had the opportunity to examine an injured Snowy Owl early last week. The owl was rescued from a narrow alleyway downtown and brought to the shelter for evaluation. Due to its non-life threatening injuries the owl was taken to the Owl Foundation for recovery. After a couple of months of rehabilitation the owl will be released in the province of Manitoba.
Jean and I returned home and toasted the addition of the Snowy Owl to the year list, #55, with a nice Chardonnay during our evening meal. We are now on par with last year's list. I will have some work to do if I want to catch Blayne. The Snowy Owl was #105 for him. He tries to tick as many species as possible, all in the Niagara Region, in the month of January. Something to strive for next year.
Saturday, February 7, 2009
Returning from the market earlier this morning we observed the Cooper's Hawk bathing in a large puddle at the entrance to the high school's parking lot. Never thought I would observe such a sight in early February.
Friday, February 6, 2009
North of the road, a bird perched on the post of a vineyard row, 200 metres away, caught our attention. We exited our car and immediately knew this bird was different. The face was pale and round. This was no hawk. We walked along the field next to the vineyard and stopped every so often to observe the bird and its markings. As we were studying the bird my cell phone rang. It was the home owner allowing us to visit his home to view the owls. Until November of last year, Jean and I were one of the few remaining souls that did not own a cell phone. One of the main purposes of purchasing a cell phone was to assist with our birding and today it rang true.
We continued to observe the unidentified bird, lamenting that we did not have our scope. The bird eventually left its post but remained flying in the area. We were able to write the bird's identifying field marks for review when we returned home to our field guides. As we were leaving the bird was spotted once again, perched on a "no trespassing" sign. Before we could get a closer look, an oncoming vehicle caused the bird to take flight.
On to the home with the roosting trio. We arrived shortly after 5:00 PM with plenty of light remaining to observe the owls. Dave and Jan Ryan allowed us into their home and once again a kitchen window was used to observe birds. A previous attempt to observe a lifer through a window was unsuccessful. This time however, we would observe 3 Great Horned Owls roosting in the pine trees of the residential yard.
Image courtesy of Kayo Roy
Initially we could only see 2 of the owls but as usual, Jean's excellent spotting skills picked out the third owl. Remind me to always take Jean with me when I go birding.
An article in today's St. Catharines Standard describes the home owner's discovery of the owls which led them to contact Kayo. As mentioned in the article, Kayo is coauthoring the book 'Niagara Birds' with John Black. Jean and I have been trying out the directions for the "hot spots" and day trips section of the book. Kayo and John selected Jean and I as we are relatively new to birding and are not familiar with all of the "hot spots" in the region. You could say we are the guinea pigs.
Satisfied with observing the Great Horned Owls we left, thankful to the Ryans for allowing us into their home.
Upon arriving home we checked our guide books and confirmed our suspicions. The bird perched in the vineyard was a Short-eared Owl!
I never thought I would use the word parliament without discussing prorogue or coalition but somehow I managed. This was an excellent start to the weekend. A lifer Short-eared Owl (#254), the addition of Great Horned Owl to the provincial list (#222) and Horned Lark to the year list which now stands at 52.
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Early Sunday morning I took the dogs outside and was greeted by above freezing temperature and sun. Towards noon I would observe the reappearance of an exciting visitor from early last week. No it was not the Austrian pop musician from the 80's. The Falco peregrinus, Peregrine Falcon, was back!! This time I was able to view the falcon through a scope, from our back porch. Too bad we don't have a digital camera, some great digiscoping images could have been obtained. For an hour I observed the falcon perched in the large Walnut tree directly across the parking lot from our yard.
With its black eyes the bird would survey the area, adjusting itself when ever a gust of wind occurred. The falcon would preen itself occasionally and seemed disinterested in the starlings that flew by, though it did look up at the few starlings brave enough to perch above it for a short time. I had to leave so I was unable to see the falcon take flight. Hopefully the Peregrine Falcon is here to stay.
Late in the afternoon we went to Short Hills Provincial Park for a short hike. Along the way a Rough-legged Hawk soaring above was spotted as well as Jen Brown training on her road bike. Having not been on a bike since the "Squeezer", yes that long, I am looking forward to cycling again. I am so out of shape.
We parked at the Roland Road entrance to the park and hiked the trails leading to Swayze Falls. Not much avian action, the most exciting a Hairy Woodpecker seen in the woods above the frozen falls. Spring should bring better sightings and with the above mentioned longer days, evening visits to the park during the week.