Backyard birds and ice crystals

I got a little behind again, so here are a couple of weeks worth of back yard and local pictures.

Backyard birds

OK, the first one isn’t a bird, but it doesn’t seem to care. Many of our gray squirrels are black, but this one even seems to have a tinge of red in it.

Black squirrrel
Black squirrel

These are the genuine article, blue jays.

Blue Jays
Blue Jay in flight

There was a strong south wind when I took the next one, enough to ruffle its crest feathers.

Blue jay
Blue jay

It has lots of friends.

Blue jays
Blue jays

These shots are of birds in the thorn bush in our back garden. It is related to the English hawthorn, but has much longer thorns. The flowers are similarly scented and the haws are quite similar too. The end twigs are red for their first year, but the cardinal’s feathers are still not camouflaged.

Male Cardinal
Male Cardinal

Below is another pair of red birds, the rosy finches.

Rosy finches
Rosy finches

The next bird in flight is a dark-eyed junco.

Junco
Dark-eyed Junco

The chickadee below has literally gone ballistic, with wings folded for a second.

Ballistic chickadee
Ballistic chickadee

The turkeys below only fly when alarmed or when they want to get up into a tree that has berries. It takes them a fair bit of energy to get to tree-top level. In this visit, they stayed on the ground. They were mostly hidden behind a bush from my perspective so just a couple of pictures of this handsome male.

Turkey 1
Turkey 1

Check out the stylish beard.

Turkey 2
Turkey, showing beard

Next is a downy woodpecker, taken when the north wind was strong and cold (-14ºC) so it sheltered on the south side of the tree and fluffed up its feathers.

Downy woodpecker
Downy woodpecker

Ice Crystals

Here are a few shots of ice crystals on top of the snow. They are about 1 cm (½”) across.

Ice crystals-1
Ice crystals-1

The next one is deliberately just out of focus to show the colours refracted off the surface (which is white snow – underexposed) so you can see the colours as I saw them through watery eyes (from cold wind). It was even better when they sparkled as I moved.

Ice crystals-2
Ice crystals-2

The next one is on a piece of coloured paper, to get a bit more contrast than the white snow background. The shadow shows the shape well, too.

Ice crystals-3
Ice crystals-3
Ice crystals-4
Ice crystals-4

The next one is a few crystals on top of the seed head of Queen Anne’s lace, which are just as pretty as any diamonds the Queen may have had in her tiara.

Queen Anne's Lace and Tiara
Queen Anne’s Lace and Tiara

Finally, ice in non-crystalline format, as our roof caught a little sun.

Icicles
Icicles

Chipmunk and Snapping Turtle

I had a post a few days ago about mallows: the chipmunks must have read it because I pointed out that hollyhocks and hibiscus were both mallows.  Well, I caught a chipmunk eating the hibiscus flowers for the first time although I put them out in the same place each year.

So I brought in one hibiscus to a safe place.  So the chipmunk went after the hollyhocks instead.

Chipmunk on Hollyhock
Chipmunk on Hollyhock
Chipmunk on Hollyhock
Chipmunk on Hollyhock

We also had a visit from a snapping turtle.  It’s too big to be a hatchling from this year, even though it’s almost the right time, but nowhere near adult size.  It is about 8 cm as you can see, barely able to peer over grass that was cut a couple of days ago.  Adults are up to 50 cm.  So it must have overwintered in one of my garden ponds.  It was heading towards my biggest pond with lots of lilies and fish, and I don’t want an adult living there as then it would have no lilies or fish, so I gave it a ride in a pail to a large pond nearby, which is probably where its parents came from.  That led to a serendipitous find.  I dropped it in a spot I hadn’t looked at for a while and found a large ladyslipper orchid plant.  It’s long past flowering season, so I’ll have to wait until next year to find out what colour it is.  I know orchids well enough to identify a ladyslipper just from leaves, but not to guess the colour.

Snapping Turtle 2

Juvenile Snapping Turtle
Juvenile Snapping Turtle

It’s Getting Otter – So Spring Must Be Coming

We were very surprised to find a river otter in the still snow-covered garden, snuffling around the bird seed, though it’s not clear if it was eating any or just smelling the squirrels that are around and could make dinner.

Otter close up
Otter close up
Otter showing tail
Otter showing tail

Our house is about 150m from the river, so presumably that is where it spends most of its time.  Like the opossum I showed earlier, we have never seen it before, so perhaps the super cold, long winter has sent it near the house.

Opossums in Kawartha Lakes!

I had no idea they had made it this far north. I’ve only seen them in the southern US, though I had heard of some in the Niagara peninsula and even the city of Toronto. (Avoids political joke).

But we are a plant climate zone colder so I was astonished to see this one wandering about a foot above our lawn (that’s how deep the snow is) at -10ºC.  Poor toes! (See below).

The ‘possum is a marsupial, like a kangaroo, about as unrelated from us as you can get and still be a mammal.  Diversity is fun.

Opossum 1
Opossum 1
Opossum 2
Opossum 2
Opossum 3
Opossum 3
Opossum feet
Opossum feet
Opossum 4
Opossum 4

Squirrel Warren

Squirrel labyrinth under the snow

Yes, I know that you normally think of rabbits with the idea of a network of tunnels under the ground, but the red squirrels dig an elaborate network under the snow, once it has a layer of crust on top to keep it from collapsing.

Squirrel-tunnel
Squirrel beside a tunnel entrance

There have been no sign of the black/grey squirrels recently, so I assume they are hibernating, though I saw several in Toronto when I drove in yesterday to take Charlie home.

We got some snow on top of the ice, so the tree branches had a double layer until it rose to just below freezing yesterday so the snow layer melted and merged with the ice.  In Toronto it was +4ºC so they lost their ice.

Landscape: Snow on Ice
Landscape: Snow on Ice