Spring is sprung, the grass is riz

I wonders where the birdies is

“The bird is on the wing”

Don’t be absurd, the wing is on the bird.

– (Old poem remembered from childhood, learned from my father)

Well, I’m back after spending March working day, night and weekend, so taking a few days off to recover.

I’ll start with today and work back a bit, as I did post a few of these pictures on Facebook and Twitter.

We have had the coldest winter since I moved to Ontario almost 35 years ago.  Even Alberta warmed up faster than here.  However, finally, it is up to 12ºC (54ºF for you old-fashioned folks south of the border) so there is finally some ground showing, even though it is still frozen, so SNOWDROPS! (Snoopy dance performed!)

Snowdrops
Snowdrops

DO NOT look at those seedlings sprouting. They are illusory. There are no weeds going to grow in my garden this year.

From yesterday, here is a picture of a pair of cardinals.  Since they are on the bird feeder, it’s not a lot of effort for that male to pick up a seed and hand beak it to to his mate, but it is a touching gesture.

Cardinal love birds
Cardinal love birds

The migrants have begun to arrive.  The Red-winged Blackbird was the first I saw, though there are Canada Geese honking overhead and wetlands birds are usually earlier so I’ll have to head over the the conservation area which is about 5 miles downstream from here, where the river flattens out enough for water birds.

He has been doing his mating dance, so I might catch that soon; it’s too hard to do while on global conference calls which have been running most of the daylight for the last few weeks.

The male turkey was doing the same today, but I scared them off as I hadn’t seen them until the same moment I came around the corner of the house and they saw me, but Laurie was watching them.

Red-winged blackbird
Red-winged blackbird

Here is another migrant, just arrived.

American Robin
American Robin

I don’t see the local meadow voles very often as they live in tunnels just below the surface of the ground.  However, in winter, the tunnels are under snow right at the snow/ground boundary so as the snow melts they have to dash between patches until the ground thaws and they can dig.  When I looked them up on the Internet, I came across this quotation: “The Meadow Vole is believed to have the highest reproductive rate of any mammal in the world”.

Meadow Vole
Meadow Vole

One reason they like to stay underground is this hawk, who would love to have a vole for dinner but meanwhile is trying to get a junco out of the ninebark, but the bush is too thick for the hawk even though it is very impressive how deep it can penetrate while still flying. The junco got away as the hawk eventually gave up.

Sharp-shinned Hawk
Sharp-shinned Hawk

I’m guessing it is a sharp-shinned hawk. I checked pictures and the main difference from the Cooper’s seems to be that the shoulder is much lower on the Cooper’s, but I could be wrong. Any bird experts care to comment?

Here are a couple of shots of it in flight (!) in the middle of that ninebark.

Sharp-shinned Hawk in flight in ninebark
Sharp-shinned Hawk in flight in ninebark
Sharp-shinned Hawk in flight in ninebark -2
Sharp-shinned Hawk in flight in ninebark -2

Finally, a lesson in camouflage. The squirrel shows how to do it.

Gray squirrel
Gray squirrel

The cardinals do not seem to have got the point.

Cardinals in thorn bush
Cardinals in thorn bush

Robin autorivalry

This American Robin attacks the window in the sliding doors out from our bedroom.  Presumably he thinks he sees a rival in his reflection in the window.  We tried hawk silhouettes but it didn’t work.  I’ll try again with a larger, coloured image, but I might leave it a couple of days until I get a brighter day so I can take less grainy pictures.  The pictures would also look better if he wouldn’t leave such a mess on the windows.

Sometimes he takes a break on the table on the deck.

Robin
Robin

Otherwise he can spend hours “fighting” his reflection. He carried on for weeks last year.

Robin in flight 3
Robin in flight 3
Robin in flight
Robin in flight
Robin in flight 2
Robin in flight 2
Robin in flight 4
Robin in flight 4

Another Spring Sign – Robins arrived

I was wondering what they were going to eat because we still have almost complete snow coverage, about 30 cm.  It turns out that, while waiting for the grass to clear and insects/worms to be available, they eat the few mushy crab apples that were left by the turkeys.

Robin eating crabapples
Robin eating crabapples
Robin in Thornbush
Robin in Thornbush

Fall birds feeding

A few shots, including YouTube video, of birds feeding in my garden

A new experiment for me – embedding my YouTube video of a cardinal feeding a youngster.  It’s a bit late in the year so I think the mild September and October weather allowed an extra brood. There is also a slightly out of focus American Robin shovelling down berries from the thorn bush – there was a whole flock of them

 

Here are a few stills of the same birds:

Cardinal feeding young
Cardinal feeding young
Cardinal feeding young 2
Cardinal feeding young 2
Robin in Thornbush
Robin in Thornbush

It is pretty safe from predators among those huge thorns.

Here are a few shots of a sparrow trying to keep its balance while stretching out to get grass seeds:

Sparrow eating weed seeds
Sparrow eating weed seeds
Sparrow eating weed seeds
Sparrow eating weed seeds 2
Sparrow eating weed seeds
Sparrow eating weed seeds 3

First Pontypool robin of the year

He is listening intently for worms.  Yes, I heard last year of experiments that showed that robins can detect worms just by hearing them.

First robin of 2013
First robin of 2013

I don’t know if there are any to be caught yet but these birds always arrive within days of the first bare patches even though there may still be a layer of ice between them and the first worms.  They were spotted a couple of weeks ago a few miles south, but as we are on top of a ridge, north of Lake Ontario, our climate is a few degrees cooler so a few weeks behind the lake shore in the spring.

The robins don’t eat anything we put out for food, so they will go hungry for several days at least, unlike this blackbird.

Red-winged Blackbird
Red-winged Blackbird

We were in England last week and were delighted to hear the song of the English blackbirds, which are very musical.  I was sad to hear, though, that 80% of the nightingales in England have gone and an important nesting site is facing destruction.