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

Thanksgiving over: Turkeys return!

It’s the weekend after (Canadian) Thanksgiving, so the turkeys felt safe to come back.

Wild turkeys
Wild turkeys

In fact, our back garden is full of delicious birds, though this grouse was more cautious and wouldn’t come out from behind the bush.

Hidden grouse
Hidden ruffed grouse

Just incidentally, I liked this shot of the maples picked out by the last rays of the setting sun, with the rest of the garden in shade.

Maples at sunset
Maples at sunset

Birds changing into their spring outfits

Goldfinches and turkeys in their spring outfits.

Now the migrants are here, they are getting ready for breeding.

The blackbirds I already showed. They just had red streaks when they first arrived.  The goldfinches were rather drab, but now they really are gold:

Goldfinches
Goldfinches
More Goldfinches
More Goldfinches

As I think I said before, the finches are certainly migrants this year as they were absent for most of this particularly tough winter, but I’ve heard that even when we have them year-round, it is a different set that breeds here, our winter finches come from even further north.

On the other hand, the turkeys have been here all year but as a flock. Now there is a female nesting. I saw the male doing his dance, looking very flamenco, but behind the manure pile so I couldn’t get a good picture. Here, he is just ambling along but brighter in colour than my last set of pictures when he was with the flock. The female is following and I don’t think this was display behaviour as she was behind him; she was probably just stretching her wings.

Male turkey
Male turkey
Female turkey
Female turkey

First Sign of Spring – Birds Dancing

Sign of spring from birds while plants are still buried under snow.

Unlike plants that are either dead-looking or under a couple of feet of snow, the birds can bring that first sign of spring.  It wasn’t welcome at first as these wild turkeys woke me up. They were dancing and shouting “Ole, Ole” in “turkish” right outside my bedroom window.

I’ll pay more attention next time as they almost left before I got these few shots shortly after dawn.

These two male turkeys were doing their display dance for each other (the females totally ignored them and the males were only paying attention to each other).

Turkey display 1
Turkey display 1
Turkey display 2
Turkey display 2
Turkey display 3
Turkey display 3

More snow

Still, there are many advantages to high winds, snow drifts and -17ºC maximum temperatures. One of the less obvious is that when you get home from shopping for groceries and you’re hungry but your Vinho Verdi is still at room temperature, you just have to stick it in one of those snow drifts and by the time you’ve assembled your cheeses, olives, bread and pickles, it is already chilled. The other big advantages are left as an exercise to the reader.

We had yet more snow last night.  That makes 20 times this winter we have had our driveway ploughed, as compared with 14 times all last winter and it’s still only January.

Still, there are many advantages to high winds, snow drifts and -17ºC maximum temperatures.  One of the less obvious is that when you get home from shopping for groceries and you’re hungry but your Vinho Verdi is still at room temperature, you just have to stick it in one of those snow drifts and by the time you’ve assembled your cheeses, olives, bread and pickles, it is already chilled.  The other big advantages are left as an exercise to the reader.

This is where we park our cars, after the driveway was ploughed:

Cars in the snow
Cars in the snow

Yes, I didn’t get the wheelbarrow moved before the first snow fell.

The drive is now only as wide as the blade on Tony’s plough.

Next are some of our resident wild turkeys.  If you saw some of the earlier posts, you’d know that they have long, powerful legs, but now the snow is about 30 cm (1 foot) on top of the ice from the ice storm at Christmas time, which was on top of more snow, they look like ducks floating on the water with their legs hidden.  A couple more had been by earlier to break the trail but it is still heavy going so they are travelling in what we naval experts would call line astern to make it less work. They can fly quite well for around 500m, usually just clearing the trees which are about 20m around here, but it seems that they still stick to trudging through the snow; flying is for emergencies only or in the evening when they go to roost in the trees.

Turkeys in snow
Turkeys in snow