Monday, 27 January 2014

Common backyard birds! Photoshoot!

On Saturday I headed over to F.W.R. Dickson Wilderness Area located southwest of Cambridge to do a bit of snowshoeing. The snow had abated after dumping a good 20 cm on top of the 20-30 cm already covering the ground. Though the winds were still moderately strong, the temperature was much warmer than it had been in recent days.

I arrived at the location and was pleasantly surprised to find that I was the only one there. The new snowshoes (thanks Mom and Dad!) worked great and I explored the very familiar trails.

I arrived at a boardwalk that has a few bird feeders and immediately the chickadees began to hound me for seeds. Luckily for them I had a pocketful of black oil sunflower seeds! I set up some of the seeds on the boardwalk and tried a bit of photography with not only the chickadees but some of the other species which are common there in the winter.

A single White-breasted Nuthatch returned time after time to snatch a seed before quickly disappearing to the far side of some tree trunk.

This is definitely a species that I often don't appreciate as much as I probably should, but they can be quite entertaining to watch as they scale trees upside down.

A pair of Northern Cardinals were loudly chipping in the shrubs. Once the chickadees and sparrows began feasting on the sunflower seeds, the male cardinal shortly followed suit.

What are you looking at?

Despite being an abundant bird throughout southern Ontario, Northern Cardinals are one of my favorite. Even after being around these guys for my whole life, it still is mind-numbingly awesome how bright red they can be. What a spectacular bird!

I find Northern Cardinals to actually be quite difficult to photograph, and these were my first decent shots of the species. While common, they can be very secretive, preferring to stay low in the shrubbery, rarely allowing a clean shot at a photograph.

Five different sparrow species were seen on the afternoon, including three species I did not photograph (American Tree, Song, and White-throated). The most numerous though were Dark-eyed Juncos. All appeared to be of the expected Slate-colored subspecies. 

The most unexpected bird of the day was a Swamp Sparrow which skulked around the boardwalk. Swamp Sparrows do winter in very small numbers in southwestern Ontario, though this winter is the coldest in years (decades?) and very few Swamp Sparrows have been reported. I have often seen this species here in the winter before.

One of the most attractive species to be seen on the day was this Red-bellied Woodpecker. It, too, came close to check out the sunflower seeds on the boardwalk. Red-bellied Woodpeckers used to be quite rare in Ontario, but have since invaded from the south. They are now regular through most of southern Ontario with occasional individuals seen in the winter coming to bird feeders in central Ontario. 

Last but not least, well maybe least if you are going by size, is the Black-capped Chickadee. For years these birds had been banded at this site. The majority of the chickadees I saw had bands, so maybe it is still going on.


  1. What a spectacular set of pictures! What sort of lens do you use?

  2. Thanks! I don't have anything fancy, just a 300 mm f/4 Nikon lens.

  3. Lots of weird black pics with a white question mark in the middle on your blogs' photos now. Just thought I'd let you know.
    Also, there is indeed a banding program at Wrigley's Corner/FWR Dickson WMA:

    1. Cool, I didn't know about their blog! Thanks for passing that along, Kellie.

      Yes, super frustrating about the photos had something to do with changing the blog ownership to my current email address from the old one that I was using when I started the blog. Apparently that will make all your photos no longer work. I'll slowly add them back online, but it takes time since it has to be done manually, one photo at a time.

  4. I love your site. Thank you! I found the name for the dear little "dark-eyed juncos" that have just started to visit our bird feeder and that's how I discovered your blogspot.