Thursday, 29 January 2015

Carolina Wren (Troglodyte de Caroline) and Snowy Owl (Harfang des neiges)

Halton County, ON
28 January 2015

     My daughter, Caroline, was visiting us from Ottawa, so we took her down to LaSalle Park to see the Trumpeter Swans Cygnus buccinator and any other gems we could find.
     Here she is with the swans forming a backdrop on the ice of the bay, now completely frozen over.

     Having spent some time with the swans we wandered along the woodland trail and this friendly squirrel seemed to come out to welcome her.

     While checking out a small posse of Dark-eyed Juncos Junco hyemalis and Black-capped Chickadees Poecile atricapillus we noticed flashes of rust in the dense undergrowth. First of all I thought it was probably an American Tree Sparrow Spizella arborea but in short order I caught a glimpse of a Carolina Wren Thryothorus ludovicianus. This is not a common bird at all, although in recent years it appears to have extended its range considerably. It is vulnerable, however, in extreme winters and I am sure that many were killed off in last year's record freeze. So, it was a distinct pleasure to see this species.

     It is not the easiest bird to photograph for it is constantly on the move, flitting around from perch to perch in search of food, and always in dense tangles and dark undergrowth.
     You can imagine our delight when we realized that we were actually looking at two birds.

     I am quite sure that we watched these birds for at least twenty minutes and it seemed at times as though they were happy to move along with us.

     While watching the wrens we also saw a Brown Creeper Certhia americana but the two pictures we were able to get were both of poor quality.

     As might be expected, Black-capped Chickadees were omnipresent and they are accustomed to human friends bringing sunflower seeds for them to eat. These confiding little creatures readily feed from the hand and Caroline could not resist!

     A Cooper's Hawk Accipiter cooperii was patrolling the woodland margins and no doubt some unfortunate passerine would fall victim to this predator before the day was out. 

     When viewed close up it is a fearsome looking raptor and no doubt inspires terror in its potential victims.

     Following lunch we headed down to Bronte Harbour. I had told Caroline about the Snowy Owl Nyctea scandiaca I had seen there recently and she wanted to see it, telling us that she had been searching in the Ottawa area for this species, without success. We located the bird as soon as we arrived, feeding on freshly killed prey. As far as we could tell, it looked as though it had killed a Mallard Anas platyrynchos and no doubt was dining well.

     Ice floes have formed in the inner harbour and I am sure that there is at least a passing resemblance to the familiar habitat of parts of its tundra home.

     We took pictures from several vantage points and in the following image you can easily see the kill upon which the owl was feeding

     Snowy Owl is without question one of the most magnificent birds I have ever seen out of the roughly 3,400 species I have seen around the world, and it never ceases to be a grand pleasure of the highest order to encounter one.

     I hope that I see many more before the winter is over.


  1. We are pleased that such beautiful birds showed. Great pictures. Regards.
    Delete previous comment. Sorry I did not written in the appropriate language.

  2. Wow, awesome collection of birds and photos.. The Swans are lovely and the Snowy Owl is awesome.. Wonderful post..

  3. What a great day out, and such a pleasure I'm sure to share with your daughter. The Carolina Wren is lovely - such nice warm tones in its feathers, and it's wonderful to see the Snowy Owl. I'm hoping to see some when I go to Wrangel Island in August. I think Great Grey Owls are another magnificent bird though I've only seen them in zoos!

    1. I used to live farther north and, I know it's hard to believe, but true, I once had four Great Greys right on my property.

  4. Wonderful Snowy Owl!

    Our Nuthatches and Varied Tits also come to the hand..............

    1. Red-breasted Nuthatches will sometimes feed from the hand here, but I have never known a White-breasted Nuthatch to do so.

  5. Hello David,
    Stunning images of the day with your daughter.
    Beautiful series of images you have created, the tit eating from hand is great.
    The snowy owl is great to see, something you never see in the wild in the Netherlands.
    Best regards, Irma

  6. Hi David,
    these are fantastic photos of the different birds and a wonderful light and sunshine too.
    Have a nice weekend, David.
    Best regards, Synnöve

  7. David, That looks indeed as a great day out with your daughter. Such a beautyful collection of birds. The Wren is amazing. And ofcourse the Swans. Do they feed the birds to be able to survice the winter? The Cooper Hawk is stunning. That red eye, wow. And the Snow owl is just fantastic.

  8. Nice series. David. The Brown Creeper has beatyful colours, we do have the short-toed treecreeper with less colour but probably the same speed. So many birds during the visit of your daughter makes the day more special, I think.
    Gr Jan W

  9. What a great post here David, it must have been wonderful to show these birds to your daughter!
    Having not one but 2 wrens in one photo is quite a feat, I don't think I can match THAT!!!!
    Great sighting of the Snowy owl and of the Accipter cooperii, fine images :)
    We are having dreadful weather again, the winds were so strong in the pas night that our hide-tent flew off...
    Keep well, huge hugs for the 2 of you :)

  10. What a wonderful series of photos David.
    My compliments for this.
    Nice weekend, greetings Tinie

  11. A nice place. Well done. Wish you a good weekend from Italy.

  12. Ah! oh! Beautiful photos.
    Charming place. Yours :)

  13. Very nice to see your daughter David:-) You can find pictures of the squirrel I heelerg fun but also wren have very nice to know to photograph. The tit I myself never to photograph and Hawk either. What do you have that can shoot beautiful. And then snowy ohhhhhhh .... which I find really fantasist sich! You're just a lucky man that you can photograph this beautiful owl so. Really great!


  14. An impressive number of bird species encountered, congratulations:-)

    Greets from Poland

  15. I'm drooling over the Snowy Owl again, David!

    I've not met the Carolina Wren before. It's behaviour sounds very much like our Wren, but the Carolina is somewhat more colourful. Beautiful bird! I was lucky enough to have a Wren come out in the open in my garden yesterday and pose for me for a few seconds - and I had my camera to hand!

    It seems that all Accipiters have the ability to look really menacing, but magnificent too.

    Best wishes to you both - - - Richard

    1. In the same location a couple of weeks earlier we also saw a Winter Wren. January will go down as a memorable wren month!

  16. Super shots of the owl and the hawk there David. You really hit the jackpot with the hawk's red eye and the light on the owl in the last shots. That snow looks pretty fearsome but I guess your used to it and it does make for brilliant lighting.

  17. It's a good thing that we are used to it. Yesterday we had a dump of about twenty centimetres.

  18. You make interesting observations about redpolls. In my experience the differences between Common Redpoll and Lesser Redpoll are generally quite marked both visually and biometric, but odd birds might cause some head scratching.

    However, the chances of Lesser Redpolls finding their way to North America are smaller than that of Common Redpolls finding their way from Northern Europe to the UK.

  19. Wonderful photos and birds. The wren is cute and the swans are beautiful. The Snowy Owl is an awesome sight to see! Great post!