The Province of Ontario, in response to inadequate leadership at the highest levels, and a lack of willingness by members of our populace to take the pandemic seriously, is back into lockdown.
What this means precisely no one has been able to quite figure out, but Miriam and I have stayed at home to a great degree. I go out to shop for groceries or other essentials, and when we venture forth together we get into the car in the garage and drive to remote areas where we have little likelihood of bumping into others.
Reluctantly, we have given up our Friday walks with Heather and Lily for the time being.
There is much to entertain a couple of naturalists during this crisis and we enjoy our outings to the fullest.
10 January 2021
The only time I am accustomed to seeing Red-tailed Hawks (Buteo jamaicensis) close together is after courtship bonds have been cemented in the spring, so I was quite surprised to see these two individuals side by side in a tree.
There seems to be no appreciable size difference so it is difficult to know if they are of different sexes, but there obviously is not a hint of antagonism between them.
We have had snow on and off over the past couple of weeks, and this Mennonite family was taking advantage of the winter conditions to enjoy some family fun.
Here is dad coming down the slope. You cannot see it but little ones too small to use a toboggan are tucked behind him.
The Short-eared Owls (Asio flammeus) near Linwood have been fairly consistent in putting in an appearance, much to the delight of local birders, but nearly always in late afternoon or early evening when the light is waning. This, combined with their tendency to perch quite far away, is far from ideal for photography, but we derive great pleasure in seeing them and the pictures are of secondary importance.
Snowy Owls (Bubo scandiacus) are the premier winter attraction for birders and non birders alike, and I hope I do not sound immodest when I say that Miriam and I have developed an aptitude for finding them. They never cease to thrill us and every sighting is a cause for great glee.
The following pictures, all of females, are of three different owls.
As you may judge, the last one was especially cooperative and perched close by. Using the car as a blind proved to be the perfect device to enable Miriam to get this amazing shot.
I doubt that there is anyone who would fail to be moved by an encounter of this nature. We opened a bottle of self-congratulatory wine when we arrived home and drank a toast to Snowy Owls everywhere!
17 January 2021
My dear friend, Mary Voisin, had asked that we let her know where she and her husband, Don, could find a Snowy Owl, so I had texted her when Miriam and I happened on the three birds the previous day, but Mary and Don were unable to leave to meet us, so we arranged a rendez-vous for the following day when they could follow us in their car to find an owl.
You have all heard the expression "salt of the earth" when referring to sterling people.
The ancestors of Don and Mary were hewn out of the first rock and their descendants cleave from the same fissure. It was great to see them both again after the protracted absence brought about by COVID-19.
We proceeded directly to the spot where Miriam and I had found two owls, but search as we might we could not find either one. It was not looking good.
However, all was not lost and we had two other possible locations in mind. We hit the jackpot not more than ten minutes after dipping at our first attempt, and a beautiful adult female was in clear view.
Mary and Don were elated, and so were we, for any sighting of a Snowy Owl, no matter how many times you have seen it before, is a cause for great joy.
The pandemic has caused all of us to modify our habits in myriad ways and we came across an interesting way that the local Old Order Mennonites have found to deal with religious observance, now that indoor services are not permitted.
What better to do than circle the wagons and have an outdoor service?
The temperature was quite mild, hovering right around zero, but I am not sure whether this option would be feasible if normal January temperatures are ever experienced.
Sitting in a buggy for a couple of hours at minus fifteen degrees would be another thing entirely. Might be hard on the vocal chords too!
In the meantime you have to admire Mennonite ingenuity in finding a way to continue to have a Sunday service.
The horses wait patiently! They doubtless have lots of experience doing this!
On the way home we passed a farm which has several bird feeders, generally active, with the dominant species being House Sparrow (Passer domesticus). We saw a female Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperii) perched atop a spindly bush and as might be expected all was quiet.
What a great opportunity to study this raptor at close quarters. It was no more that fifteen metres away, if that.
Within minutes it flew to the top of a nearby coniferous bush, having detected noise or movement, I presume.
In the glimpse of an eye it went into the bush and in mere moments emerged with a House Sparrow in its talons.
It took a moment or two to subdue its prey and then flew off to enjoy its lunch.
It was exciting for us to watch this gripping event unfold right before our eyes. We have seen accipiters hunt before but never the entire sequence in this fashion.
From Don and Mary to Snowy Owl to Cooper's Hawk - what a great morning it had been.