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Tuesday, 19 January 2021

A Miscellany of Recent Events

     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.



16 January 2021

     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.


     The hawk was intently focused and paid no heed to us.


     It turned, scanned and listened, its attention rivetted on prey.
     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.


     It perched on top for a moment or two.....


     .....and then dropped to the ground.


     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. 

88 comments:

  1. What a beautiful post ~ filled with feathered and human friends! I'm sorry you can't see Heather and lily, but it's better to be safe. I can't imagine sitting in a buggy for service, that is sheer dedication and devotion. How fortunate that you could get so close to the owl and the hawk to get such incredible pictures! Yes, celebratory wine was indeed deserved. Blessings on your week ~

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  2. Your Covid restrictions sound similar to ours. For example, garden centres are allowed to open but we're told not to make any unnecessary journeys, and what could be more unnecessary than going to a garden centre in January? I can well understand your devotion to Snowy Owls; our Barn Owls have a similar hold on me in that no matter how many times I see them the excitement never wanes. Outdoor worship? That's what happened here during the Plague years, I believe, though not in those temperatures.

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  3. Two amazing birding adventures David!!

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  4. We have very high Covid cases and zero restrictions here in Florida, it's very scary living here right now. You were able to get some amazing captures! I love the hawks side by side and those Snowy Owls are just amazing! I would love to see one myself someday.

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    1. Someone recently let me know that Florida is well ahead of its game, the bad news is fake, that Governor DeSantis is doing great job and all is well! I guess we know where his political affiliation lies!

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  5. its certainly troubled times for us, but amazing photos!That hawk ,, a beauty!

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  6. The snowy owl is so beautiful, and I love to see your photos of them David. The Covid 19 is coming very close to my place. Two scoolclasses was sat in qarantine yesterday, and the kindergarden was closed. We have been lucky so far, but now it's creepy. I miss to see Lily on your blog, but better safe than sorry.
    Take care!

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    1. And who knows when the vaccine will make it to your arm?

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  7. This post broke the monotony of my morning and for that I thank you, David!! : )
    It is almost 11 am and it looks like the sun isn't even awake... I am assuming we will have another grey day... maybe I need a celebratory wine... much, much later... : ))

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  8. Querido David sin duda yo no me cansaría nunca de ver esos hermosos Búhos, la secuencia del Halcón es impresionante, sin duda vuestro día resulto genial. Aquí la covid sigue avanzando y aún así hay mucha gente que no se lo toma en serio. Así que no queda mas remedio que pasear por lugares donde no hay gente. Las fotos son espectaculares . Un fuerte abrazo para ti y para Miriam.

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  9. Hi David … yes what is lockdown – wish someone would ‘tell the peeps’ … I do very little and keep to myself until a brief shop. Those red-tailed hawks are just beautiful – how lucky you were …
    Wonderful to see the Mennonite life – enjoying themselves and then their church service … by circling the wagons … and gosh it must be cold – even now.
    The owls are special … Short-eared one, and the three Snowy Owls … love the 2nd shot … but they are just beautiful creatures. So pleased you were able to show Don and Mary where the owls were … especially as you hadn’t seen them for ages.
    Your film show by the Cooper’s Hawk is quite beautiful … love the shots Miriam took – thank you!
    You certainly have had a good few days and episodes to share … thank you – stay safe … sad about Heather and Lily – but they’ll return soon … all the best - Hilary

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    1. Miriam and Heather are "friends" on Facebook, so we still get to see Lily.

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    2. That's good ... and is definitely worth it ... and I'm glad you can stay in touch. H

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  10. Aren't the owls something?
    Good for you for being careful.

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  11. Those animals are amazing! <3
    . www.pimentamaisdoce.blogspot.com

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  12. The owls particularly appeal to me.

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  13. I showed your post to my husband this morning and he said, "Let's move there!" Sorry to hear you are in lockdown again but so is most of the world at this point.

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    1. You would be in good company, Judy. A friend of mine is an American academic who moved here a few years ago, and has just taken out Canadian citizenship - along with her husband (also an academic) and children.

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  14. I am very sad that you cannot see Heather and Lily for the moment. Very sad indeed but delighted in the things you could see and share.
    Many, many thanks.
    I adore owls and will be pondering a very different 'circling the wagons' for a while. I was glad to see the horses were rugged up too, and loved the Mennonite fun. Simple joys with no screen in sight.

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    1. I am sad too, Sue. But we remain in constant contact and we know they are safe. The time will come again when we can resume our walks.

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  15. That is wonderful that you were able to find the snowy owl for your friends. Love the part about toasting a glass of wine after birding. Fun.






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  16. The Mennonite family having fun, is just the sort of picture I like to see in winter.
    The red of the house and the off-white of the snow contrast nicely!

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  17. Hello, David
    Awesome sightings of the Owls and the Hawks. I agree seeing the Snowy Owl is a joy, I have been lucky over the years to find The Snowy Owls in various places. Great collection of photos. Take care and stay safe! Have a great day and week ahead.

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  18. Que precioso y bello reportaje amigo David, estaba ensimismado con las imágenes, y ¿dices que no son buenas algunas de ellas? Para mí, todas son bellas y magistrales. Felicidades a Miriam por esas grandes tomas. ¡Qué gran paseo!
    En mi comunidad o sea la Comunidad valenciana, a partir del jueves vuelven a cerrar todos los establecimientos que no son esenciales, esta tercera ola es mucho peor que las anteriores amigos míos, menudo desastre de pandemia. Esto ya empieza a ser muy preocupante no vemos un pequeño atisbo de mejora.
    Un fuerte abrazo queridos amigos y compadres desde Alicante-España y sobre todo cuidaros mucho (mucha precaución).

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  19. Hari OM
    In Scotland today we were informed that our lockdown is being extended at least till mid-Feb... and the fines for infringement on travel are increasing. Here, nobody is supposed to be driving to get to viewing spots, even if those spots are empty of peeps. I have quite literally not stepped outside the Hutch since returning here. I rely on my picture windows to view the hills and firth... and on Voovoo the Vaio to bring me to places like yours!!! YAM xx

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  20. Des balades sympas tout de même. Lily va nous manquer!
    Il est gros le silo à graines, j'en ai vu un immense en balade, sans doute fait maison, je pense que dedans il y'avait bien 10kg de graines!Jamais vu un silo aussi gros.
    Bonne soirée

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  21. That was great that you were able to assist your friends, Don and Mary in finding and seeing the Snowy Owls.
    I am rather bemused and also confused by the virus situation as I do not know a single person of my acquaintance who has had or got the virus. I presume that all of my friends and acquaintances are carrying on in much the same way as we are i.e staying at home, taking walks away from others, and going out for food only when necessary - rather like you and Miriam I suspect. I keep asking to my husband "what are those who are catching the virus doing that is so different?"

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  22. hello David
    well put together it was definitely a great day with plenty of motifs, I enjoyed reading it
    Greetings Frank

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  23. Thank you; what a wonderful outing.
    A small congregation near me holds services with car windows down.

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  24. The owls are always a favourite. I always look but never see them.

    I admire the determination of the Mennonites.

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  25. Good morning dear David,
    Fantastic photo's! What worry's me is how fast the amount of paranoia people is growing. Posting on social media that COVID does'nt excist, calling up the young ones to demonstrate against the COVID-rules. It broke my hart to see that last sunday thousands came together in Amsterdam all screaming about theire rights but all forgot the duty's that they have. The duty to protect others to get sick. I wonder what's going to happen next because an evening clock is announced in Holland. Not aloud to leave the house between 20.00 and 04.00. We should not forget that nature brings so many times beautiful moments to enjoy.
    Have a wonderful day

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  26. The Snowy Owls are a spectacular view. And nice to see the red barn and the family enjoying the winter weather.
    We have been in lockdown since mid December here, and it seems to stay that way for a while.

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  27. What a lovely happy photo of Mary (I resume), brought a smile to my face.
    Gorgeous owl and pleased you could find again the next day - the hawkes are also wonderful to see.
    Amazing the buggies and the people in them, certainly dedicated they are.
    Dad and his children are having fun - memories made for sure.
    Take care and be safe.

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  28. You have incredible photos of the snowy owl(s). They are stunning and you have a fabulous camera, a steady hand, or both. Great shots. That hawk was amazing. The photos were incredible.

    The Mennonites where I live don't like their pictures taken. You were lucky to get such great shots of both the farm family and the congregation.

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  29. Hi David.

    What a pity that you can't see Lily anymore.
    You have seen beautiful Owls.
    And super beautiful photos.
    The Hawk is really beautiful.
    Handy to be able to be together outside in a circle to practice the faith.

    Greetings from Patricia.

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  30. Me parece que fue un gran día, me ha encantado tu reportaje. Un abrazo.

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  31. Hola David.

    Me alegra leerte y que tanto tú como Miriam estéis bien en lo que respecta a la salud. Aquí en Galicia también estamos desde el viernes pasado con restricciones más severas tras dispararse los casos originados en las pasadas fiestas.

    Las aves hermosas como siempre reinando esa blanca dama, la hermosa Bubo scandiacus.

    A cuidarse y recluirse querido amigo, recibe un fuerte abrazo,

    Rafa.

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    1. It is always great to hear from you, Rafa. Thanks for your good wishes and I reciprocate them for you and your family. Stay well, my friend. These are difficult times. Recibe un fuerte abrazo querido amigo, y cuidate.

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  32. You never get bored, do you? 😊
    Your love of nature will keep you going!
    The horses and the raptors are great!

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  33. São Sebastião, livrai_me desta peste que se abateu sobre a humanidade. Livrai_me e livrai minha filha, minha família e toda a terra. Amém!

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  34. Hi David,
    When you are able to improvise it is not so hard to have a good time in woods and fields, despite of the presence of Covid-19 in the country. The encouters with owls and hawk are absolutely great. Even just seeing them is a fabulous experience. But looking at the pictures you certainly have been able to observe them well. It is nice to see how the religious people have found a good working solution.
    Greetings, Kees

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  35. The new regulations are confusing. I am even sure if we are even supposed to drive to an area for walkies and pictures as you have done. I haven't been, for I am not sure. No blame here, just confused.

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  36. Great birds to see, and share. I liked seeing the Mennonite church service al fresca!

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  37. A lovely post to read and enjoy.

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  38. The hawk sequence was amazing, great photos all of them. Thanks for sharing!

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  39. With wonderful birds like these close to home, David, it should be relatively easy for you to navigate your way through lockdown. Obviously you will have no difficulty understanding that the owls were my favourite, but that Cooper's Hawk isn't far behind - how fabulous to see it catching prey like that.

    You seem to be seeing mainly female Snowy Owls. Do they outnumber the males in your area, or is their behaviour different and the males are more secretive? Or perhaps (tongue in cheek) the females are easier to spot than an all-white male)!

    Best wishes to you both - - - Richard

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    1. The females always seem to outnumber the males, Richard, and no tongue in cheek required, pristine white males are much harder to spot. Males generally arrive first and are often displaced by the larger females. Where the males disperse to is not clear.

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  40. Fabulous post, David. I am rather envious that you got to see all those beautiful owls, I would love to see a snowy owl in a natural environment. Glad you were able to show your friends, too. And the bottle of wine afterwards was well deserved! Take care, hugs, Valerie

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  41. I love seeing your owls. We haven’t heard our barred owls for a couple weeks and wonder if they have begun nesting. I’m sorry you have had to go into lockdown again because people aren’t cooperating and doing what they should. It’s the same here. After Christmas and Thanksgiving when no one paid any attention to the pleas of medical people to stay home, our numbers have been worse than ever. Thank goodness we all have little-used outdoor places to get out in. I would lose my mind if we could not!

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  42. That flying shot is exquisite. What good sightings. But I think this time the photos I love most are the Mennonite gatherings -- that stark black and white with a pop of blue -- and the sliding. I might have to try to paint something inspired by that one -- the red barn, the hill. Love it! Take car and stay toasty!

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  43. One has to admire the faith and ingenuity of those Mennonites sitting in their wagons. I am glad you can still get out and visit places, especially to see those gorgeous owls :)
    Take care and stay safe, Mxx

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  44. Of course I laughed aloud when I read, "The temperature was quite mild, hovering right around zero." I was trying to think when I begin shivering and feeling as though it's time to go in, and it's not zero, I can tell you that! I loved the glimpses of Mennonite life, especially the buggies and those hardy people. The sledding photos are great, too.

    I was surprised by the black markings on the Snowy Owls, since most of the photos I've seen from Calgary are of pure white birds. The Cornell site just straightened me out; their description of some females as 'salt and pepper' certainly suits your birds here.

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    1. We are of course talking about degrees Celcius - zero = 32 degrees F.

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  45. Your photos are beautiful. Thank you for visiting my blog. I shall be your newest follower.

    Love,
    Janie Junebug

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  46. David - so sorry that you have had to forego your outings with Heather and Lily. Your bird photos are as spectacular as always, and how interesting to witness the hunting. I was fascinated by the outdoor church service, and it strikes me as quite the feet to circle them up so evenly!

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  47. I love the owls! Some churches here have drive-in services but they are for cars. I don't know what our Mennonite churches are doing.

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  48. The Cooper's Hawk shots are superb, but the Owls are amazing particularly the Snowy Owl.

    The outdoor church service must be a bit chilly, but I so admire the Mennonites and Amish people, they are at least not messing up the environment with their down to earth farming and living arrangements.

    Take care both of you and stay safe Diane

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  49. That was a very interesting posting from you, whether from the wonderful snow owls or the other wild birds. Great that you could show your friends the place for the recordings. Everyone enjoys sledding, it's great and holding services on carriages is also something special.
    I wish you a nice week
    Take care of yourself, hugs Elke

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  50. I loved to see the Snowy owl and this handsome hawk - stunning photos. It was also very interesting to read about the Mennonites. The pandemic situation in Finland is not as bad as yours, but the health authorities are afraid of the new mutations. Me and my husband stay mainly at home and isolate, too. This will continue still months.

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  51. David,

    How cool! A Snowy owl is something I'll never see in our neck of the woods of east Tennessee. What a beautiful bird! You do fabulous work behind the lens. I always admire those with such a skill set. When you get a chance, I hope you come by to visit me at Curious as a Cathy!

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  52. So sorry to hear that your province is not doing well, hopefully after a couple of weeks of lockdown things will get better and you can resume your walks.
    Interesting to read about the Mennonite community in your area.
    I enjoyed seeing the snow owl and the hawk.
    Regarding your new header photo, the rainbow lorikeet, they are beautiful birds but destructive. We've had to cover our fig tree this week as the lorikeets that live in a tree in my neighbour's house have discovered that the figs are almost ripe, so they have started to swoop on the tree and eat and make a mess too!

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    1. I bet if you could talk to those Lorikeets they would say, "Humans are okay, but very selfish. They take over our habitat, grow our favourite food and then get mad as hell when we eat it!"

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    2. I forgot to say that this Lorikeet looks so fantastic and colorful, that it seems more of an imaginary bird than real! We don’t have any birds this colorful. I would welcome it to my garden anyway. Perhaps I would change my opinion seeing the harm they produce :))

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    3. I have no doubt you would fall in love with them, Ritta.

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  53. Buen reportaje y muy variado. La naturaleza es buen lugar para divertirse. Por ahí si que hay nieve David.
    Me ha gustado ver al buho y el vuelo del halcón. Abrigados van en esos carruajes.
    Buen jueves. Cuidaros.
    Un abrazo.

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  54. Wonderful raptor pictures. I especially like the Short-eared and Snowy Owls.

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    1. There is hardly another bird that takes your breath away in the same manner as a Snowy Owl.

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  55. A post full of good things to see and read about, I enjoyed all of your photographs.

    It seems that you are in lockdown as we are too in the UK. We haven't been able to see family/grandchildren other than via the internet, not the same but at least we can see and converse.
    A shame you can't see Heather and lily, but I understand the reasons why.

    Take care, keep safe and well.

    All the best Jan

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    1. And Heather just let me know today that Lily has her first two teeth.

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  56. Hi friend David,
    wow and wow again ..... and I mean the beautiful photos of not only the birds of prey but also of the short-eared owl and especially of the snowy owl 😍 I would have loved to have stood next to you. Great to see these birds in the wild.
    In the Netherlands there is a curfew from Saturday. We are then no longer allowed to go outside from 9 p.m. We are already in a strict lockdown and this is on top of it.
    As long as there are people who don't obey the rules, we will stay in this terrible pandemic.
    Be careful.
    A big kiss xo

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  57. Wow David, what a wonderful post!!! The Snowy Owl is magical for me...I've never seen an owl in person and those snowy's are just gorgeous, lucky you! So nice to see that your friends got to see them too! The Red-tailed Hawks are really something, another bird I don't see, at least yet I hope. I saw a few Eagles in the summer by the river, but now I'm paying more attention to the trees! NB is in red phase at the moment and lockdown may occur, again, who knows exactly what that means...

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  58. Temperatures quite mild, hovering around zero ... MILD? Where on earth do you live? Your post today is glorious ... all of the owls. Yes, the Snowy Owls are so beautiful, but I loved your Short Eared Owls who are also very beautiful if you get a close up look. It may be different for you, but here in Illinois, the Red Tails are beginning to get together at this time of year. They often take over Great Horned Owl nests once their not so little ones have fledged. So my guess would be that is a male and female (the female being the larger of the two)getting in the mood for what is to come. As for the Mennonites they are brave souls out in that cold, but committed to their beliefs. Many of our churches here have services in their parking lots, but then, our mild weather doesn't hover around zero, so it is surely not as impressive :) Now Mrs. Coopers Hawk ... this bird (and the Cooper's Hawks in general) are magnificent hunters. Patient, still and swift and suddenly a bird in hand (foot). I had the great honor of having a Female Coopers Hawk that spent a great deal of time in a Crab apple tree next to my house in wait for the unsuspecting birds that came to my feeders that hung close by. She would sit in the tree, silent and still for over an hour until her pray came in site. A step that you missed in your series was when she would suck in all of her feathers and become a tall, skinny almost evil looking bird before in a flash she would be gone and suddenly reappear on the ground clutching a prey bird. I watched this process over and over and never grew tired of it. Wonderful, wonderful post, David :) I have since moved into a city where access to wildlife is more limited because of my husbands health issues so it was a delight to relive the joy with the raptors in your world.

    Andrea @ From the Sol

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    1. Thanks for a detailed comment like this. It is greatly appreciated. The temperature is zero Celcius, not zero F, so not that cold really.

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  59. Your comment about the "mild" zero degree temps did make me wonder too, David. It's nice that the Mennonites foun d a way to share their services together, even if it was a tad frigid. At least the horses were blanketed but they still have to wait in the snow. Such great shots of owls and hawks and glad your friends were able to see the snowy owl. Thanks for not showing the sparrow that the hawk did have for a meal. I know this hapens, but had no need to see the sad end of the sparrow.

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  60. Hi David, here we are also in lockdow and the situation is serious, the numbers of infected and dead people are constantly rising.
    All the photos are beautiful, but I especially loved the photos of owls and hawks, they are fantastic, what beautiful birds.
    Take care and be well

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  61. It's good to see that despite the context some people find clever solutions to continue leading their lives while being cautious.

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  62. Your adventures are certainly unique! The birds are simply gorgeous. And the Amish outside service is certainly a surprise, but you gotta do what you gotta do!

    Thank you for linking up at 'My Corner of the World' this week!

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  63. Another great mix of photos. I love seeing the Snowy Owls. Despite covid-19 numbers increasing here in Connecticut US for the past few months, our Governor did not revert to stricter lock down rules than were already in place in whatever "phase" we're in at this point. I continue to err on the side of caution, and for the most part, treat it like we're still in the original full lock down.

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  64. Hello David, great you could show the Snowy Owl to your friends. Love the photos of the people in their buggies at a service in the outdoors. The Coopers Hawk is stunning.
    Regards,
    Roos

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  65. Just a wonderful array of bird shots. That snowy owl was stunning.

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