Birds of the Pond

 

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With the moose at the butcher shop, there’s time to relax some from the intensity required of the annual hunting ritual. It’s nice to reminisce and look back at some of the notable events and sightings that took place during the late summer and early fall, when internet headaches seemed to be a dominant force in my like (internet is still not up to par. Many urban dwellers seem to take internet for granted and demand never-ending faster and better service. Us rural folk just want reliable access . .  . .).

The pond and associated marsh in front of the house is, as always, the focal point of much of what goes on around here. Lil and I spend a lot of time staring out over the pond, and we’ve come to the conclusion it’s one of our major sources of entertainment. There seems to always be something new and exciting happening out there.

One day we were watching and photographing a common snipe probing the muck with its long bill, when another bird appeared on the scene. At first glance, it looked like a sora, a number of which spent the summer in the marsh, but smaller, and not as dark. It was a bird neither of us had ever seen before. A quick look through an ever handy field guide to the birds told us it was a yellow rail, “rare and extremely shy”. Turns out it was the first sighting ever confirmed in the Kenora District, although one other sighting had been reported a few years back and Lillian had once heard one (two, actually, but one was in another geographic district). The call, according to the guide, is “imitated by tapping two pebbles together”. The rail hung around for several hours, but after that , we never saw it again.

Well, turns out it wasn’t a yellow rail after all, but a juvenile sora. We didn’t pay attention to the white undertail coverts, which can just be seen on the photo, but are quite apparent on another photo I took. Oh well, everyone can make a mistake . . . .

But there’s always stuff to see,

Just the other day I was in the kitchen and glanced out over the beaver pond and saw a hawk trying to take down a smaller bird. It wasn’t successful, and in what looked like a bit of a pique, it alighted on a log on the same rock where we’d seen the lynx and the wolf a few weeks earlier. I didn’t have my biggest telephoto lens at the ready, so had to take a few snaps with a less far-reaching piece of glass. At least it was enough for us to identify it.

The hawk, a Cooper’s, was another ‘good sighting’, according to our local government ornithologist. Cooper’s hawks are uncommon everywhere, and here in northwestern Ontario they are close to the northern extension of their range.

Finally, there’s a ruffed grouse that hangs out close to the house that has some interesting markings on its back. Many of the feathers are white, which is quite unusual (I’ve never seen one like it). Lil watched it for a while one day and believes it suffers from an old injury, as she said it seemed to have difficulty walking. But it’s obviously getting by as we have seen it several times, and it flies well. No success yet with respect to getting a good photo.

There’s a skiff of snow on the ground today and the pond is partly frozen, although the next couple of days are said to be mild. But winter is coming, and soon the pond will be frozen over. Still, the pond is a wildlife magnet, frozen or not.

As such, we are looking forward to more interesting observations over the next while.

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