Harassing Currawongs, Fish meals, and Early Saturday in Bird World

8 October 2022

Good Morning Everyone,

I hope that you woke up to or will wake up to a beautiful sunny morning. Before I go any further, I missed a feeding at Port Lincoln yesterday – so there was an early feeding and a second right before noon. Apologies all around for any anxious moments that might have caused!

I have mentioned my walks and some of the birds that are out and about in our city. The death of my old computer has me now using two different machines – one for photos and another for writing to you. Sadly, in the process of learning I deleted the latest duck pictures – all the male Wood ducks that suddenly appeared at the local park. I hope to go back today or tomorrow to check and see if they are still residents of that pond or if they have fled with our temperatures dropping.

This little Red Squirrel lives in a forest of Oak trees. Talk about silence. It was so quiet. S/he would just look at me, find an acorn and run off, returning for another in a blink. There is a saying on the Canadian Prairies to watch and see how high the squirrels take the acorns and that will tell us how much snow we will have in the winter. The trees were so thick it was impossible to tell where he took his pantry supplies. Dyson’s children are burying their peanuts in the grass! Silly things.

The other evening a wind came up. The trees began a twirling dance. Crows from every direction flew over the house, and then, all of a sudden, 11 European Starlings appeared in a tree on the opposite side of the lane. They left as quickly as they arrived. Normally they would stay to eat in the garden but, no. They were taking advantage of the strong winds.

The Dark-eyed Juncos have arrived in great numbers all over our city. They only want to eat Millet off the deck carpet or the boards. No feeders for them it seems – at least not here.

Junior and his three fledglings are still here. Their nest is in a tree close to the large tree with the Starlings. When they hear me open the garden door, they appear on the wires coming into the house and wait patiently for their peanuts or a new cob of corn. They do not seem to mind the Juncos.

Mr Crow and his three fledglings from this summer are still here. The babies are now the size of their dad. What a mix there is on that old deck. Still, no one is really bothering anyone else except for the natural fear that small birds have of big ones. Everyone is too busy eating as much as they can.

Have you ever looked at the feathers of a Crow? The layering is stunning.

There are many places on the Internet to find out about Crows but, Audubon has put out 10 Fun Facts about them. I can confirm that they hold grudges. Four years ago, I yelled at Mr Crow after he had eaten all of the Grackles fluffy babies. It was 2 years until he would have anything to do with me again.

https://www.audubon.org/news/10-fun-facts-about-american-crow

The Greater Yellow Legs are still at one of the local ponds looking for food.

The ‘Find of the Week’ was this family of Tundra Swans in the wetlands. You can just see one of the adults. The grey is an adolescent and to the left of the adult, hidden in the marsh, is another juvenile. There are, in fact, both adults and three juveniles in residence. I have been wondering if they are waiting for the youngsters to get stronger for their migration. While they spend their spring and summer in the Arctic and sub-Arctic, they will winter just south of us in North Dakota, Minnesota, or Wisconsin. So, they do not have far to go now.

Making the News:

I have an on again, off again relationship with The Guardian’s Country Diary. I should read it more often as, I too, have come to love the sound of the Corvids – not in the wilds of the country – but, in the middle of a city.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/oct/05/country-diary-the-mountain-silence-is-interrupted-by-ravens

This is why we thank our wildlife rehabbers every day – their dedication to improving the lives of our beloved birds that fledge and find themselves injured out in the wild.

This was one lucky Caribbean Osprey. It didn’t die from being electrocuted but, its feathers were sure burnt to a crisp. Thankfully helpers rushed to get it to the wildlife rehab centre where it is recovering.

Australian Nest News:

The osplets at Port Lincoln did have, as noted above, more feedings than I recorded yesterday. They ate well. At the late feeding, you can see all of their huge crops. This is the feeding after 1500. Little Bob is between the big siblings but he is not having any trouble opening his beak and getting food from Mum. Oh, he is right at the sweet spot. This is when Little Bob reminds me so much of Ervie.

Everyone went to bed with a very full tummy at Port Lincoln!

The eyases at Melbourne are well fed. I will begin to sound like a broken record but, this new couple really has it together. Prey deliveries are announced. Mum can run and retrieve the pigeons then or she can go to the pantry later. What is absolutely evident is the patience both parents have when feeding the four youngsters. No one gets left out. All four appear to be thriving, even the little snow person.

At Orange, it is a slightly different story. The wee one has missed out on several feedings or has received one or two bites, sometimes eight. Notice has been taken that people are now counting the number of bites that it gets which, to me, implies that there is some concern. As many of you will have noticed, including me and ‘A’, Diamond sometimes considers feeding the wee one who is calling loudly for food, beak wide open, only to wind up eating the prey herself. ‘A’ notes that the wee one ate better at the 17:17 feeding with Xavier coming in and wanting to feed the chicks but, Diamond eventually horking down the prey that he has brought into the scrape. Xavier is an excellent hunter, and he is really good at feeding. You might recall when Diamond hurt her leg last year and Xavier took care of Yurruga.

SE30 sure looked like it might fledge yesterday. Thankfully, the youngest eaglet of Lady and Dad was wise to stay on the nest. The Currawongs and Magpies were everywhere. They would have surely chased 30 out of the forest.

In my mind, I am imagining a corridor created for SE30 by 29 and the parents so that it is protected on its first flight. Of course, I am being a bit silly but, it is very possible that the close bond that 29 and 30 have with one another might have 29 there helping 30 fly to the camera, back to the nest, and then to the spots that it has found. SE29 has been very impressive. No wing tears, nothing.

Aren’t they beautiful?

Thank you so much for being with me this morning. I hope that you have some time today to spend peering into your garden, going for a walk, or just sitting on a bench somewhere listening to nature. Take care of yourselves. See you soon.

Thank you to the following for their posts and streaming cams which make up my screen captures: Sea Eagles@Birdlife Australia Discovery Centre Sydney Olympic Park, Charles Sturt Falcon Cam and Cilla Kinross, Port Lincoln Ospreys, 367 Collins Street by Mirvac, and ECWC.

Bald Eagle nest coned, other nests destroyed…and more news on Wednesday in Bird World

14 September 2022

Good Morning Everyone! I hope that you had a fabulous beginning of the week. Here we are at the middle. My calendar tells me that thing are going to begin happening in Bird World soon. First up will be the Port Lincoln Ospreys who should have a hatch in 4 days. Then it should be the Melbourne Peregrine Falcons on the 27th quickly followed by Xavier and Diamond. By the time those nests have feathered osplets and eyases, we will be fledge watching for SE29 and 30. It is going to be wonderful!

Tuesday was a big ‘T’ day but that doesn’t stand for Tundra Swan but, ’tiler’. It was fantastic to see the floor tiles in the sunroom being grouted today with the news that tomorrow I can move back in and watch my beloved garden birds. Oh, how I have missed seeing them from that perspective. A new book arrived in the post, too. Having purchased Crosley’s Guide to Waterfowl – well, logically, it seemed to me that the volume would cover Shore birds but, no. Definitely not. The new book is The Shorebird Guide by O’Brien, Crossley, and Karlson and it is wonderful. Most appreciated are the excellent images of the plumage during the seasons. It still is missing the inclusion of the females in great numbers just like all of the other bird guides who continue to focus on the more colourful plumage of the males. Yes, I am growling. LOL. Quiet and monochromatic can be viewed as ‘classic’ beauty. It certainly is with many of the female Sparrows.

Just like the ducks, my mind has been taken over by the Greater and Lesser Yellow Legs and Willets at one of our local ponds. If I close my eyes I am transported to the marsh where the shore birds are tapping away at the mud with those long long bills. Incredible. If you stay quiet and don’t move, they will completely ignore you, going on with their deep quick probing for food. They are really quite lovely. Learning to identify them is going to take some time.

The Greater Yellow Legs from the other day.

The plumage on the Mallard is really lovely.

It is overcast and cold at 13 degrees C this morning. The Crows have been for their morning hotdogs, the sparrows are wanting a bath, the Blue Jay has been flitting in and out (only one), and the cat has already been chased once. Meanwhile Little Red has been running back and forth on top of the new fence which now meets up with that of the neighbour so he never has to get on the ground to get to his new home. Yes! Little Red has found a place to live since his penthouse was torn down. So thankful. The torrential rains this year and saturated ground meant that all of the trees literally tripled in size. He found a hole in the big tree and if I look carefully, I can see him going in and out. So relieved after feeling so quilty about the shed. With my chair back in the sunroom this morning, I can watch over them and hopefully get some good images of Dyson who is looking ever so healthy and fluffy these days. Gosh, that squirrel is quick. I wonder if the Crows frighten her?

In the Mailbox:

‘A’ writes that I have awakened a love of ducks for her. That is fantastic. They are often very unappreciated, like the geese, in my City but, there is nothing so peaceful as sitting on a clean bit of lawn or blanket and watching them go about their daily paddling and preening. This is wonderful news. Thank you for letting me know! In honour of this, I have used one of our favourite ducks for ‘From the Archive’ today.

Making News:

There is growing disillusion within the environmental and raptor groups in British Columbia, Canada at the decision by the Department of Forests and the University of British Columbia to cone a long standing Bald Eagle nest on the campus of the University. Their are ongoing campaigns to stop the coning which is due to take place today, the 14th of September.

https://www.ubcproperties.com/news/eagles-nest-and-wesbrook-place-development/

Also in British Columbia, this time in Surrey, the David Hancock Wildlife Foundation is attempting to stop the cutting down of a Bald Eagle nest on the property of a Costo in that city–or get the owner to agree put up a platform nest for the eagles.

British Columbia is home to more Bald Eagles than any other area in North America. Because of this their conservation status and threat is very low – often cited as an excuse to cone the trees or cut down the nests — some 140 Bald Eagle nests were destroyed at the Site C Dam project by the province this year. Of course, what is the real count? With Avian flu still with us and in Manitoba nests and eggs destroyed by flooding with few goslings, perhaps we should be re-thinking our approach to preserve. Declines can begin to happen and spiral.

If you are in Southern Manitoba, Wildlife Haven is having its annual Open House on 23-24 September. Tickets can be pre-purchased and space is limited. It was gorgeous weather last year and the event was sold out. I can’t think of a better way to spend a few hours on a fall afternoon than getting to meet the ambassadors, tour the new flight training buildings, and check out the great vet facilities. These are the people giving our wildlife a second chance.

Do you live in New York? do you love Bald Eagles? Here is a fundraiser event you might not want to miss.

Would you like to be an Albatross detective and help get a true worldwide count of these sea birds? Here is the information.

https://phys.org/news/2022-09-albatrosses-space-wildlife.html?fbclid=IwAR2f-pbgS3RwmaNjlKRkHTidHqeg3x3ugsiu2u1TRGNoXRCHw3Z4ljbt78I

Nest News:

The Bald Eagles have been returning. Yesterday it was Gabby returning to the Northeast Florida nest to Samson.

NEFlorida Eagle Nest

Samson and Gabby love to ‘kiss’ just like Alden and Annie.

Anna and Louis are back at the Kisatchie National Forest and now Mr President and Lotus are at the National Arboretum Nest in Washington, DC.

National Arboretum Nest

They are really coming home. If you see a return, send me a note!

Thunder and Akecheta were caught sitting together on the cliffs of the Channel Islands yesterday. Oh, goodness. What an incredible year we had with Ahota, Star, and Kana’kini.

Thunder flew into the West End nest with a super fish yesterday, too… Ah, it would have been grand if one of the kids swept in and took it! Everyone misses those three amigos.

Andor was at the Fraser Point nest. I haven’t seen any new updates on Victor. We can all presume that he is doing lots of flying and strengthening those wings!

The nest that our dear Little Bit ND17 grew up on had dwindled down to only a bit of mud and straw at the joint of the branches. Everyone has been concerned that the adult eagles would not return and rebuild – knowing that if they didn’t St Patrick’s County Park in South Bend, Indiana, would not be moving the camera. Well, guess what? Dad has been caught returning to the nest! This should be a ray of sunshine for everyone. It will take work but each of us has marvelled at how quickly the raptors can whip a nest into shape. No, it will not be huge like a decade old nest but it will be a new beginning.

In the image below you can see what little is left.

It appears that Idris is finally alone to enjoy his fish and that Padarn has left the territory for her migration.

At Glaslyn, however, Aran is still bringing fish for Blue 497. It won’t be long, Aran!

497 is an incredibly beautiful osprey.

To my knowledge, Blue 497 is the only fledgling left on an Osprey streaming cam in the UK to migrate.

Did I mention mantling (when a raptor spreads its wings over its prey to conceal and protect) was one of the development stages coming quickly for the Sea Eaglets in Sydney? Well, guess which of the two was the first to demonstrate this stage of growth?

If you said SE30 you would be absolutely correct! Both eaglets held the prey down with their talons and pulled. Eventually they were fed but this is very good training. So proud of 30! Go baby. Don’t you just love the look on 29’s face? (squint)

The sea eaglets have been well fed and have been sporting crops on and off for a few days now.

Watching incubation and expecting a hatch in less than a week can be nerve wrecking.

The beautiful Mum at Port Lincoln. It is the 15th. Oh, so soon we will be having little osplets –. Cannot wait.

For Melbourne, mark your calendars for the 27th of September.

Xavier and Diamond will follow after Melbourne!

Migration News:

Into Hawks? Aren’t we all? Here is a new tool to follow the counts.

https://www.hawkcount.org/index.php?fbclid=IwAR3LRTBRBWRYUa0Fg8KoXz4OqH4Fz1t8COL4lIMb4qXRVz1F3LuxIyMcNAE

Some good news on one of the Tweed Osprey fledglings, Glen. (Sadly it appears that Kirk who had gone West and was in Ireland continued west over the Atlantic and is probably lost).

From Karl II’s family, the Estonian Black Storks from the Karula National Forest nest.

Bonus is really flying and remains in the same area he has been for several days now-the Prypjat River. He is safe. Relief as always.

Waba is at the Hrabarka River in Ukraine.

I see no transmission for Kaia or Karl II.

Audubon scientists are using data from hawk Mountain to monitor the places that raptors migrate.

https://www.hawkmountain.org/news/science/audubon-scientists-use-hawk-mountain-data-to-develop-a-new-method-for-mapping-bird-migrations

Here is the current data for Hawk Mountain in terms of this autumn’s migration.

https://www.hawkmountain.org/conservation-science/hawk-count

From the Archive:

I am not a cartoon character but, for many raptor watchers in Australia (and elsewhere), I am the most famous duck in the world. Do you remember me? What is my name? What kind of a duck am I? Whose nest did I lease? And do you remember what happened?

Thank you so much for joining me today and for your lovely notes. It is actually relatively quiet in Bird World but soon…so soon, there will be action in Australia – at Port Lincoln and Melbourne. Meanwhile, we can all enjoy the antics of the little Sea Eagles who are jumping, flapping, and learning to mantle and eat their own prey. Take care of yourselves. I look forward to seeing you again soon.

Thank you to the following for their tweets, their posts, videos, and streaming cams where I took my screen captures: Wildlife Haven, Bald Eagles of Centreport, Albatross Space, Channel Islands Eagle Lovers, Notre Dame Eagles, NEFL-AEF, NADC-AEF, Dyfi Ospreys, Bywyd Gwyllt Glaslyn, Sea Eagles@Birdlife Australia Discovery Centre Sydney Olympic Park, Port Lincoln Ospreys, 367 Collins Street by Mirvac, Charles Sturt Falcon Cam, Conservation Without Borders, and Looduskalender.


From the Archive: Daisy is a Pacific Black Duck. She first appeared on the nest of the Sydney Sea Eagles in December of 2020. She attempted three clutches of eggs – all predated by the Crows, sadly. The last clutch in 2021 almost made it to hatch. We were all cheering! Daisy stole our hearts and taught us many lessons about the challenges the female ducks face in being both incubator and security guard. The couple came this year to check on the nest. Oh, it was delightful to see Daisy and her mate but, equally, there was relief that she decided to lay her eggs elsewhere in the forest. Did you know that less than 15% of all duck eggs laid make it to hatch?

Godwits…and more

I have heard the name but have never seen the bird – or, at least, I do not think I have. With my lousy shorebird IDs, I might have even confused this beautiful long-legged shorebird with a Greater Yellowlegs. Of course, everyone would have laughed.

Godwits are ‘very’ long legged shorebirds but their legs are not yellow! Their beak is ‘very, very’ long and is bi-coloured – light rose and espresso -and ever so slightly upturned at the end. They are called waders because they live in the mudflats and the estuaries. See how their legs go deep into the mud, too. They feed by sticking that very long beak into the mud, rooting around for worms and small shellfish.

“Bar-tailed Godwit” by naturalengland is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The breeding adults have a chest that ranges from a deep terracotta for the males to a brighter orange for the females. The wing and back feathers are more brown and white overall with a touch of the breast colour, sometimes. They have gorgeous dark eyes.

“Bar-tailed Godwit” by 0ystercatcher is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The juveniles have a cream coloured breast with overall brown and white feathering.

“Bar-tailed Godwit” by 0ystercatcher is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

What is so miraculous about these shorebirds is their migration. They breed in Alaska and fly in September to New Zealand! They make only one stop, normally. And they do the trip in record time. It is an 11,265 kilometre journey or 7000 miles. They accomplish this in eight days! Yes, you read that correctly, eight days.

“Bar-tailed Godwits” by naturalengland is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Neils Warnock, the Executive Director of Alaska Audubon in 2017, remarked,These godwits are epic migrants. We had a bird, E-7, that we had tagged, and she left New Zealand in the spring. She flies non-stop seven days, ten thousand kilometres, to the Yellow Sea. All of the Bar-tailed Godwits of Alaska, they stop at the Yellow Sea.”

The Yellow Sea is located between mainland People’s Republic of China and the Korean Peninsula.

Historically the mudflats of the Yellow-Sea have been rich with food for the Bar-tail Godwits so they can fatten up and make the rest of the journey to their winter homes in New Zealand without having to stop. Today, the mudflats of the Yellow Sea are under threat – they are disappearing with coastal development. This could prove to be a major challenge for these beautiful shorebirds. There have been many studies and the researchers have seen a drop in the number of shorebirds by 30% in the last few years because the mudflat areas have been reduced by 65%.

https://www.science.org/news/2017/04/migrating-shorebirds-danger-due-disappearing-mudflats

The reports of the shrinkage of the mudflats has been coming in since 2013 with alarms sounding.

Today the Pukorokoro Miranda Shorebird Centre in New Zealand reported that Bar-tailed Godwit 4BYWW made his flight in 8 days and 12 hours arriving home at 03:00 on 26 September. He flew 12,200 km. His average speed was 59kph. 4BYWW may have set a new distance record for the Bar-tail Godwits. We will know when the others return home. Isn’t that amazing?

What I found most interesting was her route. She does not appear to have gone via the Yellow Sea. Is this because of the decline of the mud flats? Have the birds adapted their migratory route? I definitely want to look at this more closely.

This was the satellite tracking image posted by the Pukorokoro Miranda Shorebird Centre FB page:

The Centre was tracking another four adults and 3 juveniles on their journeys home. One of those, 4BWWB, has been reported as flying non-stop for 163 hours and over 10,000 km. Seriously, my head can’t comprehend what that must be like. I am also truly amazed at what these sat-paks can tell us about the birds and their amazing resilience. Just incredible.

Tiaki officially fledged on the 25th of September. The Royal Albatross cam chick of 2021 is foraging off the coast of New Zealand at the present time. She will eventually make her way to the waters off of South America near Chile. We wait for her return in four to six years to Taiaroa Head where we will hear that beautiful Sky call, again.

While millions and millions of birds are moving from their summer breeding grounds to their winter homes, others are waiting for eggs to hatch. Holly Parsons posted a table of Diamond’s incubation history.

Xavier and Diamond’s first egg was laid in the scrape box on top of the water tower at Charles Sturt University in Orange, Australia on 31 August this year. Cilla Kinross, the main researcher, is expecting a hatch from 6-9 October with the most promising day being the 7th. Can’t wait!

Diamond was catching some sleep this morning. If all of the eggs hatch, her and Xavier are going to be very busy!

If the hatch is expected around the 7th of October at Orange, then what about those Melbourne Peregrine Falcons? The first egg was laid on the 21st of August – yes, that is right. Ten days before the Orange falcons. So, I am going to be looking for a hatch at Melbourne starting in two days!!!!!! This means that all of the Melbourne eggs, if viable, will hatch before those in Orange. It will be nice to get to enjoy them without trying to watch both at the same time!

For those of you wondering about those beautiful White-bellied Sea Eagles, 27 and 28, here they are. Talk about gorgeous.

Things will really be starting to ramp up shortly. Bald Eagle breeding season in the United States begins in a few days. Looking forward to checking on some nests to see if the birds have returned – such as Anna and Louis who had the first hatch on a nest in the Kisatchie Forest last year since 2013. His name was Kistachie – very appropriate.

Then there is always the trio at Port Lincoln. They had two feedings this morning and a third at 11:31:27 when Dad brought in a very small fish. All of the chicks were well behaved – quite civil to one another. And, of course, Little Bob is right there in front! Look carefully you can see him.

Life is good. Everything seems to be going really well for all the nests.

Thank you so much for joining me today. I hope you enjoyed learning about the Godwits as much as I did. Incredible birds. Take care everyone!

Thank you to the following for their streaming cams where I took my screen shots or for postings on their FB pages that I have shared with you: Port Lincoln Osprey Project, 367 Collins Street Falcons by Mirvac, Falcon Cam Project at Charles Sturt University and Cilla Kinross, Pukorokoro Miranda Shorebird Centre, Sea Eagle Cam @Birdlife Australia Discovery Centre, and Cornell Bird Lab and NZ DOC.

Feature image credit: “Bar-tailed Godwit” by 0ystercatcher is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

A Visit to Oak Hammock Marsh

My Hibiscus and the Vermillionaires for the hummingbirds continue to think it is summer. And why wouldn’t they with blue skies, sun, and 24 degrees C. The only things that seem to be on track for autumn are the trees and Virginia Creepers that are changing colour daily.

Today was a bit of an outing. Located about 20 km north of Winnipeg, the Oak Hammock Marsh is home to an Interpretative Centre, third floor viewing area, a marsh boardwalk and several trails through the marshes. Oak Hammock Marsh is a joint project between the Province of Manitoba and Ducks Unlimited Canada. The marsh covers a 3600 hectare restored wetland area in the Interlake (between Lake Winnipeg and Lake Manitoba) area of our province. The marsh supports 300 species of birds as well as a myriad of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish, and insects. My interest is, of course, in the birds.

There are daily tours of the grounds, special education programmes for schools, early bird breakfast and migration fests, and a Goose Flight dinner which is completely sold out.

It was a wonderful day – short sleeve weather with plenty of birds and lots of places to stop and catch your breath along the trails.

Tip: If you were going to visit Oak Hammock Marsh and you just want to walk the trails and not go inside the building, you do not pay the entrance fee.

One of the things that I like about Oak Hammock is that at each trail there is information on the wildlife that you ‘might’ see there. Of course, there are no promises that the Yellow-headed or Red Winged Blackbirds will be there when you are but, in general, these are areas where certain birds congregate if at the marsh.

These are a great help to me – I am a raptor person who is just beginning to learn about waterfowl and shorebirds! I would have loved having Ferris Akel with me telling me which was the Greater Yellow Legs and which was the Spotted Sandpiper. There are a stack of books open surrounding me right now and the images are disappointing. That said, let’s give it a try and see if some of these bird identifications work – and if you spot an error, tell me! Do not be shy about it.

The images are not great. This beautiful raptor soared for so long in the warm thermals coming off the prairie landscape. She was obviously hunting. She would come down and bank and then go so high she was like a speck of dirt. You wanted to rub the lens of your camera to see if she was real. This is an adult female Northern Harrier. Notice how slim the body is with the long tapered wings and tail.

In the image below she is gliding – holding her wing tips higher than the body. Northern Harriers is one of the easiest members of the hawk family to identify because they glide so close to the ground. They have excellent vision but are known to also hunt by sound

She has soared above the marsh and glided down for a closer look for her prey. In the image below she was banking but also pulling up. You can see that distinct white upper covert.

It was simply mesmerizing watching her hunt and then go back to soaring in the thermals of a beautiful fall day.

Did you know that Northern Harriers were once called Marsh Hawks? In Europe they are often called Hen Hawks. This marsh is a perfect place for our Northern Harrier female to have her nest. She will build it on the ground usually in long grasses or cattails. These hawks line their nest with cattails – and all over the marsh were cattails and other soft prairie grass.

It was quite difficult to actually hear any of the other bird voices (or calls). The Canada Geese were flying overhead, landing on the ponds, and in the fields surround the marsh.

This adult male Yellow Headed Blackbird paid no attention to me. He was foraging for insects, seeds, beetles, on the ground. They apparently also eat dragonflies and there were a lot of those on my walk today. Here he is with his distinctive yellow head and chest with white patches on his black wings. He has a black bill.

There is an understanding that if Yellow-headed Blackbirds are in the same area as Red-winged Blackbirds then the Yellow-heads will be dominant. I do not know if that is the case at Oak Hammock Marsh because the numbers of Red-winged Blackbirds seem to really outnumber the Yellows.

It’s a male Red-winged Blackbird, below. I think it is a juvenile male because the red patch above the yellow is faint. They are covered by thousands of the most beautiful ebony feathers. Their black eye and beak disappear in all the dark plumage.

The Red-winged Blackbirds also have their nests on the ground which they line with dried cattail leaves, reeds, and grasses. The marsh is a perfect place for them to nest, too, with all those cattails!

This Greater Yellowlegs was quite busy foraging in the mud. Because of its streaked neck, this should be a juvenile. The Greater Yellowlegs is larger than the Lesser and has a longer bill with longer legs and noticeable knees. These birds also nest on the ground near water making Oak Hammock Marsh a perfect nesting area.

It looked so small walking along the soft mud of the marsh.

Two female Blue-winged Teals. We have Blue-winged teals throughout our province but they prefer, like so many of these birds, the marshes. Sadly, many marshes have been drained for farming over the past 60 years and then turned into housing estates leaving the Teals to have to adapt to living in ditches and dugout ponds. Their dark beaks are quite wide and flat. The females are a mottled brown.

Aren’t they gorgeous?

A pair of American coots diving and dabbling like ducks in the waters of the marsh today. American Coots can forage for food on land as well. Some people call them ‘Mud Hens.’ They eat insects, worms, tadpoles and fish as well as land and water plants. Their white bill with the black plumage helps to identify them.

As I was leaving, more and more Canada Geese were arriving in their typical ‘V’ formation. The fields were filling up and so were the ponds. It was 15:00. Must go back out closer to dusk! There is something energizing about seeing all of those geese flying in – and the only sound being heard was not the noise of the city but the honk of the goose. Just lovely.

Thank you so much for joining me today. I know that most of my readers live in places around the world far away from Manitoba. Please do check out your local nature centres. There are wonderful surprises awaiting you. Take care everyone. See you soon.