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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Bald Eagles

The Bald Eagle is such a magnificent bird. The largest bird of prey in Canada, it dominates the sky. All little creatures must surely scurry and hide when they feel the Bald Eagle's shadow passing overhead. They have a wingspan of approximately 2 m (6 1/2 ft.), but this can vary, and when perched they are about 76 cm (30 in.) tall. The Bald Eagle weighs between 4.5 kg (10 lbs.) and 6.4 kg (14 lbs.), and I've read that they can lift half of their own weight.

These two mature adults that I was fortunate to see were sitting close to each other, but in different trees, almost in my front yard. They could have been a Mr. and Mrs. Bald Eagle, as both the female and male have similar plumage, although the female is larger. I couldn't tell which was which. One flew away immediately after I took a picture. The other one stayed and followed my every move. They have fantastic eyesight and can see three or four times farther than us humans.

Bald Eagles have few natural enemies. Humans, directly or indirectly, cause the greatest harm to them. The one relentless threat to this species is human development resulting in habitat loss (loss of foraging, nesting, perching and roosting sites). The Bald Eagle's very existence is in peril every time a tall old growth tree is cut down in the forest near a lake, river, stream or ocean. They do have friends however, and many people are raising awareness for adopting better conservation practices so that their numbers are not further diminished.

I stood in the shadow of the house to take this photo but the eagle was very suspicious of my presence and left quickly.
This eagle tolerated me while he scanned his domain.
In these photos the eagle is facing the field across the road.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Red Squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus)*

Squirrel was very upset with me for spoiling his plans for an afternoon snack. I saw him on top of a log when I came back from a walk. He took one look at me, jumped down in a flying leap and then hightailed it to safety in a nearby tree. He had been on his way to the sunflower seeds that were scattered on the ground under the bird feeders. Usually when danger is present, and he's eating seeds, his escape route is through a tunnel that he's cleverly made in the snow at the bottom of an adjacent log pile.

Crouching on a limb halfway up the tree, and peering out from behind an evergreen twig, he scolded and scolded, bushy red-brown tail flicking all the while. He didn't let up on his tirade the entire time I stood there. On and on he went, this fearless little forest dweller. I was the intruder this time.

*Note: tamias is from the Greek and means one who stores or hoards; sciurus is derived from two Greek words and can be translated as 'shade-tail'. hudsonicus is the Latin word for Hudson Bay where European naturalists first reported seeing the Red Squirrel in 1771.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Spring is in the Air

It's turning out to be a glorious day with the temperature at +7C (45F). I needed only a sweater when I went outside this morning to check on the birds. I think they are enjoying the spring-like conditions as much as I am. We're into the second day of this welcome warm spell, and the forecast calls for more of the same tomorrow. It certainly brings people out to bask in the sunshine.

I took these pictures at the local nature park where there is a viewing tower overlooking the river and the islands. This is a favourite spot for huge numbers of Canada Geese when they return in the spring.

A snapshot of the river. We have to wait till spring to see it come alive again with ducks and geese.

I'm in the viewing tower here. Everything is dripping, and the snow is slowly sliding off the roof.

This was taken a little farther along the path and shows some of the river's islands and the ghostly looking trees in the distance.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Snowed In

Yesterday, it snowed all morning and into the afternoon. This morning, under lowered skies, it snows yet again. Emily Dickinson wrote a beautiful poem about snow in 1862 that described her winter surroundings in Massachusetts. Her wonderful poem transcends time as today it nicely depicts the picturesque snowy scene I have in front of me.

It Sifts From Leaden Sieves

It sifts from leaden sieves,
It powders all the wood,
It fills with alabaster wool
The wrinkles of the road.

It makes an even face
Of mountain and of plain, --
Unbroken forehead from the east
Unto the east again.

It reaches to the fence,
It wraps it, rail by rail,
Till it is lost in fleeces;
It flings a crystal veil

On stump and stack and stem, --
The summer's empty room,
Acres of seams where harvests were,
Recordless, but for them.

It ruffles wrists of posts,
As ankles of a queen, --
Then stills its artisans like ghosts,
Denying they have been.

- Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)