Tuesday, June 14, 2016

MERRY & MOLLY GO OUTSIDE

Merry & Molly's Kitty Walk
We weren't sure if Merry and Molly were going to join us in the backyard this summer. We know they are still too rambunctious for a leash and harness, and it wouldn't be very relaxing for us to be constantly chasing them. We didn't really want to build something permanent, as we didn't want them outside unsupervised anyway. The "Kitty Walk" system was the perfect solution. I saw a version of it on a friends Facebook page and inquired about it. I purchased one within the week!

On June 4th we set it up for the first time, and brought the kitties out. They were pretty nervous at first, not because of the enclosure really, but all the new noises and smells. They settled down after about a half hour of sniffing and pawing at it to watch the birds and squirrels. We purchased the 10 foot lawn version, and it's quite roomy for the two of them. We're sure they will get more use to it and being outside as the summer goes on, and we haven't given up hope that one year we will be able to take them out on a leash and harness. But this is perfect for now. They're safe, and so are the birds and squirrels.

Merry checking things out.
Molly at the other end.
Settled down to watch the pigeons.
I can't write this blog without mentioning Meadow. She was awesome outside. She took to her leash and harness like a fish to water. I'm proud to say she didn't kill one bird. She liked to chase the squirrels, but stopped when they did. She could of cared less about pigeons really, often ignoring them as they walked right by her. She would chase butterflies and chipmunks, but we never let her catch one. She was a joy to be outside with, and often made me laugh out loud. I think she used to get herself tangled up just so Rob would have to untangle her, and get a little more of his attention.

Merry and Molly may never be as good as Meadow outside, but we can hope.

Backyard Bliss for Meadow.
Enjoying the backyard.
Meadow loved being outside with us.
        

Friday, May 20, 2016

A WALK IN THE FUTURE

Rob walking with Sy.
Our last stop before heading home from our birding road trip last week was Rondeau Provincial Park. We planned on spending the morning there and heading back to Toronto around lunch time.

The last trail we did before leaving the park was Spice Bush Trail. We hadn't been on that trail more then five minutes when a bird excitedly caught my attention. An Eastern Bluebird!!! WOW!! My first sighting of one of the year, and in the last place I expected to see one, a forested area.

Eastern Bluebird on the Spice Bush Trail.
We weren't the only ones who got excited by the bluebirds sighting. An older gentleman we had passed when we first started the trail had returned. He had been looking for a piece off his binoculars he lost. He seemed quite excited about the sighting too.  We continued down the trail, with the Eastern Bluebirds, there were at least 3, 2 males and 1 female, if not more.

I soon realized that the elderly man meant to walk with us. At first I was annoyed, and hung back. This was the last trail we were going to do of our trip, I wanted to spend the time with Rob alone. But then as I looked at them walking, I was suddenly struck with a glimpse of the future. One day, that would be Rob or I walking alone.

I stayed back just long enough to snap the top picture of them walking together before I hurried to catch up. "Sy", we found out his name at the end of the walk, was happy to have the company. He chatted away about his birding past. He was a widower, and referred to his wife as the spotter when they use to go for nature walks together. I silently wondered if Rob would share that same tale one day, as he calls me "eagle eye" when we bird. Sy told us of spending hours on his belly with friends snapping photos of plants and flowers. He told these stories happily, but you could sense the sadness just below of the surface. It was more of a talking walk then a birding walk, but every once and a while we did stop to look at a bird or flower.

Male Redstart
Red Trillium
It was easy to tell that Sy was really enjoying his walk with us, and he asked a couple times if we minded him joining us, we both said "no", that we enjoyed the company. It made me sad to think that one day Rob and I would be Sy. That one day, one of us, wouldn't have the other to enjoy these walks with.

Female Eastern Bluebird
At one point during the walk, we had stopped to watch the Eastern Bluebirds again, who we had seemed to catch up with, and Sy looked down on the path, and right there in the spot we happened to stop at, was his lost binocular piece. He was thrilled.

At the end of our walk, Sy thanked us heartily and said that he was going to return to his trailer with a big smile on his face, and it all started with an Eastern Bluebird sighting. I hope we see Sy next year.

The bird that started it all.
It took a little longer to do the trail that day, and we didn't see many birds, but we couldn't have ended our trip any better.

(Click on photos to enlarge)

Monday, May 16, 2016

MY 250th LIFER!

I got my 250th bird species with a little help from Len.
I haven't added a new bird species to my "Life List" since last May. I knew the chances were pretty good that I'd be able to add one to it on our recent visit to the Point Pelee area. But that's not why I bird, I enjoy birding and I can still get just as excited about a bird I've seen hundreds of times as I can when I see one for the first time. Still, it's always fun to add one to the list, and when there's a fun story behind it, well, that's even better.

Rob and I left on a 4 day birding road trip on May 8th. The first day we visited Hillman Marsh, two days at Point Pelee, and a stop at Rondeau Provincial Park on our way home May 11th. Our first day at Pelee started with a trip to the tip. We caught the first shuttle down and walked back to the visitor centre to warm up with a hot coffee and have some breakfast.

My Point Pelee breakfast favorite, Bird Seed Cookie! 
We were having as many good people sightings as birds. It was nice to run into fellow birders that we hadn't seen in a year or more. One of those being Len, who I don't think I'd seen in about 3 years. He, his friend, Paul, and Paul's wife, Christina, came over to say "Hello" when they spotted us sitting at a picnic table. We chatted for a few minutes and off they went. Rob and I took our time enjoying our coffee and food, but eventually got up to check out another trail. Rob had heard from another friend of ours in the park and we were waiting for him when our "Bird Nerd" moment of the trip happened.

Our yearly Spring "Bird Nerd" moment is an unexpected and memorable tale that we will talk about for years to come. While we were waiting for Dave to join us at the visitor centre, Len and the others came out of a trail, spotting us, Len says "Get on the tram." (the shuttle that takes you to the tip of Point Pelee) "Get on the tram." he says again, so we do. If Len says, get on the tram, you get on the tram and ask questions later. Now, Dave hasn't showed up yet, but after we're informed that Len has been informed that a Kirtland's Warbler has been spotted at the tip, we are going to the tip, with or without Dave. Kirtland's Warblers are not common in Ontario, and this will be a lifer for both Rob and I.  

Just as the tram is about to leave we spot Dave, we tell him to "Get on the tram!", he's like, "What? we're going back to the tip?!" But after we tell him why, he's quite happy to return to the tip. Turns out, it will be a "lifer" for Dave too.

It wasn't hard to tell where along the road the Kirtland's Warbler was being seen once word got out, and that didn't take long.

The Kirtland's Warbler caused a bit of a frenzy!
When the tram left for the tip the adrenaline started to kick in for me. What if it's gone when we get there? What if I can't see it? What if I miss it? Oh the excitement! Once we got off the tram at the tip, we walked back down the road hopeful we would get to see the bird.

I'm happy to report we all did! It was flying up and down the road low in the bushes eating a bug buffet. After spotting it the first time and getting a look at it we were all thrilled and talking about it. Rob didn't take any pictures, he decided to just enjoy the moment watching it through his bins. Before we headed out from the area to continue our birding day, I decided I wanted to try to to see if I could get a another look, and I'm so glad I did. The bird came out closer then the first time, and I got an even better look at it, and Dave was right beside me, so he was able to snap a photo!

The Kirtland's Warbler! Photo by Dave Iluck
Heart felt thanks to Len, for letting us know about the bird, and bringing about a memorable story and my 250th lifer.

I got a cake to celebrate when we returned home.