Sunday, September 23, 2012


"Big Red", a female resident Great Horned Owl is a "foster Mom" to injured and orphaned young Great Horned Owls brought to the foundation so they can be released back into the wild when they are ready. She's a good Mama!

This past Saturday was our second trip to The Owl Foundation. This place and the work they do there is amazing to me. I was just as excited about our second visit as I was the first one. You can read all about that and the organization by clicking the above link or here for my blog.

This year we were joined by our friends, Murray and Debbie. They had gotten married in June, and Rob and I sponsored a releasable owl for them as their wedding gift, which they were thrilled with.

Our tour this year, started in the main house where we once again got to meet the "Owl Lady" herself and Co-Founder of the organization, Kay McKeever. At 88 years of age, she may of been a little slower moving then last year, but her spirit remains strong. I am grateful I had the opportunity to thank her for her dedication to the owls and her work once again.

"Big Bird" greeted us as we entered the sun-room.
Big Bird is a severely injured Great Gray Owl that lives in the main house with Kay.

Big Bird giving Kay some affection.
 After having a short visit with Kay our group was taken outside to the enclosures of the resident owls and the young ones that will be released next spring. Any question we had was answered and stories and interesting facts about the many resident owls were told. Even though we had been there last year, it felt like a whole new tour, as so much can happen in a year.

Rob took photos best he could, but all photos are through cages and protective screens, as West Nile Virus can take a terrible toll on the owls. 

Three young Great Horned Owls raised by "Big Red" to be released next Spring.
A resident Short-eared owl.
A young Short-eared Owl to be released next Spring.
This tour we were able to view a Hawk Owl, which we have not seen in the wild. We also saw Saw-whet owls, and young Great Grays to be released, but without a doubt the highlight for me was seeing 3 young Snowy Owls.

We were told at the beginning of the tour that we would see them, but it was like I forgot, because when I laid eyes on them for the first time a yelp of utter delight escaped my lips and tears formed in my eyes. What an absolute gift it was to see these 3 adorable young Snowy Owls born to a resident pair. (The resident owls are allowed to bond and mate and this was the first year that this pair had had a clutch)

The Mama Snowy kept an eye on her young while we all stared in awe. Papa was snoozing in the corner. The 3 will be released in Manitoba when they are ready and able to survive on their own.

Two young Snowy Owls.  
The Snowy Owl on on the left was doing his alarm call at the strange beings walking by his enclosure. The Owl Foundation isn't open to the public, and sponsors are only invited to visit 2 weekends out of the year, in the Fall, as it is the least stressful time for owls. The owls here have very little human contact and how strange we must of seemed to these little guys.

A young, very sleepy Snowy Owl.
What a wonderful morning we had at a truly wonderful place. I encourage you to learn more about this organization and support them if you can. Sponsorships make wonderful gifts!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


"Happy Birthday Rob!"
It seems to be coming a tradition for us to spend Rob's birthday in Algonquin Park, as this was the 3rd year we've made the journey for his birthday. We were up before the sun to start our day, but cake and presents were in order first.

Birthday kitty snuggles from Meadow before leaving.
 Our first stop, besides Tim's for coffee and breakfast, was the Muskoka Wildlife Centre. This is also the 3rd year that we've sponsored "Silo", a female Barn Owl, for Rob's birthday. They brought her out for the "meet the creature" session that morning. We also sponsor "Luna", that famous Telus Saw-whet Owl there. She was away Saturday at TIFF, quite the little celebrity she is!

Rob, Becki and Silo.
We arrived in Algonquin Park around lunch time, and unbeknownst to Rob, I had arranged a private boat tour through Algonquin Outfitters to go out on Lake Opeongo to look for Common Loons. Our guide, Colin, had scouted them earlier in the day and found a "raft" of them for us, there were 50 -70 Loons in one area! It was a magical experience to see so many in one spot and be so close to them. Rob was thrilled with his birthday surprise, as was I.

Rob's favorite capture from the day.

After our outing we visited the Visitor Centre where a beautiful art/photography presentation was taking place and I got to do some shopping.  After that we had a delicious dinner at Killarney Lodge and retired at Spring Lake Resort, both of which I would recommend.

We wanted to hit a couple trails before making the trek back to Toronto on Sunday, and I swear it seemed like the leaves had changed colour overnight, it was beautiful in the park.

The leaves starting to change.
A "Sugar Maple", putting on it's Fall display.
   We enjoyed hiking all morning on a couple trails and saw a variety of birds and lots of turtles, but the highlight for both of us was seeing Boreal Chickadees. We had seen them once before, but this trip we both got to have really good and long looks at them. Pretty exciting stuff for a couple of "bird-nerds". 

Boreal Chickadee
It was another great trip to Algonquin Park and I'm already looking forward to our winter trip and wondering what I can surprise Rob with next year for his birthday.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


I couldn't of been more delighted to hold "Seamus", a Barn Owl.
Sunday afternoon the Canadian Peregrine Foundation held their "1st Annual BBQ & Corn Roast". Staff and volunteers from all over Southern Ontario were on hand to share pictures and stories, but the real stars of the afternoon were the educational birds of prey that reside at "The Barn", where the BBQ was held.

Entrance to "The Barn".
Mark, Co-Founder of CPF giving an opening speech.
People enjoying the BBQ.
It was fun to mix and mingle with other like minded people, and it was great to meet some new friends from the FaceBook group CPF has.

The highlight for everyone was getting a chance to see some of the educational birds of prey out of their enclosures. They seemed to be enjoying the BBQ as much as the rest of us!

 Here are a few of Rob's pictures from the day;

"Alex", Great Horned Owl.
"Solo", Bald Eagle, look at those legs!
Myself, Tracy and "Bubo", an European Eagle Owl.
Tracy is the main caretaker at the barn, she has devoted herself to these birds, she is a shining star in our eyes.

Rob's favorite shot of "Seamus" from the day.
They held a 50/50 draw during the BBQ, and I won! With my winnings I "adopted' two of their owls, Seamus for me, and Boo (Bubo) for Rob. I was thrilled when Marion (Mark's wife and Co-Founder of CPF) asked me if I wanted to hold "Seamus", who is lovingly called "Shammy".

I have to explain why this was such a thrill for me. Well, it's a thrill holding an owl any day, but this was special.

When we volunteer at the barn, we are there to work and don't spend much time interacting with the birds. I have only seen and heard Seamus in his enclosure, and when I'd walk by, he'd do his "territorial stomp" and make a most unpleasant noise. He'd just be letting me know I wasn't welcome.

Sunday was the first time I had got to see him out of his enclosure and he was like a completely different bird! He was relaxed and seemed to enjoy all the attention! Rob had witnessed this behaviour from him before and told me about it, but it was a joy to see for myself.

Someone's got our attention over there.
        Rob and I had a great day, and we look forward to next year's BBQ.

Monday, September 10, 2012


Having some fun with a pet bird, "Wheezy" at the "Hawk Watch"
Sunday morning found us in Scarborough as the sun was coming up to spend the morning at Rosetta McClain Gardens for "Hawk Watch".  It's beautiful spot to watch migrating raptors.

The winds weren't really great for migrating on Sunday, but lots of fellow bird enthusiasts were there! I usually only get out to the park once or twice while the watch is going on and I really enjoy my time there, as it's great to catch up with people I don't see often and meet new people as well.

We got to meet Jean Iron this visit! That would be like a Kiss fan meeting Gene Simmons, for a birder.

Despite the not great bird count, we had a great time and stayed hours longer then we planned on.

Please enjoy a few photos from the day.

Lot's of fellow "Bird Nerds" lingering about.
Monarchs were plenty at the park, I probably saw a hundred or more.
Always a treat to watch Hummingbirds buzzing about.
This Peregrine Falcon caused lots of excitement when he was spotted in the park.
The squirrels were around to see who had peanuts for them.
   We had a great time, and I'm envious of Rob who will get to spend some more time there next week when he's on vacation.

Saturday, September 8, 2012


I love reading, and always have at least one book on the go. Sometimes finding good books and authors can be like a treasure hunt, and it's always rewarding when you find a real treasure, and I found one with Sarah Addison Allen.

On a couple weeks ago I read a couple reviews for a book called "Garden Spells", it sounded interesting to me so I purchased it on a whim.

I knew I had picked up something special as soon as I started reading it. There are some books that you just relate to immediately, and this was one of them. I felt the same way when I started reading the Harry Potter series, though this book is nothing like that series.

With a special blend of interesting and lovely characters and story lines, a little romance and a dash of magic, it's the perfect book for me!

I am enjoying this book so much and her writing style, that I have already gone out and purchased her other three books. I won't read them all right after the other, she doesn't have a new book coming out until next year, but I will savor them like the delicious treats that they are.

Thursday, September 6, 2012


A huge surprise in the yard this past Monday.

I, without a doubt, believe in life after death. This faith I have in the fact that our spirit goes on after our bodies have died has helped me deal with the grief of losing my Mom. I also believe that sometimes people who have passed on visit us in dreams or let us know that they are still around in other ways.

I've been looking for a sign from Mom since she passed, and there have been some times when I thought I may of had one, this past Monday it happened again.

Late Monday morning I was doing some tidying up in the second bedroom where I store a lot of things when I came across a letter my Aunt had wrote me and sent me with a pair of hummingbird earrings from my Mom before she died. My Mom was too weak to write at this stage of her illness.

I had put the letter and the earrings away the day I had received them, and had forgotten about them. I sat on the bed reading the letter and looking at the earrings, and asked once again for a sign that she was still with me.

A few hours later Rob and I were in the backyard hoping to catch a glimse of the Snowbirds who were performing at the CNE when another winged wonder stole all our attention and caused lots of excitement.

A female hummingbird was in our backyard, we hadn't seen one in the backyard in over 2 years!!!

A hummingbird, hmmm, imagine that.

Maybe it was just a coincidence that a hummingbird happened to show up THAT day, but my heart tells me another story.    

Sunday, September 2, 2012


Black Swallowtail visiting the lavender bush in the backyard.
This summer I really started to take notice of all the different types of butterflies in our area. Our yard has seen many different types this year, more then I every remember.

Here are a few photos of some that we have seen while out and about on birding trips and here in our own backyard. All photos by Rob.

Common Buckeye with a damaged wing, but he could still fly!
Red Admiral
Pearl Crescent, a very small butterfly. (Click on picture for a better view)
Great Spangled Fritillary, say that 5 times fast!
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, pic taken last year, but seen in the yard this year also.
   And last but not least, the beautiful Monarch. We have seen so many in the yard this year, more then ever before. It's amazing to think that this fragile little butterfly travels thousands of miles every year to migrate to Mexico.

We've been enjoying the butterflies so much we have decided to add to our butterfly bushes and milkweed next year and make an area of the garden devoted to butterfly friendly plants, can't wait!