Sunday, October 27, 2013


Catching up with "Echo", an Eastern Screech Owl.
Rob and I have been going to Mountsberg Conservation Area since our first New Years Day together in 2005. We've also been doing their Raptor Encounters at least once a year since they introduced them in 2010.

Yesterday, our first day of vacation, we were back again. We had invited friends to come with us, but didn't tell them where we were going or what we were doing, as I knew Andrea was going to be thrilled when she discovered the surprise.

Turns out, we got some surprises of our own. After walking the grounds a bit and seeing some of the raptors that call Mountsberg home, we headed in for our private raptor encounter. All of the birds that live at the raptor centre are injured or human imprinted and can't be returned to the wild. They are used for educational purposes.

When we walked through the "staff only" door, I automatically looked to the left, where I had seen Echo perched so many times before. My jaw dropped when I saw a Loggerhead Shrike there and knew Rob was going to be just as surprised as I was. As he has been wanting to see a Loggerhead Shrike in the wild since we've been birding, but this is the first time we've ever laid eyes on one. Mountsberg is involved with a Loggerhead Shrike Recovery Program that is doing very well, you can learn more about that here. Shrike Recovery Program    

For us, going back for the raptor encounters every year is a way to "catch up" with everything that has been going on at the facility since our last visit, and is like visiting friends we don't see often. We always learn something new though and we always look forward to going. Yesterday was extra special as we got to introduce friends to the experience, saw a Loggerhead Shrike for the first time, and saw one of their Bald Eagles, Pawgwa, is now all grown up with a complete white head! It was so surprising to us, as we've watched her mature over the years. Only mature Bald Eagles have the white heads and it takes them about 5 years to mature. It was a great day for all of us!    

Rob with the Eastern Loggerhead Shrike.
Andrea and Chris with Echo.
Another shot of me and Echo.
 When I say going year after year is like visiting old friends, I don't just mean the handlers and the volunteers there, who teach us so much, I also mean the birds. Here are a couple shots from years past.

First raptor encounter, first time meeting Echo. Sept. 2010
Rob with Otis, me with Echo. New Years Day, 2011
I got to take Echo outside, see how well she camouflages?! June 2011

I highly recommend visiting Mountsberg Conservation Area and if your interested in raptors, the raptor encounter is an excellent and educational experience.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


This year's group of girlfriends.
One weekend every year, for the past 12, I have organized a weekend at the Briars Resort, for a "Girls Getaway Weekend." We have gone up in every season, but the last two years have been in the Fall, and seems to be the favorite time of year to go.

The Briars is the perfect place for our annual retreat. The beautiful resort and grounds are only a little over an hour drive from Toronto and located on the shores of Lake Simcoe, you are surrounded by beauty. We have a private lodge all to ourselves away from the main lodge, where we take our delicious meals, swim in the pool or indulge in spa treatments.

I love not worrying about meal planning, doing dishes or even making my bed! It's a very self indulgent weekend celebrating friendship. 

Here's a picture peek at what our weekends look like:

The main building is surrounded by beautiful grounds. 
We had a campfire back at our lodge after dinner the first night, under a full moon.
Sunrise view from the "backyard" of our lodge.
The lovely walk to the main building.
Spa time!
I often tell people it's worth going to the Briars just for the food. It is delicious! Three gourmet meals a day are included in the overnight packages, and we take full advantage. Here's what I had for dinner Saturday, and this is just a sample of the offerings. I had their Sweet Potato and Onion Glazed Soup three times this past weekend it was so good! 

Goat Cheese and Roasted Beet Salad.
Shrimp Fettuccine in a light cream sauce.

Sticky Toffee Pudding with Pumpkin Ice-Cream.
People have asked me over the years why we don't try some other place once in a while. The answer is easy, we're at home at the Briars. See ya next year!

Here's to another fabulous weekend!

Thursday, October 17, 2013


Being silly at the Woodbridge Fall Fair.
We had a busy but fun-filled Thanksgiving weekend. Saturday morning we visited Hobbitstee, Toggenburgs and Wildlife Refuge. Though not open to the public, we are helping with a fundraiser next month and needed to pick up a few things. And of course we had a visit with the founder, Chantal and a few of the resident animals. 

"Molly" is the friendliest Donkey, and comes to meet you. 
"Grump" is super friendly too, and loves to be scratched and petted.
I got to name the newest educational animal, a groundhog, meet "Bilbo!"
Molly and the Toggenburg Goats hanging out.

After our visit there we stopped for a late lunch/early dinner at one of my favorite places to eat, Jake's, in Burlington, it's right off the highway which makes it convenient.  

Saturday evening we enjoyed sitting out in the backyard under the stars enjoying a few drinks. It was nice not to have to worry about mosquitoes.

We had some company Saturday evening in the backyard.
Sunday morning we visited the "Woodbridge Fall Fair". It was raining but we went anyway and made the best of it. We enjoyed looking at the exhibits and the baking contest winner displays made me hungry! Our main reason for going was because we knew the Canadian Peregrine Foundation had a booth there, as Rob had volunteered with them there the last two years.

Meeting "Tiguaq" for the first time. (Male Snowy Owl)
  I was surprised when Marion said we could "pet" the newest member of the CPF's educational bird team. We don't normally pet the birds, but Tig, as he is already known, is young, and new, and this would help him get use to people (the CPF's volunteers) handling him and also to the crowds looking at him and taking pictures. As Tiguaq matures he will lose most of his black spotting and be almost pure white. The females remain black speckled as adults.

Alexandra is an old pro at these shows. (Female Great Horned Owl)
It's awesome to see these amazing birds up close. This is Nova, a Peregrine Falcon.
I see Seamus everyday, as his sponsorship certificate is on our fridge.
   We had a great visit at the fair and the CPF booth, and I grabbed a fair staple on the way out, a cotton candy!

Sunday afternoon was the traditional Thanksgiving dinner with Rob's family. I hadn't been for Thanksgiving dinner in two years, so it was nice to be there this year.

The holiday Monday was a quiet day spent at home, just the way we planned.

Even Misfit slept in on the holiday Monday!! (she sleeps on her swing)
I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Monday, October 7, 2013


Two Cedar Waxwings enjoying the Juniper Tree berries on Terry's property.
Saturday had Rob and I off on a "Toronto Nature Lovers" (formally Authenic Canadian Tours) trip. Our afternoon and evening was to be spent in beautiful Prince Edward County. We hadn't been there in a while and we're looking forward to it.

Our first stop of the day was at Terry Culbert's art studio, which is shared with his wife Barbara, as they are both talented artists. We had met Terry before on one of Murray's trips, when Terry lived on Amherst Island. They now run County Studio out of their home. It is a beautiful property, complete with an old barn and we all enjoyed our visit there. 

The barn on Terry's property. Photo by attendee, Rhonda.
 Our second stop was for dinner at a restaurant I had been wanting to try for years! The Waring House is beautiful with historic charm, and so much more than a restaurant. It hosts a spa, lodging, and a pub! I look forward to a return, overnight trip. We enjoyed a delicious meal before heading to the "main event" of the trip.

For a few weeks every Fall, Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory bands migrating Saw-whet Owls. The Saw-whet Owls migrate south every Fall from the northern Boreal forests in search of food. We all know that there are no guarantees when it comes to nature, but we were all hoping to see the adorable little owl.

We arrived shortly after 8pm, and the first net round turned up none. The winds weren't in our favour this night. The second net round an hour later turned up 1, a retrap from 2 nights earlier. This little owl didn't know he was going to be a "rock star" for a few minutes, as everyone was thrilled to see him.

No bigger than a pop can, these little owls are adorable.
The highlight of everyone's day was seeing the Saw-whet Owl.
      If you are ever blessed enough to come across an owl in the wild, please, no flash at night, it momentarily blinds them, and puts them in danger.

Krista looks in wonder at the tiny owl. Photos by attendee, Dominique.
Krista was the lucky one to release the owl, a moment I know she will never forget.
    Rob and I were up way past our bedtime, but it was worth it. You can check out Toronto Nature Lovers on Meetup and Facebook.

Thursday, October 3, 2013


Last night, my friend Brian and I went to see the Def Leppard concert we saw back in April on the big screen. I didn't know what to expect because I had never been to a "concert" movie before. For Brian and I it was a trip down memory lane and we very much enjoyed it. It was fun reliving the expereince and I got quite excited and hooted and hollered just like I did at the live concert.  For others in the theatre who didn't get to Las Vegas for the show, it was a great opportunity to experience what they missed. This event is coming out on dvd/cd later this month, and I've already pre-ordered it. I've also heard the rumors that the band is going back to Las Vegas in 2014, if they do, Brian and I will be going back too!

To read about my time in Las Vegas earlier this year, click here and to read all about the Def Leppard VIP package I did, click here.  

Me with the band back in April, what an experience.