Tag Archive | wildlife

Migration Summary: Late April/Early May

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

Migration finally started picking up toward the end of April, though the only interesting bird that showed up in my yard this year was a Ruby-crowned Kinglet on two occasions. Hurdman Park turned out to be great spot to take in migration this year. On one occasion I spotted 40 or 50 swallows flitting over the fields and river; they were probably mostly Tree Swallows, though I did spot a brown swallow and what was likely a Barn Swallow among them. On the first day of May I spotted a different flock of birds soaring over the area – a large kettle of Broad-winged Hawks! I had seen them fly over Hurdman before, though the most I had seen together was three. This time I spotted a large flock of over 20 birds, with another flock of 11 following behind it. As the birds were constantly moving in and out of the main group, I didn’t want to double-count any; it is likely that there were as  many as 50 hawks altogether – the most I had ever seen at one time!

Continue reading

Wild Coyote

I returned to Sarsaparilla Trail the following day. The Pied-billed Grebe and Ruddy Duck had disappeared, but the Hooded Mergansers were still there, swimming and diving in the middle of the pond. A female scaup had joined them, as had eight Green-winged Teal; I didn’t even notice the Green-winged Teal hiding near the reeds at the back of the pond until something startled them into flight, causing the green patches on their wings to flash in the sun. To my surprise, a Green Heron was also still present. When I first saw it, it was flying low over the water; I wasn’t sure what it was until it landed among the downed trees near the beaver lodge. Then I spotted the bright yellow legs and green back. It seems rather late for him to still be here.

I heard a couple of Red-winged Blackbirds calling from the marsh and saw a single Song Sparrow in the shrubs next to the boardwalk. Then I spotted a mammal walking along the water’s edge on the other side of the pond. It wasn’t a deer, which I’ve seen here many times before; it was a coyote! He walked along the shore right behind the Green Heron and then disappeared into the vegetation. A few minutes later, he reappeared at the water’s edge several meters to the right.

Coyote

Coyote

Coyotes are not well-liked in my area, and the hunting of them often crosses the line into persecution. Although coyote sightings are described as “commonplace” by the Ministry of Natural Resources, I rarely encounter them on my outings. Whenever I see one I am usually thrilled, especially when I find one in a conservation area where they are less likely to encounter humans and are therefore less likely to engender conflict.

Coyotes migrated to Ontario more than 100 years ago, when settlers began clearing the southern forests. Since then they have adapted well to both rural and urban environments. Rural coyotes prefer open, agricultural landscapes interspersed with woodlots and other brushy terrain. Urban coyotes typically inhabit green spaces and industrial areas within cities, where they avoid people whenever possible. They are able to coexist with humans by feeding primarily at night and resting in bushy or wooded areas during the day.

As with most wild animals, if you keep your distance upon encountering a coyote, it will most likely avoid you. I had a close call with one in Stony Swamp a few years ago when I rounded the corner of the trail and saw one walking along the path toward me. However, I was on part of a trail where dogs are allowed and thought it was a dog that had been let off its leash with its humans somewhere behind. I was surprised when it walked into the woods upon seeing me, and quickly vanished into the brush. When I rounded the corner, the trail was completely empty…..there were no humans in sight. Had I realized what it was when I first saw it, I could have gotten some awesome photos.

Coyote

Coyote

This one didn’t linger by the water, but instead walked back into the tall grasses at the edge of the water and disappeared. Hopefully he will stay deep in the woods on the other side of the pond, away from the trails and roads, and stay safe.

Reporting Owls: Doing More Harm than Good?

Owls have a power to fascinate us that no other birds do. They seem to dwell in a realm that lies somewhere between the natural and the mythological, representing a wilderness untamed and untouched by human hands. When you chance upon one and stare into the solemn, unsettling eyes of a Barred Owl or the bright, glaring yellow eyes of a Great Horned Owl, you know you are in the presence of something utterly inhuman – and inhumanly beautiful. These sleek, silent, feathered predators captivate our imaginations, possibly because they are so infrequently seen, and possibly because of the aura of mystery that surrounds them…especially those that dwell in the woods where their cryptic camouflage and nocturnal habits make them difficult to spot.

While some eastern North American owls remain on their breeding territories all year round, including the Great Horned Owl, Eastern Screech Owl and Barred Owl, other species are migratory and may be found more easily in the fall and winter as they move through urban and suburban areas to their wintering grounds. These species, which include Long-eared Owl, Short-eared Owl, Northern Saw-whet Owl, and the four northern species – Snowy Owl, Northern Hawk Owl, Great Gray Owl, and Boreal Owl – typically move south in response to food shortages on their breeding grounds or, in the case of last winter’s spectacular Snowy Owl irruption, a population boom that led to an increase in competition for the same food resources. Younger owls, having no territories of their own, were pushed much farther south than normal in order to find a place to spend the winter.

Eastern Screech Owl
Mud Lake, 2010

Continue reading

Ottawa: The most “wildlife unfriendly” city in Canada

The City of Ottawa hates wildlife. It seems to me that Canada’s capital city would prefer to live under a plastic bubble where no pesky rodents, Canada Geese, insects, amphibians, and other wildlife can enter rather than find ways to live in harmony with the fauna we share our land with. The City of Ottawa has shown time and time again that when it comes to dealing with wildlife conflicts, it believes there is only one solution: to kill the “pest” that is causing the problem. Whether it is gassing groundhogs, killing moose, encouraging the senseless slaughter of coyotes by refusing to end the coyote-killing contests, or actively live-trapping (i.e. KILLING) beavers and destroying their lodges, the City of Ottawa resorts to barbaric measures each time a conflict arises instead of considering progressive and humane alternatives.

Continue reading

Alberta 2012: Wildlife Along the Highway

Bull Elk

They say that your best chance of seeing wildlife in Jasper National Park is by driving along Highway 93A, Highway 16, or the Maligne Lake Road early in the morning or late in the evening. The fall and spring tend to be the best times of the year to see mammals, especially bears, caribou and moose. Elk, on the other hand, are easily seen along the highways in Jasper during the summer months, as the elk population numbers in the thousands. Highway 16 East, Highway 93, and the Maligne Lake Road are all excellent places to see elk, and they even venture into the town of Jasper looking for a safe place from predators where vegetation is plentiful. Large bull elks with velvet antlers are often seen along Highway 16 East or near Medicine Lake.

Continue reading