The Black-Capped Chickadee - a True Survivor

One of the most popular birds at any winter feeding station is the Black-Capped chickadee.

Unlike other birds that migrate south to escape the bitterly cold temperatures,  Black-Capped chickadees remain in the northern climate where they must endure food shortages and frigid life-threatening temperatures.  Like all wild creatures though, these birds have developed some miraculous adaptations for survival.

Have you ever been followed by an Owl?

Well it happened to me a few years ago while taking an evening walk with my wife along a cottage road deep in the bush around Six Mile Lake, Ontario.

I had brought a flashlight knowing that it would be dark by the time we returned from our trek.

While walking home, suddenly we heard the call from a species of owl we had both become well acquainted with.

Here's why; several years ago I was given a cassette tape done by Dan Gibson, a man well known for his work taping wildlife and nature sounds for film and television. However, as I found out, he has a great selection of tapes available to the public which can be purchased at just about any music store.

Golden Eagle make best of surroundings

The Golden Eagle, or Canadian eagle as it is often fondly referred to, is an endangered species in Ontario. But despite this, we still get them visiting the Georgian Bay area every so often.

In the more remote locations of Georgian Bay we may even be so lucky as to have a few nesting pairs, but for the most part this very large bird of prey inhabits the more sparsely populated regions of the far north.

The habitat most preferred by the Golden Eagle is actually quite diverse in comparison with the bald or American eagle. While the Golden Eagle can survive well in mountainous areas, foothills, plains and generally open country as long as there exists small game or the carrion of dead animals to feed off, the Bald Eagle, on the other hand, exists almost entirely on fish and therefore must pretty much inhabit areas where lakes and rivers can supply them year-round with this food source.

Goldeneye Duck Common to Ontario Waters

The common Goldeneye is a diving duck which inhabits all of Ontario's, and most of Canada's forests.

Members of the diving duck family include the bufflehead, canvas-back, redhead, oldsquaw, merganser, ring-necked duck and scaup, all of which are found in Ontario.

Like all diving ducks the Goldeneye must run along the surface of the water to become airborne. Their legs are situated towards the rear of their body unlike puddle ducks, such as the mallard, whose legs are located in the centre of its body. Consequently this is one adaptation that enables puddle ducks to lake flight directly off the water.

Saw-Whet Owl a Cheeky Woods-Dweller

The saw-whet owl, (Aegolius Acadicus) is a very small owl averaging around seven to eight and a half inches or 18 to 22 centimetres.

As a bird of prey, its primary food source is normally mice and voles but it will also take small snakes and young rabbits. The eyes of the saw-whet as well as the eyes of other owl species cannot move like human eyes can.  The eyeballs of an owl are fixed in their sockets thus requiring the owl to move its entire head in order to see what is about. This explains why owls swivel their heads to and fro so much.

The saw whet, for what reason I'm not sure, appears to be quite a tame little bird, as owls go. I recall a close encounter while my wife and I walked leisurely through a ravine in west end Toronto.

Okay, Perisoreus Canadensis, let's play ball!

The Canadian jay is known by a variety of names such as "Whiskey-jack" and grey jay. I've also heard it referred to on occasion as a "pine-jay".

This gregarious member of the jay family also includes in its family the crow, raven and blue jay. Its Latin name is Perisoreus Canadensis.

Many consider the bird's call to sound as if its saying "whiskey-jack". Although I once heard a story of how this bird actually came by the name "whiskey-jack".


‘It’s important to get lead out of our marshes’


Assistant swan keeper Mary Cameron looks despairingly at the trumpeter swans in the birds' enclosure, wondering which one may be next.

Everyone at the Wye Marsh in Midland, Ontario has good reason to be concerned about trumpeter swan deaths. Within one week this month, two more were killed by lead poisoning.

Flicker is his Favourite Woodpecker

DeerPerhaps one of my favourite birds in the woodpecker family is the common or (yellow shafted) flicker.  As the name suggests it is quite common, but nevertheless remains a most beautiful bird. The mix of golden yellow, grey, red, black and brown, make the flicker a true eye-catcher.  When in flight, this bird displays a white rump patch that is very noticeable and easily identifiable because the patch appears to flick on and off.

Response from Bill Leeming regarding a  letter to the editor where a reader asked whether all salmon die after spawning.

Dear Ms. Larmond,

I apologize for taking so long to get back to you. Your question about salmon was an excellent one for a number of reasons. But first and probably foremost, the most common misconception about salmon is that many people think ALL salmon die after spawning. However, this is not the case.

In Canada, there is one species of salmon that does not die after spawning and it is the Atlantic salmon.

All others, such as the chinook of the Great Lakes, live an average of about four years. During most of that time, these fish will live out in open water.

When nature's time clock sounds, they migrate back up the stream or river from where they were born and first began their lives. There they spawn and die.

In river locations where there exists an abundance of dead salmon, many animals, including eagles, bears, raccoons, foxes and others, eat the salmon.

In death, these fish act as an extremely important and relied upon food source for other animals.


The Great Grey Owl Clings to Survival

The Great Gray Owl is the largest species of owl in North America. It inhabits northern and mountain forests intermixed with patchy small open meadows, swamps and bogs.

The Great Gray is well adapted for forest life in many ways. However, of these adaptations, it’s most striking visual feature is it’s large facial disks, which act in much the same way as a satellite dish. These disks catch, condense and magnify sound made by prey, whether beneath deep snow or moving about the lush forest floor during spring, summer and fall.

The Pileated Woodpecker

DeerThe Pileated woodpecker is the largest woodpecker in North America and is actually quite rare in some areas. However, I’m pleased to report that it’s alive & well and living in central Ontario.

The Pileated is a large crow-sized woodpecker possessing a bright red crest which extends from the upper mandible all the way past the crown of the skull to the eye-line at the rear of the skull.


© Copyright 2010 Bill Leeming - All Rights Reserved