A Spring Outing

A Spring Outing

Graeme wanted to get out on the trail to obtain some high speed shots of birds in flight with his Sony NEX-FS700 with SELP18200 lens.The easiest place to do that is on the many trails in the National Capital Commission’s Greenbelt where the Chickadees and Nuthatches are quite happy to come in close and personal to obtain a sunflower seed or two from outstretched hands. Graeme was shooting at 1080p and either 240fps or 480fps. I on the other hand was shooting with my Nikon D300 and a 70-300 f2.8 lens. I restricted myself to 1 frame at a time. My finger can’t click at 480fps LOL. I hadn’t been out on the trails much this winter, so was a willing participant and offered him a hand – actually offered to hold out my hand with an offering of sunflower seeds.  The temperature has continued to be rather chilly so winter clothing was a necessity and outstretched hands can become uncomfortably cold rather quickly.

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It was a Sunday, so the birds had already seen plenty of outstretched hands offering all sorts of bird seed. All along the trails, there were small piles of seed left behind by hikers and skiiers sharing the trails with the birds and the squirrels. After leaving a few seeds scattered among the snow-covered branches of the cedars alongside one portion of the trail, so that Graeme would have plenty of winged visitors to photograph, I headed further along the Sarsaparilla Trail to see if there was anything else that might catch my attention.

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There had been reports of a Barred Owl in the area and others had seen a Porcupine sleeping in the higher branches of the trees, but I saw neither. Often, when I walk along this trail, I will be greeted by a Blue Jay or two, but this particular day, the Chickadees were my only companions. There were signs that a Pileated Woodpecker had recently been hard at work, but as this large woodpecker tends to be a bit wary of humans. I suspect that this particular woodpecker had taken a few days off from its labours to avoid the weekend crowds of humans.

014_9211-Chickadee  014_9214-viewing-platform

014_9218-Pileated-holesWhen we arrived back at the parking lot, we found that someone had left a copious supply of seeds and peanuts at that spot, so we stopped again to watch the Chickadees and Red Squirrels return time after time for another bit of food to add to their cache. As we were about to leave, a Red-Breasted Nuthatch joined in and returned a few times.

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014_9224-r-b--nuthatchOur next stop was the Bird Rescue center.  Although the sunshine was sufficient to melt some of the snow on the roof, it was still quite chilly when not in the sunshine.

014_9231Icicles-After that stop, we headed over to the Old Quarry Trail, hoping to see a White-tailed Deer or two. We saw only one doe this time around, and she was a bit skittish and raised her tail in alarm as the X/C skiiers passed by. The Chickadees and Red Squirrels were happy to entertain us, though, and in addition to a few Red-breasted Nuthatches, our more common feathered friends were also joined by one White-breasted Nuthatch. The sky was blue and the sun angle was warming, so I was able to tolerate standing with my hand out for quite a lengthy period of time, as about 20 Chickadees swooped in, one after another, to pick out their favourite seeds. Red Squirrels watched on waiting for their opportunity to run in and get something to eat.

014_9245-w-b-nuthatch  014_9253-red-squirrel 014_9256-Red-SquirrelTwo years earlier, the temperature was significantly warmer and snow had all melted away.  Not this year, though!!!  Nice to be able to interact with the birds and mammals we find along the trails and provide them with a few more seeds to help them get through the winter.

Squirrel house building 101- Go fetch me a leaf

Squirrel house building 101 – Go fetch me a leaf

You might have heard of birds feathering their nest and everyone knows that beavers fell trees to make their homes and their dams. What do squirrels do?

One day, just before the rain and snow arrived, I looked out the window and saw squirrels scurrying up and down the tree in our backyard. At first, I didn’t think about it much since there are always squirrels scurrying around in our back yard. Then, I looked closer. Continue reading

Lyonia Preserve, Deltona, Florida

The Lyonia Preserve is a relatively new wildlife ecological preserve established to develop a restored scrub preserve in Volusia County north of Orlando, Florida. I first learned of the preserve when visiting the Marine Science Center at Ponce Inlet a few days earlier.

My main reason for visiting the Lyonia Preserve today was to photograph some of the many Florida Scrub Jays that now call the preserve their home. I wasn’t disappointed. The county and school groups have re-established a wonderful scrub habitat and ecosystem. An interesting series of three looped trails allows individuals to walk through the preserve without disturbing the environment. The trails are wide and obvious so no problem with losing one’s way although one signpost caught my attention and made me smile. The footing is a soft fine grained sand but footing is generally stable but not solid enough for wheelchairs. Strategically located benches provide spots to sit and watch the world unfold. There are only limited areas with any sort of shade so, on a hot day, taking a bottle of water along would be advisable. Since I was short on time, I did all three trails at a very brisk pace but a more leisurely pace would be highly recommended.

Trail in Lyonia Preserve, Deltona, Florida
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Got the visas – Almost ready to go.

Got the visas – Almost ready to go.

I picked up our visas from the Kenya High Commission today. Yeah! That completes the visa process for our two country safari in East Africa.

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