Saturday, March 13, 2010

Late Winter Action


Yesterday was a beautiful late winter, almost spring, day in Cape Breton.  The temperatures hovered around the 32 degree mark, but the skies were clear and windless. Checking out the windows all day has become an obsession, looking for FOY birds to arrive.  My binoculars live beside my sewing machine as I stitch and watch the feeders out back in the rock garden through the sliding glass door.

Here's a shot of one of my birdfeeders that hangs from the front porch, with the small island in view across the harbor.  This winter, American Goldfinch were the only permanent visitors to the feeders.  They are always a delight, and are now beginning to change back to their lemon yellow color.  It appears as though they are wearing yellow scarves around their neck, the first place to show the change. I love to step out the door to hear them chattering away, every once in awhile I hear, "j'eet?  no, j'u?"  At any given time, there are 20 or 30 flitting around the property and their delicate little vocalizations fill the air.

American Goldfinches (Carduelis tristis) are late nesters, not even beginning to nest
until midsummer.  They plan it just right so the thistle and weeds are ready to go to
seed when it's time to feed those babies! 

Too far away to photograph, the pair of resident adult eagles were perched in one of those trees straight ahead on the island.  I was drawn to the scope and checked over and over again as they sat there for hours, until someone onn an ATV accessed the island at low tide and scared them off.

There were 8 male red-breasted mergansers and 3 black guillimots 
feeding in the harbor this morning,
 which I did attempt to take photos of, but they were just too far away!
I wandered down to the shore and sat for a long time, 
drinking in the calm and tranquil early morning.
This morning dawned calm and clear as well, the surface of the water 
in the harbor as smooth as glass.
A quick scan with the scope revealed 5 red-breasted mergansers,  
4 males, 1 female.
The males were "strutting their stuff"!
According to Kenn Kaufman's Lives of North American Birds, 
during courtship the "male stretches his neck forward and upward, 
then suddenly dips his neck and the forepart of his body underwater, 
with head angled up out of the water and bill wide open."  

And that's exactly what they were doing!!!  
Skimming the surface, darting and chasing each other away,
circling the female while trying so hard to make an impression,
  THE impression - "Pick me!  Pick me!",
 back and forth in the middle of the harbor.
This display is called a "salute curtsy".  
It was so comical and truly amazing to watch.

Any attempt to walk closer only causes them to swim away.
I wish I had a big, fancy camera!

For more CameraCritters from near and far,


eileeninmd said...

Great birds and photos, the Goldies are one of my favorite yardbirds.

chubskulit said...

Great captures!

Please come and find out if Champ & Chelsea get along. Happy weekend!

Living In Williamsburg Virginia said...

Wow,if we had a view like that from our home we would never leave home. : )
Beautiful shots, thanks for sharing.
Darryl and Ruth

Susan said...

Awesome photos Karen! You truly live in one of the paradise's on earth. There have been SO many Goldies in our yard lately, and the females feed a lot - I guess they're getting ready for nesting season already, or are they just big eaters?

Thanks so much for your kind and encouraging words, it means a lot. I can't believe how many wonderful folks I've met and it feels as if I've known them for years, not weeks or months.

Not sure what your episode was, but I hope you're feeling better really soon. I'm glad you have a beautiful place to relax and recharge.

Hopefully this week will be better for all of us! Take good care, Susan

Pam said...

I enjoyed seeing the Goldfinch and Eagles, your photos are wonderful. Our southern birds are lovely but I do miss the variety of beautiful northern birds.
Thanks for sharing the beauty.

Gattina said...

Nice feather critters ! Not so much for my cats, lol !

Your EG Tour Guide said...

Mergansers are hard to capture even with a fancy camera, I think. Especially this time of year. All the migratig birds are a bit timid right now, I'm finding.

lisaschaos said...

Birds are one of my favorite critters to watch! Looks like your feeders are busy!

Susan said...

Glad you like my kittie story Karen, and it brought back some fond memories for you! I had cats growing up, and would love one, and another dog - my hubby isn't a cat lover and it's not in our budget now either. One of these days though, maybe after the kids move out, I will bring home a cat! Haahaaahaaahaaa!!! (evil laugh)

Nicole said...

It must be beautiful to be surrounded by all this Beauty and tranquility and wildlife (well, until the idiots tag along that is).

Lovely birdy shots!