Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds migrating though Regina, SK

Ruby-throated Hummingbird. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
Male Ruby-throated Hummingbird, in my Regina, SK, backyard.  © SB
We were lucky again this year to see a Ruby-throated Hummingbird in our Regina, SK, backyard — and yes, we did see one, but only one! (So far? Will more come? The feeders are ready...)

This year's Hummingbird was a mature male, with a red throat that looks dark brown here, because of the angle of the light. Had I caught him on my sensor facing towards the sun, it would have glistened like, well, some would say, a bright ruby.

He arrived in the garden in the early morning, fed from cosmos and petunia flowers for a while, and then veered off over the trees, not to be seen again.

Last year, we had our first Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, and all were juvenile males, with only faint streaking on their throats. I'd like to think that this week's bird was one of those hummingbirds, come back again to visit on its way south.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
Another view of the male Ruby-throated Hummingbird, showing his throat.
(Really! This was red in the sunlight!)
In my Regina, SK, backyard.  © SB

I just wish it would have stayed longer!

Ah well. Maybe next year. (And maybe more will show up this year, too...)


What is this? A male Ruby-throated Hummingbird - Colibri à gorge rubis
Location: Backyard, Regina, Saskatchewan
Photo date: Regina: August 13, 2016.
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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Moose on the loose near Regina, SK

Moose near Regina, SK. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
Young moose in a field along the TransCanada,
just watching the cars go by... © SB
Surprising, but true: Moose really do wander through the City of Regina sometimes. Recently, one was in Wascana Lake, and a few years ago, our flight from the Regina airport was delayed, because a moose was on the runway. (The airport is right on the edge of town, and that moose later strolled along the creek to the downtown area, where my colleagues saw it right outside our office.)

Fortunately, although these two moose were very near the western limits of Regina when we saw them in mid-June, they were also loping away from town.

What a thrill to see the pair, right along the TransCanada Highway! (Young, I think... At least, they look young to me. One male, one female, I also think...)

Moose near Regina, SK. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
Moose. Heading west from Regina, SK, in the fields beside the TransCanada Highway.

What are these? Two young moose.
Location: Not far west of the city limits of Regina, Saskatchewan
Photo date: Regina: June 15, 2016.


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Friday, July 8, 2016

Common Grackle feeding young Grackle in Regina backyard

Yes, this is a post about a Common Grackle feeding a young grackle in early July.

Grackles are usually far from my favourite birds: They are loud and bossy, and at times, scare away the smaller birds. But they can also be entertaining — when they try to perch on tiny feeders to peck through fine mesh with their large beaks, for example. And the males are beautiful when the sun glints off their feathers and highlights their iridescent blue heads. They can even be endearing when feeding their young — the adults, that is. I didn't feel quite so kindly toward the juvenile. Squawky, greedy baby!

Common Grackles - adult with juvenile. Copyright © Shelley Banks, All Rights Reserved.
See what I mean about greedy? This juvenile Common Grackle kept screeching until finally...  © SB
Common Grackles - adult with juvenile. Copyright © Shelley Banks, All Rights Reserved.
The adult male Common Grackle fed it... © SB 
Common Grackles - adult with juvenile. Copyright © Shelley Banks, All Rights Reserved.
Adult and juvenile Common Grackles, between bites and squawks.  © SB


What is this? Common Grackle
Location: Backyard, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.
Photo date: July 3, 2016

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Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Baird's Sparrow in Grasslands National Park SK

The ochre-coloured sparrow on the red rock surprised me — a Baird's Sparrow, out in the open. The only Baird's I'd seen before had been somewhat hidden in a shrub. But this was at Grasslands National Park, in this bird's natural habitat, and the rock was some distance away. So why be surprised? Just enjoy.




What is this? A Baird's Sparrow
Location: Grasslands National Park, near Val Marie, Saskatchewan. 
Photo date: June 22, 2015.

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Thursday, June 30, 2016

Loggerhead Shrike in Grasslands National Park

Loggerhead Shrike. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
Watch it. This Loggerhead Shrike is watching you...  © SB
I've been intrigued by Loggerhead Shrikes ever since I heard about their food collecting habits...

They skewer their prey, which can range from insects to rodents, to thorns or barbed wire.

Seriously, what's not to like about a songbird with the heart of hawk?

The only place I've seen a Loggerhead Shrike is in Grasslands National Park, where they favour some of the fences, and — or so I've been told — thorn trees.

These are serious little birds. Stocky, scowly and very cool.

Loggerhead Shrike. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
Loggerhead Shrike in profile, showing off its hooked beak.  © SB
Loggerhead Shrike. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
Loggerhead Shrike, with moth.  © SB

What are these? Loggerhead Shrikes
Location: Grasslands National Park, near Val Marie, Saskatchewan.
Photo dates: Top: June 14, 2016; next two: June 22, 2015.

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Monday, June 20, 2016

Double Rainbows at Grasslands National Park

One recent evening, we were camping in Grasslands National Park when rain clouds swept in from the southwest. After they passed, two rainbows formed. The sun was setting as the clouds moved on to the northeast, and the sunset tipped the clouds with pink and lit the distant rain curtain beyond the second rainbow with a golden glow.

Double Rainbow. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
But wait - the secondary rainbow has the typical order of colours reversed, with red on the inside.
As for the sunset, it was behind me when I took this picture. 

Also... Note how dark it is between the rainbows...
Sometimes the most interesting sunset effects are on the other side of the sky.  © SB

I've seen double rainbows before, but never focused closely. I thought they were similar, just one fainter than the other, I don't remember noticing that the second, outer rainbow reflects the order of colours in the opposite way. A mirror image. Backwards, with red inside the arc, not along the outside edge.

There is a great explanation of this at one of my favourite sites, Atmospheric Optics, but essentially, the second rainbow is not only reversed, but fainter and with its colours more widely spread out. And that's because of the way light is reflected within raindrops. Seriously. It's interesting. Check out the science of secondary bow formation.

As for the space between the rainbows — yes, it's darker than on the other sides of either bow. AtOptics explains that this phenomenon was first identified in 200 CE, and is called Alexander's Dark Band. I do not make this up. As I understand it, light from the inner rainbow brightens the sky inside it, while light from the outer rainbow bounces further out, brightening the outer sky, leaving that dark part in between.... It's all explained here.


What is this? A double rainbow
Location: Grasslands National Park, Saskatchewan, Canada
Photo date: June 13, 2016

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Sunday, June 19, 2016

Willet landing on gravel road near Regina

Another evening, another bird landing in gravel beside us — this time, a Willet, a large, grayish-brown shorebird that nests on the prairies. The Willet walked in front of our car for several minutes, and then lifted its bold-striped wings and flew.

Willet. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved
Willet near sunset, on a gravel road beside a Saskatchewan slough. © SB

What is this? A Western Willet in breeding plumage Chevalier semipalmé
Location: Beside a slough, near Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
Photo date: May 24, 2016.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Killdeer Calling at Condie Nature Refuge, near Regina

One thing I don't understand about Killdeers: Why do they think that calling so loudly — and calling so much attention to themselves — will keep predators from finding their nests? Isn't there a chance that a supposedly threatening creature (me, for example) might not even know the Killdeer is there until they start their kill-deer, kildir call?

Killdeer. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
A Killdeer, at Condie Nature Refuge, near Regina, SK

This Killdeer at the Condie Nature Refuge near Regina, SK, started calling as soon as I drove in. I ignored it. Then, when I drove out, it stopped in front of my car and continued to call. Kill-deer, kildir, kill-deer.

Enough, I thought. You want attention. I can't drive over you, so we both have time to kill. Time for a Killdeer photo session. (And what bright red eyes this Prairie plover has! The shorebird we can see without going to the sea.)


What is this? A Killdeer - Pluvier kildir
Location: Condie Nature Refuge, near Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
Photo date: May 29, 2016

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Monday, June 13, 2016

American Three-toed Woodpecker - Boreal Bird in Banff

American Three-toed Woodpeckers breed in the boreal forests of northern Saskatchewan — and also in the Rocky Mountains, where I saw one near Banff this spring. We were walking through trees when I heard that characteristic tapping sound, and stopped, expecting to see a more common bird. 

American Three-toed Woodpecker. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
Close-up, American Three-toed Woodpecker. © SB
American Three-toed Woodpecker. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
Full body through the trees, American Three-toed Woodpecker. © SB


When I realized this woodpecker had a bright yellow head, I looked closer, hoping for a better shot. But what's above is the best that was meant to be with this very wary American Three-toed Woodpecker.

What is this? American Three-toed Woodpecker — Pic à dos rayé
Location: Cave and Basin, Banff, Alberta, Canada.
Photo dates: April 13, 2016.

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Friday, June 10, 2016

Golden-crowned Kinglet - blog visitor from Banff

Several weeks ago, when we were visiting Banff, I saw a Golden-crowned Kinglet flitting through the tops of several nearby trees. Perhaps this Kinglet doesn't belong on this blog, as my subject is distant, as I was from the Prairies...

Golden-crowned Kinglet. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
Male Golden-crowned Kinglet
with crown feathers raised. © SB

Golden-crowned Kinglet. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
Golden-crowned Kinglet © SB

But Golden-crowned Kinglets migrate through southern Saskatchewan on their way to breeding grounds in our province's boreal forests, and so, to remind myself of this tiny (extremely tiny) songbird, and in hopes of seeing another at a closer range, here are two shots of my first Golden-crowned Kinglet.


What is this? A Golden-crowned Kinglet — Roitelet à couronne dorée
Location: Cave and Basin, Banff, Alberta, Canada.
Photo dates: April 13, 2016.

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