Just a short blog entry this weekend. We experienced a late winter snowfall in Ottawa on Tuesday and at the end of the day we headed back over to see the Great Grays with hopes to get a ‘winter’ image with the snow falling around them. Unfortunately, the GGOW’s were nowhere to be seen but I think that is also a good news story and that the Great Grays have hopefully moved back to their breeding grounds. After I was done work on Wednesday, I was walking to the car and I noticed over 2 dozen Bohemian Waxwings were feeding on a small bush in the middle of the parking roundabout. I haven’t seen a Bohemian Waxwing all winter and could hardly believe my good fortune. I quickly got my camera out but the background and setting was not great. I was hoping to use my car as a blind and move to a more strategic spot but as soon as I started the car, they flew away. So close, yet so far. Here is one of last years Bohemian Waxwings for old times sake.
There are some scenic roads between Ottawa and Orillia and one of those leads from Hwy 17, follows the Madawaska River through Calabogie and meets Hwy 41 at Griffith. The road is lightly traveled and often provides a sighting of a deer or 2. Actually, two deer bounded from the road into the forest just before we saw Red Crossbills feeding on the grit on the road. Red Crossbills! A very pretty boreal finch that is often heard and rarely photographed, at least by me. I have only one picture of a Red Crossbill, a female, that is in my finch gallery. Red Crossbills have been on my ‘rarely seen nememis list’, which contains species that rarely seen by myself let alone photograph. The Black-backed Woodpecker was also on this list. Both of these have now moved onto the ‘nememis list” 🙂 but I digress.
We pulled off to a safe location and I walked the 3 minutes back and thankfully they were still there. As I handheld my camera and lens, I proceeded to take several photos (actually a couple of hundred!) hoping that at least one would be sharp enough for the web. I wish I had my tripod or at the very least used my monopod and the bright sky behind the birds made exposure tricky. The male and female Red Crossbills were preoccupied with digging under the bark and lichens and feeding each other which I suspect was part of their mating ritual. The Red Crossbill feeds almost exclusively on conifer seeds and migrations occur on the availability of seed crops. In my research on the Red Crossbill, I found an interesting website called www.borealbirds.ca. According to this site, Red Crossbills extract seeds by forcing the cone scales apart with their bills until the tongue can lift the exposed seeds out. Then, to remove the seed, the tongue pushes it against a specialized husking groove on the lower mandible. As a birder and naturalist I was extremely happy to see the RECR, as a photographer I now have a semi-decent image and set myself a new bar. So in the end, I missed out on more images of the Great Gray Owl and Bohemian Waxwing but in return, I now have a couple of semi-decent images of the Red Crossbill. One of these images will soon be on the March photo gallery of the Ontario Field Ornithologists.