Friday, April 29, 2016

Terns Turning

Hey everyone!

I'm super happy this evening - I finally got some of the Tern shots I've been imagining since I first saw one migrating through last year. Today just as we were getting ready for dinner I spotted a whole group of Terns all fishing at the same time, and not letting the opportunity be missed I frantically grabbed my camera and sprinted out as fast as I could! (Thanks Mum for putting up with me - grin!)



There were at least 4, possibly 5 Terns in total - it was hard to count since they were all flying around quite fast and there was definitely at least one gull with an identity problem to confuse matters (hey, who am I to tell him how to live his life - lol!)


Two of them I'm guessing were the ones I saw before. I'm now fairly certain that it's a parent and youngster as it was fairly clear that the larger one was trying to 'teach' the other how to fish (without a huge amount of success).



The adult would head over to the quieter side of the pond, appearing to 'scout out' the water for fish...


Once satisfied, a few calls would encourage a somewhat over enthusiastic youngster over 


To catch fish, the birds slow their flight pointing their heads downwards and stalling before closing their wings and diving head first into the water.


Our youngster seemed to be somewhat apprehensive about the whole ordeal however, resulting in a lot of frantic last minute flapping to stop the dive...


To further complicate things neither of the two birds seemed to appreciate the other Terns joining in the fun - there was several angry swoops made at nearby birds and a lot of calling


Luckily there seemed to be plenty of fish to go around, and soon everyone (well nearly everyone - you'll figure it out soon enough little one...) had caught a fish!

Take 1:


SPLASH!


 Missed it!


Take 2:


 Got One!




Next!



Aww good effort!


Ok try again! 


It's a two for one!! High Score!


Since everyone seemed to really enjoy my 'nearly' shots last time I thought I'd post a few of my favourites again. 
It's amazing how hard it is to actually keep the bird in view when they're diving and swooping everywhere - I'm actually fairly impressed I didn't fall over a couple times when they few over my head lol! 



Here's Yoga Tern carefully balancing on the rooftop (grin!) 


This goose was getting jealous of all the attention the Terns were getting....



It's always such a great feeling when patience, persistence and some mindless determination pay off! And the crazy thing is that while all this was happening I saw several people strolling passed, their eyes glued to their phone screens, completely unaware of the amazing sights around them! This weekend, take some time to put down the laptop, phone, ipad, etc, go outside and just enjoy this amazing world we live in! 



Trust me, you really never know what you might find! 
Chris


Sunday, April 24, 2016

Birds Fishing (and being birds)

Heeellllloooooooooo! Is anybody still out there?? (lol!)
Yup, I'm still alive! Sorry for not posting on here for so long, but I was trying to focus on University (First year at Guelph was pretty awesome!) 

So, here we are, spring is finally here, and 4 months of no school are spread out in front of me. I must say I'm pretty excited to get back to the things I really love - which includes this blog of course! =D

Yesterday I went for a walk around our pond to check it was still actually there (lol, it was don't worry! hehe). 
The Red Winged Blackbirds have arrived.


 Looks like the girls are busy making nests while the boys show off their mating colours to anyone who will watch...



Also spotted a mystery animal going for a swim. My guess is muskrat but I didn't really get a good enough look to tell for sure. 


Several ducks were enjoying the spring swimming too, as well as a pair of geese. Looks like the female goose that was considering making a nest last year is back - maybe this year everything will be to her satisfaction and we'll get little goslings! 


While I was watching the ducks and geese I suddenly noticed a bird dive into the water! 


This little guy is called a 'Belted Kingfisher'. "It nests in burrows along earthen banks and feeds almost entirely on aquatic prey, diving to catch fish and crayfish with its heavy, straight bill." (https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Belted_Kingfisher/id) 


The Kingfisher wasn't the only bird enjoying some spring fishing though. A Caspian Tern stopped by on it's migration path!


About the size of a big gull, with a wingspan of 1.3-1.4m, the Caspian Tern is actually the largest type of tern in the world!

"The oldest known wild Caspian Tern lived to be more than 26 years old. Average life span of Great Lakes Caspian Terns is estimated to be 12 years." (https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Caspian_Tern/lifehistory)


"Young Caspian Terns appear to have a difficult time learning to catch fish efficiently. They stay with their parents for long periods of time, and are fed by them even on the wintering grounds."

I'm guessing this one must of been still young because it definitely seemed to be struggling to keep the fish it it's beak.... 
'Shoot! I dropped it again....these things are slippery!'


"The Caspian Tern breeds in wide variety of habitats along water, such as salt marshes, barrier islands, dredge spoil islands, freshwater lake islands, and river islands. During migration and winter seasons they can be found along coastlines, large rivers and lakes. They roosts on islands and isolated spits."

Caspian Terns feed almost entirely on fish, although occasionally crayfish and insects also make up their diet. This one seemed to be rather enjoying the goldfish someone released into the pond.

On a side note, can we just mention how the best timed shots always seem to be the blurry ones??!! Plus my battery decided to start dying just as the tern arrived...I swear my camera is cursed or something (lol!). 
So for those of you who like taking photos but they never seem to quite work out, I thought I'd share with you some of my "oh so nearly..." shots...


Looks like they eat the fish as they go which is pretty cool!


This would of been the best shot ever...if I hadn't accidentally focused on the reeds in the background. They're very nice reeds though....


A couple seconds to late...taking photos of a diving bird is a bit like playing peek-a-boo...
'now you see me....now you don't!"


Hope everyone is having a great weekend! Good luck to anyone still writing exams (the end is near friends). If you haven't had the chance yet, try to set aside some time today to go for a walk and enjoy mother nature!
Chris

Sunday, June 28, 2015

101 Squirrels!

Hi Everyone,
I'm always coming home and telling my parents stories about the different types of squirrels in the Nursery at Toronto Wildlife Centre. They are all pretty adorable and hilarious, so I thought it would make a good blog post! So here you are; the 101 different types of squirrels! (well not really 101 - I thought that just sounded good lol)



'The Newcomer'
When baby squirrels first come into the centre, they are often scared and confused. If they have any parasites, are sick, or have any major injuries they will spend their first few days in either assessment, ICU or one of the other rooms until they are ready to come into the nursery. Sometimes this period is just until they're parasites have cleared up, other times it is until they have had their x-rays or been to the vet.


Sometimes however, they make the transition over straight away, and for a little squirrel it can all be a bit overwhelming. We actually had a little girl who just came in today. She was crying her little head off, but when I offered her some pedialyte (a liquid that helps re-hydrate them before they transition onto food formula) she quietened right down and drank a lot! Turns out the little one was just really thirsty! Not all newcomers adjust so easily though - sometimes I swear they don't like the taste of the formula as we shift them onto it - I've seen squirrels stick their tongues out and everything!



'The Babies'

The littlest babies are fed up to 5 times a day, and spend most of the time when they're not eating fast asleep. Some of the babies even get what I call 'food coma' where they eat so much that they fall almost instantaneously into a deep sleep right in your hands as you're cleaning them off! =D


At this age they are very cute and honestly seem to think that we are somehow their 'mummy'.  Each baby has its own personality; some are very over enthusiastic eaters, while others prefer daintily licking at the end of the syringe nipple.

 (Note that the above photo isn't from TWC and doesn't show the correct syringe holding position - you should always have a finger acting as a 'stopper' on the plunger of the syringe to prevent over enthusiastic squirrels from sucking all the formula into their mouth at once and breathing it in by mistake.) 

When the squirrels are babies it's very easy to fall in love with their tiny little sleepy personalities, but we must always remember that these are wild animals. Since TWC works to rehabilitate and release these little orphans we try to keep their eyes covered while they are eating, and they have blankets over their cages so that they do not become to used to humans and can remain wild.




'TIDs'

TID is the acronym we use to refer to squirrels that are feed three times a day. This is around the age that they start to become more curious, and realise that we're not actually their mummy. Generally this means they become very, VERY fussy!! They are very curious and easily distracted so at this stage feeding them suddenly takes double the amount of time!


When you finally convince them that now isn't a good time to run across the table or tackle the pillow case they're wrapped up in though, they do tend to still be very good eaters, and often end up with very full tummies at the end of the meal. Because squirrels are so small, their stomachs expand quite noticeably when they are full, creating an adorable bulge! 


They also start trying to be more independent at this stage, which can be very funny to watch. When baby squirrels eat they lie flat on the stomachs. As they get older they start to sit up, which isn't always as easy as it looks! Sometimes a slightly sleepy squirrel will end up falling over if your not careful! They also start trying to clean themselves up after feedings, which always results in them smearing formula all over their faces the first few times!

'One Timers (AKA The Teenagers)'

Finally there comes a point where these adorable little babies aren't really babies any more - and they know it! Once they have started to eat solid food (nuts and seeds) on their own, we will start putting them in outside enclosures for the day to adjust them to life in the wild. For a while however, they aren't really eating enough on their own, so must still be hand fed once or twice a day.



Just like human teenagers are known for being grumpy, squirrel teens have quite the attitude! These feisty little guys have decided that they don't need us any more (even if they actually do!) and let us know about it! Not only do they realise that they have quite sharp claws and teeth, but they also become very cleaver; I've had teens appear to be eating only to spit it back out seconds later, and even pull the nipple off the syringe and and try to hide it underneath themselves! These guys will do anything to get their own way!! 

'Reds'




And just when you think you've seen it all, a red squirrel comes along. Not only are these babies much tinier than any of the Gray Squirrels, but they're faster too!! Red squirrels love chasing each other around their cages and doing rolls in your hands as you try to feed them (I have no clue why, but they will just continuously roll onto their backs and then back upright again if you let them!) and getting formula everywhere! Once you've got some food in them however, just like any other baby they get very sleepy, and their isn't much that's cuter that a tiny sleepy red squirrel.


So there you have it, all the different types of squirrels babies at TWC! I bet you'll never look at the squirrels in you backyard quite the same! There are lots of other animals I'm learning about at Toronto Wildlife Centre too, so stay tuned for another post about all of them! 

Have a great week!
Chris