Long Shots of the first Arrivals I have seen this Year
Went for a drive to three locations today, two in the city and one at a provincial park to see what may be arriving.It was a pleasant surprise. I did not get a shot, but rather a quick glimpse of a small group, maybe a dozen, of white birds with black wings, they may have been snow geese. (I was driving).These sightings made for a great day and it was hot and sunny to boot.Some of these photos are not the first I have seen this year, i.e. Ring-billed Gull and Canada Geese
unmistakable pose of a displaying male Goldeneye
A Pair of Northern Shovellers (sorry I couldn’t get the female in the photo)
Outdoors with the Birds
I went out a couple of times during the Easter weekend to shoot the birds with my Canon.Here is what I saw , including one “lifer.” Getting outdoors makes me feel complete and I am so grateful to be able to take photos, smell the fresh air and watch and listen to the birds and wildlife.
Did I tell you that I booked a seat on the “Wild Goose Chase” tour? We will be going to see the snow geese migration, possibly owls, cranes, bluebirds.. I haven’t done this in years so am looking forward to it. The trip is on May 3rd and of course I will be taking photos and posting them!
But back to the birds, etc. from this past weekend…
It is always a sign of spring to see the gulls return. Here is a resident Ring-billed gull.
I got a kick out of the Canada Geese lined up at the open side of the pond.
The House Finches are back in the neighbourhood. I like their songs, although my neighbour hates them since they nest right outside his window.
Here is a shot of a Handsome Canada Goose gander.
And you know who had to make an appearance, always helping himself to the spoils at the bird feeder.
I had been trying a number of self -portraits when this beauty showed up. I quickly grabbed the camera off the tripod and changed my settings from timer to bursts.
Both the male and female Downy Woodpeckers showed up This is the male.
This is the female Downy Woodpecker.The Black-capped Chickadees.
And my “lifer” the American Tree Sparrow. Yay!
A Ruckas in the Back Alley
It was quite noisy in the back alley this particular morning. The fighting between two couples was echoing off the buildings and was loud, attracting people’s attention from the surrounding apartments and condos.. I went out to investigate, taking my camera with me. Turns out that one couple is trying to set up house on the balcony of someone’s apartment (the owners must be thrilled) and the other couple were loudly protesting from the parking area.below. At one point, one of the mates flew up to the balcony but bounced off the wall, not quite hitting the mark.In the last photo the couple seem to be perplexed, maybe giving up. It has been eerily quiet since then and I wonder whether someone took the matter into their hands in a lethal way.
That’s Got to be Cold
We had two little snow falls lately and i was wondering how the geese were faring. I admit I felt sorry for them as they walked on top of the puddle then broke through, half walking, half swimming.When they came out of the water, there was ice on their bills and feet. I am sure the feathers will keep them warm but the feet? Oh, that must be cold!
They are Back!
I was out and about doing errands and took off to a nearby park since it was close to the mall where I had been shopping. Enough errands, it was a gorgeous day outside and the temperature was in the teens. My rubber boots were not in the car which prohibited me from going closer to the water. A man with a camera passed me and asked what I ‘d seen. I replied ” just Chickadees and Blue Jays”. He told me he’d seen about 60 Canada Geese in Hawrelak Park. Off I went.
They congregate in these large puddles where the snow has melted and there was a Pair of Mallards there which is exciting when it is the first sighting this year. I arrived in time to see a male fly in from the area of the pond which happens to be iced over, and a vicious fight ensued. When all was calm everyone went back to their eating and I sat down, watched and took photos.Now that’s a good day. I will show you what other species I saw in the next posts.
Last Days of Summer
After the cold and snow flurries last week and the inevitable whining, I felt so relaxed and grateful today as I walked along natural paths, observed the changes in the trees and bushes. and watched the squirrels as they hurried back and forth, with mouths full of food , preparing for the inevitable cold days ahead.It was a good day to be out doors with temperatures back in the normal zone.
Except for a few territorial squabbles, and the odd chase by children, the geese mostly ate grass and relaxed. I took photos of the things that caught my eye. hope you enjoy my look at the world.
So What is the Park Like Now?
Two weeks ago Hawrelak Park was full of people attending the World Triathlon finals. The pond, or lake, as the media called it, was treated with chlorine and some ducks and a few die hard geese stayed at the opposite end from where the activities took place, their feathers looking a little worse for the wear.I wondered if the rest of the ducks and geese had left permanently. The people who were responsible for organizing, setting up and striking down all the equipment for the World Triathlon Finals did a phenomenal job and the grounds look good , the pond, er lake is full.
I returned today as it was my day off and it was sunny and warm, a perfect day for the last bit of summer. The park was a good place to go to walk and take photos. No special events here today but people and water fowl were out in numbers, mostly relaxing.
Some Close-ups of Babies at he Pond
First are the grown-up babies. I will let the pictures speak for themselves. Click to see enlargements.
A Trip back to the Old Park
Hawrelak Park has been getting excavations in readiness for the World Triathlon Event in August of this year.. For a long time the lake was drained so the bulldozers could deepen the depth and you may remember that I was somewhat distressed over what would happen to the ducks and geese as there was no place for them to swim or nest.
I went there for a visit in the early evening and was happy to see less poop so I could lie on the ground, also that a few geese thrived and raised their offspring. I have seen hundreds less of the fowl this summer, so was happy to see them again. It was funny, as I lay on the ground and said to the geese before me that it was nice to be able to lie down, when one let it fly out its butt. Oh well.
I walked around the lake and found quite a few Canada Geese, some Mallards,Wigeons, Cedar Waxwings and murders of Crows.The geese are mostly grown up but there were a couple of young duck families and the cuteness factor was in full force.
I have been getting physio for an old back pull and been getting extreme cramps in my legs (too much sitting) but the walk on Mother Earth did me good. My Heartsong was in full melody but I did start to feel pangs of frustration and resentment at seeing the old habits displayed,, that is, of the people with their loaves of bread feeding at the side of the water, so I left while I was still feeling happy. 😉
Here is a photo of a gaggle of geese walking across the lawn, with one running to catch up. Wait for me! Wait for me!
And a mother Mallard and her ducklings:
I was delighted to see this mother Wigeon and her brood:
There is more to come, from a crow chattering and cawing to its mates, observations of molt and young ones so cute it will make you laugh, smile or even say, “Aw-w-w-w…”
Ring-billed Gulls and a Surprise
The gulls’ voices were echoing in the sky for a few days so I went to the park to get up close. Here is a nice photo of one proud adult in breeding plumage. I also took a few shots of the geese hanging out at a big puddle that temporarily serves as a pond. Something showed up in post processing that was not apparent in the initial scene. Surprise! It was the presence of a male mallard, maybe two. Welcome back, ducks!
1/1250 sec@f/5.6 ISO 400, 240 mm
1/200 sec @f/7.1, ISO 400, 190 mm
Yes, they have arrived. There they are in the puddles left from the melting snow amidst the heaps of earth dug up by graders and bulldozers. Behind fences. I stood on a picnic table to shoot over the fence to capture their images. I hear them as they fly over, honking in tandem and as they warn others to stay out of their territory on the water. With the digging and the the development of the pond for the games this summer I fear for the geese. They are resilient.
Hanging Out with the Geese
The Canada Geese, like many other birds are getting ready for their long journey south. I have seen many flocks in their v-formations but this bunch seem to be enjoying the weather and relaxing by a city pond, now that the festivals and triathlons are at a lull.
I sat near a few without bothering them and after a while a couple of them came closer to where I was sitting to check me out.
Oldest to Youngest
I got a kick out of the behaviours of the Goose families. They all are close to one another, but parents sure get on their guard if one family gets too close to another.I thought this was because I was too close but they were focused on their own species.
This above is usually a no-no composition for me but i like the mother goose view of her scattered brood.
When the goose lays her head low, as a warning to others, I believe, it is interesting to see some of the young mimic the behaviour.
Sorry for the slow shutter speed in the above, but here an older gosling has wandered from its family to peck at the younger one. I had to hold myself back, and was surprised that the parents didn’t notice. Or maybe this is just about growing up.
This one was stretching it’s wings although barely developed , then promptly plopped down , its body too heavy for its legs.
here are a family of older goslings, maybe a couple of weeks old.
And here are the newest, probably a couple of days old with both parents being very attentive.And one last shot of a closer view.
Oh Yes! There are Babies After All!
When i took a break from job-hunting, God help me, I went to what is now for me the infamous Hawrelak Park and I spotted some geese, Mallard and Goldeneye families. I felt very happy and even talked to some people nicely that were willing to listen to the downside of feeding the wildlife. That made me very happy to see that some managed to survive the chasing and lazers and god-awful sounds coming from the speakers on the islands. The powers that be are going to gather them up at some point. But for now a brief respite. 🙂
One family Made It So Far
This was not taken at Hawrelak Park pond where they are trying to chase the geese away. This is at a recreational park in the city so maybe the city is chasing here as well but one family has made it.
I told one boy that the crackers he was feeding the goslings were not good for them. He said that he heard bread was bad and I said it was the same thing. I didn’t freak out and he went away then came back without the crackers and sat with me and we observed and chatted together. One little girl brought a large flat box and set it on the ground near the goslings. At first i thought it was food then saw it was filled with grass, a “nest” for the little ones. How sweet.She really cares. And so does the boy.
Get Rid of the Birds RANT
Something stinks in this city and it isn’t just bird poop.The City of Edmonton wants to get rid of the birds from its parks. Too much poop and it interferes with the public events and if we get a swimming pool or beach or restaurant (let’s develop the beautiful river valley and make it more people-friendly).
The skyline is going UP.
I agree, the poop is a large problem. The people are a large problem. We haven’t got the money to enforce the “no feeding” laws so the solution is to get rid of the birds.
A lot of people like to feed the geese and ducks and this in part has created huge over-population and bacteria problems. So the city and the University of Alberta have joined forces to deal with the problem. Not the problem of the people. The problem of the geese. And ducks Oh, and that pair of red-necked grebes that are nesting in Hawrelak park? Well that is a shame, isn’t it? Tsk. Tsk.
We all have to listen to the annoying recordings of stressed chicks, cries of raptors, etc. – that doesn’t fool any of us, bird or human.The university is bringing a black lab to chase the geese after sunset and shining green lazers on the islands and shores.Now THAT must be working. I have not seen one offspring this year.
Unnatural behaviour of the birds crowding the edge to feed. The blue is a wake board that has been discarded.On the notice that was posted recently, it says that it is humane. I don’t buy that. I phoned the city to complain about the lack of enforcement. I encounter dog poop on the trails and wildlife harassment from these pets that are running loose. A couple of years ago the laws allowed dogs in the park, on lese and on-trail only. Well, that’s a joke.Though there is lots of poop from the geese, now there is poop from the dogs on the trail and I see so much garbage left behind from the humans.it is hard to take a photo without garbage in it.
There is over population-people are not supposed to feed the birds. But as you see in these photos there is total disregard for the signs. they sit in front of the signs and feed the birds little knowing that this behaviour is the cause of the over-population and the poop and of the movement to chase the birds away.
After reading the sign I approached people like a mad middle-aged woman that I am, yelling about how the city hates the ducks and geese.They laughed at me and said “oh ya, we hate the geese”. as they threw bread to them. (I was acting crazy, I was crazy with grief over the loss of green space in this city and the wildlife within its boundaries) Last year when I kindly told a man that bread is bad for them. he replied that I was a know-it-all, that these geese are his “friends” and he fed them whole grain bread because it was better for them. He also told me to f-off.
Some of the people that come to the park say they like the geese. You are killing them with your kindness. Yes there are lots, they will never be extinct this year.. One generation lost at this park won’t make a big dint. One person feeding isn’t a big deal . But when you multiply that by hundreds it is a big deal.
I phoned the city number for animal control that was listed on the U of A sheet and the person that i spoke to didn’t realize the city number for animal control is on the sheet and said that she did not realize the full extent of the actions that the university was taking.When I talked to someone at the university they said the goal of the city is to chase the fowlaway from the parks.
I asked why there was no enforcement by the by-law officers. There are, but there are only two for all the parks in the city and more are being trained for the summer months. I am not sure what I believe.I have had an inkling that the city wanted to chase the birds away since I saw the fake coyotes last year before the big triathelon and heard talk of beaches and swimming pools.
Gosh, just think, if the city enforced the park by-laws, this may be a good way to keep some of the geese and ducks, hire staff to educate families about nature and gee, it might even be a good way to raise money for the new hockey arena that is costing billions.
First Blush of Spring
It is refreshing to see the grass turning green and the leaves unfurling from the buds. The temperature is warm and hearts are light.It seems like spring is late but photos from a couple of years ago tell me that the ice was on the pond until the end of April. Perhaps it seemed like such a long winter because it always is here in Central Alberta with six months of snow.
Today is a celebration of spring. The birds are mating, including a pair of red-necked Grebes and during an early morning walk at the pond I heard my first warbler and saw it too, although way high up in the trees.My heart sang to hear the call of the Yellow-Rumped Warbler, though this was a “Myrtle rather than the usual Audobon’s variety.
Spring-When It Changes, the Changes are Big
My winter boots are still on the carpet by the door. I used my winter coat just a week ago. I wrote about the ice on my most frequented pond last week.It looked dismal then but now it looks absolutely fabulous! I got away with jeans and a t-shirt yesterday and it was HOT-definitely shorts weather. It is as if we have moved right into summer but after a delay Spring has arrived in Alberta, with the wooden stems on the bushes turning bright red and yellow and the buds are just starting to open. I can smell the earth and the woods and the smoke from the barbeques.
The pond is alive and well with the sight and sound of Canada geese, Lesser Scaups, Common Goldeneyes, Mallards, a Muskrat, Red-necked Grebe, American Wigeons and a couple of young women in bikinis.
Sorry, no bikinis here, just the birds. Oh, I am so in my element! I found ducks and geese right at the waters edge nesting, with the male a short distance away guarding the female.I was impressed with the camouflage, was very close before I saw them until the gander or drake appoached me and quacked or hissed and I backed off , respectfully. The geese were staking out their territory and all were displaying breeding behaviour, a few nesting on the two islands but a couple right beside the walking path.
Here are some shots that I got. Sometimes the light was harsh and I tried to get partially in the shade or with the sun behind me.First the Lesser male and female Scaups. Local naturalists John Acorn and Chris Fisher, in the field guide “Birds of Alberta” describe the male scaup as looking” like an oreo cookie, black at both ends with white in the middle.”
Male Lesser Scaup
Female Lesser Scaup
Nicely -camouflaged Female Mallard Duck
Resting but attentive male Mallard
Male Common Goldeneye Rising in the water
Female Goldeneye Take-Off
Talking Female Mallard
A Canadian Goose Chase
American Crows are Back
Male American Wigeon (did not see any females)
So nice to have Spring come back. I am curious to see when the babies will hatch this year and when I will see the first warblers.Happy shooting, everyone!
Spring is Late this Year
Just out of curiosity I went to Hawrelak Park to see if the geese have moved onto the pond. Well, they are there but they are on top of the ice – this is the first year that I have seen ice on the pond so late in the season.
At least the snow is leaving the grassy areas and there is still the large puddle for them to swim in.We are expecting more snow but it probably won’t be staying. Sigh, we have had 7 months of snow. That’s too much even for us Canucks.
Urge to Merge
The splashing in the last post did not stop there. While i was distracted by the reflections and geese drinking at the edge of the puddle, I heard a big splash and saw that two were copulating. I was focused on keeping them in the frame and did a good job, in my opinion. Just when you are not looking, they are at it.This is the same gander that was splashing earlier.
If explicit content bothers you, don’t look.
It is interesting to watch the courtship of Canada Geese. After a flight of over a thousand miles, arriving to find snow over the pond, they take turns at stretching out the neck and retracting it back into an s-shape. There is biting of the feathers and neck, flapping of the wings. These two were the ones from the previous post and are engaged in a ritual but not mating.
In the first photo the gander is “goosing” the goose. Probably where that term “goosing” originated. It means to pinch.
They walk together a few steps.
I apologise for the poor exposures. I may fix them and re-insert newly edited ones. Then he reaches out and bites her feathers while she turns her head away.
Now he reaches out with his neck but no contact is made.
And here is another pair later on…he seems to be making a pass and does this a couple of times then they walk a few steps before he tries again…
Next time he is not so subtle.
I will leave the rest up to your interpretations. I see this behaviour repeated all over the pond.
I watched as a pair of geese on the pond walked together toward some others on the boardwalk. When they got about ten feet away the hissing started and the chase would begin, sometimes scaring a goose and gander off sometimes resulting in an all- out fight. During these little battles there is a lot of wing flapping and honking and it gets very noisy and sometimes quite aggressive as I will show here in some poor but descriptive shots. I even got hissed at as the fighting spread out and got closer but I was a safe distance staying directly out of their business.
These two have come off the pond and are heading for the others which is causing some fuss with the raised wings and honking.
At this point other confrontations are going on between geese out of the picture frame, about four to six pair, hard to tell when you are almost in the middle of it.
One has left and rushing forward with head down and bodies are scattering.
Then it looks like the one has backed off and is hissing at another goose , or pair of geese, on the left.
I am not sure who is whom but the two by the bench are intertwining their necks and one has hold of the other’s shoulder.
Of the two who were seriously engaged in aggressive behaviour, one is flying out of reach and the females are hissing at each other, or at least I think it is the females..
Now, are these two fighting, or are they mating?
The two must be stressed and feeling tense as they walk away hissing at other geese.
Now it is my turn to get hissed at. I did take a step back.
Still weary but settling down as they sculk away..
If you have any comments on their behaviour, please do so. I find their behaviour fascinating.I wonder if they will try this again because there are woods just off the path and may be a good spot to nest – but this time , the others weren’t having any of it. Next post i am going back in time to just before the entry from the pond when this couple were displaying what I believe is a courtship ritual.
The Canada Geese are trickling back and I was observing some arrivals in Central Alberta. They are often paired off and sometimes fly in perfect synchronicity. Here are some of the arrivals:
It is fun to see them fly in, sometimes in groups, sometimes in pairs, usually honking back and forth to one another.even in flight. Some of these photos look like one is giving the other directions.There is lots of snow but also open water and I am looking forward to getting lots of practise panning their flight as well as recording their behaviour on the ground.
My How They Have Grown!
I went to the pond with a friend today and saw the goslings .They look like teenagers now. Twice the size. Saw some ducklings, too, both Mallards and Goldeneyes. Spent a long time observing them. I noticed that the goldeneyes especially seem to run across the top of the water and they are so light that they can walk across the top of the algea. Also, when they dive they don’t just dunk under the water but leap up into the air then dive-amazingly agile! The pond is full of yucky green stuff and fluff which doesn’t look nice in a photo but doesn’t seem to hurt the ducks and geese. I heard the parks people oil the eggs so they won’t hatch and I hear recordings of birds of prey and distressed chicks and it may keep some away but sure doesn’t fool all of them.I am happy that I can get so close to wild ducks and geese in the city parks because I could never get this close to their country cousins.