Friday, April 25, 2008

Of stars and birds

Okay, stars first. For our tenth anniversary, we bought ourselves a very nice telescope that we really enjoy using. For 15th anniversary, which is next month (how did THAT happen?), we have bought ourselves a Meade My Sky, which helps lazy-ass amateur astronomers such as ourselves learn about the objects in the sky by pointing this device at them. We're looking forward to trying it out!

And here's a challenge for Happy Wombat Boy. What is this bird?...

Whenever I don't know what kind of raptor/raptoresque thing I'm seeing, my standard guess is red-tailed hawk (and I did see one yesterday, and it was making its characteristic cry.) This is the best photo I have of the mystery bird, which was flying over our field. Fire away (with suggestions, not buckshot.) I have faith in your bird knowledge, HWB. Oh, and when do you think I should put up my hummingbird feeders here?

Last night we went out after dark and heard owls hooting to each other! Oooh, I do love owls, even the barred owl that systematically ate our pond goldfish in BC. I'm pretty sure, from listening to mpegs of owl calls, that it was a pair of Great Horned owls calling to each other last night. You can listen here. HWB, what are the odds of getting a barn owl to live in our barn? Slim to none? Remotely possible? Doesn't the barn have to have things going on in it, so there are rodents for the owls to eat?

I may have posted these before, but this is the goldfish-eating barred owl of December 2004 (unless I have misidentified it. HWB?)


  1. My son wants me to get the telescope out tonight. It's a decent amateur (sp?) one. We've seen 4 of Jupiter's moons.

    Nice birds of prey. Love the owl.

  2. Oh, my. You really like the good quality photographs, don't you? My guess would be that you saw a Turkey Vulture, but it could equally be Big Bird or a flying Ostrich given the picture.

    I see very little colour variation in the photo (which could either be the light or the bird) and the wings seem to be held up in a dihedral, which is characteristic of a soaring Turkey Vulture.

    As for your attracting a Barn Owl, I would guess the chances to be somewhere around 0%. I have only heard of a couple of successful nests in Ontario in the past five years and that was down near Windsor. The Barn Owl is a Carolinian bird and you are too far east and north for that. Actually, checking in my newly acquired "Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Ontario: 2001-2005" the breeding population of Barn Owls in the province is believed to be between five and ten pairs of birds.

    And the first hummingbirds make an appearance around the time the columbine starts blooming (normally early to mid-May around here) which given the start to this year could be as early as tomorrow. Then again, we are expecting snow on Tuesday. :(

  3. Aren't turkey vultures almost black in color? The ones I've seen in PA are very black, and look bigger then the bird in Knat's photo. But I am no expert. And that bird is far away.

  4. Yes, Turkey Vultures appear black. But in a good strong light they are seen to be a dark brown. And the underside of the primaries and secondaries, while also black, can appear to be almost silver.

    As to the size of the bird in the photo, I have no idea. Without anything to compare it to, that could be a Jumbo jet or a two-seater.

    I've gone back and spent another five or ten minutes staring at the photo. I think I had the bird inverted. What I had originally thought of as the back of the left wing may be the underside of the right wing. So the light and glare of the back is actually lighter colour underneath. Yeah. That would rule out a vulture.

    Red-tailed hawk is certainly the most common of the buteos. The characteristics (other than the tail (chestnut from the back, pinkish with the light shining through from underneath... but only in the full adults) are the dark belly band, the black "comma" at the wrist and the leading dark patagial mark on its wing.

    Of course, we are well into hawk migration now, so just about anything that comes through could be seen. Sorry. But the photo just doesn't lead me to any positive conclusions.

  5. I vote that it's a hawk of some kind.
    That's my final answer.

  6. AH, excellent work, HWB. It was hawk-sized, if that helps. HAHAHAHA! I love to give you a challenge!

  7. Anonymous11:46 am

    oh MAN ... jeal-asssss about the My Sky thing- Have you used it yet?

    (ok the verification thing has EIGHT letters in it ... pullleeeaaaaseee! ... I should click on the little handicapped thing)

  8. great photo of the owl...I have never seen one ... I hope one day I will. :)
    Enjoy your blog.

  9. Wow! This guy is amazing. Love his colors. He looks huge.
    Have you seen him this year???


Thank you for all your comments, which I love to read!