Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Unusual wildlife in the Mount Royal Cemetery

During my frequent trips to the Mount Royal Cemetery to photograph the wildlife, I have come across some very unusual creatures.  These are all examples of atypical colouration of familiar species of birds and mammals.


Mottled gray and white Squirrel

White/blond Squirrel

Squirrel with striped underside

Reddish brown Squirrel

Normal Gray Squirrel (for comparison)

Groundhog (Woodchuck):

Black Groundhog

Normal Groundhog (for comparison)


Maskless Raccoon

Normal Raccoon (for comparison)

Birds (leucistic):

Robin (leucistic)

Normal Robin (for comparison)

White-throated Sparrow (leucistic)

Normal White-throated Sparrow (for comparison)

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Another Owl - And A Rare One

After having wonderful owl sightings recently (see previous blog post), these last few days have been just as exciting.  

First of all, the Snowy Owl was seen again at the same location (but a different lamp standard) and then a rare owl was found on a nearby golf course!  This particular owl, a Short-eared Owl, has been frequenting it since December.  

I receive email alerts for rare bird sightings and finally I managed to get out there to actively search for this owl.  Although it involved climbing a snow bank to get over a fence, slog through nearly knee deep snow and edge along treacherous icy patches, it was certainly worth it!  I even managed to have some "alone time" with the owl (sans other photographers) just as the sun came out to show off the beauty of this bird.  And look at those incredible eyes!

Interestingly, the Short-eared Owl seems to like to perch on the outer parts of branches (which is wonderful for photographers), whereas the Long-eared Owl (see below) tends to roost among dense foliage and close to the tree's trunk.  I was very lucky to get this shot several years ago and only found the owl by being tipped off by a lone crow which was circling the tree and calling loudly.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Three Owls Within A Week

Winter may not be the most comfortable time to be out birding but it can be very fruitful, especially when it comes to owls.

Ironically, I was just returning from a favourite nature park (where there were no unusual sightings) when on the road home, a huge Snowy Owl was perched on a lamp standard at the side of the highway!  It required some dodgy maneuvers but I was able finally to get close enough to get some shots.  Based on the pure white plumage, the bird was a mature male.

Then, a few days later, I went up to the Mount Royal Cemetery and with the help of fellow photographers, found two Eastern Screech Owls.  One was high up in the cavity of a tree and seemed sound asleep until a crow flew too close and in a flash he ducked inside the cavity (to emerge a little while later).

The most exciting sighting was that of the mate to this owl who was only about eight feet off the ground on the side of a jagged part of a tree trunk.  I walked through deep snow to get close enough for several great shots (and a couple of shaky videos (I was too excited)).  

An interesting fact about these small owls is that, when nervous, they stretch themselves as tall as possible and raise their "ear" tufts which is an attempt at camouflage.  You can see this in the following photograph.

A few seconds later it was more calm (as below).

With any luck, there will be little owlets this spring!

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Deer photos

After the fox that I spotted during my recent visit to Ile St-Bernard (see my previous post), I saw a few small groups of deer.  Soft snow was falling and they looked like they had been dusted with powdered sugar.

Sometimes they would allow my close proximity; other times they kept their distance.  In any event, it was wonderful to be in their presence.

And on a final note, I thought this little Chickadee deserved a photo - especially considering her lovely snowflake "fascinator"!

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Fox photos

A recent trip to Ile St-Bernard near Montreal led to an exciting sighting of a fox.  Here is a short sequence of photographs as he ran across a path in front of me and then circled around to a frozen pond.  At the end is a bonus photograph of another amazing fox with whom I spent over one hour about ten feet away from him (with a link to a whole series of this animal on my Fine Art America site).

And finally ...

Please click here for more of this fox and a Barred Owl, etc.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Cohen and Kinglets

Today is the second anniversary of Leonard Cohen’s death.  When I go to the Mount Royal cemetery to photograph nature, I stop at an adjacent cemetery to visit his grave site. 

Almost every time, I see someone arriving at, lingering at, or leaving his site. Last month I met a woman, named Lise, who had come all the way from Houston, Texas just to visit his grave and lay some flowers.

Then a couple of weeks ago, I unexpectedly encountered others at his site that were very meaningful to me.  It was a flock of Golden-crowned Kinglets flitting about in the grass.

Sixty years ago, the renowned Canadian artist James Fenwick Lansdowne painted a pair of these kinglets and shortly afterwards I received a card of this painting and instantly fell in love with these tiny birds with their orange and yellow “crowns”.  I’ve been in love with them ever since but have only caught fleeting glimpses of them high in trees.  Now, at this place and this time, these birds gave me the chance to see them close up in full display. 

This special moment has inextricably linked my favorite bird with my favorite poet and moved me to write the following poem:


Many times, I stand by your grave -
I even sometimes sing -
then one October afternoon
I saw a wondrous thing.

Around your grave site marker there,
adorned with stones and words,
there fluttered in the windswept grass
a flock of tiny birds.

My best-loved bird for sixty years,
these kinglets came to you
my best-loved poet who returned
my life to me renewed.

I felt such exultation for
the synchronicity
that you and I and kinglets were
now linked exquisitely.

The birds flickered like tiny sparks -
their crowns so gold and bright -
your poetry of birds and flames
had somehow come to life.

And tho' you lie 'neath frozen ground,
and I must stand above,
I feel a deep connection here
and sense the warmth of love.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Axanthic Northern Leopard Frog

Recently when walking along a trail near a river, I was stopped in my tracks by a beautiful leopard frog!  There are dozens of these frogs that nerve-wrackingly leap across the path but I immediately knew that this one was special. (You can enlarge the photo by clicking on it).

After doing some research, I discovered that there are various species of frogs which can have blue colored skin.  They are called "axanthic" and this frog is "partially axanthic". Frog skin has two pigments, yellow and blue, which make the green color normally seen.  In axanthic frogs the yellow is missing revealing the blue. Interestingly, in this animal, the pigmentation is not uniform so only blue patches appear.

My first thought when seeing him was that he looked like a FabergĂ© frog or a CloisonnĂ© frog ornament.  If you Google these things you will see the resemblance.

For comparison, here is a photo of a more normally colored Northern Leopard Frog.