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28 December 2009 @ 10:20 pm
After the Ice Storm  

Freezing rain fell all day on Boxing Day, turning the Ottawa Valley and eastern Quebec into a skating rink. I didn't go out at all, except to retrieve our black recycling box from the end of the driveway before it froze into place. I was much happier the following day when the sun came out, lighting up all the ice-coated trees with diamond sparkles. The world looked like a magical winter wonderland; however, by noon the temperature had risen to 1°C and water was dripping steadily from icicles hanging from roofs and trees. I went out to clear the driveway of ice, preparing to go out to take some pictures of the breathtaking, icy scenery.

While I was busy chipping the ice off the driveway, a small group (aka murder) of crows flew into the tree across the street. I glanced at them from time to time, but didn't think too much about them until I realized one was eating the ice off the tree. Intrigued, I went into the house to get my camera, thinking that not only would it be great to capture this unusual behaviour, but also that this was a wonderful opportunity to photograph a species I usually pay little attention to.

White-tailed Deer

I was only able to get one photo of a crow eating the ice, and unfortunately he was sitting in shadow and appears only as a featureless silhouette:

American Crow

This individual was sitting higher up in the tree in the sunshine. I thought that the ice-covered branches made for an unusual setting.

American Crow

After photographing the crows for a while I put down the camera and went back to work on the driveway. It wasn't until 2:30 that I finally got my birding gear and headed out; there wasn't much daylight left for a long outing, so I decided to check the fields just south of Kanata before heading over to Jack Pine Trail.

There weren't many birds in the agricultural areas. The Rough-legged Hawks around Rushmore and Brownlee Roads were gone, and I didn't encounter a single Red-tailed Hawk. The only birds I found of interest were the Snow Buntings on Aikens Road in a harvested corn field. There were at least 50 birds in the flock, and once they landed in the field I found it fun to watch them scurrying back and forth between the neat rows of vegetation. I didn't see any Horned Larks with them this time.

I did find the scenery very beautiful, however, and took several pictures of the ice-coated fields.

After the Ice storm

Frosted Fields

Winter Farmland

Given the lateness of the day I didn't do an extensive tour of the area, but headed over to Jack Pine Trail once I finished checking the usual roads for raptors and Snowy Owls. I heard the friendly call of a chickadee as soon as I got out of the car, but didn't see any birds on the walk to the OFNC feeder. Perhaps they knew that when it came to begging for food, they couldn't compete with a large white-tailed buck; I was surprised to come across this fellow standing in the middle of the path surrounded by scattered sunflower seeds. He looked up when he heard me approaching, but declined to move. We both stared at each other for several long moments while I turned the camera on and began shooting.

White-tailed Deer

Given his apparent fearlessness, I began suspect it was the same buck that Deb and I had seen on the same section of the trail last winter. I tossed some more seed on the ground, then slowly backed away. To my delight, he walked toward me and lapped up all the peanuts. He didn't move until a small group of people approached from the opposite direction; then he reluctantly moved off to the side and began walking away.

One of the people mentioned that this buck has been coming to the bench by the feeder to eat the food left there. So when I got to the feeder I put some more of my sunflower seed/peanut mixture on the bench. I was hoping to entice a White-breasted Nuthatch to come down for some food. Instead, about ten minutes later the buck walked up to the bench and began eating the seed!

At the Buffet

When I got home I was able to confirm that this was in fact the same deer Deb and I had seen last year....the top of his left ear is not rounded but has a straight edge as though it had been cut off with scissors. Here are the photos from last December: http://gillianm.livejournal.com/77424.html

The deer ate all of the seed from the bench, then turned and walked back into the woods. I decided it was time to leave the feeders, too, for I wanted to see what else I could find on the trails. As it turned out, I didn't see much at all - few birds other than the usual winter species, and no mammals. So I contented myself by photographing the scenery instead.

Boardwalk at Jack Pine

By the time I finished the middle loop the light was fading from the day. I could see some bright streaks of orange along the horizon through the trees, so I stopped at the first boardwalk to take some pictures of the sky.

Sunset at Jack Pine

The crimson sun was shining through a small rent in the clouds, and the effect of the light against the clouds was breathtaking. I drove south on Moodie Drive, looking for an open area to try to take some more photos. My camera has a "twilight" mode which I'd forgotten all about, and I thought I'd see what it could do. These are the results:

Twilight Sky

The photos turned out much better than I expected. These are my two favourites, and larger images can be found in my Sky Lights gallery on Pbase:

A winter sunset

Shades of Violet

It was almost completely dark by the time I returned home; one of the benefits of such short daylight hours this time of year is that I can stay out till dusk and still get home in time for dinner. It's not often that I stay out birding so late in the day, but even though there wasn't much around, it is always fulfilling to be able to watch the sun set out in the open country where the fields stretch out to the horizon.