All week there have been reports of a very cooperative Great Gray Owl in the arboretum while I was stuck behind my microscope at work.  Naturally this was frustrating, especially so as it seems to have stayed pretty much in the same place all the time and plenty of people have seen it.  We didn’t go yesterday as the arboretum were holding “Winterfest”, a rather inappropriate annual activity (inappropriate for a place where you go to commune with nature anyway) that involves hundreds of people, screaming kids and dog sled rides.  Naturally this was expected, almost designed, to scare away any self-respecting bird … so we left things until this morning which was bright and beautiful and, and full of skiers in day-glo jackets.

Doubtless the owl is in there somewhere, but he has taken himself to some quiet corner that we never found. I have taken it as a given that next year when I do my Bigby these rare owls will stay away up north.  Actually, the bird was not far away – I just learned that he had moved down to the MBO (McGill Bird Observatory) that is tucked away on the edge of the arbo where the great unwashed and their dogs cannot penetrate.  A fine photo taken this morning by another birder was posted on Facebook – click here

C’est la birding vie.

Dr Bigby GreenBirder's ace bird spotter spotting birds

Dr Bigby GreenBirder’s ace bird spotter spotting ace birds

So instead of the target bird (not a lifer, thank goodness) we had some exercise and saw other winter birds which are in the gallery below.

Redpolls, Pileated Woodpecker, the female Red-bellied Woodpecker (fly-past so not photographed), Pine Siskins and so on and so forth. The Siskins were especially welcome as the arbo is not far from the garden and we have not had them there yet this year … hopefully they will drop by soon.  You see a lot more birds in spring and summer but I still feel that winter birding is the best.  harder, but better somehow.

(A word … my friends at WordPress who write the software that drives this blog have added yet more new features to the photography galleries. You can enjoy what you see below as it is, you can click on a picture and a rather superior set of full size pictures will open on your screen that you can browse through, read the edifying captions and even, should you so wish, add you own comments. I do like these new features – hope you do as well. Oh, and there’s a footnote below the gallery that may interest the photographers in the audience. ** Late addition Actually there was an even snazzier gallery experinec but the pplug-in that controls it does not work with any IE browser though it is gorgeous in Firefox/Safari/Chrome … so I have had to disable the feature.  Bummer 🙂 )


Postscript – those who have been paying attention to this blog in recent weeks may have noticed that we have added the small and highly portable Sony NEX-7 camera to our armoury.  Most of the bird photos in the gallery above were taken with the Canon 7D with the 100-400mm lens.  This is a superb DSLR camera but very, very heavy on a long hike … hence the NEX-7 (read about it here).  Like the Canon it is an interchangeable lens camera but it is one of the new style mirrorless cameras and so much smaller and lighter, almost pocket sized. It also has a full size 24 megapixel sensor which permits a remarkable latitude for cropping and enlargements … for example, the Pileated Woodpecker shots above were taken with the Canon at 400mm while the one below was taken with Sony at 50mm (I only had the wide angle lens on today) and the bird shown below was cropped and enlarged from a tiny speck in the centre.  Most of the so-called ‘super-zoom’ cameras you see around have sensors with an area a fraction of this size. IMHO this is by far the best of any walk-about camera I have ever seen and terrific for on the fly record shots etc. That is most definitely not a bird lens that I used but the result is more than acceptable – for a records committee, for example.  If you are looking for a professional quality small camera I cannot praise this highly enough.

Pileated Woodpecker taken with 50mm lens on Sony NEX-7 camera, cropped and enlarged.

Pileated Woodpecker taken from a considerable distance away with 50mm lens on Sony NEX-7 camera, cropped and enlarged. The 200mm lens I have for this camera would have done an even better job had I had it with me.

NEWS FLASH … the first “review” of my book has appeared and you can enjoy it at … quite encouraging (though I disagree with the comments about typos – my editor was a bit of a Stakhanovite over those 🙂 ).