Oh where oh where did the owls go today?

This afternoon I bundled up, leashed the partners, and we trundled off to Col. Sam Smith Park to see the snowy owls. Two of them, apparently a male and female have been regularly seen hanging out on the docks in the yacht club harbour. Last year I looked for them numerous times with no success – I think I was just about the only person in the neighbourhood who didn’t see them. I’m not about to let that happen again this year. IMG_2817It was cold and grey out there and the wind was biting, a condition which the Newfs don’t mind at all (I’m less impressed). We talked to some people at the bridge who had seen both owls in the past couple days. We had all come out to check on them, it seems. Unfortunately, there were no owls to be seen, just owl watchers. I’ll be back on the weekend at some different times. I’d love to catch a glimpse of one of these beautiful huge birds.

Affordable Housing, South Long Branch (Toronto) – developers need not apply

IMG_2472This log cabin style home brings a bit of the country into the city – and it features a modest upstairs apartment.

More affordable is this older model home. It’s basic in construction but it has housed several happy families in the past, keeping everyone snug and comfortable. IMG_2479Those interested in some more adventurous architecture will enjoy the Rose A-Frame model, on a large, well-treed lot.IMG_2482And yes, for those who enjoy the condo lifestyle, Long Branch has something for you too. This small condo, with an attractive “barnboard” facade, is conveniently located near a rail line, and features 10 deluxe apartments.IMG_2484


Grackle mosaic – in progress

IMG_1532We’re working on a grackle mosaic – a commission. We’re having a lot of fun with this one. As I’m sure you’ve all seen, various blackbirds have a wonderful irridecence in their feathers. We’re trying various ways to catch this – including various irridecent glass tiles, a broken gold teacup and some translucent glass tiles as well. This material is so dependent on light and the viewer’s position in relation to the bird. It’s very difficult to photograph. I tried with some lower light, but you can’t really see the visual effects in the photo at all. The branches the bird is sitting on have everything but the kitchen sink glued in there. We hope to finish this one next week.

Tea-time Bird Feeders

We just finished a new batch of tea-time bird feeders….




In case anyone is wondering, the drawings to the left of the bird feeders in the top picture are by our pal Anthony Stagg.


An organization in Toronto called Citizens Concerned about the future of the Etobicoke Waterfront, or CCFEW for short(er), organizes regular birdwalks at Sam Smith Park and at Humber Bay.  There was one scheduled for this morning, so we trundled out in the rain to enjoy it.

wet bird walk
wet bird walk
Intrepid but hopeless birdwaters
Intrepid but hopeless birdwatchers

The rain kept some of the birds down, but still I think we saw 19 species:

American Goldfinch (lots of them, flying around and singing)
Magnolia Warbler (one, which could just be seen hiding in some bushes)
Song Sparrow (a few)
Cliff Swallow (they nest at the water filtration plant….these, like other swallows, have been in decline)
Eastern Kingbird
Spotted Sandpiper
Ruddy Turnstone
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Belted Kingfisher
Hooded Merganser
Mallards (lots of them)
American Black Duck (hanging out with the mallards)
Mute Swans (the bullies of the waterfront)
Black Crowned Night Heron
Double-crested Cormorant
Red-necked Grebes
Muscovy (likely an escapee from a farm)

Muscovy Duck
Muscovy Duck
Double-crested Cormorant
Double-crested Cormorant
Red-necked Grebe
Red-necked Grebe

Sam Smith Park is a significant breeding area for Red-necked Grebes. We saw the female in the picture sitting on its nest while the male dove nearby for food (the male isn’t visible in the picture….the other bird in the picture behind the grebe is a cormorant). This is late for the birds to be on the nest. It could be the first attempt failed and this was a second try at raising a family. On another nest, we saw a mother grebe with two young ones. The babies have stripes on their heads.

In spite of unrelenting rain, we had fun on the bird walk. I’d like to go on the next one as well, in early October.

Birdwalk next Saturday – Colonel Sam Smith Park

Colonel Sam Smith Park sees a huge variety of birds (and birders) throughout the season. I’m planning on going on this bird walk. Hope to see you there.



We’re continuing to make progress on the bird and we hope to have it completed by the weekend.


Here’s an old time tune called Little Birdie, performed by the South Carolina Broadcasters. If you ever have a chance to see this group perform live, don’t miss it.

Bird is the Word

Here’s a little progress report on the new bird mosaic…


We started laying in the darkest and lightest values and the beak. Since this is a goldfinch, much of it is yellow, and the how we treat that is going to give this piece its character.


For years we lived in a neighbourhood with few birds. This sure changed when we moved down to Long Branch a few years ago. Sam Smith Park, just down the street, is well known as a migration trap, a respite for migrating birds coming north in the spring. It attracts birders from all over everywhere. You can see them gathered, often in packs. Birders are easy to identify by their markings (they can often be seen carrying cameras with very long lenses).

You might think with all the exposure I have to bird-life around our home that I might have more than a passing knowledge of bird identification but sadly it isn’t so. Sure, I have identified some of the birds I’ve seen in the neighbourhood, but mostly just the most common of them.

Here’s a list of the ones I can think of….

Pigeons. OK, anybody who lives in a city has pigeons.

Mute Swans. There are loads of these to be seen in the lake all around our area. I understand these lovely birds are very territorial.

Canada Geese. ‘Nuff said.

Red-tailed hawk. Saw one down by the marina earlier this year.

Cooper’s hawk. When I saw it, this bird was perched on the water treatment plant and then flew off. I remembered all the detail I could and then tried to ID it online. I also heard an independent report of a Cooper’s hawk at around the same time over in Sam Smith Park. I’m not positive on this ID but comfortable enough to include it.

American Goldfinch. I’ve see quite a few of these.

Baltimore Oriole. Fairly common around here.

Northern Cardinal. Lots of these around the house. They love the sunflower seeds I leave in the teacup bird feeder.

American robin. Among the most common birds around here.

House sparrow. I believe it was house sparrows that took up residence in the birdhouse in the backyard this year. Then again, if they were a different variety of sparrows, would I know the difference? I think not.

Red-winged blackbird. Plenty of them. I’ve seen these birds swoop at our cats in the back yard.

European starling. Again, plenty of them.

Common grackle. Lots of these too.

Mourning doves.

Northern flicker. OK, Tuffy P says she sees them. I’ll be honest, I don’t think I’d know a northern flicker from a southern one.

Black-capped chickadee

White-breasted nuthatch

Whimbrels. We saw a flock of these migrating. ID confirmed as we were on a bird walk at the time.

Great Blue Heron. I saw one flying over the Arsenal Lands the other day.

Turkey vulture

Killdeer. At least I’ve heard them. Are they the birds that pretend they’re injured on the ground to protect their nests?

Pileated woodpecker

Downey Woodpecker

Purple martins

Cliff swallows. Nesting on the water treatment plant. I know there are other varieties of swallows around, but I can’t yet identify them.

Herring gulls. For sure there are a variety of gulls and terns around, but again, I’m not there yet.

Red-necked grebes. Well known in Sam Smith Park

Yellow warbler.

Cormorants. We have some black ones in the harbour but I don’t know which variety.

Owls. Tuffy P and I have each independently seen an owl. The one I saw was a quick fly-by at dusk. I couldn’t identify based on that.

Ducks. Um, I can ID a mallard, but the rest are just ducks.

I know there are plenty of species I’ve seen that I just can’t identify or that I haven’t observed closely enough to identify. On the weekend, I bought a field guide – Stokes Field Guide to Birds – Eastern Region, by Donald and Lillian Stokes. The woman running the bird store in Port Dover suggested this one.

So now I have a new plan – when I see a bird I don’t know, I’m going to try to figure out what I’m looking at, and add it to the list.