Archive for November, 2012

Whiskey Jacks a/k/a Grey Jays

Whiskey Jack a/k/a Canada or Grey Jay, The Mythological Algonquin Trickster

Whiskey Jack or Gray Jay, The Algonquin Trickster

Another great birding experience was our interaction with the Grey Jays.  Churchill has three very different ecosystems that converge there; the Hudson Bay system, the boreal forest and the tundra.  Most of our time was spent on the tundra, at the edge of the Bay but we had an opportunity to take a dogsled ride one day through the boreal forest ecosystem.  I was very excited to see what the boreal forest looked like at this latitude as I have heard so much about the degradation of the forest and its effect on nesting songbirds.  While the sled ride was fun, my greatest thrill was seeing the Grey Jays up close.   They weren’t life birds for me but very nearly so.  Here they hung around the dogsled camp begging kibble meant for the sled dogs.  The owner called them Whiskey Jacks.  I hadn’t heard this name before, always thinking of them as Canada Jays, so I looked it up.  I found that the name derives from the word Whisakadjak, the Algonquin mythological trickster.  How appropriate.  These gregarious birds begged so endearingly that we ended up taking kibble from the pail to hand feed them.  I am not surprised to learn that they cache their food, hiding it for future use, as they returned many times to eat from our hands.

Hand feeding a Grey Jay was one of this day's highlights

Hand feeding a Grey Jay was one of this day’s highlights

Advertisements

Leave a comment »

Willow Ptarmigan

Nearly perfect camouflage!

Nearly perfect camouflage!

The Willow Ptarmigan was one terrific bird sighting we had in Manitoba.  We had gone to Lake Malcolm Ramsey outside of Churchill in hopes of more Polar Bear or other wildlife sightings.  There were feathery, snowshoe-like tracks leading toward the lake which were identified by Jim Halfpenny as Ptarmigan tracks.  He followed the tracks and called me over, very quietly, pointing to a spot under a low spruce bough, caught at the tip in the blowing snow (we were in blizzard conditions, -7 º F and 47 mph winds).  There huddled a perfectly camouflaged bird, bright black eye and black beak the only clues that it was not a snow bank.  As we watched, seven others gradually showed themselves.  What a treat, and a life bird for me!

These tracks clued us into the presence of Willow Ptarmigans.

These tracks clued us into the presence of Willow Ptarmigans.

Comments (3) »

Polar Bear Trip to Churchill, Manitoba

Dancer, enjoying the last rays of afternoon sunlight.

Dancer, enjoying the last rays of afternoon sunlight.

Only eight hours after our power returned we were on the way to the airport for a long ago planned trip to Churchill, Manitoba to see the Polar Bears.  We had been invited by a friend who is a PhD wolf biologist, whom we hadn’t seen in some years but with whom we had maintained contact.  What a terrific trip! We stayed at the Churchill Northern Studies Centre where research is conducted on a number of subjects from Polar Bears to Aurora Borealis.  We saw 50 bears overall.  The bear pictured is named Dancer.  He’s among the largest and oldest of the males and returns each year.  He is identifiable from the battle scars on his face.  To me, he embodies the dignity of these animals.  They are now in trouble because global warming has shortened the  length of time the bears can be on the ice feeding.

A mother and her cub of the year.

A mother and her cub of the year.

Comments (4) »

All is Well After Sandy

Just to let you know, we’re OK.  We have no power and I’m at the Library using their slow Wi-Fi, but all is well.  Only a few branches fell off our trees.  No one has been found dead from our town so far, although hundreds of homes have been lost.  I have no idea when we’ll regain power, but until then, I hope you all survived Hurrican Sandy.  [[[Hugs]]]

Comments (4) »

%d bloggers like this: