Category Archives: urban nature-pockets

Resident Merlin Family

This spring the raucous call of a merlin could be heard echoing through my neighbourhood. I’ve seen the small hawk perched in trees and soaring over the block throughout the season.

Merlin in our pine tree

In the past two weeks a group of three appeared as a prominent presence – perhaps a fledged family – an adult pair with a juvenile, or an adult with two juveniles? They call to each other as they swoop through the neighbourhood.

The activity is centred one block east of mine, so perhaps their nest was in a backyard tree in that block. Apparently they like to move into old magpie and crows’ nests – and certainly there is an abundance in this neighbourhood. We had a crow family raised in a pine at the park a block away, and there were at least three magpie families in the immediate neighbourhood this year, as every year.

Merlin & Magpie 2

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Roly poly sighting

Ambling along the sidewalk by the river valley, hidden from view by the snowbanks lining the walk, my dog and I came upon a short-legged, shaggy animal with a big round body, somewhat larger than a large domestic cat.

It seemed to be a uniform dark colour. Its tail was flat and angled down toward the ground from its body. The tail was about half to two-thirds the length a cat’s would be, relative to the body size.

Although it rolled from side to side in quick, waddling steps, it progressed slowly down the path – clearly not an animal that relies on speed.

Skunk tracks had criss-crossed the neighbourhood last week, so that was my first thought, but its tail and markings were different from a skunk’s. The tail wasn’t fluffy and there were no tell-tale white markings on its back or tail.

I think it was a porcupine, or possibly a woodchuck, newly emerged from hibernation. Maybe a young one, given its size.

I kept our distance, since my dog was along, so we didn’t get close enough to confirm.

Gift of the Raven

A raven was on our front walk this morning, with a prize, and an audience of magpies arrayed in the surrounding branches.

Raven and prize

Raven and prize

It flew up to the lamppost, then left soon after. So did the magpies – all abandoning the prize alone on the pavement.

“It’s a bird,” said my partner… “It’s still alive,” seeing it flutter a little.

We stood at the window and contemplated the harsh realities of predator and prey.

Soon after, we went out and saw the prize close-up –

A young raven?

No – a styrofoam, feather covered little crow figurine, with wires coming out of its feet.

Little crow

Little crow

Mystery sighting

Chickadees out in full force this calm, snowy morning, two nights and one day into this heavy snowfall.

A mystery bird came to the oak trunk and clung upside down there, closely followed by a female Downy Woodpecker with its smart black and white back.

The mystery bird is about twice the size of the chickadees, a little smaller than the woodpecker. Bigger than the nuthatches that frequent this area. Creamy buff breast and darker, greyish back. Shaped like a nuthatch or woodpecker with their short stubby tails.

The Downy meandered up the ant-sheltering oak trunk for a while, hunting, while the mystery bird just hung out, upside down, sheltering on the leeward side of the trunk.

A passing chickadee stopped at the tree and watched the woodpecker hopefully for a while.

Urban wildlife

My dog and I met a large coyote trotting down a back alley this morning, half a block from the river valley drive. My dog was eager to meet it, so I was relieved when it shyly detoured up into a driveway to avoid us. I’m surprised I don’t see them more often, this close to the valley.

Autumn Moon

A wonderful moon! Gateway to Autumn, easing us in slowly, deliciously…

It began with the first inklings of summer’s end:
Two bright yellow jewels in the green grass – the first fallen leaves.
Six geese making their pilgrim way across dusk-darkening sky at 9pm.

It shines brightly now on comfortably cool nighttimes; darkness falling ever-earlier.

Mornings are moonless at this time: sunrise presides over crisp morning walks,
under bright clear skies trailing high clouds that capture ever-shifting colours.
Elm trees presenting a single, stark, yellow-clustered branch among the summer-green.

And it will end with the autumnal equinox, ushering out Summer.