Shade’s Mills Conservation Area – Nature Walk

The Shade’s Mills Conservation Area is located in Cambridge, Ontario. With several kilometres of hiking trails through forests, this is a great urban forest to escape and engage in some forest bathing. Many of the trails are narrow, with thick undergrowth on both sides and branches overhead.

Canon 80D – EFS 10-22mm – 22mm – f4.5 – 1/125 sec – ESO 1000
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Backyard Wildlife – American Tree Sparrow

The American Tree Sparrow winters in southern and central Ontario, with much of its breeding ground spread across the Canadian Territories and Alaska (“American Tree Sparrow”, 2019).

Canon 80D – Sigma 150-600mm – 600mm – f6.3 – 1/1000 sec – ISO 2000

Another ground feeder, the American Tree Sparrow can be easily mistaken for the Chipping Sparrow (to be featured later), but can be distinguished by the rust-coloured eye line.

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Backyard Wildlife – American Goldfinch

One of the most recognizable birds in North America, the Goldfinch is a frequent visitor to our backyard. The softer yellow of the female Goldfinch still stands out.

Canon 80D – Sigma 150-600mm – 600mm – f6.3 – 1/1250 sec – ISO 1000

The bright plumage of the male is likely what most people recognize as a Goldfinch. Whether in flight or perched in a tree, he’s hard to miss. Unfortunately, he doesn’t sit around in one spot for long, making him difficult to photograph.

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Backyard Wildlife – Dark-Eyed Junco

While the Dark-eyed Junco has a year-round range in southern Ontario, I haven’t seen one since April. This slate-coloured variation has breeding grounds further north that stretch to the northern Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Alaska (iBird Pro)

Canon 80D – Sigma 150-600mm – 562mm – f6.3 – 1/320 sec – ISO 2000

This bird preferred to scrounge beneath the bird feeder rather than on the feeder itself.

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Comet NEOWISE

A once in a 6800 year opportunity, photographing Comet NEOWISE was a new challenge for me. We had seen the comet the night before, from within the city limits, with a lot a light pollution, so I wanted to get out of the city and hope to capture a few shots.

I haven’t done any destination astrophotography before, so of course I loaded up on all of my equipment, including my telescope; a Celestron Powerseeker 127 equatorial mount reflector. My hope was to use the t-ring for some close up shots of Saturn, Jupiter, or even the comet. While I didn’t pull out the t-ring after all, my telephoto lens with a 1.4 extender did the trick and I was able to capture a picture of Jupiter with four of its moons.

Canon 80D – Sigma 150-600mm w/1.4TC – 840mm – f9.0 – 4/5 sec – ISO 6400
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Backyard Wildlife – American Robin

Often seen as the first sign of spring, the American Robin is easily recognized throughout North America. My first siting this year was in February, as we walked through the Laurel Creek Conservation Area. As winters are getting warmer, the year-round range of this bird seems to be expanding further north. The first Robin in my backyard was sometime in April and seemed particularly interested in the new vegetable garden I was working on.

Canon 80D – 150-600mm – 600mm – f/6.3 – 1/500 – ISO 1000

A second Robin opted to hang out under the bird feeder as the Sparrows and Chickadees dropped seeds on the ground below.

Canon 80D – 150-600mm – 600mm – f/6.3 – 1/500 – ISO 1000

These Robins appeared to be a mated pair as they both flew to a neighbours’ Spruce tree and disappeared from view.

Canon 80D – 150-600mm – 451mm – f/6.3 – 1/500 – ISO 2000

We do a lot of gardening at home and removed the grass from our entire front yard to put in a garden of perennials and annuals. We have a hook that hangs from the front porch and decided to hang a very nice basket of Impatiens. Shortly after, a pair of Robins took up residence and built a nest. They really couldn’t find a better spot away from predators, with the bonus of always being dry. Given the angle, my Canon 80D was too awkward to use for pictures, so I relied on my iPhone XR. I was lucky enough to be able to see the nest from the front door and get pictures when the parents were away. The female laid four perfect blue eggs.

iPhone XR – 4.25mm – f/1.8 – 1/250 – ISO 25

The baby Robins hatched after about 10 days, with four very pink fuzzy creatures eventually filling the nest.

iPhone XR – 4.25mm – f/1.8 – 1/250 – ISO 25
iPhone XR – 4.25mm – f/1.8 – 1/250 – ISO 25
iPhone XR – 4.25mm – f/1.8 – 1/250 – ISO 25

The Robins grew quickly and their dark feathers started to appear soon after they hatched. Their eyes remained covered for the first week, giving them an eerie, alien-like look.

iPhone XR – 4.25mm – f/1.8 – 1/250 – ISO 25
iPhone XR – 4.25mm – f/1.8 – 1/250 – ISO 25
iPhone XR – 4.25mm – f/1.8 – 1/250 – ISO 25
iPhone XR – 4.25mm – f/1.8 – 1/250 – ISO 25

Eventually, all four baby Robins left home, leaving behind a heart-shaped nest.

iPhone XR – 4.25mm – f/1.8 – 1/250 – ISO 25
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