Our hooded merganser ducklings emerge

Our hooded merganser ducklings emerged from their nest box today. We had a total of 19 ducklings with 3 eggs remaining. This suggests to us that there were 2 clutches of eggs. Normally these ducks only lay around 13 eggs but it is common to find 20-30 eggs in a nest box or tree cavity.

We keep an eye on the nest boxes after about 25 days into incubation. Once we see the ducklings in the box, we know they leave within 24 hours which is typically mid-morning the next day. Hooded mergansers are precocial which means the they are relatively mature from the moment of hatching.

This is the first clutch to emerge this year. I have built a total of 5 duck houses around the pond over the past 10 years. We expanded the pond a couple times to make it more suitable for all wildlife. We are glad to have had a chance to give back. Now onto the pics….

Happy family

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Exploring some Ottawa Valley caves

Beautiful view of the Bonnechere river
Last weekend we headed west to explore The Bonnechere Caves which are located about 1 hour north west of Ottawa. They have been a popular attraction for years and we have been there a few times. The caves are the result of a series of sink holes and erosion created by the nearby Bonnechere river.

Guided Tour

The caves are not open for open admission, so you must join up with a group for a look inside. Our guide this time was Patrick and he provided a detailed and animated history of the caves. Every guide we have had have gone out of their way to bring some excitement to the tour. The tour lasts for about 40 mins and includes a number of stops where some geologic facts are shared as well as how the caves were first discovered.


We were hopeful to see some brown bats but they tend to appear later in the season. We were also told the bats over winter in the caves after they let the waters rise and partially flood the caves again.

Some tips

  • Poison ivy can be found everywhere. Stay on the trail
  • Bring your camera and a flash. Photography is encouraged.
  • Visit later in the season if you want to see bats.
  • Pack a lunch.
  • Great for kids.
  • There is an opportunity to go down a small tunnel by yourself. Take it!

Cost is $58 for a family of four but more detailed pricing can be found on their web site. read more

Slo-mo Bumbling Bees

Here is a short slo-mo video I shot yesterday using an iPhone 6 Plus and a ShoulderPod. Very difficult to track and keep in focus but interesting nontheless. Not the most elegant in flight but they get the job done. The shrub he is exploring is a caragana which has interesting flowers in the spring followed by exploding seed pods in the summer.


Saving Raven

Raven eyeing me
I spotted a raven this morning walking around some buildings at work. He seemed to be quite bold, almost like a pigeon in his proximity to humans. He also squawked like he was trying to talk. I knew there was a nest in one of the buildings, so I assumed it was one of the parents or a juvenile. However, when I passed him an hour and a half later, I noticed one of his wings had a feather out of place. Upon closer examination, I could see blood on his left wing. Time for action.

I called the Wild Bird Care Centre which is a small local facility who educate, rehabilitate and eventually release birds in need of assistance. We have brought a few birds to them for help including a couple of bitterns which will be part of a future post. The WBCC survive based on donations and we make an effort to donate online or drop them off supplies on a regular basis.

“Looks like his eyes are maybe saying thank you”) Looks like his eyes are maybe saying thank you

The Wild Bird Care Centre recommended that I try and grab a couple of people with blankets and after capturing him, place him in a ventilated box. I went back to my office building and grabbed a couple of colleagues, Krystal W. and Garnet R. who helped gather some blankets and emptied a cardboard box. The 3 of us then went back to where the raven was resting. Garnet and I grabbed the blankets while Krystal stood ready with the box. We approached him from different angles and he really didn’t move too much. I was able to grab the raven and gently place him in the box. He did not fight and almost seemed relieved. We brought him back to the office until I could arrange a vehicle because I couldn’t transport him on the motorcycle. read more

Switching Tires: Michelin Anakee 3

tire wear
So, after 16,231 kms, I am switching from my Continental Trail Attack 2 tires to Michelin Anakee 3s. I ordered them from DualSportPlus who are thankfully back in business. They have some of the best pricing and service in Canada.

My quick summary of the Trail Attack 2 was that it handled well on the street for the first half of their life but quickly became unstable in the corners. This may be more to do with the tire wear. Keep in mind that my tires tend to square off more quickly than most because I commute on the slab each day. Wet weather performance was quite good with this Conti TA 2.

My bike longs to be on the gravel and the Trail Attack 2 were one of the worst I have tried. I do understand theyeven though they are intended to be a street tire. The Anakee 2 I had previously performed much better than the Trail Attack 2.

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Water Scorpions

Water Scorpion
I was working on the getting the pool ready and found this bug floating on the surface. It is a water scorpion and they seems to be fairly common in eastern Ontario. I have probably seen half dozen of them around the place over the years. However, I have rarely seen them alive. This is the first time I have seen them in our pool and in this case it was probably the chlorine that killed him.

The water scorpion according to Wikipedia is fairly widespread. This one is a member of the genus Nepa.

There are 14 genera in the family, in two subfamilies, Nepinae and Ranatrinae, and they can be found on all continents except Antarctica. Members of the genus Ranatra, the most widespread and speciose genus, are sometimes called needle bugs or water stick insects as they are more slender than Nepa and feed primarily on invertebrates, but occasionally take small fish or tadpoles. 1 read more

There be bears

We prefer to compost our food waste vs. filling our green bin and having the city remove it on a weekly basis. The is especially true in the summer when maggots and the like make the green bins challenging. So, we place our food scraps in a black compost bin and layer with soil and yard waste.

Two nights ago, our compost bin was knocked over and food scraps were strewn all over the lawn behind our garage. It seems a critter dropped in for a feast. I decided to put out my critter cam to see what I could spy.

The next night it was back. A black bear was enjoying our compost pile. He/she was not small either. The ledge you see in the top left of the video below is 28 inches tall and she has 8-10 inches on top of that.

We love being able to share our area with them. read more