Bird On A Wire – Birds Of Ontario

On a trip to Ontario Canada a while back, I was able to spend some time photographing some of the area’s local birds, knowing that many of what I found there would be new species to me. I quickly found a few local residents, but as my time was short, I wasn’t able to get all of them without man-made elements in the frame.

An eastern kingbird perches on a wire fence, Wolf Island, Ontario, Canada.

The first such local was an eastern kingbird. He was perched right next to a country road, at perfect eye level with my lens, which was resting on a bean bag sitting in an open window. Often bean bags are the best supports from which to shoot from a vehicle, especially if you want the opportunity to shoot out both sides of the car. Often Kerry is kind enough to drive slowly (and as quietly as possible) down country roads while I keep the back seat to myself and move back and forth between the rear windows as required.

I usually try to capture birds in more natural environments, but there were no trees nearby, there was a perfect distant background, and I had no time to wait for a better perch.

A female bobolink perches on a wire fence, Wolf Island, Ontario, Canada.

The second bird I photographed in the same area (and yes, perched on a similar wire fence to the first bird) was a female bobolink. I saw several males in the area as well, but they stayed farther from the road and I didn’t get any worthwhile photos of them. It is always difficult identifying female species as the coloring can be quite different than the males. Since males typically have more differentiating colors, species are usually described using the males’ attributes instead of the females. To identify female birds, I often troll through hundreds of photos after guessing at the species, or at least narrowing down the family of bird.

A mute swan swims through calm water in a wetland, Kingston, Ontario, Canada.

I also got some decent photos of a mute swan, and finally without distracting “hand of man” elements! Mute swans are native to Europe and Asia, but have established sizable populations in the coastal areas of the Great Lakes. I felt lucky to see one in the wild, as I’d never find one on the west coast of the US.

An osprey flies with wings stretched, Wolf Island, Ontario, Canada.

My last bird for the day was not a new species for me, but who can’t marvel at a beautiful osprey in flight? The local area had erected several nesting towers to encourage the birds to raise their young here. This osprey had chicks in the nest, and gave me lots of great flight shots as it flew to and from the nest.

An osprey perches on the edge of a man-made nest tower, Wolf Island, Ontario, Canada.

Here the osprey is perched at the edge of its nesting tower, looking majestic.

It is always fun to travel to new areas for nature photography. While landscape photography dictates that you continually visit new areas, bird and wildlife photography can often be done closer to home. Closer to home, you often have much more time with an animal, but with traveling, nothing beats the thrill of seeing what’s around the next corner.

Gear I used to create the photos in this post:

2016 Round-up – Top 100 Photos Of The Year

In years past, I’ve curated a list of my best 40 photos of the past year. However, with trips in 2016 to India and Africa, I couldn’t whittle down the set to just 40. So here is the best 100 photos of 2016, many of which are previously unpublished. As always, there is a mixture of bird, wildlife and landscape, but this year includes much more wildlife than usual.

Please enjoy the gallery below. For best viewing (especially if viewing on a mobile device), please click on the following photo:

The endangered african wild dog has a hunting success rate of 80% due to its pack hunting and ability to chase large prey to exhaustion, reaching speeds of over 40 miles per hour for 5 – 10 minutes.

To view the gallery, click here to see individual photos.


If you are interested in compilations from previous years, please see the 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015 lists.

African Bush Elephants

An african elephant lifts its trunk to trumpet, Etosha National Park, Namibia.

I was very lucky to see and photograph both Asian and African wild elephants in a single year. My Asian elephant experience was in the thick forests of northern Tamil Nadu, India, while I got to get up close and personal with the larger African cousins on the plains of Etosha National Park in Namibia.

And these guys were certainly huge! They are physically larger than Asian elephants, with larger ears and tusks. I saw a few drinking and having a mud bath next to a waterhole.

An african elephant gives itself a mudbath at a waterhole, Etosha National Park, Namibia.

This elephant would suck up large amounts of mud and water with its trunk and alternate flinging it up and over its head, and blasting its underside. The grayish white on the elephant’s skin is mud dried by the hot midday sun.

An african elephant gives itself a mudbath at a waterhole, Etosha National Park, Namibia.

At one point we were watching a large adult snacking on some leaves of a low bush. After finishing its meal, it starting wandering in our direction, getting closer and closer. The beast soon filled my camera frame at 70mm, and yet it came closer still, making me nervous. My mind’s eye was playing out a scenario which involved this guy getting upset and flipping our van. Luckily, our driver was prepared and when the elephant got within 20 feet, he threw the van into gear and got out of there.

An african elephant flares its large ears as it grazes on branches, Etosha National Park, Namibia.

It was a joy to just sit and watch these mammoth creatures. Similar to watching primates, you can see the intelligence and intention in their movements. Their amazing multipurpose trunks that they use to grab, smell, drink, touch, carry, and sometimes break is endless enjoyment to see.

An african elephant eats leaves and grass, Etosha National Park, Namibia.

As excited as I was to see these large bush elephants, I was looking forward to seeing the smaller, desert-adapted elephants in a few days time. Stay tuned for photos!

Cheetah Conservation Fund

While they are being rehabilitated by the Cheetah Conservation Fund, cheetahs are regularly given exercise, as they are not actively hunting game.

Glancing a movement to its right, all the instincts of evolution sparked the cheetah into instant speed as it exploded after its prey. At an acceleration speed of zero to sixty miles per hour in only three seconds, the chase was immediately at full speed. The huge cat rounded a corner, sending clouds of dirt into the dry, African air, as it came directly toward me. Turning slightly once again, it thundered past, mere feet from me, shaking the ground with its massive paws.

While they are being rehabilitated by the Cheetah Conservation Fund, cheetahs are regularly given exercise, as they are not actively hunting game.
While they are being rehabilitated by the Cheetah Conservation Fund, cheetahs are regularly given exercise, as they are not actively hunting game.

It was my second morning in Namibia and I was at the Cheetah Conservation Fund, experiencing the thrill of cheetahs running no more than ten feet from me. Started in 1990, the CCF works to enhance the long-term survival of the cheetah and other key indigenous wildlife species on Namibian farmlands by developing a habitat improvement program that is both ecologically sound and economically viable. One of its conservation efforts involves fostering and rehabilitating cheetahs, some of which can be released back into the wild.

While they are being rehabilitated by the Cheetah Conservation Fund, cheetahs are regularly given exercise, as they are not actively hunting game.

In order to keep the cheetahs healthy, they exercise them by getting them to chase a piece of cloth on a wire. Once the cloth starts moving, the cheetah’s instincts take over and they race to catch the cloth. While their top speed is 70 miles per hour, they were probably reaching speeds of 30-40 miles per hour during this exercise. I was standing in the middle of one such exercise area, watching cheetahs race past – a thrilling experience.

As the fastest animal on earth, the cheetah is one of the few animals where all four feet come off the ground during its gait, Namibia, Africa.

As the fastest animal on earth, the cheetah is one of the few animals where all four feet come off the ground during its running gait. It is hard to appreciate this in person, but photographs can showcase this awesome feat.

A cheetah rests in the shade at the Cheetah Conservation Fund headquarters in Namibia. The CCF has as its mission to be the world’s resource charged with protecting the cheetahs and ultimately ensuring its future.

Another CCF conservation method that has saved many cheetah lives is their work with predator-friendly farming methods, such as the Livestock Guarding Dog Program. The CCF raises herding dogs from pups side by side with goats. This habituates the dogs to the goats and helps form a tight bond. The CCF then works with local farmers to use these dogs to herd their livestock, keeping the herd safe from the cheetah. This, along with education, helps reduce the number of cheetahs that are shot by ranchers each year.

A cheetah roams through open grass, Namibia, Africa.

Although I didn’t see these cheetahs out in the wild, it was a wonderful opportunity to get up close and personal with them. I got photographic opportunities for tight headshot portraits, as well as chances to photograph them running. I never would have had this kind of close proximity with free roaming cheetahs.