12 June 2018
As every birder knows, when the birds are well into their breeding cycle, and the males are quiet, and every waking moment is spent provisioning young in the nest, birding is slow! But we still go out to enjoy what we can find, and to enjoy nature in all its summer glory.
Seven of our regular "gang of eight" spent a very pleasant day together, beginning at Woodland Cemetery in Burlington. This is a very old cemetery with many mature trees and has been a favoured spot for birders for as long as I can remember.
It is certainly the kind of place one would be surprised not to find a Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis).
American Robin (Turdus migratorius) is an early (and prolific) breeder, routinely having two broods, and often three, so juvenile birds evolving into full independence were to be expected.
As I have mentioned in previous posts Baltimore Orioles (Icterus galbula) seem to be especially ubiquitous this year and several were heard and seen at the cemetery.
This friendly Eastern Chipmunk (Tamias striatus) was busy working inside a hole in a tree, seemingly excavating the interior, but we could not be sure.
To no one's surprise Black-capped Chickadees (Poecile atricapillus) were easy to find.
From Woodland Cemetery it is but a short drive down to Grindstone Creek where an interesting range of species can generally be found.
The unchallenged "star of the show" was Caspian Tern (Hydroprogne caspia) with several individuals putting on a textbook demonstration of tern flight and fishing prowess. We were all captivated and I think that Franc's camera was smoking as he fired off frame after frame.
A few Barn Swallows (Hirundo rustica) were on the wires and some were seen nesting under a bridge.
American Cliff Swallows (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota) were also seen flying out from under the bridge, but we could not see any nests, possibly because it was impossible without getting in the water to see all the way underneath. In the past I have seen both species nesting in close proximity so it is quite possible that they are coexisting here. Franc did well to capture one of these feathered bullets in flight.
It was quite a day for hirundines actually and Miriam photographed a Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) on the wire.
Northern Rough-winged Swallow (Stelgidopteryx serripennis) also joined in the aerial acrobatics and landed briefly in front of us.
Canada Geese(Branta canadensis) were seen all around, many in family groups. This pair escorted two goslings, leading me to think that heavy predation had occurred since this species routinely lays six eggs, and sometimes as many as ten. Young goslings are easy targets for foxes, coyotes, hawks and others, despite the best efforts of the parents to defend their young.
The goslings here are much bigger and have adult type plumage; and one more than the previous group survived the rigours of goose infancy.
A Northern Water Snake (Nerodia sepedon) sped through the water in sinuous motion.
We expected it to slither up onto a rock to bask in the warm sun but it never did and we lost sight of it.
A Western Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) flew back and forth over the bay for a while and several times made as if to plunge, but it finally departed to try its luck elsewhere.
Double-crested Cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus) are usually numerous at this location, but today we saw relatively few. Swimming, perched or flying, this species presents a study in grace.
Red-winged Blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus) were calling all around and even though some males were still displaying most of the females seemed already to be preoccupied with breeding.
We found a picnic table in a shaded spot and enjoyed a pleasant lunch, following which we went over to Princess Point, a segment of the Cootes Paradise wetland complex, to scout out the trails there.
Cedar Waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum) in small numbers were spotted here and there.
And American Yellow Warbler (Setophaga aestiva) was quite common.
There are several tracts of grassland at Princess Point and this Eastern Kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus) was right at home there.
It is rare today to see Tree Swallows nesting in natural cavities, most taking up occupancy in nest boxes provided by caring humans. Thus, it was with great delight that we came across this pair nesting in a hole in a tree. If you look carefully you can see that the male has captured a dragonfly, a remarkable prey item for a Tree Swallow, and is delivering it to the nest.
It was doubly exciting when we discovered a second natural cavity nesting situation. I don't ever remember this happening twice in the same day.
We assumed that this female Northern Cardinal was already actively seeking food along with her mate to satisfy hungry mouths back at the nest.
Perhaps this is equally true for this female American Redstart (Setophaga ruticilla).
A Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) in flight is always a dramatic sight; hearkening back to the dawn of avian life on earth it seems; prehistoric, yet beautiful and grand.
A Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularia) was seen probing for food along the shore.
And Franc also managed to capture an individual in flight.
If you have seen a Spotted Sandpiper in flight you will know how rapidly the wings flutter in a characteristic frenzied, jerky motion, and you will appreciate the skill involved in freezing the wings like this.
We saw both adult and juvenile Black-crowned Night Herons (Nycticorax nycticorax) and I think the crowd-pleasing performance of this juvenile winds up the day perfectly. No further commentary is needed from me!
I hope you are glad that you came along for the ride.