Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Tuesday Rambles with David, Burlington/Hamilton

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.

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Official Opening of the Green Burial Section at Parkview Cemetery, Waterloo, ON

16 June 2018

     Green burials, in line with the values and principles held by naturalists, are now more frequently available than formerly was the case, in a growing number of communities, and I was delighted when I was asked to be part of the official events on opening day at Parkview Cemetery in Waterloo.
     I was there to talk about Western Ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) since there are two nests clearly visible from the cemetery in nearby Bechtel Park. 

     It seemed to be a natural corollary that people interested in sensible, eco-friendly burial practices would also be curious about these enigmatic birds of prey - and so it turned out to be.
     My good friend, Anne Morgan, was there also to provide the benefit of her expertise on native plants and pollinator insects. This huge nest of a Bald-faced Hornet (Dolichovespula adulterina) was a star attraction.

     A very small part of an insect collection also proved to hold a special fascination, especially for children.

     I should mention at this stage that Miriam had come along with me to act as photographer and I appreciated her help in memorializing the day.
     It is appropriate perhaps to acquaint you with the practice of green burial and all that it entails. If you click on the following images to enlarge them you will be able read the text quite clearly.

         This is the section of the cemetery (in the background) where green burial will be taking place. It will only be disturbed when it is necessary to open the ground; otherwise wildflowers and native plants will populate the landscape.

     Bryce Crouse,  Manager of Cemeteries and Horticulture, welcomed  everyone to the day's events.

     And local councilors, after making their speeches, do what politicians are wont to do, and planted a tree.

          There was an abundance of food and drink, all very tasty, but still unfortunately generating a considerable amount of disposable cups, plates and plastic utensils. 

     At our local club meetings and outings everyone takes their own plates, utensils, a cup, refillable water bottle etc., and perhaps at this kind of "in tune with nature" event participants could be urged to do the same. If only half the people complied that would be a step in the right direction.
    There were several giveaways including pens that are about as enviro-friendly as is possible.

     Packages of wildflower seeds were very popular.... were native plants.

       The rare Charitable Research Reserve was on hand to conduct nature walks, with a full explanation of how to use the iNature app to identify your sightings.

      I have to say that the ospreys cooperated wonderfully, with the male at one point delivering a large fish to the nest. Everyone who wished to was able to get a great look at these splendid birds.

     In addition, there was an incredibly confiding Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) on the roof of the chapel and it stayed there for quite a while, seemingly oblivious to the noise and motion going on around it.  Usually you can barely start to raise the camera before the bird takes off.

     I saw a couple of old friends at the event, caught up with people with whom I have worked on other projects, and was able to impart some osprey knowledge to adults and children alike. I also learned a good deal about a burial practice which I hope will become standard in communities across the country.
     My sincere thanks go to Glenna Huff for inviting me and for all her hard work in putting the event together and ensuring its success.