Monday, 25 October 2010

Laurel Creek C.A.

Laurel Creek C.A. 24 October 2010
David M. Gascoigne and Miriam Bauman

There was a large aggregation of waterfowl on the lake, so we went down to check out whether there were any interesting species, other than the normal ubiquitous and numerous Canada Geese and Mallards. By scanning through the flocks we were able to locate a pair of Pintails, a male Shoveler and a female Common Merganser. Other than a lone Pied-billed Grebe there was not much else.
The annual ritual of drawing down the water level in the fall by the conservation authority was underway, and there was an expansive area of mud with isolated pools of standing water. In these areas hundreds of Ring-billed Gulls were feeding on crustaceans and fishes which had been stranded by the receding water. It appeared that many of the gulls were already sated by the bounty, since they were picking up fishes, half-heartedly tossing them around, and letting them drop back into the water without any attempt to retrieve them. One individual, however, must have been a latecomer to the feast. We watched this bird seize a crayfish, batter it against the ground repeatedly, drop it, pick it up and repeat the same process, until the crayfish was subdued, and there was no longer a danger from its pincers. In one gulp the crayfish was gone!
The pictures show the sequence of this feeding event, from the crayfish in the gull’s bill, to half way down it’s throat, to a contented gull standing digesting its meal.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

The Millrace, St Jacobs, Ontario

The Millrace, St. Jacobs, Ontario

The millrace was constructed in the 1860s, alongside the Conestogo River, to serve the power needs of the grist mill owned and operated by Jacob C. Snider.
Today it forms part of the Trans Canada Trail, and provides a pleasant 3 km round trip walk from the Village of St. Jacobs to the dam on the Conestogo River and back. In addition to fine birding, it offers a view of Mennonite life, as old order boys may be seen fishing on the river, or properly attired girls toboggan down the slopes in the winter. Each season brings its own set of delights. Spring is glorious as the avian populations are swelled by arriving migrants and Fall provides a panoply of stunning Fall colours. In the summer many nesting species can be discovered upon careful searching and typical winter denizens are Black-capped Chickadees, Red and White-breasted Nuthatches, Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers and other typical species. Cedar Waxwings are easily found all year.
The farmers’ market in St. Jacobs is well worth a visit. It is open on Thursdays and Saturdays for most of the year, but is also open on Tuesdays during the summer. The village itself is filled with craft shops and other interesting stores, and is a magnet for tourists on the weekend.
At the Three Bridges Road end of the trail, Sundays bring a procession of Old Order Mennonites in a variety of horse-drawn carriages, on their way to a meeting house farther up the road.
In addition to excellent birding, St. Jacobs provides ample pleasures for non-birding members of a family, and is highly recommended to anyone visiting the area. We are fortunate to live close by and we enjoy walking the trail throughout the year.
A list of species we have observed there follows.

Species seen on the Millrace

Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Canada Goose
Northern Shoveler
Common Merganser
Turkey Vulture
Northern Harrier
Cooper’s Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Rough-legged Hawk
American Kestrel
Ruffed Grouse
Lesser Yellowlegs
Spotted Sandpiper
Ring-billed Gull
American Herring Gull
Caspian Tern
Mourning Dove
Common Pigeon
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Willow Flycatcher
Alder Flycatcher
Eastern Phoebe
Great-crested Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird
Red-eyed Vireo
Warbling Vireo
Blue-headed Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Horned Lark
Bank Swallow
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Red-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
House Wren
Winter Wren
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Blue-grey Gnatcatcher
Eastern Bluebird
American Robin
Hermit Thrush
Grey Catbird
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Nashville Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Magnolia Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle)
Black-throated Green Warbler
Black-and-White Warbler
Wilson’s Warbler
Northern Cardinal
Indigo Bunting
American Tree Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Brown-headed Cowbird
Red-winged Blackbird
Rusty Blackbird
Common Grackle
Baltimore Oriole
House Finch
Common Redpoll
Pine Siskin
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow