Kitchener- Waterloo Field Naturalists' Outing
North Shore of Lake Ontario
23 March 2013
Leader: David M. Gascoigne
KWFN Members: Heather Bagg, Betty Brechun, Alice Buehrle, Roland Buehrle, Janet Carey, Shailin Drukis, Carol Nussli, Mary Voisin, Judy Wyatt
Guest: John Lichty
I had the great good fortune to lead the above group on a day-long jaunt along the north shore of Lake Ontario. Following is a summary of our various stops.
LaSalle Park and Marina
Photograph by Heather Bagg
I had arranged with Bev Kingdon, whose dedication to the Trumpeter Swan is a signal achievement in the pantheon of natural history activity in Ontario, to meet us at LaSalle to give us some background information on the swans and perhaps a little insight into the lives of certain individuals. We are extremely grateful to Bev for taking the time to come down to greet us, with her husband and other swan devotees, bringing buckets of corn to demonstrate to our members the method by which the swans are lured ashore to be banded, all the while providing a narrative about the history, challenges, disappointments, and thankfully in recent years, substantial successes with these magnificent creatures.
She told us about a plan before the appropriate zoning authorities to extend the marina in a very substantial way that would seriously affect the swan habitat. Boat owners pay taxes, swans do not, but surely we have left within us the understanding, and the compassion, that a little space has to be left for wildlife. God knows we have already gobbled up most of it. As Bev continues to represent every bird lover extant at the council meetings, she may need our support to carry forward the fight to protect the bay for the swans.
It was quite amazing to see Bev call to the swans and have them all swim rapidly towards her like an advancing benefaction of heavenly angels.
Let us not leave the topic of the Trumpeter Swan without paying tribute to Harry Lumsden, without whom there would be no Trumpeter Swans in Ontario. Harry is now ninety years old and it would be a sad testament to all of his work to have the very habitat everyone worked so hard to secure, destroyed by greedy, money-grabbing, seedy politicians seeking ever greater tax contributions.
Photograph by Heather Bagg
Photograph by Heather Bagg
There was waterfowl aplenty for everyone to enjoy, including a resplendent male Wood Duck hanging out with the ubiquitous mallards; no doubt with an eye on some available female! American Coots promenaded up and down and a couple of people mentioned that had never appreciated a coot's foot before! Many of the birds were very close and we had absolutely stellar scope looks at so many species. It really was a delight to have a leisurely examination of the sheer beauty of their plumage.
A walk along the woodland trail produced very little. It was very quiet, not a clarion call from a Carolina wren, not a nasal trumpet from a nuthatch, nary a whistle from a woodpecker. Other than Black-capped Chickadees looking for handouts and a minor army of House Sparrows we walked alone. Pleasant it was, however, and it was great to stroll along and enjoy each other's company.
Bev Kingdon had pointed out to us the hole in a tree wherein an Eastern Screech-Owl dwells, but it never came out to sun itself, much to our disappointment.
Sioux Lookout Park
Over many years this has been a location where I have always been able to have very pleasing, close-up looks at Long-tailed Duck, surely one of the most enigmatic of species within a world-wide family of dazzling beauty. We were not disappointed. The ducks were so close to shore one barely needed binoculars and they put on a show for us that was second to none. The water was so clear at this time of year (I presume that cold temperatures retard the growth of algae) that we could watch them as though looking through crystal glass as they swam effortlessly beneath the surface. I think it is safe to state that everyone was enthralled by this performance.
It was by now approaching noon, the sun was shining and it was six degree so we decided to have lunch there. We sat on benches, chatted, ate, looked at the wide vista of Lake Ontario stretching to the horizon, marvelled at the ducks and silently congratulated ourselves on the sheer pleasure of enjoying each other's company on so fine a day.
I had planned to spend some time here, but there appeared to be events taking place and there was no parking available. We took advantage of clean, warm washrooms and moved on to Bronte Harbour.
Bronte Harbour has achieved a certain renown in recent years due to the Red-necked Grebes that have taken to nesting there in the inner harbour. The area where the birds nest was still iced over but several grebes were present and we were treated to the spectacle of their courtship dance.
Before covering all of the harbour, and walking along the breakwater, we took a vote as to who wanted to stay and who wished to make the fairly long drive to Colonel Samuel Smith Park in Toronto to try for the Western Grebe which has been reported there for quite some time now. It was unanimous – on to Col. Sam!
Colonel Samuel Smith Park
As already mentioned, our target here was Western Grebe. The question was, where in the wide expanse of the waterfront, was the bird situated? We asked another birder and received directions which turned out to be wrong, but very productive nevertheless. Heather Bagg located a juvenile male Harlequin Duck among all the other waterfowl. Everyone was able to have very good looks at this enchanting western species. Kudos to Heather for her fine work in spotting this bird.
Following a revised set of directions, we headed out to another point to look for the Western Grebe. John Lichty took a long walk to an elevated headland, saw the bird, and was able to direct others to its location, where it was quickly spotted and enjoyed by everyone. It was a lifer for many and I think a first-time Ontario bird for the entire group. Interestingly this was the third grebe species for the day – Horned, Red-necked and Western – without having a Pied-billed as one of them.
This stop marked the end of our day's outing. It was a great day with a wonderful group of new friends. I am grateful to those who came and I hope to do it again.
List of Species
Horned Grebe, CS
Red-necked Grebe, B, CS
Western Grebe, CS
Great Blue Heron*
Trumpeter Swan, LS
Mute Swan, LS, SL, B, CS
Canada Goose, LS, SL, B, CS
Wood Duck, LS
Mallard,LS, SL, B, CS
American Black Duck, LS
Redhead, LS, B, CS
Greater Scaup, LS, CS
Lesser Scaup, LS, CS
Black Scoter, LS
White-winged Scoter, LS, SL, CS
Harlequin Duck, CS
Long-tailed Duck, SL, B, CS
Common Goldeneye, LS, SL, CS
Bufflehead, LS, SL, CS
Common Merganser, B, SL
Red-breasted Merganser,LS, SL, CS
Ruddy Duck, LS
American Coot, LS
Ring-billed Gull, LS, SL, B, CS
Herring Gull, CS
Iceland Gull, CS
Black-capped Chickadee, LS
Red-winged Blackbird, LS, CS
House Sparrow, LS
* seen by some while driving.
LS = LaSalle Park and Marina, SL = Sioux Lookout Park, B = Bronte Harbour, CS = Colonel Samuel Smith Park.