Monday, 29 July 2013

American Goldfinch feeding on Dandelion Seeds

American Goldfinch Carduelis tristis
Feeding on Dandelion Seeds
29 July 2013

    Surely an under-appreciated common species, the American Goldfinch is by any standards a very handsome bird indeed. Were it not so common here, and we first observed this species in an exotic locale, we would barely be able to lower our binoculars. This male was observed at length feeding on dandelion seeds at the edge of the gravel road along Three Bridges Road in Waterloo County. 

    Perhaps a sighting such as this reinforces our passion for birds and continues to enable birding to be a sustaining force for pleasure in our lives. It certainly delighted Miriam and me as we rambled around the county for a couple of hours this afternoon.
    The weather was threatening and from time to time it rained quite heavily.

     The goldfinch was a figurative gift of sunshine.

Budgerigar in the Back Yard

Budgerigar Melopsittacus undulatus
in our back yard
29 July 2013

    Imagine our surprise this morning when we glanced out the window to see a Budgerigar fly into the birch tree and then onto the feeder. Obviously this is an escaped cage bird which has been allowed to fly, for it flies strongly and well. Perhaps it has escaped from an aviary. It has returned at least once (and we are not maintaining a constant vigil at the window) and follows the other birds to the feeder, but seems unable to figure out how to get in to feed on the seed. Once it stops raining I will put some seed into a dish and place it on the picnic table and sit outside to prevent the squirrels from quickly emptying it. While we have an instant surge of delight for this colourful visitor, our feelings are tinged with sadness in the knowledge that it cannot possibly survive an Ontario winter.

Friday, 26 July 2013

Jim Harkness carving, Red-breasted Merganser

Red-breasted Merganser Wood Carving
by Jim Harkness

     At an auction the other night I was very fortunate to be able to obtain the carving depicted below. It was done by Jim Harkness of Stayner, ON.
     From the very beginning (1975) Harkness' work has been characterized by a strong graphic simplicity. The material used is basswood and white pine, cut with a bandsaw and then shaped by hand with files. When the carving is ready for its decorative finish it is painted with oil stains and enamels and is coated with varnish. 
    Harkness' signature style is immediately recognizable and all of his carvings of birds portray the same stylized representation of his subject. The flowing lines and utter simplicity of this piece are reminiscent of the finest era of duck decoy making in Ontario.

 Art washes from the soul the dust of every day life.  Pablo Picasso

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Eastern Comma

Eastern Comma Polygonia comma

    This Eastern Comma spends a good deal of its time on our hummingbird feeder, no doubt consuming copious quantities of sugar water. Ironically, the feeder has been sparingly used by hummingbirds this year and it is sometimes several days before we see one.

House Sparrow feeding young

House Sparrow Passer domesticus

    I am not quite sure how this came about but in our yard we have one male House Sparrow feeding a single offspring. The two birds are basically inseparable and the young one wastes no time soliciting food by wing fluttering and cheeping on a constant basis. I have no idea what has happened to the female, or presumably to other members of the same clutch, but one certainly could not fault the dedication of this male in feeding his progeny.
    When one takes into account the fact that DNA studies often reveal mixed parentage in the same clutch of eggs, one can only hope that the effort this adult is making is invested in his own genes!

West Perth Wetlands

West Perth Wetlands
Mitchell, ON
21 July 2013

    The West Perth Wetlands has been a reliable location for shorebirds on their southbound migration for many years and we decided to visit there to see what was showing up in the second half of July. The level of some of the ponds is no longer ideal for shorebirds and the numbers were quite low. The pond containing the greatest concentration is unfortunately enclosed by a chain link fence, erected for security purposes apparently, and surrounded by dense vegetation making a close approach difficult, except for a few small areas that have been cleared. Even then one has to train the scope through the chinks in the fence.
     It was not vintage shorebirding but we enjoyed an agreeable morning there nonetheless.

Pond nearest the berm at the parking lot

Snail (sp?)

Common Morning Glory Ipomoea purpurea

Birdsfoot Trefoil Lotus corniculatus

Chicory Cichorium intybus

Ironweed sp. (?)

    We saw many Viceroys Limenitis archippus, typically on thistles as shown in the picture below. Long known as a mimic of the noxious-tasting Monarch Danaus plexippus some authorities now believe that the Viceroy bears its own load of poisons to repel predators, without relying solely on its mimicry of the Monarch.

    This young Song Sparrow Melospiza melodia has somehow lost its tail feathers.

Pectoral Sandpiper Calidris melanotos and Least SandpiperCalidris minutilla
    When we got back to our car we observed two Chipping Sparrows Spizella passerina carrying food, including what appears to be a fearsome Preying Mantis Mantis religiosa.

    We then located this very young bird, probably fresh from the nest hiding in the grass waiting for its parents to bring food.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Ellacott Lookout, Cambridge, ON

Ellacott Lookout
Cambridge, ON
20 July 2013

    After the recent exceptionally heavy rains in Southern Ontario the water level on the Grand River has risen substantially, virtually obliterating all shorebird habitat normally found at several predictable spots. There were a few Lesser Yellowlegs Tringa flavipes and Killdeer Charadrius vociferus present at Ellacott Lookout; other than that not much of anything. This location has become reliable in recent years for Great Egret Ardea alba and this individual was present there. Unfortunately it was quite distant and due to shoreline flooding we could not get close enough for good photographs.

    We did see several Bullfrogs Rana catesbeiana and this female (based on the size of the typanum) was oblivious to our presence and did not attempt to escape into the water. Had we been the Great Egret so close to the frog it might have been a different story.

Monday, 15 July 2013

LaSalle Park, Burlington

LaSalle Park, Burlington, ON
14 July 2013

    Miriam had to put in a few hours at the artists' co-operative in Carlisle, so I took advantage of the time she was there to spend a very pleasant three hours at LaSalle Park and Marina. While there were no rarities present, there was a variety of bird life, making for an interesting afternoon.

Canada Geese


Mallard Preening

Hamilton Bay

Red-winged Blackbird

Ring-billed Gull

Double-crested Cormorant

Mallards resting in the shade

Adult and Immature Ring-billed Gulls

Sailboat out on the water

Family of Mute Swans

Family of Mallards

Double-crested Cormorants loafing on the rocks

American Herring Gull

Ring-billed Gull

Young Killdeer

Killdeer Charadrius vociferus
14 July 2013

    This young bird in juvenal plumage, along with one of its siblings, was observed along Three Bridges Road in Waterloo County. An attentive parent was keeping watch close by.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

The Year of the Cowbird

Chipping Sparrow Spizella passerina feeding
 Two Brown-headed Cowbirds Molothrus ater

    At least in our neighborhood, this seems to be the year of the cowbird! Having already witnessed two separate incidences of Chipping Sparrows feeding Brown-headed Cowbirds from their parasitized nests, we now have two cowbird chicks, presumably from the same nest, relentlessly pursuing a pair of Chipping Sparrows, demanding to be fed.

Two Brown-headed Cowbird Juveniles

Two Brown-headed Cowbird Juveniles being fed by a Chipping Sparrow

Chipping Sparrow taking a break

Everything seems like food!

Maybe this is edible?

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Bronte Harbour Babies

Bronte Harbour Babies
6 July 2013

    Having previously been advised that the Red-necked Grebes Podiceps grisegena had two chicks we went down to Bronte Harbour yesterday to check it out. Not only do the grebes have two healthy youngsters they are also sitting on a second clutch of five eggs.

Juvenile Red-necked Grebe

Juvenile Red-necked Grebe

Adult and Juvenile Red-necked Grebe

Nest with five eggs

Adult with two chicks

Fish for lunch

    In addition to the grebe chicks present in the water there were also two families of Mute Swans Cygnus olor. Given their fluffy, downy appearance and the stately grace of the adults, they seemed to garner all of the attention of the general public.

Mute Swan Cygnets

Adult with five cygnets

Second family of Mute Swans

Downy Young

    American Cliff Swallows Petrochelidon pyrrhonota had also a sizeable colony with many active nests containing young.

Adult and young peeking out

     As might be expected numerous American Cliff Swallow nests had been usurped by House Sparrows Passer domesticus and and there was a great deal of activity as adults tirelessly fed their young.

Adult  female feeding young

Land Acknowledgement

We acknowledge that the land on which we are situated are the lands traditionally used by the Haudenosaunee, Anishinaabe, and Neutral People. We also acknowledge the enduring presence and deep traditional knowledge, laws, and philosophies of the Indigenous Peoples with whom we share this land today. We are all treaty people with a responsibility to honour all our relations.