Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Juvenile White-crowned Sparrow (Bruant à couronne blanche) and Sunset at Laurel Creek

29/30 September 2014
Waterloo, ON

     Last evening, Miriam and I went down to the Laurel Creek Reservoir to see what might have recently arrived as we get into that period when waterfowl in great numbers and variety make a stop over on migration. Other than a couple of Ruddy Ducks Oxyura jamaicensis there was nothing else of note, and they were too far out to be photographed in the waning light of evening.
      As the sun began to set across the water, with the edges of the lake rimmed with trees in autumn foliage, the view was memorable.

     White-crowned Sparrows Zonotrichia leucophrys have been around for a few days now, and although I have seen a few adult birds, mostly juveniles seem to have arrived predominantly. This individual was photographed this morning.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Eastern Screech Owl (Petit-duc maculé)

Clair Lake Park
Waterloo, ON
29 September 2014

     Eastern Screech Owls are not easy to detect when they are roosting during the day. They either conceal themselves in cavities, or press up to the trunk or large branch of a tree, where they camouflage so well they are seldom noticed.
Any time I am able to locate one I consider myself very fortunate.
     This individual was perched about 15 metres off the ground, well hidden and the pictures reflect this. One cannot expect perfection when dealing with so cryptic a subject.

     But, it's a wonderful species to capture in the lens and any record is better than none.
    Fall is well advanced now and the colours on the trees will soon be at their peak. This maple right at the entrance to the park is bathed in crimson splendour.

     Inside the woodlot change is all around and there is a constant procession of falling leaves as one meanders through.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Northen Flicker (Pic flamboyant) on Migration

Waterloo, ON
27 September 2014

     This is the time of year when Northern Flicker Colaptes auratus is seen in groups, often quite large (in the past I have seen around twenty-five birds feeding together on the ground) on its migration south. Yesterday, I could hear a flicker calling but for the life of me I couldn't find it. Finally, I located it, perched in a tree with several Mourning Doves Zenaida macroura. I had already seen the doves but had paid them little attention since it is a very common resident species. I guess there is a lesson here - always check out everything.

     This individual is a male, indicated by the black moustachial stripe. In the yellow-shafted variant which is found in central and eastern North America this feature is black; in the red-shafted colour morph in the west it would be red. From a purely morphological standpoint one might conclude that they are different species, but they interbreed freely in zones of overlap and the offspring from such unions are fertile.
     The following dorsal angle gives an excellent view of the white rump which is a prominent feature in this species, especially in flight.

     And here it is, hanging out with some of its Mourning Dove chums!

Literature referenced:
Backhouse, F., 2005, Woodpeckers of North America, Firefly Books Ltd., Richmond Hill, ON
Bannick, P., 2008, The Owl and the Woodpecker, The Mountaineer Books, Seattle, WA
Dun, J.L. et al, 2002, Field Guide to the Birds of North America, National Geographic Society, Washington, DC
Winkler H., Christie D.A., Nurney, D., 1995, Woodpeckers, An Identification Guide to the Woodpeckers of the World, Houghton Mifflin Company, New York, NY

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Great Blue Heron (Grand Héron) with Large Fish

Laurentian Wetland
27 September 2014

     While out and about doing a little birding this morning I witnessed this Great Blue Heron attempting to subdue a large fish, which was wriggling and fighting fiercely when I first observed the drama. The heron was quite far away and the quality of the pictures reflects that, but the sequence seemed interesting enough to memorialize.
     Here are a couple of shots of the heron smacking the fish around and dunking it in and out of the water to overcome its resistance to being swalloed.

     After several minutes the fish became inert and the bird proceeded to swallow it in one gulp, tossing its head back to ease the fish down its gullet.

     Having finally eaten the fish it remained stationary for several minutes, presumably to aid in the process of digestion.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Pied-billed Grebe (Grèbe à bec bégarré) at Laurel Creek

Pied-billed Grebe Podiceps auritus
Laurel Creek Conservation Area
Waterloo, ON
22 September 2014

     Judging by the number of juvenile birds doing very well at Laurel Creek it appears that the breeding season there has once again been a successful one.
All of the youngsters were feeding very proficiently and many were taking "practice" flights across the water, no doubt readying themselves for the migration that lies ahead.
     This individual very obligingly came close enough for a reasonable picture.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Least Bittern (Petit Blongios) in Toronto

Least Bittern Ixobrychus exilis
Colonel Samuel Smith Park
Toronto, ON
21 September 2014

     Given its tiny stature and its ability to disappear into a wetland without a trace, any sighting of a Least Bittern is a rare and special event. Thus it was that this individual provided an enormous amount of pleasure when viewed for about ten minutes feeding at the edge of a reed bed.

     The bird measures a mere 28 - 36 cm from the tip of its toes to the end of its bill so you can well imagine that the body area is quite small, about the size of a Common Starling in fact. Its large feet are well adapted to life in dense shoreline vegetation.

     This individual (probably a female) appeared to be feeding primarily on small fish but I was never quick enough to snap a picture as it captured its prey. Many Bluets (sp. ?) were dancing above the water and mating and these too seemed to attract the attention of the bittern.

     This was my first sighting of Least Bittern in Ontario in many years.

     There was much else to be seen and Red-necked Grebes Podiceps grisegena seemed to have had a successful breeding season.

     These snails had worked their way up to the top of a seeding plant that obviously held some attraction for them.

     Three wing-tagged Trumpeter Swans Olor buccinator had recently arrived from their northern breeding area and were seen swimming together on Lake Ontario.

     A Green Heron Butorides virescens was stalking prey and a nearby Great Blue Heron Ardea herodias seemed oblivious to everything going on around it.

     Several Northern Shovelers Anas clypeata seem to have recently arrived from the north and doubtless it will not be long before many other waterfowl species arrive also. This female was accompanied by several males in eclipse plumage.

     As noted on earlier posts Monarchs seem to have done at least somewhat better than in recent years and there was no shortage of this species in floral meadows.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Turkey Vulture (Urubu à tête rouge) Feeding on Dead Carp

A. E. Crookes Park
Mississauga, ON
18 September 2014

     Driving by this location, I glanced out of the car window and noticed two Turkey Vultures Cathartes aura on the beach, so I turned into the parking lot and walked down to observe. The birds were feeding on a large dead carp in the same location where I had observed an American Herring Gull Larus smithsonianus feeding on identical carrion a few months earlier. Whether carp have some kind of proclivity to beach themselves in this area I have no idea but it seems curious that the same event would repeat itself in the same location. One of the birds flew off almost immediately but the second bird remained to feed.
     I did not have a camera with me, but a young man named David Mew was taking pictures there and he very kindly agreed to email me a few shots. The following pictures are his work, not mine.

     By the time I left there were five Turkey Vultures circling in the air and I had no doubt that the fish would be demolished in short order.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Wild Turkeys in Suburbia

Wild Turkeys (Dindons sauvages) Thrive
in Suburban Waterloo
15 September 2014

     While checking a few of my regular birding spots I came across a flock of at least twenty-one Wild Turkeys Melagris gollopavo a mere stone's throw from a complex of townhouses. The area in which I located them is at the edge of a residential area and appears to be slated for development itself (we are paving over the whole world). Most of these birds were hatch year birds and the reproductive capacity of this species is prolific. It is a hardy species, surviving our harsh winters, and its numbers have exploded in recent years. And this for a bird that thirty or so years ago was not present at all in the province. 
     It had been extirpated by over-hunting and an exchange was made with the State of Michigan - turkeys for moose. Michigan had the same experience with its native moose as we had with turkeys, it had been hunted out of existence.
     The picture below is not great, but it was the only one I could get as the birds exploded out of one area of scrubby bush and headed for another. It is quite incredible how quickly they can move.

     A stately Great Blue Heron Ardea herodias at another location nearby was a tad more photogenic.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Juvenile Merlin

Juvenile Merlin (Faucon émerillon) Falco columbarius
Waterloo, ON
14 September 2014

     Yesterday, with a real hint of fall in the air, I decided to visit a few local spots where I bird frequently.
     The highlight was this juvenile Merlin, which not only provided great views but treated me to a display of its awesome flying skill and aerial

    It presented a veritable air show as it veered and twisted, plunged and banked back upwards in true mastery of its realm. After each little sortie it returned to perch on the same snag and preened. It seemed to have little interest in hunting at the time.

      In any area of damp ground beneath the trees fungi were to be found aplenty.

     The berry crop is prolific this year and I was surprised not to find hordes of Cedar Waxwings Bombycilla cedrorum  feeding on them. Wild grapes seem to have done especially well as the following pictures attest.

     I know that some varieties make excellent preserves, but there are toxic look alike plants, and I am not proficient enough to tell them apart so I leave them for the birds!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Tagged Great Egret

Tagged Great Egret (Grande Aigrette) 
Waterloo, ON
12 September 2014

     As I mentioned in a recent post Great Egrets Ardea alba begin their annual appearance in this area as post breeding dispersal occurs, with some birds even moving north from their more southerly breeding locations.
     This bird was seen on 12 September in Waterloo and was in the same location yesterday. I am attempting to find out where it originated, but so far I am having no luck. As soon as I am able to determine where it was tagged I will add a line to this post.

Note added: This bird was banded at Nottawasaga Island near Collingwood, ON on 19 June 2014.

     As might be expected juvenile birds abound at this time of the year and this young House Sparrow Passer domesticus clearly shows its gape.

     Cedar Waxwings Bombycilla cedrorum have been plentiful of late with large flocks of juveniles roaming together.

     Like all children, there needs to be the odd adult to supervise!

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.