Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Another Wetland Episode

Laurentian Wetland
28 October 2014

     Although very mild for the time of year the day was wet with some heavy rain, a little drizzle and a few sunny intervals. Drawn as I am to wetlands, I decided once again to see what I could find.
     My visit to Laurentian Wetland was very satisfactory. For the most part the rain held off, although the sky was grey and overcast most of the time. Several species of duck have recently arrived and a careful search turned up a great variety of waterfowl.
     I think that Northern Pintail Anas acuta is one of the most elegant of all ducks, and I was happy to see a pair feeding together. Given the distance from the shore and the poor light the images are not great, but they serve as a record of the presence of this species on this date.

Bottoms up!
     Canada Goose Branta canadensis is resident all year at the wetland unless there is a total freeze up, when out of necessity they have to move elsewhere. In historical times this species was entirely migratory, but now whole generations accustomed to the easy life around humans, have lost the urge to migrate and spend the winter here. It is an extremely common species, very adaptable and highly successful and little attention is paid to it, other than for people who revile it, principally due to the problem caused by its droppings. It is, in fact a handsome bird indeed, and worthy of our admiration.

     Mallards, Anas platyrynchos continue to delight me, and I never tire of their stunning beauty. Often found in the company of Canada Geese, these two species share in the ignominious distinction of being almost totally ignored.

     I saw but one Hooded Merganser Lophodytes cucullatus as this male streamed by way off in the distance.

     Several pairs of American Wigeon Anas americana were present, this pair getting along amicably with Canada Geese.


      As might be expected Great Blue Herons Ardea herodias dotted the shallows, and this hardy species will stay until the water freezes over, when it will migrate south. 

     Northern Shovelers Anas clypeata were particularly hard to photograph and spent most of their time upended in the water. They were also distant and in poor light.

     American Robins Turdus migratorius were feeding on berries, and it seemed serendipitous that this one, as was the case yesterday, came to bid me farewell.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Life in the Wetlands

Waterloo, ON
27 October 2014

     This morning I visited four local wetlands which I check on a regular basis, to see which species of birds are still frequenting them, and whether there might be any additions, especially of waterfowl. 
     Everything was pretty much routine, but, as always it was indeed pleasant to observe the dwindling number of bird species still there.
     It seems that if one looks closely there is always a Great Blue Heron Ardea herodias lurking somewhere in the background.

     Mallards Anas platyrynchos are common at any time of the year but it is in the fall when they tend to congregate in greater numbers in small wetlands, which characterizes the four that I visited. This is truly a handsome species, overlooked for the most part because of it familiarity, but if it were rare it would evoke shrieks of admiration.

     Pied-billed Grebes Podiceps auritus are found primarily on larger bodies of water, and I was surprised to find this one in the tiny wetland near to Creekside Church. 

     It was concentrating its dives in an area having fairly dense surface vegetation and I think it knew far better than I that such a habitat would provide shelter and cover for fish.
     This was soon proven to be true when it emerged with a fish that would appear too large for it to swallow. But never underestimate the gullet of a fish-eating bird!

     It swam off into the reeds with its catch, possibly to hide from marauding gulls and crows who would no doubt attempt to pirate the grebe's catch.

     These two Canada Geese were just resting together.

     Most of the autumn leaves have now fallen from the trees and the wetland landscape is looking a lot more open, and a little drabber too.

     Just as I was about to leave to return home for lunch this American Robin Turdus migratorius landed in a snag, as though to bid me farewell.

      À la prochaine, mes amis!

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

A Few Highlights from Today

22 October 2014
York County, ON

     What should have been a great shot today turned out to be impossible. I saw two wonderful rufous Fox Sparrows Passerella iliaca, one of which was out in the open on a bare branch, begging for a picture to be taken. But, by the time I got camera the focused on it, it dropped to the ground and scurried into some dense tangles to join the second bird. I never could get a clear shot and it was not long before they flew away. Such is the nature of photographing birds I guess.
     Dark-eyed Juncos Junco hyemalis have arrived here for the winter and seemed to be everywhere today. These are two so-so photographs of a female, in frontal and dorsal view.

     I parked at a shopping plaza which has a storm water management pond which has been named, rather grandiosely, Melville Pond. Often, however, it contains a variety of species and from time to time something quite unexpected. Such was the case today when I observed ten Hooded Mergansers Lophodytes cucullatus swimming there and diving frequently. What kind of prey they might have been capturing in such a location is hard to imagine, although the Great Blue Heron shown in the picture below the mergansers is frequently in attendance so perhaps fish have somehow migrated through the culverts and provide a ready source of food.
     These ducks were all in female type plumage and I suspect that they represent one family.

     As might be expected in a shopping centre with fast food restaurants gulls hang around, and in fact, some people feed them regularly, buying day-old bread I suspect, from the bakery. 
     These Ring-billed Gulls Larus delawarensis provide a gull enthusiast with a great opportunity to examine them closely, and try his hand at aging alchemy, an art or science depending on your viewpoint, rife with the possibility of error.

     My car provided a perfect perch for this individual.

      Although autumnal splendour has passed its apex, there is still a good deal of colour to evoke appreciative review.

     This large assemblage of gulls seemed totally oblivious to the glory all around.

     Fall brings with it a greater concentration of nocturnal animals foraging and the following picture reveals the dangers they face. I cannot even imagine the extent of anthropogenic road kill.
     This Striped Skunk Mephitis mephitis may well have had its revenge against
the driver of the car by releasing its spray at the moment of impact. The smell seems to get into the very paint of the vehicle and is extremely difficult to get rid of.

        American Crows Corvus brachyrynchos were already congregating nearby. waiting to begin the banquet. Urban crows truly have become well adapted to feeding on road kill; they wait until the very last minute before lifting off to avoid being hit by oncoming vehicles. I cannot recall ever seeing a crow that had been killed by traffic. No doubt the highways and roads provide a rich and easily procured source of protein.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Founders Property - Kitchener-Waterloo Field Naturalists

A Morning Ramble
18 October 2014

     In 1968 the Hallman property in the Roseville swamp was purchased by the KWFN, and named the Founders Property in 1984 at the time of the club's 50th anniversary. Perhaps no individual founder was deemed sufficiently auspicious to have the honour conferred on him or her, and this mildly ignominious name continues to this day.
     This is a wild property, little known and seldom visited by most members of the club, and Fraser Gibson, a two-time past president and distinguished member offered to escort members of the current board of directors on a hike through the property. Only three of us took up the challenge, Paul Bigelow, our treasurer, Josh Shea our vice-president and myself, the sitting president.
     There are no trails of any kind, tangles to fight through, creeks to cross and boggy, swampy ground to trek through. It is hard going!
     Fraser knows this property better than anyone and we followed him as he led us through, trusting a good deal in his GPS, which was not receiving a good signal, and was therefore not entirely reliable.
     He was well prepared to cross a creek, where a primitive "bridge" consisted of a few logs straddling the water. They were slippery, wet, partly rotten and not engendering any confidence as to their stability. Fraser, intrepid soul that he is, had brought a rope to help us across and, having secured one end to a tree, went across the logs with a staff, to tie off the rope on the other side.

     Next across was Josh, who at about half the age of the rest of us, walked across with jocular confidence.

     Sorry the rope is bisecting your face, Josh!

     Paul followed while I stayed until last to take the photographs.

     The birding in the tract was quite good and we saw several species, but all high in the trees, or behind vegetation - none in any situation permitting photographs.
     Obviously in times past, bird enthusiasts had cared for the property since we found this long broken Wood Duck Aix sponsa box, now rotting on the ground.

     This is a general view through the woods which varied from being fairly open in spots to barely penetrable in others. We had a little dry ground to walk on but for the most part it was boggy and wet.

     This plant is Horsetail, in the family Equisetum. There are several species, and sometimes Mare's Tail is also thrown into the mix, confusing things even more so I will not attempt specific identification.

     Here is an interesting example of new trees emerging from a rotting stump, a classic example of recycling on an undisturbed forest floor.

     We saw numerous ferns and I am grateful to Fraser for identifying them. I have not a single reference on ferns on my shelf, an omission which needs to be rectified soon!

Spinulose Wood Fern Dryopteris carthusiana

Clinton's Wood Fern Dryopteris clintoniana
     As you might expect, moss was everywhere.

    We observed Partridgeberry Mitchella repens in several locations and this one still had a berry shining bright red on the forest floor.

     Given the time of the year, fallen leaves were everywhere, in all shapes, sizes, colours and hues.

     Here is another general view, taken as we bushwhacked through the undergrowth.

     It was very interesting to come across this old kiln. No one knew precisely what type of kiln it was, but I suspect that it may have been a charcoal kiln, and it appears that the oven type opening at the front may have been used for baking or roasting, drawing heat from the charcoal buried beneath debris behind it.

     This Oak Fern Gymnocarpium dryopteris has taken on its fall colour and will be buried in snow within a few months.

     Just before leaving the property I photographed this fungus and I am awaiting identification assistance on it. I will add the name as soon as I know it.

     It was a really enjoyable walk and both a pleasure and a privilege to visit this property which our club owns and has managed to preserve in a natural state. Thank you so much, Fraser for organizing it, and being such a competent and genial leader.

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.