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.


  1. Great photos, David.
    Beautiful fall colors are still there.
    Photo 10 makes me laugh.
    Best regards, Irma

  2. Buena entrada, amigo David. Que lastima lo de esa mofeta. Te deseo feliz semana, saludos desde España.

  3. Hello David!
    Don't tell me how frustrating it is when the "target" disappears as you try to focus with your camera!! As you say, it is part of a photographer's life!
    Anyhow, you managed to show us great subjects and fun photos (gull on your car's roof!). The only drawback being this poor skunk ending up as a rad kill :(
    We have come back from 4 days at Le Teich. Contrary to the high number of birds reported in september, it was very quiet but we managed some great shots of the very species we saw. Naturally, we we thinking of you all along :)) The tides were too low, next time we will aim at higher tides!
    Much love to you and Miriam, I hope you are both in great shape!!
    I shot my back in the hides :( Aggghhh!!!!

  4. Hello David. Yes, I wish Gonzalo had arrived from a different direction i.e. from the south west to blow things up the Irish Sea and arrive on the Lancashire coast but NW winds rareley bring goodies like Ring-billed Gulls or juncos, even less Hooded Mergansers - I wish.

    Your right about crows on the road. I cant recall ever seeing a squashed crow, just gulls which perhaps are too slow off the mark.

  5. Hello from Poland:
    That's how it is in this world ... for some, death for others food...

  6. Beautiful bird photos and prachte colors of autumn put in the picture.
    The last picture is such a shame that it happened.
    Greetings Tinie

  7. Wonderful series of images..The first sweet Junco shot is one of my favorites.. I love all the bird shots. And the colorful trees are gorgeous. Great post.

  8. Your autumn colour looks great. How wonderful to see 10 Hooded Mergansers at once, even if they weren't in breeding plumage.

    I was sorry to hear about the shooting and attack on your Parliament. It really brings home how uncertain life can be.

  9. I've noticed the same thing about crows - you never see them as roadkill! Very smart birds, worldwide obviously!

    I love the random moments of excitement that birding can offer, such as a flock of Mergansers turning up in a shopping centre lake. Your autumn tree colour photographs are just wonderful too - something I was fortunate to experience for real during my short sting in Toronto, along with Ring-billed Gulls and Dark-eyed Juncos!

  10. Beautiful series ;-)
    Céline & Philippe

  11. Those autumn colors are still magnificent, David. Sorry that you had the frustration of failing to get an image of the Fox Sparrows. We've all been there - not with Fox Sparrows, I hasten to add!

    Keep up the good work.

    Best wishes to you both - - - - Richard

  12. Fantastic to have so many Hooded Mergansers in your area, David. Wonderful series. I know the frustration of birds that fly away. Therefore I mostly photograph other subjects. That gull on the roof of your car is funny. I hope he left your car without leaving "a present" to thank you. Great series. Poor Skunk. Greetings from the Netherlands, Joke

    1. There was no present on my car, Joke, but one of them dropped a bomb on my hat!

  13. Beautiful pictures David and the first two pictures I find very special.
    Too bad that the animal was slain in the last picture but unfortunately happened that often in traffic.