Monday, 22 December 2014

Merlin (Faucon émerillon) and others

22 December 2014

     This morning I had to go to Oakville, so I decided to spend a few hours birding at some favourite spots in the Oakville/Burlington area.
     Paletta Park has become a great spot for birding in recent years, having a combination of open area, lake shore and hardwood bush. It was formerly a grand estate of the landed gentry, but was acquired by the City of Burlington several years ago and the mansion has been renovated and converted into a prime location for weddings and other events. It truly is a beautiful venue for any significant celebration as the pictures below will attest.

As you can see the recent snow has all gone from the lawns, given the current spate of warm temperatures, and the proximity to Lake Ontario where winter temperatures are a little warmer than those experienced inland. 
    Today as I walked down towards the lake the temperature had hit 0°C and before the day was out had climbed to 3.
    It is ironic that I blogged about Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus yesterday and today I encountered another individual of this species. Fortunately, this one was considerably closer and in much better light. The picture below is quite pleasing I think.

 If you have read yesterday's
post then you will remember my comment about this gull being the world's largest and this image shows this aspect even more clearly. 
    The two American Herring Gulls Larus smithsonianus in front of the Great Black-back are only about a metre away and the size difference is stark.
    It is a very handsome gull, although it is a fearsome predator. Nothing below its own size seems to escape the attention of a hungry Great Black-backed Gull.
    At Bronte Harbour, a little earlier, it was still overcast, but the atmosphere was enlivened immensely when a little flock of Long-tailed Ducks Clangula hyemalis landed in the water quite close to where I was standing.

     Not only are they an unqualified delight to see, this group was chattering away in the fashion for which they are renowned, and the sound is quite magical I can assure you. In addition they were splashing and diving under the water, swimming off with rapidly beating wings, and then repeating the whole performance all over again. They seemed for all the world like a group of high-spirited children at recess.

     At times I almost laughed out loud at their antics and I was quite sad as they moved farther and farther out into the lake, until I could no longer hear them.
     I have saved the best till last, although the picture is unfortunately not the best. A Merlin Falco columbarius, (a juvenile, first year bird, I am pretty sure) perched in a bare tree along the breakwater at LaSalle Park. I was close to the bird, but it was unfortunately silhouetted against a bright blue sky and this is the best of a poor bunch of about twenty-five pictures that I took. I backed away as far as I could (don't forget that I am standing on a breakwater) but I was still basically looking up at the bird.

     In any event any encounter with a Merlin is noteworthy in my book, and this was no exception. When it left its perch it exploded into high speed, zig-zagging flight that is a miracle to behold. Even the Mallards Anas platyrynchos appeared nervous and two American Coots Fulica americana dived under the water without a moment's hesitation.
     I spent about four and a half hour's birding in total and felt that I had a glorious day.


  1. I love the sound of Long tailed Ducks too......but they are a little scarce in my part of the world.

  2. I haven't heard Long-tailed Ducks, nor seen a Merlin, but really enjoyed seeing your images of both


  3. Hello David.
    Beautiful series of images.
    Ducks from photo 4 though 8 I've never seen.
    This are magnificent species.
    The last picture is sublime.
    Best regards, Irma

  4. It's rare I see more than one Long tailed Duck so have yet to experience their chattering. If it's similar to the calls and behaviour of GoldenEye's then I would be impressed.

    Any day which includes a Merlin is rather special.

    1. For me it's quite the opposite, Phil, I rarely see a lone bird. Sometimes they are in rafts numbering in the hundreds.

  5. Beautiful walk you made, beautiful pictures of all the animals.
    Merry Christmas wish.
    Greetings Tinie

  6. A super account of a very worthwhile diversion, David. I believe that a Merlin would be a 'life bird' for me. I'm rather fond of Long-tailed Ducks, but have only seen them in pairs, on the coast of Scotland in winter, but I have heard their delightful chattering.

    I hope that all is well with you both - have a great one!

  7. Merry Christmas to you and your family !

  8. Seagull giant is beautiful. I like ducks and birds from the last photograph is wonderful. Regards.

  9. Merry Christmas and have a great 2015.

  10. The magic of Christmas never ends and its greatest of gifts are family and friends…
    Best Wishes for a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!!!

  11. Hello Mr Gascoigne

    I am writing to apologise for my moment of insanity when I intimated that my bins could be discarded in favour of a more favourable pursuit.

    This lapse was brought about by the continued inclement Lancashire weather which for a number of days has preventing me from taking photographs, birdwatching or bird ringing. You will be pleased to hear that following a couple of glasses of red wine followed by a tot or two of Canadian Club and a good night’s sleep I believe that I am fully cured.

    Rest assured I will be patrolling Pilling in the very near future and I look forward to you following my further adventures as normal.

    Best wishes for tomorrow and the New Year and please give my best regards to your understanding wife.

    I am now going to hang up my stocking and wish for a full frame Merlin.

  12. The Long-tailed Ducks are superb David. Have a merry christmas.

  13. The estate is really beautiful, David. I can imagine that it's very decorative for weddings. I have never heard of the Long Tailed Duck before. Such a beauty. That tail is gorgeous.The Merlin was indeed a fantastic present to see. I agree, you had a great catch that day. Greetings, Joke

  14. Hello David,
    What a great house. That's not bad to live.
    You've made wonderful shots of it.
    I wish you a Merry Christmas!!

    Best regards,

  15. A beautiful country house and a beautiful converted think. Ideal for shooting birds. Pictures of ducks I find really beautiful. A kind I have never seen.
    I wish you a very merry Christmas.
    Greetings, Helma

  16. Hi David!
    Sorry I missed this post but I had such computer problems that I decided to go Apple Mac!
    So that is what I got for Xmas but it's a whole new approach, I love it though!
    What a lovely post, those Long tailed ducks are true beauties!
    Congrats for the falcon, their are usual easy to approach :)

  17. David
    very beautiful, as always pictures.
    Thank visits throughout the year and wish you a 2015 full of peace, happiness and good health.
    kiss kiss