15 October 2015
rare, Cambridge, ON
Fall weather in southern Ontario this year has been especially agreeable, with warm sunny days and an abundance of dazzling foliage.
This morning, while doing my regular Thursday morning monitoring at the rare Charitable Reserve in Cambridge, it was a distinct highlight to see two Hairy Woodpeckers Picoides villosus feeding on the fruit of Staghorn Sumac Rhus typhina. The drupes of this shrub are densely gathered into a conical formation and covered with hairs.
The shrub actually has separate male and female plants and the fruit is produced on the female. The name Staghorn Sumac derives from the fact that the bark has a fine velvety texture, somewhat reminiscent of the velvet of the new antlers of stags.
Sumac is impressive at any time of year, but it really assumes its prominence in the fall when the leaves and the fruit turn a vivid scarlet, breathtaking when struck by sunlight.
White-throated Sparrows Zonotrichia albicollis was quite common, feeding on the ground, and flitting in and out of cover. It was not the easiest species to photograph today!
For a couple of weeks now there has been a significant concentration of Rusty Blackbirds Euphagus carolinus, a species which has declined in abundance in recent years.
Red-winged Blackbirds Agelaius phoeniceus were flocking with the Rusty Blackbirds; curiously the males were in full voice. I could have closed my eyes and easily imagined that I was listening to recently arrived males at a marsh in spring.
Here is a hatch year male starting to acquire the badge of his gender.
Both species of blackbird occupied the higher parts of snags, and trees already denuded of leaves, and the chorus was almost deafening.
Mourning Doves Zenaida macroura were very willing to share the branches with the blackbirds.
It was interesting, albeit a tad gruesome, to come across the corpse of a small Raccoon Procyon lotor, almost picked clean by whatever predator had been able to capture it.
The colours of the trees are so glorious that it is hard to resist taking a few more photographs, so let me present, with no apologies for repetitiveness, autumn in southern Ontario at its best.