Saturday, 26 December 2015

LaSalle Park on Christmas Day

25 December 2015

     What better thing to do on Christmas Day than to go for a good walk in the park? Especially so when the temperature hovered around 10°, as this totally abnormal warm December continues. As you can from the pictures below there is not a hint of snow on the ground, nor a patch of ice on the water.

     The number of waterfowl is down considerably as many species are tending to remain farther north during this prolonged period of open water. Very few birds were close to shore, and it was interesting to observe this fossil-embedded rock as we made our way across a breakwater which extends into the lake, to try to get a little closer for better photographs.

     Mallard Anas platyrynchos was one of the few species to populate the rocky shoreline and this handsome male was loafing for a while. His mate was in the water just out of camera range so perhaps he was guarding her also.

     The local Black-capped Chickadees Poecile atricapillus were, as always, very happy to see humans bearing food, and this one patiently waited his turn to alight on the hand of a delighted child, perhaps having this magical experience for the first time.

     You don't have to be a child, however, to take pleasure from this intimacy with nature, and here is my outstretched hand with a bird feeding on peanuts.

     I always wonder what encoded bit of this species' DNA makes them so confiding and so willing to come to the hand of a human. Few other species are so bold. Red-breasted Nuthatches Sitta canadensis will readily come to hand, but I have never been able to induce a White-breasted Nuthatch Sitta carolinensis to do so. Blue Jays Cyanocitta cristatus and Grey Jays Perisoreus canadensis display little fear and will take food from the hand, but very few other species can be coaxed to do the same thing.
    We saw a couple of Double-crested Cormorants Phalacrocorax auritus among the ducks, geese and swans, not unheard of at this time of year, but relatively unusual.

     Trumpeter Swan Cygnus buccinator is the signature bird at LaSalle in winter, but the number present was down considerably.

     Greater Scaup Aythya marila was probably the most numerous duck present, with a few White-winged Scoters  Melanitta deglandi mingled in with them. The scaup were co-operative in terms of photography; the scoters not so much!

     Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula were also much in evidence and curiously they were already displaying courtship behaviour. It makes one wonder whether their internal clock has been somehow disrupted by weeks on end of warm weather; however, perhaps this behaviour has another meaning in early winter.

     Bufflehead Bucephala albeola was present, but in small numbers only.

     The only species of gull we saw was Ring-billed Gull Larus delawarensis whereas American Herring Gull Larus smithsonianus would generally be the most numerous by now.

    The Grey Squirrels Sciurus carolinensis were always on the lookout for a friendly human with food and they seem particularly sleek and fat this year.

     This Northern Cardinal Cardinalis cardinalis was content to feed on the ground on seed tossed there by humans, but even though it fed within a couple of metres of the chickadees on my hand it remained wary and would flush at any unexpected sudden movement.

     At the end of the woodland trail on the way back to the car we heard the loud, joyful song of the Carolina Wren Thryothorus ludovicianus and it did not take us long to find the source of the loud musical notes.

     In recent years the invasive Zebra Mussel Dreissena polymorpha, which arrived in the Great Lakes in ballast discharge, has become a huge problem. It multiplies at a prolific rate and clogs water intake pipes and fouls, in one way or another, just about everything it comes into contact with. In the winter the docks, pontoons and other devices related to boating are removed from the water, and the following images show the extent of Zebra Mussel accumulation.

     It was a wonderful way to spend the afternoon, with many other people out enjoying the air on Christmas Day - a welcome respite no doubt from a surfeit of food, drink and contrived merriment. Nothing like a chickadee on your hand to give you a real feeling of joy and well-being at Christmas.


  1. You've probably seen lots of lovely walks and beautiful.
    Beautiful pictures of what you saw David.
    Here it is not cold, the temperature would normally 5lbs. are, now it is 12 gr. too warm for this time of the year.
    Happy new year, greetings Tinie

  2. Bonjour David.
    La gourmandise est un vilain défaut, mais la Mésange nonnette ne semble pas le savoir ;-)
    Quelle chance d'avoir les Garrot à œil d'or et Garrot albéole.
    Jolie série.
    Joyeuses fêtes de fin d'année David.

  3. Hello David and Miriam. it does appear that the whole of the Northern Hemisphere is subject to a strange, unseasonably warm period of weather with the lack of snow and ice widespread. Let's hope it is El Nino alone and that we can return to more normal winters next time.

    Thank you for your concerns. Yes, in the last day or two Lancashire is now suffering from floods following floods of last week further north in Cumbria. Every Lancashire river has now recorded record ever heights today with many overflowing to engulf adjacent towns, villages and even Manchester city. The same has happened in many part of Yorkshire including Leeds.

    Here in coastal Fylde we are currently safe from the floods which threaten villages several miles inland near the sources of the Rivers Ribble, Wyre and Conder. We have a day of respite on Sunday but then more to come.

    Things must only get better and tomorrow I will spend an hour or two along the coast at Pilling and Knott End avoiding the many lanes and minor roads which are at affected.

    Have a lovely New Year and successful birding in 2016.

  4. Christmas 2015 is also in Holland totally different than people are used to. No frost or snow, but temperatures above 10 Celsius. You have made a special walk and recorded your findings for posterity. Gr Jan W

  5. What a beautiful array are birds. I hope that the new years will be a positive one David.

  6. Preciosas fotos mi amigo David, me han gustado mucho. Felices fiestas y te deseo un inmejorable año nuevo, cargado de naturaleza. Un fuerte abrazo desde España.

  7. Dearest David,
    Indeed, holding a bold Chickadee in your hand is quite a reward on such a lovely Christmas Day walk.
    We too had lovely, summery weather with 26°C.
    Love your photos. Was that swan tagged with a number?
    Enjoy this Christmas weekend.

  8. Looks like a very nice park for birding. Our snow has come, finally.............

  9. Whaaaaaaat? Holding a bird! Super :)

  10. Hello David, A nice Christmas walk you had with some nice birds. Great you had birds eating from your hand. That squirl is funny, so fat!
    The weather here is not different from where you live. Much to warm. 15 degrees Celsius. Fruittrees with blossem, Narcissus and Dafodills in bloom. It is crazy.
    For 2016 I wish you and your loved ones health, good fortune and and wonderful birding.

  11. Are those mussels edible, David, or are they just too small?

    In my limited experience, the willingness of birds to feed from the hand seems to be something that they become conditioned to through local customs. For example, I've known Chaffinch to be so confiding in one particular spot on the Island of Mull, that they will actually enter your car through an open window to take food from the hand - and many people visit there for this reason. I've just realised that what I've just said suggests that it's the intelligent birds conditioning the gullible people, rather than the other way round! Elsewhere I've not found Chaffinches to be confiding. In UK, with a concerted effort, Robin can be trained to take food from the hand. In one area of Switzerland, where it was customary for the children to feed the wildlife, on a walk beside a lake, with hazelnuts, I've had Great Tit come to the hand plus Red Squirrel, and almost Nutcracker! Great Tit in UK is not confiding, however. For reasons that I'd like to understand, the birds on the Scilly Isles tend to be generally confiding!

    You can add Bufflehead to the list please, plus those fossil rocks!

    Take good care - - - Richard

    1. I am not sure about the edibility of Zebra mussels, Richard but I never heard of them being used for human consumption. They are bottom feeders and I am sure there is a degree of pollution in the sediment so that would probably render them unfit. As for birds being conditioned to feed from the hand, I have no doubt that is true, but certain species, Black-capped Chickadee for example, seem predisposed to do it. If you take peanuts or sunflower seeds with you on a winter's stroll in a wilderness area you have never visited before it doesn't take long to have the chickadees alight on your hand to feed.

  12. A wonderful bird walk! Makes ours seem a little puny in comparison, but we enjoyed every moment of ours as well. I have never held a bird in my hand.... What a lovely thing. Happy New Year!

  13. Sorry David almost missed this lovely post,supper images from your Christmas walk,
    loved the Chickadee shot,how confiding is that,what a fantastic bonus seeing all these beautiful birds.
    How a lovely Christmas and terrific 2016.
    John and Sue.

  14. Very nice pics from this park. Here we have an unusual year, with a rate temperatures a bit low, but this week we suffer high temperatures, today reachs 35C. it´s the effect of the Niño.

  15. Hello David,
    Nice pictures. Wonderful the shots of the gulls and ducks. And nice to see that eating bird in the humanhand.

    Greetings, Marco

  16. It looks and sounds like a lovely day, despite the issues with the mussels. It also looks beautifully cool - we had 35C here and bush fires along the coastal holiday area not too far from where I grew up. Some lovely images there, and it would be special having a Chickadee sit on one's hand!


  17. A nice reportage David.
    The second picture with the bridge I really super nice but I also think the 3rd picture with all those fossils. Actually, I only see beautiful pictures with beautiful and colorful nature and also volges. Heklaas there is no snow and in the Netherlands it is still too warm for the time of year.
    Kind regards, Helma

  18. This park is beautiful. Happy New Year :)