Friday, 30 September 2016

Tuesday Rambles with David - Bannister Lake/Grass Lake

27 September 2016

     A couple of people have been bugging me for a while about starting a regular weekly outing of local areas taking up all or part of the morning. Finally, I succumbed to their entreaties and our first session was primarily to Bannister Lake in Cambridge, ON, where at this time of the year Sandhill Cranes Grus canadensis feed at the edge of the lake, sometimes in large numbers. A little side trip to Grass Lake rounded out the morning.
     Miriam and I were joined for this excursion by Franc Gorenc, Mary Voisin and Judy Wyatt. Although anyone who wishes to attend will always be welcomed, a small group like this is very manageable.
     Franc is a fine photographer with a range of excellent equipment, and he has kindly given his consent for me to use his pictures for this blog post. 
     We did not see large numbers of Sandhill Cranes, but we were not disappointed in our quest for this impressive species. They heralded their arrival with loud bugling, a sound which sends shivers up my spine, and they landed in small groups on the far side of the lake. 

      Quickly they settled into a feeding routine, periodically stopping to dance energetically. Since breeding has finished for the year one can only assume this behaviour represents some kind of reinforcement bonding; it certainly presented fine entertainment for us. 
      Sandhill Crane is an exceedingly handsome species and we are very fortunate to have them in our area.

     In addition to the show put on by the cranes we had the good fortune to have a Western Osprey Pandion haliaetus circling the lake in front of us, finally diving to catch a fish and coming up with its prize. It is an impressive and memorable encounter; even though I have witnessed it many times it never ceases to thrill and amaze. I think that Franc has captured it superbly in the following images.

     The powerful down stroke of those huge wings lifts the bird out of the water and it turns the fish face forward to provide aerodynamic efficiency, and flies off with its prize. Ospreys will be migrating south very soon now, in fact some have already departed, so we were fortunate to enjoy this spectacle. The memory will warm us on a cold winter's night.
     By carefully scanning the water we discovered numerous species of waterfowl, including a sizable number of Wood Ducks Aix sponsa, the males in their finery, glinting in the early morning sun.

     There were many Great Blue Herons Ardea herodias present; if they came too close to the Sandhill Cranes they were unceremoniously driven off - no doubt all part of learning to cope with life for this young bird. 

     The number of Pied-billed Grebes Podilymbus podiceps was quite astounding and we all commented on the abundance of this species.

     At a casual glance grebes seem to be wedded to the water and are seldom seen to fly. As a migratory species, however, they obviously cover long distances and it was entertaining to see these birds making short bursts of flight across the lake, no doubt preparing for the long journey ahead.
     In the woods surrounding the lake Blue Jays Cyanocitta cristata were in evidence, both resident and migratory populations.

     The old expression "familiarity breeds contempt" might never be more true than as it relates to Blue Jays. This stunningly handsome bird is barely given a passing glance due to its familiarity, but it is worthy of all the adulation we can give it.
     A short journey over to Grass Lake produced numerous delights, including many Eastern Meadowlarks Sturnella magna and a couple of Eastern Bluebird Sialia sialis. This is a male perched on a wire.

     It was a very agreeable way to spend a morning, with great companions, and I am looking forward to the next time.


  1. I liked the imagesyou could take, especially those of the cranes and osprey, a species that reaches these latitudes but it is rare to see; where I live is extremely rare, indeed, never saw the species until today. I also liked the wood duck

  2. Looks like you had a great walk David,lots of goodies,love the Sandhill Cranes,stunning flight shots,plus great Osprey captures.

  3. Hi David,
    marvelous photos of the heron, the hawk on the hunt, the tittmoose and tiny birds.
    Have a great weekend.
    Best, Synnöve

  4. Now if I was just a touch nearer I too could join in with one of your birding walks David. There's nothing quite like a little bit of local knowledge to help find the birds that others might pass by. I like your description of the Osprey's take off - they are indeed very powerful birds, best seen when in full flight on migration or hunting.

    If it helps, I would never ignore a Blue Jay and definitely not here in the UK.

  5. Hi David

    Beautiful photos of the Ducks and birds.

    Groettie from Patricia.

  6. These are some great shots. I really like the detail on the first one.

  7. I'd have had a ball if I'd been on that walk, David! I agree that the Sandhill Crane is a handsome bird, but I think that its charisma is almost entirely due to the tiny splash of red on its head. On the other hand, I was quite surprised to hear that the wonderful appearance of the Blue Jay tends to be overlooked through its familiarity! I'm sure that the Wood Duck never suffers such neglect!

    Love to you both - - Richard

    1. I think the Blue Tit in Britain provokes the same reaction as the Blue Jay here Richard. Visiting birders rave over the little beauty, residents birders hardly seem to notice it.

  8. Hello David.
    Great photos of Franc of these cranes. It's a chance to have cranes in the country, we expect ours for this winter.
    The wood duck is very beautiful among the lilies.
    Beautiful bird walk for you all.

  9. Hi. Great photos. The crane is a really awesome bird. Greetings.

  10. We don't have that kind of Jay in Oregon (only scrub, stellar, and gray) so I adore seeing yours in Our travels. But I love the more familiar ones here too. Wonderful flight shots of both Sandhill and osprey! A bit envious of your ability to catch them fling and landing, but at least I've seen those wonderful events. Very envious of the wood ducks which I am apparently fated never to see.

  11. Hi David, What a day you had, the Sandhill Crane is a most impressive and stunning bird, however the Blue Jay is an absolute beauty, really outstanding. Great to see an Osprey, is this late for a bird to be migrating or normal timing for your area, ours are all long gone. Regards to you both. John

  12. It's nice to see David, wonderful series you are here.
    The cranes are super !!!
    Greetings Tinie

  13. Fantásticas fotos, las del águila pescadora capturando un pez son una maravilla. Un fuerte abrazo desde España.

  14. Beautiful pictures of Cranes, Osprey and Blue Heron. Great start of a weekly event!
    Gr Jan W

  15. Ohhhh .... I'm jealous of your photos on your cranes. This I can only see in a zoo (and I have pictures of but I still places). Beautiful birds and beautiful pictures. Raptor, heron and the little birds are wonderful to see. Very nice series. My compliments.

  16. Now I realy are wondering if my reactions came all the way over to the other side of this globe. Also here I seem to have not reacted on your post. And this is such a lovely one with the Cranes. Amazing captures David.