25 October 2016
It was a fine day, a little cool but sunny, when we all gathered at Columbia Lake in Waterloo for our regular Tuesday outing, with high expectations of finding some interesting birds.
The foliage at Columbia Lake was at the peak of its colour, one of the reasons why autumn is so magnificent at this latitude. Some of the trees are nothing short of breathtaking and any panoramic view is a riot of reds and golds.
The pictures used on this blog post are a cooperative effort by Franc and Miriam. Franc is the consummate photographer among us, with the best equipment, so the selection is heavily weighted in his favour.
Here is a delicate, lovely image of a Dark-eyed Junco Junco hyemalis.
This species comes in a multitude of sub species and this morph is commonly known as Slate-coloured Junco. It is not hard to appreciate just how appropriate that designation is.
In addition to a fine selection of birds, small mammals such as squirrels and chipmunks were very active. This Grey Squirrel Sciurus carolinensis was industriously searching for nuts and seeds to cache away as a safeguard against food shortages in the winter.
It is sleek and glossy and appeared to be in peak condition. I am sure it is well equipped to handle the cruel conditions winter sometimes brings.
Autumn Meadowhawk Sympetrum vicinum is one of our latest dragonflies and we were happy to see this individual highlighting our walk.
A Ring-billed Gull Larus delawarensis high overhead was seen flying with a fish in its bill. You can bet that this was not a winter food item and would be gobbled down very quickly!
This is the time of year when waterfowl from the north start to appear in large concentrations composed of a number of species. Columbia Lake did not have a great range of ducks but a couple of pairs of Gadwall Anas strepera were close enough for Franc to record their image for posterity!
We saw fairly large groups of Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris; not quite the murmurations for which this species is renowned, when large flocks coalesce into one massive aggregation, but impressive nevertheless.
A dense stand of bushes containing many berries hosted good numbers of several species, feeding on the food bonanza so easily available. As might be expected Cedar Waxwing Bombycilla cedroroum, a classically frugivorous species was quick to claim its place at the table.
We stayed for quite a while at this area since there was non-stop activity. As you can see everyone was engrossed.
Well, maybe everyone except Jim! Franc had his camera cocked and ready.
A pair of Bufflehead Bucephala albeola were far out on the lake.
But many Canada Geese Branta canadensis flew overhead.
Raptor migration is well advanced by now, with many species having totally migrated out of our area. Numerous Turkey Vultures Cathartes aura were riding the thermals southward, but this Red-tailed Hawk Buteo canadensis might be either a migrant or a resident bird.
The berry crop attracted several pairs of House Finches Haemorhous mexicanus and it was interesting to watch them feeding. This species is a regular patron at backyard bird feeders and this was an opportunity to study them taking natural food.
White-throated Sparrow Zonotrichia albicollis is an iconic bird for many of us; its song when breeding in the north woods is often interpreted as Sweet Canada, Canada, Canada. I am always delighted to see this very handsome species.
A couple of Red-bellied Woodpeckers Melanerpes carolinus put on an amazing display for us, chasing each other and seemingly engaging in some kind of mock combat or other ritualized behaviour. They were hardly still for a moment, with aerial tumbling, grappling and diving, with flashes of colour to dazzle the eye. This picture gives but the barest idea of the deft choreography we witnessed.
Judy and Mary had other things to do, so they declined to accompany us to SpruceHaven, but the rest of us made our way there to finish the morning in good style.
Clad in its autumnal best, SpruceHaven looked stunning.
A Red-breasted Nuthatch Sitta canadensis was unconcerned at our presence as it fed on peanuts at one of the feeders.
American Goldfinches Spinus tristis have lost their bright regalia by late fall, but they still look very handsome in their delicate, muted dress.
We have located twenty-five salamander boards in the woodlot, all made by Franc and Jim, so I was pleased to take Franc and Carol to see where they have been distributed. We hope to discover a range of species under these boards next spring.
There is a wide range of fungi in the forested area of SpruceHaven, far beyond my realm of expertise to identify, but this formation was very interesting indeed.
In the areas planted by Sandy to create wildlife habitat (she has done so much work and it it is truly a credit to her vision for nature) Highbush Cranberry Viburnum trilobum provides welcome food for a variety of berry-eating species.
I had not realized that Carol was making her maiden visit to SpruceHaven. We welcome her warmly and hope that she will return often, so that she too can enjoy the wonders of this Shangri-La in St. Agatha.
It was a great outing. Tomorrow we will do it all over again!