06 December 2016
We were short one member of our group (Miriam's cold lingers on) and we added one (John Lichty) for our Tuesday morning ramble, so we still maintained our limit of eight participants.
It was a grey, blustery day, the kind to chill your bones, when we all assembled at my house to car pool and set out for the hinterland. Judy, Mary and John came with me; Franc, Carol, Francine and Jim rode together in Franc's car. I needed to stop for gas; with that taken care of we headed to Three Bridges Road where we stopped briefly and checked out the weir on the Conestogo River. Birds were reluctant to show themselves and the scene along the river looked gloomy and uninviting.
Back near the car, however, numerous birds were cheerfully going about their business and Franc swung his camera into action. What would an Ontario morning be without a Black-capped Chickadee Poecile atricapillus to serenade us with its familiar refrain?
This female Downy Woodpecker Picoides pubescens was anxious for her moment in the spotlight too.
The areas around Glen Allen and the Conestogo Dam in Wellington County beckoned us so we got back in the vehicles and drove there without stopping again. There is a bridge on County Road 12 that crosses the Conestogo River, just before turning into Glen Allen, where we always stop and check for winter ducks. Today there was nothing!
When we got into the hamlet of Glen Allen we parked and walked alongside the river, and our fortunes changed for the better. In addition the sun was peeking from behind the clouds - just a little, I must say - but the light improved a tad.
Franc was shooting almost from the moment he got out of the car.
Ring-billed Gulls Larus delawarensis were present in huge numbers, with very small numbers of other larids, however.
This individual puzzles me somewhat. Its head bears the hallmarks of a Ring-billed Gull, but lacking black on the wings, the rest of the body resembles an Iceland or Glaucous Gull. Perhaps it is a hybrid.
There was an absolute abundance of fish and the gulls were enjoying fine feeding.
Everyone was really getting into the spirit of birding now.
Franc captured this admirable sequence of Ring-billed Gulls in flight.
It was good to have Mary back with us.
A few weeks ago, on one of our walks, Francine was delighted to find and identify her own Red-bellied Woodpecker Melanerpes carolinus so it was old hat for her to identify this one.
A couple of Blue Jays Cyanocitta cristata were spotted in the same area.
The Conestogo Dam was quite productive, but initially the birds were far out, including a third year (?) Bald Eagle Haliaeetus leucocephalus grappling with a large fish and being harassed by a couple of wily American Crows Corvus barchyrynchos trying to filch some of its meal.
American Herring Gulls Larus smithsonianus were lined up on the concrete walls of the spillway, always on the lookout for food.
Curiously, for the most part, Ring-billed Gulls and American Herring Gulls lined up on opposite walls facing each other.
As was the case at Glen Allen, there was no shortage of fish for the hungry gulls.
It pays to gulp down your food in mid air before some piratic congener steals the food right out of your mouth.
Common Mergansers Merganser merganser were far and away the most common ducks and our patience was rewarded when they moved in quite close. The flock consisted mainly of females and juveniles, but some males were present also. This individual obliged with a take-off demonstration for us.
Franc had no shortage of photographic opportunities. All he could have wished for was better light.
On the way home we saw three species of raptor. Our first was a glorious female Northern Harrier Circus hudsonius followed in short order by a silver, grey male. Unfortunately, by the time we got the cars stopped, windows opened and camera primed they were out of photographic range.
Better luck was had with a Rough-legged Hawk Buteo Lagopus...
...... and this Red-tailed Hawk Buteo jamaicensis.
As always, it was a fine outing, with time spent well together. Agreeable companions, good birds - what else could one wish for? Sunshine - I heard Franc mumble! Ah well, you can't always have everything.
Tune in next week for another episode of Tuesday Rambles with David.