Thursday, 29 December 2016

Tuesday Rambles with David - Region of Waterloo Hinterland

27 December 2016

     Suffering from a surfeit of Christmas festivities I think, the five of us who met this morning were eager for a jaunt into nature. Franc and Carol are away in the sunny southwest and Mary had another commitment so the rest of us (Judy, Jim, Francine, Miriam and me) ventured forth.
     It was a grey day, the kind referred to in the line of the carol which talks about the bleak midwinter - and it has hardly begun! The ambient temperature was slightly above freezing but a vicious wind imparted more than a hint of chill to the air.
     Our initial forays were singularly unproductive; other than large numbers of American Crows Corvus brachyrynchos feeding in fields now mostly devoid of snow cover, few birds put in an appearance.

     Coaxed out of hibernation by relatively warm temperatures I suppose, this Raccoon Procyon lotor seemed undisturbed by us. It appeared sleek, fat and in good condition.

     Near the River Song Banquet Hall in St. Jacobs a lone American Robin Turdus migratorius flew directly over our heads, proof once again that populations of this species ever more frequently spend the winter here.

     We decided to go north on Schummer Line where Northern Raven Corvus corax has bred for a couple of years, in hope of seeing this rugged survivor that treats even the worst winter weather with disdain. We were unsuccessful in that quest but discovered what was unquestionably the bird of the day. In a mixed feeding flock of House Sparrows Passer domesticus, Dark-eyed Juncos Junco hyemalis and American Goldfinches Spinus tristis Miriam detected an adult White-crowned Sparrow Zonotrichia leucophrys, very unusual for this time of the year. Judy and I also managed a good look at the bird, but Jim and Francine in their car behind us, missed it. For Miriam, Judy and me this was our first ever winter record.

Dark-eyed Junco
            Earlier, we had run into Ken Burrell who is the rare birds coordinator for this area so we wasted no time in letting him know of our sighting and its precise location. As a matter of fact the bird was seen one day before the annual Linwood Christmas Bird Count so it will be an important addition to the species recorded during the count week.
            A couple of Downy Woodpeckers Picoides pubescens were seen close by and Red-bellied Woodpeckers Melanerpes carolinus hitched up trees a little farther off.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker - female

     Flushed with success we saw two Turkey Vultures Cathartes aura on Chalmers-Forrest Road, another unusual late December species, although it has been recorded in small numbers throughout the winter in recent years.

      We also spotted an American Kestrel Falco sparverius, a species formerly very common, and now rarely observed. We all remembered our experience with this species in Cuba where the birds seemed totally unperturbed by human proximity, as contrasted by this individual which flew off at the slightest attempt to take a picture.

     Our primary targets today were Snowy Owl Bubo scandiacus and Snow Bunting Plectrophenax nivalis and we dipped on both of them. However, it turned out to be a fine outing, with a range of species, including a decent number of Mourning Doves Zenaida macroura, and Rock Doves Columba livia were abundant around the silos on the farms that dot the region.

Mourning Dove

     The photographs taken today in poor light were of mostly poor quality so many of the images that are used for this post are taken from my archives. Franc of course is not here to act as the official photographer for the day and will not be with us for several weeks. I am sure you will all agree that he should hop on a plane in Arizona every Monday evening and fly up here for the Tuesday walk, but we all know how much chance there is of that happening! I guess we will all have to bear down and do our best until he returns in early February.


  1. Nice mixture of stuff. Yes, by all means fly your photographer friend back to do the honours, but these images look fine to me!

  2. Hope you get the Owl/Bunting next time...........

    1. In fact, Stuart, we have just returned from doing our section of the Christmas Bird Count in that area and we had a flock of about a hundred Snow Buntings; no Snowy Owl but we did have about fifty Horned Larks.

  3. Interesting amount of species you have seen in that snowy environment, I imagine that few birds must reside in winter in that place. I really liked pics of Melanerpes, Zonotrichia and Turdus. Zenaida is almost identical in that pose we have here, which is super abundant.
    Saludos sureños

  4. Hi. Great photos. There is more snow than we do.

    Happy New Year

  5. Hi Both, looks as if you had a wonderful trip out, so another very interesting post. The Red-bellied Woodpecker is a real stunner, but the shot of the post for me was the Robin with the frost on its head. If you remember Richard and myself suggested that Miriam should return weekly to go out on our Owling sessions as she was so good at spotting the birds, All the best to you both. Regards John

  6. Oh those brave birds (and even braver birders, since they all had more of a choice about where to spend their time). Thank you for sharing the beauty with those of us who are weather wimps. I love the woodpeckers and can't wait to see some here -- it is usually later in the season for some reason before I spot many of them. We saw a family of 5 raccoons in our campsite recently, but all five of them probably didn;t weigh as much as yours does. You'd think they'd be fatter here in the warmth wouldn;t you?

  7. The day might have started off slowly, David, but it certainly seems to have come up trumps in the end. Delighted to see that you and Miriam have not lost your photographic skills - I was worried that your reliance on Franc might result in you losing your touch ;-}.

    I think our weather is probably as cold as yours at the moment. Many of the roads that John and I travelled on today were still white-over and slippery with frost just before sunset. It seems very cold in comparison to the 15° we had over the Christmas weekend!

    Pleased to see that Miriam is out and about again. Love to you both - - - Richard

  8. Enhorabuena por el reportaje, maravilloso. Te deseo un Feliz Año Nuevo mi amigo David, que todos tus sueños se hagan realidad. FELIZ 2017!!! Un fuerte abrazo desde España.

  9. Hello David,
    YOUR pictures are very beautiful !!! I'm happy to see them. And all these species are very amazing !

  10. Does look a bleak day and I do recall some of those shots from before - they are indeed lovely.

  11. It does look cold, contrasting with our mid 30sC temperatures in Melbourne. I'll be hoping that you do find and are able to photograph Snowy Owls over the rest of the winter as they are special birds.

  12. Hi David.

    Beautiful series David.

    I wish you a very nice 2017

    Groettie from Patricia.

  13. David Gee !!! Really beautiful birds in your post.
    I wish I saw so many! The various woodpeckers are also fantastic! The other birds are so great to see. I envy you ;-)