Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Tuesday Rambles with David - Hamilton/Burlington Area

29 November 2016

     Our usual complement of eight was diminished a tad this week as Miriam, Carol and Francine were all under the weather to one degree or another - minor ailments but enough to keep them inside for the day, and Mary couldn't make it. However, I was joined by Judy, Franc, Jim and, as a bonus. Cara Poulsen, a University of Waterloo student you have met in previous posts. In a peverse way, it was good that some of our usual crew couldn't join us, since Cara wanted to join us and we don't want to let our group get beyond eight participants.
     Judy had expressed an interest in heading down to Lake Ontario where the spectacular concentrations of waterfowl have started to populate the area, so that is what we did.
     Our first stop was at the DesJardins Canal in Dundas, ON where ducks often congregate in fairly large numbers, always close at hand since the canal is quite narrow. In addition to waterfowl, the surrounding vegetation harbours numerous passerines. This Dark-eyed Junco Junco hyemalis posed nicely for a picture.

     Dark-eyed Juncos and American Tree Sparrows Spizella arborea are two species that are emblematic of of the fall influx of northerly breeders, and both were present.

     There was abundant Goldenrod Solidago sp. and Teasel Dipsacus sylvestris (and other assorted grasses) to provide lots of food for seed-eating species and American Goldfinches Spinus tristis were quick to take advantage of this bonanza.

     There are few trees, but they were exploited by Downy Woodpecker Picoides pubescens and Red-bellied Woodpecker Melanerpes carolinus but we had a clear line of sight only on this male Downy, searching for insects, grubs and spider eggs under the bark.

     Ironically, waterfowl, the primary purpose for our visit, were in short supply. There were numerous Canada Geese Branta canadensis, Mallards Anas platyrynchos, and a pair of Hooded Mergansers Lophodytes cucullatus, but not a single other species. The most photogenic of this entourage were the mergansers, but they took one look at us, flew to the opposite bank and concealed themselves in the reeds.
     We moved on to LaSalle Park in Burlington where we were confident that the waterfowl populations would be greater and more varied - and such turned out to be the case.
     Numerous Greater Scaup Aythya marila were present, some even close enough to shore for photographs.

     There were at least a hundred Ruddy Ducks Oxyura jamaicensis swimming, diving and feeding, but this is a tiny duck and they were quite far out. A lone female came a little closer than the others, albeit briefly, before it rejoined the main flock.

        By this time of the year American Herring Gulls Larus smithsonianus have often replaced Ring-billed Gulls Larus delawarensis as the most populous larid, but we saw few of the former and Ring-billed Gulls predominated everywhere. There seems to be a bit of an irrational bias on the part of some against gulls, but I always enjoy them and this Ring-billed Gull in flight shows what truly beautiful creatures they are, graceful and streamlined, masters in the air.

     Substantial rafts of Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula are common sights now and numbers will continue to increase over the next few weeks. These hardy little ducks take all the harsh weather that winter can throw at them as they survive on wave-tossed Lake Ontario. There are a few species which cause one to scratch one's head wondering how the the name was ever derived, but as the picture below shows Common Goldeneye has a moniker to suit.

     This juvenile Common Merganser Mergus merganser is well equipped to handle the vagaries of winter and the savage weather it can sometimes deliver.

     Mute Swan Cygnus olor is an introduced species, resented by some, but it is a magnificent creature, worthy of our admiration. In addition to its beauty, it is a dedicated parent and staunch defender of the family - traits we admire in humans.

     Mallard is the most cosmopolitan of all ducks and is the ancestor of many strains of domestic duck. This male in flight is paradigm of grace and aerial skill.

     Buffleheads Bucephala albeola populate the Great Lakes in equal measure to Common Goldeneye and are a familiar sight on the winter waterscape.

     American Black Duck Anas sparsa hybridizes so frequently with Mallards that it is an increasingly rare sight to encounter pure American Black Ducks. This individual seems to have some degree of interbreeding.

     As we walked along the woodland trail cheeky Black/Grey Squirrels Sciurus carolinensis scampered along with us, hoping for handouts. Several of them had these curious pale ear tufts.

     There were a few Redheads Aythya americana on the water, often singles and hanging out with other ducks.

     Trumpeter Swans Cygnus buccinator, surely the most regal of all swans, can always be found at LaSalle Park in the winter, where they dominate all of the other waterfowl. When they are vocal it is easy to appreciate why they are called Trumpeter Swans.

     To end the day we moved on to Stoney Creek, past Hamilton and on the way to Niagara Falls, to check out two reliable spots, Fifty Road and Creanona Boulevard, where close access to the water can be gained, with very large concentrations of waterfowl.
     Many Buffleheads were present.

     As were substantial flocks of Common Goldeneye.

     Long-tailed Ducks Clangula hyemalis have arrived in their usual huge numbers, riding out the swell and diving to feed on zebra mussels. This male is coming in for a landing.

    Three species of Scoter were present, but usually very far offshore. White-winged Scoter Melanitta deglandi was most numerous.

     It was a fine day of birding with much to be enjoyed. I have little doubt that we will be doing this trip again before the winter is out.


  1. Una sesión fotográfica magnífica con especies muy interesantes, muchas de ellas desconocidas para mi. Precioso reportaje David, un fuerte abrazo desde España.

  2. You have a wonderful selection of photos, but the favorite is the gull in flight.

  3. Love all the photos but particularly adore the white swan one, we don't see many white swans here at all, but lots of black ones.

  4. Hi. Really great photos. Thank you for a wonderful journey into the world of birds.

  5. Stunning post David,every image is a delight to see,love your flight shots,great action shots,your Trumpeter Swan and Long tailed Ducks are my favourite,followed by Black Duck and White winged Scoter, superb Birds.
    I hope all recover form their sickness.
    Take care.

  6. What a great post David and some superb photos. Love the birds in flight particularly the long tailed duck. A lot are birds which of course we do not see so it is interesting for me. Have a good day Diane

  7. Hi David. Please will you come and lead a walk over here - and bring Franc with you too! We could do with the combined skills of the pair of you!

    Great images, but I particularly like the way that the iridescent colours in the drake Bufflehead have been captured.

    I hope Miriam and the other two girls are fully recovered from their ills.

    Our love to you both - - - Richard

    1. Hi Richard: As soon as two aeroplane tickets arrive in the mail we'll be right there!

  8. Birds all beautiful and a lot of them. Squirrel met also captivated me. Regards.

  9. Absolutely stunning your work, especially the Downy Woodpecker, LOVE IT.

  10. Hi David, another superb post from your last trip out, even without some of your usual members you managed a good number of different sites. Hope all are fully recovered from all ills and ready for your next trip. Look forward to seeing you with Frank when Richard forwards the tickets. All the best. John

    1. Talk to him nicely, John, and I am sure he will send you over to hand deliver them!

  11. W£OW, what an impressive post!!!
    Great shots especially the fights, congrats!!
    That Long-tailed duck is gorgeous... All right, the others too!!

  12. I thought I had already commented here but I see my reaction nowhere. It also does not matter because it's great to see these pictures. Beautiful birds and birdies and I'm a little bit jealous of all these fine feathered friends.

  13. Some stunning ducks here - and Dark-eyed Junco is a handsome beast !

  14. Superb post, I like and enjoy all the images, but specially long tailed duck in flight. All pics looks very nice with soft light

  15. Lovely shots here David, the photo of the Downy Woodpecker is so sweet! So many lovely wildlife shots here, looked like a lovely walk outdoors. - Tasha