01 February 2017
It has been a while since we have been able to go on one of our regular rambles; it seemed that if we had a bad day's weather that's the day it would happen and we had no choice but to cancel. Even this week's ramble had to be postponed to Wednesday due to a presentation I had been scheduled for months to make on Tuesday.
Francine takes piano lessons on Wednesday mornings so she and Jim didn't join us, Franc and Carol are on their way back from Arizona (hooray!), so it was just Miriam and me with Judy and Mary (who has missed the last few walks for one reason or another). It was great to have the two of them in the car with us to enjoy the delightful, interesting, humourous, multi-faceted chatter that always takes place when we are together. When I consider the various experiences and careers we have respectively enjoyed, there is little wonder that the car is a lively place!
Our first stop was at the Hood Century Farm to which we had been invited by Diane Hood. Gracious as always, Diane invited us all in and made coffee and served us wonderful Newfoundland ginger snap cookies. It was great to chat with her and talk about plans to return in the spring.
While we were sitting drinking coffee an American Tree Sparrow Spizelloides arborea flew into one of the windows, seriously stunning itself, and prompting Diane to consider bird- proofing the window. The bird sat for quite a while on the sill; the quality of the picture is marred by the fact that it was taken through a mesh screen and glass.
We were all concerned for its welfare but felt that the best course of action was to leave it where it was. Slowly it revived and finally flew from the sill to the ground where it seemed alert and ultimately flew off.
After leaving the farm we travelled south to the DesJardins Canal in Dundas, where winter birding is generally very good.
We were greeted, as usual, by a row of Ring-billed Gulls Larus delawarensis lined up on the fence like soldiers on parade.
These birds are so accustomed to humans you can almost touch them. They know, along with the Canada Geese Branta canadensis and Mallards Anas platyrynchos, that they will not have long to wait before some doting parent brings a child with bags of goodies to feed them.
The Canada Geese and Mallards far outnumber other species to be found on the water.
We scanned the Canada Geese for a while, hoping to locate a few Cackling Geese Branta hutchinsii, but if they were there they eluded our gaze.
This outing had originally been planned as a morning only event, but it was by now lunchtime and we were all well-provisioned with power bars so we decided to extend it and we motored over to LaSalle Park and Marina, one of the best local areas for winter birding, where there are substantial populations of waterfowl, in addition to varied and interesting species along the woodland trail.
The signature species at LaSalle is the regal Trumpeter Swan Cygnus buccinator where sometimes up to two hundred birds are present.
Several Red-breasted Merganser Mergus serrator were observed, both male and female, and it was impressive to watch their mastery of the water. These birds move adequately on land, swim and dive with precision, and have command of the skies too. Most human have but a passing acquaintance with water, and none with the air, uni-dimensional lesser beings that we are!
American Herring Gulls Larus smithsonianus were infrequently sighted and were clearly outnumbered by the ubiquitous Ring-billed Gulls, but Miriam succeeded in getting this shot of a fine-looking individual.
LaSalle is a reliable spot to study American Coot Fulica americana during the cold months of winter, and we succeeded in finding a few, but nowhere near the large concentrations I have observed in the past.
Bufflehead Bucephala albeola was present of course; we would be shocked if it were not!
I have often remarked (as I am sure have many others) on the sheer beauty of a drake Mallard, and the fact that familiarity leads us to ignore it. We did not fail to appreciate it today.
A Canvasback Aythya valsinaria is always a welcome sight and it is rare that large numbers of this very handsome species are observed.
Many people bring bird seed to LaSalle and leave little piles along the boardwalk. Eastern Grey/Black Squirrels Sciurus carolinensis are well aware of this fact and waste no opportunity to get to it before the birds do.
Carolina Wren Thryothorus ludovicianus has expanded its range considerably in recent years and seems to have little difficulty surviving our winters, which are on average warmer than in times past. We listened carefully for the loud, rollicking song of this charming species and were rewarded with view of four of them.
A few Dark-eyed Juncos Junco hyemalis foraged on the ground, busy as always scratching and scraping for tasty morsels.
A Cooper's Hawk Accipiter cooperii, perched low to the ground, was pointed out to us by a group of photographers. There is little doubt that this accipiter can make a good living at LaSalle.
Too bad it wouldn't turn and face us!
Before setting out on our journey this morning, Judy brought over a cartoon her husband, Ross, had cut from a newspaper, thinking that I would get a chuckle out of it - and I did! Perhaps you will too.