Thursday, 9 February 2017

Tuesday Rambles with David - Mill Race Trail, St. Jacobs, ON and Conestogo, ON

07 February 2017

     It was with extra pleasure that we met to embark on our regular Tuesday morning outing, because we were able to welcome Franc and Carol back from Arizona, with an abundance of memories of great birds, but ready to get back into the flow with us again. In addition, Franc was able to resume his role as the "official photographer" of Rambles with David!

     Francine and Jim are still away in Québec and we will not all be together again until the end of the month. It is the leitmotif of my recent birding experiences that this is the most agreeable and compatible group of eight birders ever assembled and I am looking forward to our "Gang of Eight" venturing forth together again.
     We decided to cover the Mill Race Trail in St. Jacobs first, where winter usually holds a nice variety of species and the absence of crowds on a weekday makes for a very pleasant experience.

     There was quite a bit of snow on the ground but the temperature was mild and the walking was easy.
     White-breasted Nuthatch Sitta carolinensis is a very common species here and along with Black-capped Chickadee Poecile atricapillus has lost its fear of humans and readily descends to the hand to take seed.

     It was only recently that I first had a White-breasted Nuthatch feed from my hand, but I have witnessed this phenomenon in a different location since. Red-breasted Nuthatches Sitta canadensis have never been reluctant to approach humans for an easy meal, but the champion of all is the Black-capped Chickadee - and speaking of which..........

     I swear that if I live to be a hundred I will still derive pleasure from this simple act!
     Several American Tree Sparrows Spizelloides arborea were seen and we universally commented on the subtle delicacy of the plumage of this species that fills us with delight from late fall through early spring.

     The day was quite gloomy and the presence of snow at least contributed a little light, but photography was still a bit of a challenge.

     A vivid male Northern Cardinal Cardinalis cardinalis no doubt aids the photographer with its bold splash of colour.

     On a sunny day at the end of the month these males will already be singing courtship songs - for a birder one of the true signs of impending spring, whatever the calendar says!
     There was a thin layer of water atop the ice and this drake Mallard Anas platyrynchos looks like it is walking on water!

     Woodpeckers were quite common, with both male and female Downy Woodpecker Picoides pubescens being frequently seen.

     Blue Jay Cyanocitta cristata enlivens any winter walk.

     As has been mentioned in other recent posts American Robin Turdus migratorius is now a common species in winter. While a few birds have always exploited ravines for shelter and prolific berry crops for food, a robin in winter was nevertheless a relative rarity. Now it is commonplace.

     Mourning Dove Zenaida macroura has traditionally been with us all winter, but no doubt they welcome the trend towards overall milder temperatures, since they are prone to frostbitten feet in extreme conditions.

     Golden-crowned Kinglet Regulus satrapa is a tiny bird that defies logic in spending the winter here and coping with it so well. The great naturalist Bernd Heinrich in his book Winter follows a flock of this diminutive species in the forests of northern Maine and provides great insight into their highly developed adaptations for survival under severe weather conditions, with temperature/wind chill factors sometimes approaching forty degrees below zero. Highly recommended reading!

     When we were almost back at the car Franc pivoted his camera upwards with that sweep of the arm we have all become familiar with, to capture this picture of a juvenile Cooper's Hawk Accipiter cooperii. Not a bad bird to end the walk!

     Franc and Carol patronize a local coffee merchant called EcoCafe in St. Jacobs, where a wide variety of beans from different coffee producing countries can be obtained, with advice on how to store, handle, grind and make coffee. We all had a coffee there and chatted for a while; Franc and Carol replenished their stock. Now I can't wait to visit them so that Carol can make me as fine a cappuccino as you could have in a gourmet coffee house in Italy. And did I mention the biscotti.......or the Slovenian cake to die for!
     Our final destination was the little town of Conestogo where a pair of Bald Eagles Haliaeetus leucocephalus has successfully fledged young for the past couple of years and is already preparing for this year's breeding season. 
     By the time we got there it was snowing lightly and the light had deteriorated substantially. Nevertheless Franc managed this shot of one of the eagles in flight, as majestic a spectacle as you could ever wish to see.

     The river held only Mallards and Canada Geese Branta canadensis other than for a lone male Common Merganser Mergus merganser.

     Our group broke up knowing that we had seen a fine array of birds and wondering when the first spring arrivals will start to dribble into the area. A month from now will no doubt be a whole different story!


  1. It was a triumphant walk David, with a terrific array of beautiful birds and endearing friends to welcome us home.

  2. Hello. Amazing photos. Birds are truly amazing.

  3. Magnificent David, nice to see the winter.
    But even better all those beautiful birds, which many species you can see there.
    Greetings Tinie

  4. Hi Both, looks as if you had another {but cold} trip out with your Tuesday Group. Franc looked well wrapped up ready for the adventure. Some wonderful images, but your Blue Jay is so beautiful. All the best to you both. John

  5. Well, what a beautiful collection of birds, they are fabulous David.

  6. What a lovely ramble ...
    Such a fabulous set of photo's within your post to.

    It must be such a wonderful and very special experience to have a bird feed from your hand.

    All the best Jan

  7. Comiendo posado en la mano, esa imagen por aquí no se ve, jajaja. Precioso reportaje, un fuerte abrazo desde España.

  8. Looks like a pretty good day despite the light............

    I'd like a go at the Kinglet one day, we have the very similar Goldcrests here.......

  9. Beautifully photographed, the birds are a delight to see in such cold conditions, would brightens anyone's day up.

  10. Hello David, a beautyful place where you have been and lots of snow too. The birds are amazing and that you had one eating out of your hand must indeed have been a great experiance.
    Just lovely.
    Warm regards from Belgium.

  11. Hi David.

    Very beautiful pictures
    Beautiful pictures of the birds and ducks.

    Groettie from Patricia.

  12. Interesting, and very, very beautiful species! I envy the observation of this birds. Greetings!

  13. How did I know that your walk would end up with a gourmet coffee and sticky bun? I guess you earned it on this occasion as it all looks rather cold and grey. However, a wonderful selection of your everyday birds. Enjoy your trip David.

  14. I like snowy winter landscapes and bird pics i n soft light conditions in snowy environemnts. It's a nice gallery. This kind of climate is unknown were I live, snowfall days happens twice in a century.
    I've posted some pics of acuatic bird census.

  15. Such great photos - again! The blue jay with its incredibly beautiful blue colours is one of the most impressive species of this post. The golden-crowned kinglet looks (to me) very much like the goldcrest in Europe. A bird that I dream to see.
    Bon voyage!

    1. The Golden-crowned Kinglet and the Goldcrest (a species that I have seen in Britain) are indeed in the same family, Sara.

  16. Hello David,
    Beautiful series of pictures of birds, including the snowy landscapes are amazing.
    Very well done, my compliments.
    Best regards, Irma

  17. I think that it's wonderful that, no matter what the weather throws at you, you seem to manage to have a splendid time AND find great birds - although I do appreciate that many of these species will be relatively commonplace to you. Have you ever thought about becoming a professional guide, David!

    Love to you both - - - Richard

  18. Brilliant post David,jam packed with amazing images,my favourite bird in this post is the Golden Crowned Kinglet,looks the same size as our Goldcrest,superb captures.

    P.S in answer to your question,we have over 20+ Cattle Egrets in Cornwall,they visit every year,but not in high numbers,also have bread in the U.K.

  19. David gorgeous! Truly beautiful !!! The pictures that come through here are really great to see. Cute meeting on Tuesday morning. The birds you see you leave here are so nice and I color it quite a bit green (envious) of lol ..... Great to see these beautiful colored birds. The woodpeckers are again formidable!

  20. Every bird portrait you and Frank have made here is stunning. What a wonderful birding day. We used to have gold-crowned kinglets in our yard in Oregon occasionally. I could certainly still ID them, but I'm sure I've never seen such a wonderful picture showing off that crown jewel. It has to be so special to have a chickadee feed from your hand. Heart-stopping. I loved every picture, but it sure does look cold. We were talking this morning about how coffee, while still a morning necessity, doesn't do quite as much for us here in warm Florida as it did on cold rainy dreary days in Oregon. Even more so in the snowy cold I'm sure. Do your friends look for bird-friendly coffee? I find it easily in Oregon, but not so much here.

  21. Great pictures - I always think its good to bird with an established team!

    Cheers - Stewart M - New Delhi, India (!)

  22. Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful birds. Nice photographs. I like the red bird. We haven't this one here! Beautiful!

  23. Great reading the blog. Thanks for sharing. The lens that I see in your hand looks like the 400mm DO. If so the pictures show the beautiful picture stories that it intends.

  24. What a great collection for a winter walk!

  25. Gee, David, what a great array of your local birds you're offering us here!
    Most of them I'd love to see!
    Great to know youve'been to Hong Kong and Taiwan... that means you will show us even more precious feathers!!
    I am preparing a trip to Madagascar in June, I hope to have good opportunities although I will be travelling with other persons not especially keen on birding.
    Keep well and enjoy your weekend