Thursday, 22 June 2017

Tuesday Rambles with David - Columbia Lake, Waterloo, ON

20 June 2017

     In terms of birding, the dog days of summer are upon us. Most species are breeding, and are silent. Birds are consumed with the struggle to raise a family and tend to keep themselves hidden from view.
     On a dull day, (at least when we set out), five of us (Franc, Carol, Jim, Miriam and I) decided to explore the often productive water and woodland of Columbia Lake, on the Environmental Reserve of the University of Waterloo. This is a splendid location not far from home, where we can spend a pleasant three or four hours and still be home for lunch.
     We parked near the sports fields and looked down upon the southern part of the lake.

     We meandered down to the shore and it was not long before we spotted a Caspian Tern Hydroprogne caspia zipping over the water, head down, scanning for fish. Several times it plunged and emerged with a captured fish, quickly swallowed in flight.

     Northern Rough-winged Swallow Stelgidopteryx serripennis was frequently seen, especially hawking for insects over the water, but these two seemed to be having a particularly enjoyable day.

     Leaving the shore of the lake we wandered inland a little.

     Miriam had us pose for a group shot.

     Even though I have seen him do it many times, I am still impressed by the way that Franc can swing that heavy camera and lens up in an instant, quickly focus on his target, and get great pictures. A male Baltimore Oriole Icterus galbula, was seen but briefly and a female not much longer, but Franc managed these two impressive shots.

     I don't know whether it has anything to do with his grip on his camera, but Franc has a bone-crushing handshake. How sweet it would be if only he could grasp the hand of Donald Trump and crush his tiny fingers! Franc would put even Emmanuel Macron to shame!
     How many Cedar Waxwings Bombycilla cedrorum have I seen? Certainly well into the thousands but it never, ever gets to be old hat. I think it must be like hearing Beethoven's Fifth Symphony - every time there is something else to be learned, a nuance previously unnoticed. So it is with Cedar Waxwing; its perfection strikes you as never before and the beauty is undiminished.

     A male House Finch Haemorhous mexicanus is pretty pleasing to the eye too, and its burbling, cheerful song is a joy to hear.

     Every little patch of habitat, every tree, every riffle in a stream harbours its own secrets.

     A Song Sparrow Melopsiza melodia is content to sit quietly and watch the world go by for a while.

     Of course, birds are not the only taxon to be studied and this fearsome-looking insect was both impressive and interesting. Even Franc's handshake would be a poor defence against that stinger!

     Several species of butterfly were observed but few alighted. A Monarch Danaus plexippus with ragged wings was more cooperative than most.

     Grey Catbird Dumetella carolinensis is a common species, often alerting us to its presence by its jumbled song with its characteristic cat's miaow at the end of it.

     My sister-in-law, Grace, remembers Indigo Bunting Passerina cyanea with great fondness from her childhood, where it could be seen and heard in the tree around the home farm. She would have been thrilled to have been with us to see at least three males in all their nuptial glory.

     It seems to me that getting a good shot of a bird that appears all black (although they never are) is especially difficult and I think that all will agree that Franc has done a superlative job with this American Crow Corvus brachyrynchos. 

     We had debated whether we should walk all the way to the end of the main trail, because the woodland there is sometimes particularly bothersome with mosquitoes, but we decided to do so and were rewarded with a pair of Downy Woodepeckers Dryobates pubescens feeding an offspring.

     Black-capped Chickadee Poecile atricapillus was common throughout.

     Dragonflies and damselflies are quite abundant by this time of the year; Ebony Jewelwing Calopteryx maculata, probably capturing first place, both female.........

     ........and male.

     A Warbling Vireo Vireo gilvus was not doing too much warbling!

     Several families of Mallard Anas platyrynchos were observed in various stages of development; these youngsters are now almost as big as their mother.

     A Western Osprey Pandion haliaetus passed overhead and none of us could really figure out what it was carrying. From certain angles it appeared to be a rodent, but knowing that this species feeds almost exclusively on fish, that didn't seem to ring true. As the picture clearly shows it is nothing but an addition of material to its nest.

     We came across at least one, but more likely two Spotted Sandpipers Actitis macularius with young. Since Spotted Sandpiper is a polyandrous species, the adult birds we saw would have been males, tasked with the duty of taking care of the young in the first stages of their life.

     In the same area a Northern Leopard Frog Lithobates pipiens did its best to remain camouflaged - not entirely successfully we concluded.

     By the time we left Columbia Lake the sun had broken through and it was warm and pleasant. You truly do not have to stray far from home in this area to immerse yourself in nature. Thanks for dropping by and stay tuned to see what discoveries we make next week.


  1. As any avid birder knows, Summer is a difficult time to get birds “in the frame” of your camera. Birds are certainly still around, however they are often hidden within the canopy of the tree. Also, since many don’t want to call undue attention to themselves and thus reveal the location of their nest, they are much quieter than earlier in the Spring. Thus, we discussed with David about suspending our “Famous Tuesday Birding walks”. I’m glad we keep changing our mind. Our last several outings produced some amazing sightings that I think everyone reading this blog really enjoyed. Mine and Miriam’s pictures narrated with David’s wit and amazing knowledge of fauna is really a treat, even for all of us participants.
    Franc G

    1. Thanks so much, Franc, for a great comment! It is always an enormous pleasure to be with say nothing of that little beauty, Carol!

  2. Hello David!:) What a delightful post with so many different species, and so many beautiful photos of birds. I would love to hike in the Columbia Lake location, and perhaps see the Waxwing, the Baltimore Oriole, or the Indigo Bunting, all such stunning looking birds. Franc's handshake, and what you imagined he could do with it raised a smile, as did the frog! Thank you for stopping by today, your visits and comments are always valued.
    Best Regards.

  3. I love your birds, and sure Northern Rough-winged Swallow and Warbling Vireo, brilliant.

  4. Great shots, as always, and I love seeing that Cedar Waxwing. It is a favorite of mine.

  5. Looking pretty good for a 'dog day'!!!!!!

  6. Pretty birds and nice frog.
    The landscape is lovely and green and good to see.
    Often a heavier camera for some people is easy to hold steady than a lighter one - just some people.

  7. Wow. You can meet really beautiful birds not too far from home! I admire.

    And this photo of Western Osprey - amazimg :).

  8. Beautiful landscapes and fascinating animals.
    Happy Midsummer weekend!

  9. It doesn't seems like a dull day for you. You are blessed with so many beautiful shots of colourful birds and insects. The green field and lake view is beautiful. I like the shot of bird in flight and your group photo. I have not seen such beautiful dragonflies. Have a great day!

  10. Hello David,
    marvelous photos of the nature around you and all these pretty birds. Fabulous !
    Best, Synnöve

  11. Hi David

    Beautiful picture of this beautiful area.
    Many beautiful pictures of birds show you.
    And the Insect etc

    Groettie from Patricia.

  12. Considering it's the dog daysof summer, as it is here, I think your little band of enthusiasts turned up a remarkable list of both birds and bugs. A Caspian Tern spent a couple of recent days at Leighton Moss but quickly moved on. Naturally I didn't twitch it but hope to see it elsewhere.

    Enjoy your breakfast David.

  13. I love travelling to new, sometimes foreign, exotic places to bird and experience other cultures, But I feel so fortunate to have local places like Columbia Lake and amazing friends to make any day feel special.

  14. What a fabulous collection of wildlife and I love the woodpecker feeding its young. Love the Osprey and also the Oriole. I am so glad Franc lets you use his pictures they are brilliant, though Miriam and yours are also superb. Well done all of you, and to you David for sharing it with us. Have a wonderful weekend Diane

    1. We are the same group each week so it only seems appropriate that we all contribute to this blog from time to time. Franc has become a kind of "official" photographer for our Tuesday rambles. He is a great guy. Everyone should know a Franc Gorenc!

  15. Beautiful place to take pictures and enjoy nature; I can see summer has arrived in all its splendor. I really liked the photos of birds and insects besides the ones that show the atmosphere, but my favorite was the two woopeckers.
    Saludos desde el sur

  16. Hi David and another wonderful outing with some superb images, what a stunning bird the Indigo Bunting is, your "official photographer" is doing a top job. Great and interesting post. All the best, John

  17. So lovely landscapes and photos, And the blue bird is very nice.

  18. I nearly missed this one, David! So glad I found it eventually. I wish dog days in UK were this good! I too am captivated by those amazing Indigo Buntings - they look unreal!

    I think your 'stinger' on the Ichneumon Wasp is probably the ovipositor on a female of the species - if it was one of the UK Ichneumonoidae, I would be saying this with some certainty - so, unless you happened to be one of the species that this species parasitises, you have nothing to fear from this beastie.

    My love to you both - - - Richard

    1. Thanks for the information, Richard. I confess that insects are not my strong suit.