04 July 2017
Jim and Francine are away in Québec visiting Francine's mother, but the six remaining members of our group of eight were back together again. Yippee!
Mary had previously visited the Linear Trail, but for Franc, Carol and Judy it was their first experience of what is a very pleasant walk. Miriam and I have traversed its length and breadth several times.
The trail meanders alongside the Speed River initially as it slowly makes its way to merge with the Grand River farther upstream.
The Linear Trail, in our experience, has never been overcrowded, and seems quite bucolic despite the presence of tended parkland on one side, and houses fronting that park.
We kept our eye on the river and were soon rewarded with a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) stealthily hunting in the shallows. The stealth and cunning of the heron was matched only by Franc's determination to get in position for the perfect shot.
The bird captured a fish, and Franc his picture, a pretty satisfactory conclusion for all concerned.
The spot where the Grand and Speed Rivers meet is colloquially called The Confluence, and the broad expanse of water can at different times of the year host a wide variety of species.
We saw many Baltimore Orioles (Icterus galbula) but even with three cameras shooting we were unable to come up with a decent picture of a male. Abundant females were also present, however, some feeding young, and our luck was a little better with these birds.
This mother seemed ready to deliver a substantial package of protein to a youngster patiently waiting, hidden in the dense foliage.
Red-winged Blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus) were ubiquitous.
The entire Grand River watershed hosts a substantial and thriving population of Western Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) and at one point we had four of these magnificent raptors cruising and soaring over our heads.
A little later we saw a nest atop a constructed tower with two young birds visible. It is a great privilege to have so many breeding pairs in this area and it bears mentioning that local Hydro Electric Authorities, the Grand River Conservation Authority, the rare Charitable Research Reserve, and others, have all played a part in enhancing habitat for this species, and nurturing a robust population.
Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilocus colubris) is the only species of hummingbird to spend its breeding season here. This male was defending a territory, proclaiming to all other males to stay out, and chattering seductively to entice a female to mate with him.
Perhaps this female has already succumbed to his charms.
As might be expected, this riparian corridor supports a variety of mammalian life too, and we spotted an American Mink (Mustela vison) in and out of the water, complete in its mastery of both habitats.
White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus hemionus) also came to the river's edge to forage and drink.
We did not locate a nest, but judging by the presence of this species in July, we may conclude that American Redstart (Setophaga ruticilla) is breeding along the Linear Trail.
Grey Catbirds (Dumetella carolinensis) chortled and mimicked other birds from deep within tangles, but occasionally an individual perched in the open, perhaps to have room to spread its wings to facilitate its toilette.
Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus) appears to have had a very successful breeding season this year, judging from the sheer numbers of young rabbits to be seen everywhere. I always enjoy seeing them in our backyard, but Miriam is not so keen when they nibble back everything that emerges from the ground. She is experimenting with different substances to deter the rabbits from thwarting her gardening efforts.
Butterflies are abundant, seldom seeming to alight long enough for a photograph, however. This Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) was the exception.
We spotted numerous Brown-headed Cowbirds (Molothrus ater), not always with unalloyed pleasure when contemplating the range of species being parasitized by this obligate brood parasite. Here is a male resting in the grass.
This female American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis) perhaps is already sitting on eggs most of the time, or perhaps has young to feed now that the seeds of dandelion, teasel, burdock and other plants are readily available, with thistles soon to follow.
A female Downy Woodpecker (Dryobates pubescens) has perhaps already fledged her young to independence.
American Robins (Turdus migratorius) were seen throughout. In the manicured section of the park the grass was being cut and there seemed to be good pickings on the insects disturbed.
Song Sparrows (Melospiza melodia) were very common and we were rarely out of earshot of their stereotypical song.
A day without a Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) is like a day without sunshine and today we had both in abundance.
Just before the end of the trail a male Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus) perched and preened for several minutes, a delight for all of us.
Day Lily, or Tiger Lily ( Hemerocallis fulva) is common along roadsides, paths and weedy areas, and this beautiful plant was abundant along the Linear Trail.
It seems quite fitting that this show of beauty was present at the end of our walk to bid us farewell.
A very enjoyable four hours was had by all and we look forward to doing it again next week.