Monday, August 21, 2017

Tuesday Rambles with David - Columbia Lake, Waterloo, ON

15 August 2017

     Jim and Francine are away in Québec on a vacation with Francine's family there, but the other members of our "gang of eight" got together for our regular Tuesday ramble.
     The birding was not prolific but there were, nevertheless, some interesting encounters. 
     In the first area that we checked we were looking for shorebirds, but nary a one could be found (although we did see a single Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularia) later), but we were happy to find a Great Egret (Ardea alba) feeding alongside a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias). Great Egret was once a rarity in southern Ontario, but in recent years has become more and more common, and there are now several breeding colonies in the province. Post breeding dispersal is underway and I located another four individuals in a small wetland yesterday.

     The Great Blue Heron seemed to be having better luck than the Great Egret in snagging prey and at one point captured two fish in its bill at the same time.

     The "best" bird of the morning was of an adult female Merlin (Falco columbarius) with a juvenile that was constantly begging for food. 

     The light was quite poor and the birds at a greater than ideal distance, so Franc had to summon all his ingenuity to get a shot or two. Here is Franc weaving his way through a cornfield, using the tall stalks of corn as a blind, in order to approach the birds closely.

     How's that for dedication? He came back with his pants wet and dirty but with a smile of satisfaction knowing that he got pictures that otherwise would have been impossible. I think I will renew his permit as official photographer of our Tuesday walks for a lifetime or two!
     Another phenomenal sequence was of a female Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alycon) which zoomed by at high velocity. I am sure you will all agree that Franc has done a magnificent job in capturing the sheer sensation of speed in this image.

     The next two pictures are of the same bird, illustrating very well how the different play of light and shadow, and background, can almost make it look like a different bird.

     Not far off a female Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula) was screaming at an intrusive Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula) for some transgression we had failed to witness.

     Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) was of course common, busily going about the important chore of finding food. It will not be long before they will start to cache food for the winter.

     Eastern Kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus) is still a feature of the landscape but soon it, and all the other tyrant flycatchers, will be heading south as the days shorten and the first overnight frost threatens.

     The same can be said of Grey Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis).

     Most Song Sparrows (Melospiza melodia) will migrate too, but there are always a few hardy individuals who remain with us all year, braving the snow and the icy blasts of winter.

     Tomorrow it will be time for another Tuesday Ramble with David and the West Perth Wetland will be our destination. Be sure to tune in to see what we turn up there.

All species 15 August: Canada Goose, Mallard, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Western Osprey, Spotted Sandpiper, Caspian Tern, Mourning Dove, Belted Kingfisher, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Merlin, Eastern Kingbird, Blue Jay, Barn Swallow, Black-capped Chickadee, American Robin, Grey Catbird, Song Sparrow, Baltimore Oriole, American Goldfinch.  Total species: 22.
David M. Gascoigne,
David M. Gascoigne,

I'm a life long birder. My interests are birds, nature, reading, books, outdoors, travel, food and wine.


  1. Not bad for a "not prolific" day, David! I'm even more in awe of Franc's flight-shot skills now. I've only once seen Belted Kingfisher but remember how fast if flew! A delightful post, as always.

    So you're off to Australia tomorrow, eh! Have a good day ;-}

    My love to you and Miriam - - - Richard

  2. Hi David,
    marvelous photos of the gray heron and the hawk. Gorgeous !
    Best, Synnöve

  3. More than a slight understatement there young man. "The birding was not prolific" with such views of Gret Egret, Belted Kingfisher and Merlin alone? I am always amazed how your North Ameriacn Merlins seem much more accommodating than our own when they are the exact same species with just geographical variation. I put that down to the British predeliction for hunting the hunters, or at least making the raptors life as unbearable as possible. Yes, even the Merlin.

    Off to Aussie? Enjoy. I shall look forward to you bouncing back on the scene.

    1. Hi Phil: I am not going to Australia. Richard is just having fun with the name of the West Perth wetland. It is Perth, Ontario not Perth Australia. But maybe next year.............

  4. Fantastic and beautiful. All of them are brilliant birds, the Great Blue Heron took my heart away, love it.

  5. That Belted Kingfisher zooming past is phenomenal, brilliant photo but my favourite is the Merlin, such a pretty little bird.
    All great photos though. Have a good Tuesday in Perth :-) Cheers Diane

  6. Maybe not a lot for the lucky ramblers, but I'd be thrilled to see that many in a morning ...heck, these days I'd be thrilled to go on a birding walk at all. It will happen again, life has just intruded. Thank you for the virtual tours as always .

  7. Hello David!:) Many wonderful sightings, and sensational photography from Franc. Really outstanding IF images of the Belted Kingfisher,...a treat to see, and also the Great Blue Heron and Merlin captures. All great encounters.

  8. Hi David.

    Beautiful pictures of these beautiful birds.
    Many beautiful species show you.

    Groettie from Patricia.

  9. Have a great time in Australia...........

    1. I guess Richard really has everyone thinking I am going to Australia. I am not. West Perth Wetland is in Mitchell (Perth County), ON. The trip was cancelled anyway due to rain.

  10. Hello David,
    A beautiful blog full of beautiful birds and little birds.
    Sensational to see the ice bird fly by :-)
    The herons are also beautifully photographed.
    The other birds are amazing. I can only dream of it !!!
    Fragrant photography.

    Dear greetings, Helma xx

  11. Un reportaje espectacular David, las fotos del Megaceryle alycon en vuelo son una auténtica maravilla. Mis felicitaciones para Franc y Miriam, son dos grandes fotógrafos. Un fuerte abrazo desde España.

  12. Oh my David, incredible birds, incredible photos! The one of Franc in the cornfield made me smile and I can relate. I do admire his dedication and if I could get half as decent photos as these here, I would be right there by his side. Thank you for this amazing post.

  13. Hi David, and another set of incredible flight shots by Franc, you certainly had a most enjoyable day with all the images, the Merlin in particular is a real beauty. Great post, all the best to you both. John

  14. Hello, awesome captures of the Great Egret and Heron. The Kingfisher photos are amazing. One of my favorite are the two Merlins together. I would have enjoyed this bird walk, great sightings. Enjoy your day and the week ahead!

  15. So many incredibly stunning birds. Loved the belted kingfisher in flight and the merlins together! The Black-capped Chickadee and the Grey Catbird definately have the cute factor!
    Have a wonderful week :)

  16. Hahaha ... I like the birds but that photo of the birder in the grass with his big camera is pretty stunning too. :)

  17. WOW! Beautiful! I need to bring out my long lens and see what I can find. havne't used it yet because it is so heavy, but I need to do it!

  18. I know I've been here before (don't worry about my mental state)... just came by to look again (and make a better comment).... kind of feel sorry for the mama merlin -- that baby is at least as big as she is. Love the kingfisher (very envious -- especially of the flight shots). Thanks to you, Frank, and the rest of your crew for sharing the wonder!

    1. Bravo to you, Sallie, for making a second comment. Franc and I both appreciate your comments,as does Miriam for that matter, and the rest of our gang.

  19. Another fantastic set of photographs for all your readers to enjoy.
    I lost count of how many times I said Wow!

    Then I also saw the photograph of Franc weaving his way through a cornfield - brilliant.
    Lovely post David, you have a great gang!

    All the best Jan

  20. Wow! I love the birds in flight photos!

  21. Hello David,
    Beautiful series of photos of the different birds.
    The kingfisher is really great, also the man in the grass, so you can take the picture you want
    Best regards, Irma

  22. Phenomenal photos, as every time.
    The photo of the two merlins is my favourite. Well approached. I just tried to approach two swans feeding in the shallow water, but they obviously heard me and started to swim further. :)

  23. Gee what a post
    Franc's Belted Kingfisher in flight is awesome!
    Pass on my congratulations to him!
    And the Merlins are wonderful too, I love those diurnal birds of prey.
    Enjoy your outings and my love with Miriam :)

  24. Looks like a good day in my opinion! I was out this morning for a sum total of zero pictures! oh well.

    Nice post.

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

    1. Hi Stewart: I plan to be in Melbourne late September or early October next year. Maybe we can do a little birding together. I will drop you a line.


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We acknowledge that the land on which we are situated are the lands traditionally used by the Haudenosaunee, Anishinaabe, and Neutral People. We also acknowledge the enduring presence and deep traditional knowledge, laws, and philosophies of the Indigenous Peoples with whom we share this land today. We are all treaty people with a responsibility to honour all our relations.