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.