A Visit to Puslinch and Bronte Harbour
While birding together at Hespeler Mill Pond in Cambridge, a fellow photographer mentioned to Franc that he had been shooting Bonaparte's Gulls (Chroicocephalus philadelphia), both adult and juvenile, in Bronte Harbour, and since that location always holds a variety of species, Franc and I decided that it would be worthwhile to make a visit there. On the way we checked out various ponds and sylvan lanes in the Puslinch area to assess the potential for later Tuesday rambles.
|Juvenile Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)|
I found it curious that in fields of grass cattle were being fed hay. I am sure that the farmer is far wiser than I in such matters, and there is a valid and economically sound reason for this practice, but it struck me as odd.
We meandered along the roads, stopping here and there to walk a little, and saw several recently fledged juvenile Barn Swallows (Hirundo rustica) perched on wires, still being fed by devoted parents.
The adult swallows would zoom in at full speed and transfer an insect to a waiting youngster without missing a beat.
We could barely glance to either side of the road without seeing an Eastern Kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus) or two.
Juvenile Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula) does not have the glossy plumage of an adult, and is overall brown with a long, graduated tail, not yet having the characteristic wedge of a mature bird.
At one pond a Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularia) put on a classic display of Spotted Sandpiper behaviour for us, but rarely came close.
Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina) was ubiquitous.
When we finally arrived at Bronte Harbour in Oakville we were greeted, as usual, by a pair of Red-necked Grebes (Podiceps grisegena) that for several years have bred in the inner harbour.
I am not quite sure what has happened this year. The birds kept changing positions on the nest, but there were no eggs and no young from an earlier brood anywhere to be seen.
Our main target for the day was Bonaparte's Gull and we wasted no time in getting over to the breakwater where we were pretty sure we would find them. Here adults and juveniles could be seen together.
This is an interesting shot showing adult and juvenile Bonaparte's Gulls, adult and juvenile Common Terns (Sterna hirundo) with a Ring -billed Gull (Larus delawarensis) in the background for size comparison.
Adult Common Terns are prolific fishers.
And this juvenile seems to have gotten the hang of it too.
Caspian Terns (Hydroprogne caspia) are big and powerful and they too are very adept at plunge diving for prey.
Many Double-crested Cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus) were seen far out on Lake Ontario, but some were loafing on the rocks too.
They are impressive in flight.
For many years a colony of American Cliff Swallows (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota) was a fixture at Bronte Harbour, with many nests on the walls of a prominent restaurant. Slowly the swallows have been driven out by aggressive House Sparrows (Passer domesticus) until there is now not a single Cliff Swallow nest left - pretty sad really for a species that is having trouble throughout its range. Ironically, the other colony of American Cliff Swallows familiar to me was at the Fountain Street bridge in Cambridge, and this colony too has now been displaced as a two-year project to replace the bridge is underway.
The picture below bears testament to the success of the House Sparrows.
The harbour was filled with gulls and terns and hundreds of them would come to rest on the breakwater.
If you look carefully in the pictures below you can see Ring-billed Gulls, Bonaparte's Gulls, Caspian Terns, Common Terns - in a range of plumages.
The water level in Lake Ontario is high this year and periodically the water would wash over the top of the wall. All the birds would lift up in unison and drop back down as soon as the water receded.
When Judy heard that we had been to Bronte she expressed a desire to go there too so exactly a week later Miriam, Judy and I made the trip. As usual the Red-necked Grebes were there at their still empty nest.
A banded Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) aroused my curiosity as to where it might have been banded, and I will try to find out.
But the strangest thing of all was that the breakwater was almost completely empty, devoid of birds, and very few were flying around in the harbour.
We did not see even a single Common Tern. Where these birds have gone is a mystery. Franc and I were there late morning, whereas on the second visit it was afternoon when we arrived, so perhaps this is a factor, although it is hard to believe that all the birds would have left due to a couple of hours time difference. It is early yet for the terns and the Bonaparte's Gulls to migrate and the Ring-bills are resident. We felt bad for Judy since she missed the spectacle that Franc and I had enjoyed - but I guess that is the nature of birding sometimes. I am going to try to get back to Bronte in the next week or so to check again and see if the masses of birds have returned.
It is a spectacle not to be missed and hopefully we still have time for Judy (and others) to check it out.