Saturday, 5 August 2017

Turtles, Terns and a visit with Bonaparte.

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.

Puslinch Tract
Juvenile Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)

Puslinch Tract
     This area contains numerous lakes and walking trails, with areas of grassland and forest, boding well for a range of species. 
     A small pond alongside the road was pretty much covered in Duckweed (Araceae, sp.) and the resident population of Midland Painted Turtles (Chrysemys picta marginata) was transformed by it.

     This individual seemed to have stayed out of most of the Duckweed and appeared pristine by comparison.

     Franc's keen eyes spotted a Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) in a tree at the side of the road, and he was able to capture this picture that shows the little smudge of red on the belly, for which this species is named. 

     As an indication of just how rural and lightly traveled this area is, we were stopped there for at least ten minutes (and the road was quite narrow) and we did not see another vehicle.
     There was a very handsome Northern White Cedar (Thuja occidentalis ) with a full crop of immature seed cones, all of which will provide a rich food source for seed-eating species later in the year.

      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.


  1. Hi David,
    Great post with wonderful photos from both you and Franc!
    This swallow in flight is incredible, you can tell him!!!
    Amazing variety of species, the Chipping sparrow is a discovery for me.
    Warm hugs my friend to share with Lady Miriam ;-)

  2. Hello David,
    je ne peux pas te parler de tous les oiseaux, il y en a beaucoup et surtout ils sont tous beaux ! Si un jour je viens dans ton pays, je t'apelle !
    Ma préférence est pour le pic à ventre roux.
    I can't talk to you about all the birds, there are many and above all they are all beautiful ! If I come to your country one day, I'll call you of course lol!
    My preference is for the Red-bellied Woodpecker.

    1. Hi Nathalie:
      You should plan a trip here and I wil, help you, and help you and help you! There are so many new and beautiful birds for you to see. May is the best month!

  3. Hi david, and ss Laurel and Hardy might say, "That's another fine trip you've gotten me into". Not that I'm implying you and Franc are anything but fine birders. What a brilliant list of birds and set of photos. As you say, the picture of Bonaparte's, Common Tern and Rin-billed is a lesson in compring bird sizes, none too obvious when species are seen in isolation. The Chipping Sparrow lloks in good shape - I'd forgotten how colourful they can be.

    Shame but very interesting about Cliff Swallows being usurped by House Sparrows and I wonder how common that is as a whole or just in certain situations?

    We caught 49 Linnets this morning. How's that?

  4. You certainly saw a large amount of incredible wildlife David. Great photography, always enjoyable to visit, thank you :)

  5. Wow!!! Fantástico y completo reportaje amigo mío. Que maravilla de lugar lleno de vida salvaje, las gaviotas de Bonaparte se dejan ver de vez en cuando por mi pueblo, una auténtica rareza. Enhorabuena David, un fuerte abrazo desde España.

  6. Wow David I love this post and every photo that is on it. Love your turtle shots, especially the 'clean one' :-) Franc's photos are quite amazing, especially the in flight one. Have a great Sunday Diane

  7. Lovely place and beautiful pics.. Specially Chipping Sparrow and Red-bellied Woodpecker.. Cheers

  8. Stunning shot of the red bellied woodpecker - what a lovely bird! Amazing photos here as always David. - Tasha

  9. What a great group of pictures today!

  10. There will be some barn swallows on my page soon - not after that we share birds. Bempton is a great place (even in bad weather!) - so you should try to get there if you can.

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  11. Splendid variety of birds - and that Bonaparte's Gull is VERY attractive...

  12. Great photos of so many different birds and other animals. Eastern Kingbird in flight looks wonderful. Greetings!

  13. Oh yes, they are irresistible, beautiful in every way.

  14. Handsome birds and cute turtles and cows... The Red-necked Grebes seem to have a modern nest. Was it placed there for the birds or just abandoned and then used by them?
    Wishing you a great new week.
    PS Your breakfast with all those fruits sounds delicious. :)

    1. Hi Sara: the tyre is placed there for the grebes to use and they construct their nest using it as a base.

  15. Hi David. You don't say whether you decided that these places did have potential; for your Tuesday Rambles, but I'm guessing that the answer is a a resounding YES! So much variety and fabulous birds.

    That duck weed really does make those turtles look as they have been painted - the one of them seemingly just half-dipped.

    Delightful images from yourself and Franc. Franc is pretty adept at flight shots isn't he!

    Love to you and Miriam - - Richard

    1. Yes, Richard, we will definitely be going back to the Puslinch area. As for Franc's flight shots, it never ceases to impress me how he can swing that camera and lens, which together weigh about 5 kg, up in a smooth arc in a instant, focus on the bird and start shooting. The results speak for themselves, but I have to say that you produce wonderful work too.

  16. You take such beautiful photos. I love your shots of the turtles sunning themselves on the logs.

  17. Lovely critters of all sizes. Love the birds in flight especially the one with the fish between its beak. I like the cute baby chicks looking out from their nest. Have a great new week!

  18. Amazing and beautiful photos!!!

    Free range, grass fad beef, is sometimes "finished off" with corn. We try to buy free range beef/chickens, and the corn finished tastes better, to my husband. Perhaps that is what is going on, in your picture...?

    Luna Crone

    1. Could be......thanks for the tip. I'll try to check it out.

  19. What did you see David many more times?
    Beautiful pictures, this is always enjoyable.
    Greetings Tinie

  20. Hi Both and you certainly have some wonderful places to visit with such a variety of birds and turtles etc. Francs images of the swallows are superb, I usually manage a few images of clouds but no birds. All the best to you both. John

  21. Take your friend Judy with you when you go again...she wii really feel bad if it's another great day! What beautiful pictures from this wonderful find ... you have so many close-enough-for-a-ramble places.

    1. We'll be sure to include Judy, Sallie. Actually today we had a fabulous morning birding and then went back to her farm for lunch. You will be able to read all about it in my next blog post - gotta bug Franc to start working on the pictures.

  22. Wow David, what a visit and what a terrific post.
    So good to see all of the wonderful photographs here, an absolute joy and all from the comfort of my computer chair.
    A M A Z I N G

    Thank you

    All the best Jan

  23. What a beautiful set of photos!

  24. Hello David!:) Thank you for such a delightful varied post. I don't recall ever having seen a Cormorant in flight. Wonderful photos by both you and Franc. I loved every one of them. The fishing Terns, the beautiful image of the Red-bellied Woodpecker, and the Eastern Kingbird, especially the first image stood out for me today, and all the Gulls and Terns in the harbour. I hope your friend Judy gets to see this amazing spectacle,...perhaps in the morning next time around.

    David, We also feed our grazing cattle hay for a balanced diet. They need the high fibre.

  25. Thanks for the information on the hay, Sonjia. I live and learn!

  26. Amazing images of more wonderful birds. Great one of the swallow in fight as they are sooo quick! The painted turtles look like they've had a tin of green paint spilt on them with all that algae on their backs.
    Definately worth a Tuesday Ramble.
    Have a wonderful weekend :)

  27. Jealous of all those terns and gulls..........

  28. Hi David,
    How beautiful is the area there :-)
    Also the birds like the heron and the red-necked grebes are beautiful to see. I'm jealous of that beautiful woodpecker in foot 7 !! The swallows are great and the seagulls, including the fisherman, are also amazing. Of course, all other birds are beautiful again. A beautiful and beautifully varied blog.
    Dear greetings, Helma

  29. The trip was very successful, because you have reached the target - gulls, but along the way were other interesting birds and turtles. Regards.

  30. Replies
    1. Hi Hernan: Thanks very much for your comment. I inadvertently deleted it by hitting the wrong button. I always appreciate your comments.

  31. Hello, I seemed to have missed this post. It is action packed with great birds and sightings. I love the duckweed covered turtles. The Red-bellied Woodpecker is an awesome capture. I feel sorry for the Red-necked Grebes, maybe something stole their eggs? The Cliff Swallows are sweet, I love the Terns and Gulls. Great post and outing. Enjoy your day!