28 January 2018
There are a couple of local spots we haven't checked out for a while so Miriam and I decided to see what we could find.
We had barely embarked on our afternoon jaunt when we came across a pair of Red-tailed Hawks (Buteo jamaicensis) together in a tree, early it seemed to us to be paired off, but they were clearly male and female, and were perched side-by-side. Unfortunately, the male flew off before Miriam could get her camera cocked, but the female remained for a picture.
Our primary destination was the Mill Race Trail in St. Jacobs, but it was very icy and a bit of a hazard for walking so we didn't do the whole length of the trail, but there was a good deal to interest us on the few hundred metres we covered.
A Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) had been hard at work and we were hoping that it might return while we were there - but no such luck!
Several Downy Woodpeckers (Dryobates pubescens) were much more obliging.
The Mill Race is a well used trail and someone often distributes sunflower seeds at various points and these food deposits become magnets for birds, and, as we discovered for other other creatures too.
I believe that this rodent is a Woodland Vole (Microtus pinetorum), although my level of expertise with rodents is not great, and if anyone can either confirm or correct this identification I would appreciate it.
Its den was a hole in a tree stump and it would make quick dashes out to obtain a sunflower seed or two and quickly retreat out of sight.
Black-capped Chickadees have become very accustomed to humans bearing food and there were scores of them all around. They are indeed a constant visual and auditory delight and a source of pleasure for people of all ages.
In recent years, White-breasted Nuthatches (Sitta carolinensis) have become equally confiding - at least along the Mill Race, where I am sure that simple observation of their chickadee brethren has led them to the knowledge that there is no danger in landing on an outstretched hand where food awaits.
Recent mild temperatures have left the fields bare of snow, probably not a good thing from the farmers' standpoint, although there has been sufficient snow and rain so far that the moisture reserves in the soil are probably adequate.
The protracted thaw of late has resulted in swollen rivers and ice has been heaved up over the banks.
In fact, on the day of the recent Christmas Bird Count for Kids, the road I normally take to Cambridge was blocked by huge volumes of ice thrown up onto the road.
A single male Common Merganser (Mergus merganser) plied his way along the Conestogo River, which only a few days earlier had been completely iced over.
It was a very pleasant way to spend a few hours on a Sunday afternoon and as always nature held a few surprises for us. And to think we could have stayed home and watched TV!