Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Tuesday Rambles with David - Riverside Park, Cambridge, ON

09 January 2018

     Riverside Park is a multi-use park in Cambridge, ON which we have driven past scores of times but have never investigated as a potential location for our birding walks. Francine and Jim were in the area recently on the way to visit Jim's dad when they decided to stop in for a brief visit, and we are all glad that they did, for it is a fine spot to do some birding, with several varied habitats. It holds the promise of rewards year round, and we are determined to return often.

     Franc and Carol are away until mid February in Arizona and Mary is cross country skiing for the week in the Algonquin area, so Judy, Jim, Francine, Miriam and I set out for a Tuesday adventure, happy that the brutal cold snap of late had ameliorated, and it was a pleasant winter's day. We were happy to resume our regular walk after an absence of a couple of weeks.
     We started to see birds right from the very beginning of the trails, assisted in no small measure by bird seed deposited at various intervals by kind citizens anxious to give our feathered friends a helping hand during dangerously cold spells.
     Downy Woodpecker (Dryobates pubescens) was quite common and approached us fearlessly at close range.

     But first place went to American Tree Sparrow (Spizelloides arborea). These delicately beautiful little birds seemed to be visible at every turn, and I don't think I have even seen so many in one place. Truly it was magical.

     Groups of birds in mixed species flocks took advantage of an easy meal; Francine and Jim had brought bird seed with them, and liberally spread it around.

     The park looked sombre clad in its winter dress.

     Northern Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis) were ubiquitous and provided a vivid burst of colour against grey and leafless branches.

     The female of the species is a little more muted, but nonetheless beautiful.

     Behind her you can see both American Tree Sparrow and White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis), the latter being relatively unusual in winter.
      A male House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus) is a study in colour at any time, but in the winter it stands out most vividly.

     American Robin (Turdus migratorius) is the species that most people view as the traditional first bird of spring and many eagerly look for the first sighting around early March as the birds move back from the south. With ever greater frequency, however, numbers of this species are choosing to spend the winter here, exploiting micro climates and taking advantage of every food source available. It was with great pleasure, therefore, that we encountered robins several times, but it is no longer to be totally unexpected.

     These individuals were feeding on the berries of European Buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica).

     Does this image of a male Northern Cardinal in the northern woods not stir the heart of every naturalist? Is beauty more sublime?

     Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis) is a feature of the winter landscape, many of them are puffed out against the cold. I think any child passing by would want to cuddle this rotund little fellow.

     More trails in the park beckoned us.

     One of the real surprises was the presence of a male Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus). While I have seen this species in the winter before, it has been extremely infrequently, so if there is such a thing as the bird of the day, this may have been it.

     The presence of a House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) feeding with the blackbird was less of a surprise!

     I am not sure how many White-throated Sparrows were seen, but I suspect at least three. It is a handsome bird indeed, and dear to many Canadians, for its haunting song is often rendered "Sweet Canada, Canada, Canada."

     As you would expect, Black-capped Chickadee (Parus atricapillus) decorated every tree, cheerful and totally fearless.

     It seemed that we could not travel far along the path before another friendly Downy Woodpecker would appear, often stopping to feed.

     I have little doubt that Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) is present but we did not see one. Here is evidence of ancient excavations by this species.

     More American Robins travelled through the trees alongside us.

     We meandered along several trails, exploring the area, and making mental notes about promising areas during spring migration.

     It is astounding that the tiny Golden-crowned Kinglet (Regulus satrapa) survives the winter here, but regularly small numbers remain in the province. It bears remembering that we have just emerged from a spell of savage weather, when overnight lows dipped to as low as minus 32 degrees. 

     The nasal call of the White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) often betrayed its presence and it was not at all shy in visiting us at close range.

     Perhaps the American Tree Sparrows and White-throated Sparrows had enjoyed seeing us as much as we had enjoyed seeing them, and had enjoyed the food we provided for them, for they came to bid us adieu.

     We have already decided that we will return to Riverside Park next Tuesday, so with luck we'll see them again.

All species: Mallard, Red-tailed Hawk, Mourning Dove, Downy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, American Crow, Black-capped Chickadee,  White-breasted Nuthatch, Golden-crowned Kinglet, American Robin, American Tree Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, White-throated Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, House Finch, American Goldfinch, House Sparrow.  Total: 19


  1. Hari OM
    Having feather envy over here!!! That cardinal... sigh... it was so gloomy over here today, even the gulls stayed under cover. YAM xx

  2. Hello all. We missed being there with all of you on a very productive winter outing. Miriam captured your walk in fine fashion with amazing photos. Franc and I have enjoyed Riverside Park on a few summer and fall occasions and it appears we should not ignore it in the winter months.

  3. Few species but very nice, it is noticeable that the time is hard because they all go to the feeders troug. Very good pics. Seeing this note with frozen landscapes is a kind of relief for the mind, these days are overwhelming with temperatures of 35 or 36 º C where I live

  4. A nice mix of reds and blacks in the snow.............

  5. The Cardinals sure stand out without leaves on the trees and against the snow.
    All the birds have nice colours.

  6. What a lot of excellent close-up pictures! So typical of winter in Ontario. I like that Golden-crowned Kinglet.

  7. Hello David!
    Such beautiful Winter scenery!
    Fabulous photos of those preety birds!
    Lovely close-ups!
    One of my favorite bird is the Cardinal bird!
    I really enjoyed your pictures!
    Have a lovely week ahead!

  8. What a wonderful place, David! I'm so pleased that Francine and Jim pointed you in that direction. I find it interesting that your Downy Woopecker is so confiding, when our Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers are so shy. Maybe our Lesser Spotted (relatively rare, and with which I'm not so well acquainted!), which is similar in size to your Downy, is more confiding?

    Super images, with a lovely winter feel. Love to you both - - - Richard

  9. Hi David!:) What a delightful post.I'm amazed you saw so many different species, in such harsh winter conditions, all so beautifully photographed by Miriam, and yourself. Great close up images, but I particularly like the sweet White throated Sparrow.

    The book has been ordered, and is already on it's way. Should be here in ten days.:)

    1. The White-throated Sparrow is indeed wonderful. Glad to hear that you ordered the book. Enjoy!

  10. Hello, David! The Cardinals do look beautiful in the snow. I love the Tree Sparrow and the Kinglet. Wonderful variety and lovely photos. Happy Wednesday, enjoy your day!

  11. Great images and interesting birds. The robin is quite orange rather than red. Amazing what a handful of bird seed produces in winter.
    I think you must have good clothes well suited to Canadian weather. Nothing I own would have kept me out in that weather!!
    Keep well Diane

  12. It's good to discover new places, it'll be interesting to see what else you find over the coming months. Lovely photos!

  13. Wow...great shots! Thanks for sharing! Aloha!

  14. Hi, David. I love Woodpecker and sparrows, always feed the birds in my garden. Here they are: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TAll-BR76TI
    Thanks for stopping by my blog!

  15. Hi David,
    Another wonderful area for you to visit, certainly appears to have plenty of species to keep anybody happy. The Northern Cardinals both male and female are such striking birds.Also the American Robin is a real beauty and the White-breasted Nuthatch is another interesting little bird.
    Your header is stunning.
    All the best to you both, John

  16. Hi David, lovely set of birds over there. I love the Woodpeckers.

  17. Those Cardinals stand out so well against the winter landscape. I wonder if in being so striking the species is more of a target to predators than the grey and brown birds?

    I hope the weather isn't too warm for you now David. Your morning dip in Lake Ontario may have to be put on hold.

  18. Lo primero felicitarte por la foto de la portada del blog, es magnífica y también por este fantástico reportaje, Miriam es una excelente fotógrafa. Todo lo mejor desde España, un abrazo amigo mío.

  19. Miriam says, "Thank you very much!"

  20. All awesome photos of some great birds...I'm loving the little kinglet with his golden crown...a real beauty!

  21. Superb photos, very enjoyable post, didn't realize there were so many sparrow species.

  22. Wonderful variety of bird sightings. Loved your clear images.

    I am told that robins winter over here in NW MT. also, but I have only seen them once in town. Once spring arrives I see them every day. Makes me wonder where they are in winter.

    Thank you for your cougar messages. You could be right about a hunter, but of course hope not.

  23. Wow ! Lots of brilliant birds... I think I like American Tree Sparrow the most. The bleak backgrounds really accentuate the colours.

  24. Wow those red feathers certainly stand out agains the white snow don't they? I'm curious as to what you think about people leaving seed for the birds. Is it a misplaced act of kindness? Does it interrupt the natural cycles?

    1. There on many different opinions on the practice of feeding birds, but I think that in general it is at worst benign, and under conditions of great difficulty such as we have experienced recently it is a real help to the birds. It can mean the difference between life and death - literally. In terms of interrupting the natural cycle I think we do far more of that by depleting their habitat, ergo their food supply.

    2. I was thinking that. Is it something we need to do as a result of our actions in reducing their natural habitat? We've got the world all off balance haven't we.

  25. Hello David,
    Beautiful series with different types of birds.
    Many of these birds can not be found in the Netherlands
    Best regards, Irma

  26. The birds are all so pretty in their different colours. Must have been really cold there!

  27. Beautiful! You sparrows are more colourful than ours. The male Northern Cardinal is spectacular.

  28. Hi David, I enjoyed your blog so much. It's really nice to see the American species and/or lookalikes of our European species. But, there are also very different birds with amazing colors, wow! I love the White-throated Sparrow, they are wonderful!

    By the way, I added your blog tot my bloglist.

    Kind regards,

    1. Great! Thanks very much. I am following your blog too.

  29. So many lovely birds in your post. My favorite is the tiny Kinglet of course. And, what a gorgeous header you have. Some kind of bee-eater? Totally love it.

    1. They are Carmine Bee-eaters in Ethiopia.

    2. thanks, then I have not seen them but some of their relatives. They are gorgeous.

  30. Absolutely stunning captures.

  31. What a lovely selection of photographs so nice to see the birds feeding together.
    The cardinals are a wonderful colour aren't they - they really stand out.

    My good wishes

    All the best Jan

  32. Hello,

    Thank you for visiting my blog. Very beautiful photos! I love to watch birds too.

  33. Wow! Those Cardinals are my favourite. I was so sorry not to see any when I was in Philadelphia and New York some years back... I have loved them since childhood when we had one on a pair of pelmanism cards!

  34. Beautiful and fruitful walk as usual -- my mother used to tell me how she missed what she called Kentucky cardinals .. she had relocated from there to the PNW ... we only saw them on Christmas cards and it was not until Bill and I were traveling that I ever saw them in real life! Your portraits in this post are wonderful but I almost couldn't stop gazing at the amazing header shot (I read your ID in the comment above!)

  35. So many beautiful birds! And great captures of those birds. I have to admid Northern Cardinals is my favorite... :)

  36. Hi David,
    You've seen all those different birds at a one day walk?? Lucky you!
    Off course you want to visit this park more often > good luck for next time.

    Best regards, Corrie