Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Tuesday Rambles with David - The Linear Trail, Cambridge, ON

13 February 2018

     Six of us met in Cambridge to enjoy a fine winter walk along the Linear Trail in Cambridge. The temperature was minus 13.5°C when we left home, but it was sunny with little wind. It was a fine February day in Ontario to ramble in search of birds.
     As soon as we got onto the trail we observed Common Mergansers (Mergus merganser) on the river, but the most joyful thing of all was to hear a male Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) singing - the first courtship song we have heard this year. The calendar may not say it is spring but this bird knows that it is time to pursue a mate. The joyful refrain, so familiar to us all, lifted our already high spirits and we set off along the trail to see what else we could discover. Adding to our pleasure was the sight of Black-capped Chickadees (Poecile atricapillus) also in courtship mode.

     There was quite a bit of open water on this section of the Speed River and Canada Geese (Branta canadensis), a few Mallards (Anas platyrynchos) and four swans of unknown identity, since their heads were tucked under their wings, rested on the ice at the edge of the frigid stream.

     There is no winter maintenance in the park, and the path is merely an area of snow beaten down by walkers. We plodded on.

     The scenes all around us were classic winter postcards.

     Hoar frost had accumulated on some of the trees and sparkled in the sunlight.

     The waterfowl on the river looked serene, unfazed by the conditions they cope with so well.

     It was easy to know it was February; the sun is higher in the sky and its rays contain more warmth. As we stood in the open its soothing heat was wonderful and at times, given that we were dressed for cold weather walking, we were almost too hot.
     The unchallenged highlight of the day came in the form of about a half dozen male Eastern Bluebirds (Sialia sialis) feeding on the fruit of  Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina). This species is primarily migratory and I have never before seen them in February. The enchanting colours of the bluebird, the deep wine red of the fruit, and the clear blue sky all made for a wildlife experience that is hard to beat. We were all enthralled.    

     I only wish that I had brought a supply of meal worms to give these hardy birds a nutritious boost.
     The male House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus) didn't take backseat to anyone in terms of a splash of colour in a landscape predominated by white.

     The ice formations on the river were impressive, and one can only hope that when the thaw comes it is gradual, or localized flooding will be a strong possibility.

     Surely one of the most overlooked birds is Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) but as this adult in non-breeding plumage shows it is a very handsome species.

     It was time to turn around and head back. When we got to the section of the river where we had seen the swans and geese earlier, we noted that the four birds we had observed were three adult Mute Swans (Cygnus olor) and one juvenile.

     The Canada Geese and Mallards still loafed in the vicinity.

     In addition to the Mute Swans, however, two Trumpeter Swans (Cygnus buccinator) had joined the group.

     My friend, Noushka, will be happy that these birds are untagged!

     Miriam was able to capture both species of swan together in the same picture.

     As always it was a wonderful way to spend a Tuesday morning. Judy, Mary, Jim, Francine and Miriam are the finest of companions. Franc and Carol will be back next week to rejoin our group and we will look forward to continuing this weekly tradition for as long as we all can still walk!

All species: Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Trumpeter Swan, Mallard, Common Merganser, Red-tailed Hawk, Rock Dove, Mourning Dove, Downy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, Black-capped Chickadee, White-breasted Nuthatch, Common Starling, Eastern Bluebird, House Finch, American Goldfinch, Dark-eyed Junco, American tree Sparrow, Northern Cardinal.   Total: 19.


  1. Hari OM
    A pristine ramble through magicland! I adore the wide shot of the bluebird on the sumac - that's a 'frameable'! YAM xx

  2. Bluebirds in February! Fabulous, and fabulous pictures too.

  3. Swans are beautiful and a good capture with both species.
    that sweet little blue bird, how pretty.

  4. Hi David.

    Beautiful winter photos.
    You could have taken beautiful little birds.

    Groettie from Patricia.

  5. Hello David,
    It's wonderfull to hear a male Northern Cardinal singing. He's a very beautiful bird. And your find is exceptional. This Eastern bluebird is wonderfull. It was a good day for you.

  6. Hi David,

    Beautiful photos of birds and snow. I love to watch winterlandscape even now with so much snow here. The Common Starling comes here too in the spring. The Swans are so lovely to watch. The Eastern Bluebirds are wonderful too.

  7. How beautiful, the birds against the snowy back drop are a delight! I'm not surprised the Swans had their heads buried I think I would in -13 too!

  8. Hello David,
    So much snow!Those birds in the freezing cold, they are so beautiful. Amazing!
    All of your photos are great. I particularly like the second photo.
    Have a good day.

  9. What a delightful encounter you had with the Eastern Bluebirds, David. I never cease to be enthralled by what you find on your Tuesday walks - it seems that bad weather is never a problem on Tuesdays - maybe Tuesday in your area should be renamed St. David's Day!

    It's not just Noushka who appreciates seeing Trumpeter Swans without tags - from your past posts I get the impression that unadorned birds of this species are somewhat rare there!

    With love to you both - - - Richard

    1. Hi Richard: We are nothing if not dedicated and the fact of having multiple pairs of eyes and ears helps too. We have been doing these Tuesday walks for almost two years now and I think they will go on forever! As for the Trumpeter Swans, they are becoming more and more secure, having been reintroduced after extirpation in the province, so I think that more birds will claim breeding territories other than at Wye Marsh, which is their current stronghold and where they are monitored by a team of biologists. As long as they don't stray across the border where they are routinely shot we should be okay.

  10. I miss the chickadees we had up in Caledon; no sight of them here in Oakville. That bluebird is gorgeous. I think I need to paint him.

    1. I think you should get right on that and share the result with everyone.

  11. Hello David!
    Beautiful Winter landscapes!
    Great captures of the Swans and the Mallard ducks!
    The Bluebird is so preety!!
    Have a lovely day!

  12. Hello David!:) Your winter wonderland images are delightful, I love the frost laden branches, the image of the three swans, and the Starling capture, but the Eastern Bluebird is undoubtedly the show stopper here. What a fantastic sighting of this beautiful bird, and lovely photos of them, and throughout your post. Have a Happy Valentine's Day!:)

  13. Love the Eastern Bluebirds they are delightful, but that weather just looking at it makes my teeth chatter!! Cheers Diane

  14. Hi David,
    Yet another wonderful trip out for you and the group, even if its -13.5 deg. The Eastern Bluebird is a real beauty, such delicate colours. Likewise with the House Finch.
    The ice on the river certainly looks lumpy, when the thaw arrives and it all get on the move, that will be the time for it to from dams and cause floods.
    All the best to you both, John

  15. Such nice photos of the bluebird on the sumac, and they sure brighten up a winter day, don't they!

  16. Hi David,

    The Eastern blue bird is a real beauty. I can understand everybody was happy to see this bird and as you wrote you never saw it in February, it's extra thrilling.
    It's nice the sun is warmer and the days become longer, we all need that. Your tuesday walks will be longer the next 4 months :-).

    Have a nice day,

  17. To see the Eastern Bluebird was to have a touch of spring early and it was very pleasing indeed.

  18. Beautiful birds in your post...Miriam did a fine job. I love e starlings I know they get a bad rap but the are just amazing to look at.

  19. "Postcards" is the perfect way to describe that scenery.

  20. Hello, Love the beautiful bluebirds. The swans are gorgeous too, we see the Tundra swans in Maryland. Wonderful outing and photos. Have a happy day and weekend!

    1. Tundra Swans will be passing through here in about another month as they head north to their breeding grounds, The swans above are Trumpeter Swans.

  21. Espectacular el Sialia sialis, no lo conocía es un pájaro realmente bello. Buen y completo reportaje David, me ha encantado. Un fuerte abrazo desde España.

  22. Those swans look cold with their heads tucked under their wings. Beautiful birds. Loved seeing the bluebirds!

  23. Hi David!!! Beautiful series of images .. Happy week

  24. Hi David,
    The Eastern bluebird and the Trumpeter swans are the highlights of this post, with the bluebird as my absolute favorite.
    Greetings, Kees

  25. The beautiful colours of the birds in contrast to the winter landscape is striking. The bluebird on the Sumac makes a lovely picture

  26. How sweet! That reminds me of a spot where I've seen these birds, thank you! We've lost so much ice and snow in the big melt.

  27. Dearest David,
    I'm amazed and charmed more and more with the life you're living, following birds and their nature, living so deeply the link with Natural landscapes, rythms and seasons ... it's all so gorgeous, I admire you so much, my friend!

    Wishing you a most lovely end of your week ahead,
    with sincere gratitude

    XOXO Dany