Sunday, 11 March 2018

Waterloo Region Nature Annual Field Trip to North Shore of Lake Ontario

10 March 2018

An early conservationist's concern perhaps......

The emotions excited in the mind of a naturalist, who has long desired to see the actual thing which he has hitherto known only by description, drawing or badly-preserved external covering - especially when that thing is of surpassing rarity and beauty - require the poetic faculty fully to express them.........It seems sad on one hand such exquisite creatures should live out their lives and exhibit their charms only in these wild inhospitable regions......while on the other hand, should civilized man ever reach these distant lands.......we may be sure that he will so disturb the nicely-balanced relations of organic and inorganic nature so as to cause the disappearance, and finally the extinction, of those very beings whose wonderful structure and beauty he alone is fitted to appreciate and enjoy. This consideration must surely tell us that all living things were not made for man.

Alfred Russel Wallace, mid 19th Century.

Leader: David Gascoigne

Club members: Miriam Bauman, Scott Beemer, James Bowman, Robert Crawford, Denise Leschak, Curtiss MacDonald, Graham Macdonald, Margaret Lewis Macdonald, Greg Michalenko, Janet Ozaruk, Peter Rasberry, Geraldine Sanderson, John Sanderson, Meg Slater, Roger Suffling, Bryan Teat, Charlotte Teat, Doug Woodley.

Guests: Shirley Bauman, Heather Fotherby

     Our first stop was at the DesJardins Canal in Dundas, where I am quite sure that out of twenty visits, perhaps but one would not permit us glorious looks at Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus). Today was obviously the twentieth time! Not that we didn't have many eyes to search!

     As always, there were other diversions. For one, Turkey Vultures (Cathartes aura) were migrating in numbers and on the water a pair of lovely Gadall (Anas strepera) claimed ownership of a stretch of water, sailing by like the avian aristocracy they are. Not for them the gaudy finery of a Wood Duck (Aix sponsa); understated elegance wins the day.

     A lone Double-crested Cormorant  (Phalacrocroax auritus) seemed to have great success fishing in the canal.

     Ring-billed Gulls (Larus delawarensis) are of course ubiquitous, but I urge everyone to shed their attitude of indifferent dejà vu , and take a close look at this truly handsome bird.

     A single Trumpeter Swan (Cygnus buccinator) impressed us with its grandeur and it came right up to inspect us.

     This gave me the excuse I needed to launch into an explanation of how the Trumpeter Swan was reintroduced into Ontario after more than a century of extirpation, by my ornithological hero Harry Lumsden. Everyone paid rapt attention, feigned or not, and I was grateful!

      I should mention at this juncture that Miriam had agreed to be the official photographer for the day. It is difficult for me to lead the group, find birds, answer questions AND take photographs. She does a far better job than I anyway.
      Only the second Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) of the season for us put on a fine show  and moved into the open where everyone could see it well.

     Someone remarked that it is a gorgeous little bird, and who could disagree with that assessment?
      It was time to move on to LaSalle Park and Marina, our birding hot spot for the day, and our cavalcade of cars moved off in formation like a wagon train of old.     
     Two of the stalwarts on our trip were John and Geraldine Sanderson. John and Geraldine are now in the sixty-first year of their marriage, and remain as committed and dedicated as they ever were - no, even more so. John is awaiting hip surgery but nothing deters him from a good outing, with Geraldine at his side to provide a little help when needed, and a shoulder to lean on - literally. This is a great shot of the two of them together enjoying a late winter outing as they have done so many times before.

     One of our first sightings was Bufflehead (Bucephela albeola), a species that will soon be moving north to breed, but for the time being remains here to give us pleasure.

     Miriam caught the effect on the water as this male dove and the result is quite magical.

     Many of us use Swarovski binoculars, this resembles Swarovski crystal perhaps.

      Red-necked Grebes (Podiceps grisegena) are just starting to return to the Great Lakes and this individual is still in transitional plumage.

     The male Wood Duck that has been consorting all winter with a female Mallard (Anas platyrynchos) was still present, guarding the object of his ardour as closely as ever.

     When Alfred Russell Wallace mentions "a thing of rarity and beauty" in the quote above, this creature would surely qualify.
     A vanguard of Trumpeter Swans appears to have already moved north, but many still remain.

     I wonder how many casual walkers have been turned on to a partnership with nature as a result of repeated exposure to these gorgeous creatures. Ontario's debt to Harry Lumsden will never be entirely repaid.
     For anyone who has never seen a pure American Black Duck (Anas rubripes) LaSalle Park is the place to visit.

     While watching swans and ducks a couple of young Bald Eagles (3rd/4th year?) put on a show for us overhead.

     Black-capped Chickadees (Poecile atricapillus) at LaSalle have long become accustomed to humans bearing food, and in order to share the pleasure, they have no hesitation in landing on an outstretched hand to take a seed or two. If we all live to be a hundred the pleasure of this activity will never be diminished.

     Downy Woodpeckers (Dryobates pubescens) will occasionally come to hand, but this individual was a little more wary.

     I always wish that, like Dr. Doolittle, I could speak to the animals and assure these creatures that I wish them no ill will, and only strive to help them, and develop a relationship based on mutual trust and respect. Fat chance huh? Especially when you consider man's brutal relationship with wildlife.
     The principal aim of outings like this one is, as you will understand, to foster a knowledge of birds and their habitats, but a not insignificant aspect is the bringing together of like- minded people to enjoy each other's company and in some cases to get to know each other for the first time.
     I doubt that Curtiss and Janet had met before this field trip, but they seem to have become firm friends.

     Standing waiting for a chickadee will do that for you!
     I wonder what Marg Macdonald and Roger Suffling are looking at?

     Curtiss is anxious to show her a picture or two.

     Looks like Greg Michalenko figured he had earned a break.

     I was waxing enthusiastically earlier about Ring-billed Gulls; if you need an additional incentive to go out and admire these creatures here it is.

     Red-breasted Mergansers (Mergus serrator) were infused with hormones and up to five males were pursuing one female; whether she is lucky or unfortunate depends on your point of view I suppose.

     Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus), formerly quite rare, is becoming ever more common in southern Ontario, and LaSalle Park is one of the most reliable places to find it.

     It was a pleasant day for the time of year, right around 0°C and we (most of us) ate our lunch outside, sitting on benches, looking at gulls, ducks and swans. How pleasant is that?
     Suitably fortified to tackle the afternoon we reformed our cavalcade and sallied on over to Sioux Lookout Park. We did not stay there long for the rafts of ducks were far, far out; in many case too far to even identify with certainty.
     Paletta Park beckoned, with its warm, clean washrooms, guaranteed to have toilet paper, hot water, soap, paper towels, all valued by everyone on a winter excursion, but especially appreciated by the ladies. A bare derrière in a secluded gully is not something to look forward to  when the icy wind blows across Lake Ontario!
     Paletta was formerly a grand old mansion, now owned by the City of Burlington and used for weddings and all manner of other functions.

     We ambled down to the Lake.

     A walk along the woodland trail revealed a couple of male Downy Woodpeckers jousting over territory perhaps, or maybe just irritated with each other's presence.

      American Robins (Turdus migratorius) were quite common.

     It was the sharp eyes of Janet Ozaruk that spotted this cocoon of the Cecropia Moth (Hyalophora cecropia). Amazingly this species overwinters here and emerges as a fully formed moth during the first two warm weeks of summer.

    On the way back to the car we saw this female Common Merganser (Mergus merganser) in a creek with a pair of Mallards, an unusual location for the species, and this individual seems to have an extraordinarily long bill. It did not look emaciated so one must assume that it is able to capture fish without impediment.

     Our final stop was at Bronte Harbour in Oakville, where we had our only close encounters with Long-tailed Duck (Clangula hyemalis).



     None of us were able to identify this insect, no doubt newly emerged from its winter abode.

     The most remarkable thing at Bronte was the amazing ability of Scott Beemer to spot a Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus) out on the breakwater. Even when he explained to the rest of us where it was we still had great difficulty picking it out. This picture gives you an idea of the distance perspective as we searched.

    Some of us caught a glimpse of something white, thought it might be a plastic bag, a pile of snow......
     Scott was undeterred. He was convinced that he had a Snowy Owl.

         We went to the car to get a scope.

     And this is what we saw.

     How Scott ever saw that initially is beyond me, but he certainly earned the title "Birder of the Day." Fittingly a Snowy Owl was the last species of the day, exactly the way it had been last year.
     Thanks to everyone for coming on my outing and making it a very enjoyable day. See you all again next year!

All species: Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Trumpeter Swan, Wood Duck, Gadwall, Mallard, American Black Duck, Canvasback, Redhead, Greater Scaup, Lesser Scaup, White-winged Scoter, Black Scoter, Long-tailed Duck, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Common Merganser, Red-breasted Merganser, Common Loon, Horned Grebe, Red-necked Grebe, Double-crested Cormorant, Turkey Vulture, Bald Eagle, Red-tailed Hawk, Killdeer, Ring-billed Gull, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, American Crow, Black-capped Chickadee, Carolina Wren, White-breasted Nuthatch, Common Starling, American Robin, House Sparrow, House Finch, American Goldfinch, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, Dark-eyed Junco, American Tree Sparrow, Northern Cardinal. Total: 45


  1. Hari OM
    My word, even with my glasses on and the screen a foot away, I had to double check - bravo to the finder! What a glorious collection - and I am a fan of the gull. These are my staple diet (along with various corvids) so I have to be! As for the insect, could it be a stonefly? YAM xx

    1. Thanks. A species of stonefly does seem like a likely candidate.

  2. Hello David!
    So many spieces at your outing!
    Beautiful collection of birds!Superb pictures!
    Love the Killdeer and the Wood Duck!
    I’m sure everyone was pleased from your walk!
    Have a great new week!

  3. Hello David,
    lots of wildlife on your walk, what a great time all of you must have had. The photos are magnificent and beautiful. Lots of stunning close-ups.
    Have a wonderful week.

  4. Hi David,
    Well done to the leader, well done to the photograph :)
    Your birdwatching are very interesting to me. Very exotic species.
    Thank's :)

    1. Okay, Nathalie. Enough with Africa. Time to come to North America.

  5. Hi David, you saw a lot of birds, the Long-tailed Duck is my favourite.

  6. A wonder field trip! Amazing you have the Carolina Wren our state bird there...and Another snowy?? Lucky Ducks!!

  7. Wow- You take really amazing pictures! I don't know much about birds but your photos are phenomenal. That is hunting at its best, to me. Love the people pictures, too, and the old mansion is amazing.

    Thanks for popping by my blog. I like to reply to comments on my blog by email. Your comments come up as a No Reply so I have no return email address for you. If you are okay with it I would like your email address. (no spam, I promise) Mine is dianakos1@gmail. com. That way I can say thank you directly for telling me how cute my grandgirl Have a great night-Diana

  8. That's a meaningful quote and you've captured some magnificent shots of the wildlife.

  9. Lovely to see what you all discovered in your outing. You make me want to join a group to watch birds with.

  10. David, this is a nice collection of birds. Some of them I saw for the first time, I even don't know do we have them where I live. You also inspired me to look for bird watchers in my area. It would be fun to be around enthusiastic and interesting people.

    1. Good luck, Kaya. You will find birders to be a great bunch of people.

  11. Lovely photos taken by Miriam. Pretty birds the colours are really amazing. Always enjoy to see white swans.

  12. A great selection of birds - even if the 'reliable' Merganser was not there - always the way with birds. Nice words from ARW.

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  13. It looks like you had a great day out and well dome Miriam, some great photos. The sighting of the snowy owl is amazing, how did he ever manage that with so much white around!!! Love the little wren. Hope you ave a good week Diane

  14. Hi David.

    You show a lot of beautiful things.
    Beautiful species.

    Groettie from Patricia.

  15. Ett underbart inlägg igen, jag kan inte låta bli att konstatera att här i Norden har vi inte samma variationsrikedom i fågelvärlden. Ännu har inte våra flyttfåglar börjat anlända men även då kommer vi inte i närheten av mängden olika arter.

    Oavsett om man intresserar sig för växter eller djur i naturen får man alldeles gratis också mycket kunskap om hur naturen fungerar, alla dessa komplicerade samband som är så viktiga för ekosystemen att upprätthålla den viktiga balansen. Tyvärr verkar våra ungdomar sakna intresse och kunskap om naturen rent generellt, en bristvara hos yngre människor. Kanske det är en åldersfråga när man börjar få insikt om vad livet i naturen betyder.

    1. You are right, Gunilla, we need to get more young people involved in nature. Once they get interested they discover an amazing world that they could never have imagined.

  16. Hello David!:) Please forgive my tardy visit. This is another great post, with beautiful photos taken by Miriam of the the wild life you and your birding friends see on your field trips. I enjoyed both the bird photos and the pictures of your club members. I love the enthusiasm that clearly brings you all together. I would love to tag along and experience the joy of all the sightings but also the camaraderie. Next year is our diamond wedding anniversary, and I hope that Americo and I will still be going on our adventures, like the lovely couple in your post.

    1. Best wishes for many more years together.

  17. Hello, what a wonderful variety of birds seen on your outing. The wood ducks and long-tailed ducks are favorites. Great series of photos. Enjoy your day and new week!

  18. Nice report of your walk David.
    You have seen beautiful species again, beautiful pictures.
    The mandarin duck is very beautiful with its beautiful colors.
    Greetings Tinie

  19. Hi Both,
    Another superb post on your outing with a much larger group than usual.
    Again some excellent images of birds I am never likely to get the chance to photograph.
    Always find the Wood Duck a beauty.
    All the best to you both. John

  20. Gorgeous birds and you capture them so well. I do like seeing the swans. They are such graceful creatures.

  21. Hello David, Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving a comment. Thanks too for taking me along on your birdwatching expedition today. We have some of those birds here but not nearly all and I'm envious.

  22. Oh what a wonderful outing ... I really felt as I was there with you all.
    Great photographs, thank you.

    All the best Jan

  23. That's a seriously big outing. Love the wood ducks, mergansers and downy woodpeckers.

  24. This looks like a fabulous sighting trip. Your team did great with the photos -- I especially love those ducks, and the swans are so graceful and elegant. But what really captured my heart was those hungry chickadees eating from your hands. I wish my feeder birds would give that a try. Perhaps I need to stand there for an hour with seed in my hand till they figure I'm on their side. A lovely and fascinating post, David.

    1. That’s exactly what it takes, Jeanie -patiently stand there until they get the idea that it is safe to feed from your hand.

  25. WoW!! what a wonderful adventure, so many beautiful birds and ducks to see. it is always a thrill for me to see wood ducks, i have only seen them once in my was so exciting!!!

    i agree with you about hand feeding the chickadees, could make an adult act like a child!!

    as for my blog, i identified the duck as a hybrid because this lake has so many hybrids. i was not familiar with a Greater Scaup, i now looked it up and you are probably right. i am certainly no expert!!! thanks for your opinion.

  26. Hello David!:) I'm only now catching up with my comments, as we have had no signal for the internet for most of the day. There must be at least 80 thousand gypsies in Portugal, but they are not well regarded. Deep rooted discrimination persists, and I will give an example why this is so. Last time we were in the Algarve, Americo had his money purse stolen by a young gypsy women who had been begging in a supermarket carpark. There were four Gypsy beggars and some children waiting for people getting into their cars. They are generally regarded as thieves, and drug peddlers, with some justification.

    I have just had another look at Miriams Wood duck pictures. She has really captured their exceptional beauty.:)

  27. A great selection of birds, with the Snowy as the icing on the cake !

  28. I would happily participate in such a trip. You can learn a lot from other people about birds and where you can see them. It was a great walk and lots of birds. Thank you and best regards.

  29. Beautiful pictures, David. From the beautiful swan to the little cute birds. Love your Swarowsi crystal picture!
    Have a nice weekend,


  30. interesting prophetic quote from Wallace. Thanks for the excursion, I enjoyed it albeit from the warmth and comfort of my office. I especially love those closeup duck pics.

  31. It is good to see groups of people more and more numerous around the world looking to contemplate and at the same time create awareness about the protection of living beings. It seems that you have enjoyed an extensive day, with numerous sightings of species, taking advantage of the last days of winter, which despite the inclemency has its magic. Of everything you've shown I liked especially the bird that eats by the hand and the long-tailed ducks

  32. You and your group of bird watchers have captured so many amazing pictures of these beautiful birds, ducks, and etc. Being there in person should be more exciting than seeing the pictures on the computer screen. I would love to be in one of your birds/ducks watching excursion!

  33. Wonderful post. The detail in the cormorant and wood duck feathers is spectacular.

  34. Hi David,
    This is quite a collection of interesting birds. The fauna of North America differs a lot from the fauna of Northern Europa. It makes it even more interesting to follow your posts.
    The behaviour of the mergansers is very recognizable. We call it hormone directed behaviour, like you can also see with kids in the age of 15-20. "Who is the strongest monkey on the rocks" behaviour, constantly challenging other males and at the same time impressing the females.
    It looks like you have had a great and succesful trip.
    Greetings, Kees

  35. Hello David, you must have made some people very happy showing these species of birds I am sure. What a great excursion!

  36. What an absolutely incredible day of birding! I can hardly even imagine seeing that many beautiful species in one day! Mind boggling. You are an incredible leader (and your personal trip photographer is definitely remarkably talented! I think you should keep her around forever.)..... I'm in total awe of your day -- thank you for sharing ... I can't even begin to comment on your individual sightings -- all were amazing to me.