15 June 2018
John Pries, a member of Waterloo Region Nature, and his wife, Susan, are the owners of RiverSong Bakery Café and Banquet Hall at 632 Hawkesville Road in St. Jacobs. This is a lovely property along the Conestogo River and one which John and Susan are more than willing to share with their fellow naturalists.
The exterior is both rustic and charming, with many attractive areas for wildlife and we enjoyed strolling through at will, searching for all that we could find.
We had barely entered the property before we were greeted by the noisy chattering of a House Wren (Troglodytes aedon), which had claimed a nest box as home for the year and was feeding young inside.
There was lots of bird song as we wandered around and numerous species were observed, many not in a great position for photographs, however, as the trees have leafed out to their fullest and small birds such as Red-eyed Vireo (Vireo olivaceus) were barely visible in the foliage.
A splendid couple of Bullfrogs (Rana catesbeiana) were a little more cooperative.
Francine managed a picture of an Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe) as it characteristically pumped its tail in greeting.
A Western Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) patrolled up and down the river, perching from time to time, while its partner was on the nest.
One of the great attractions in late May and early June is the spectacle of the turtles leaving the creeks and ponds to lay their eggs on land. In peak years John has had almost forty nests, but this year for whatever reason breeding activity is down considerably and only two Midland Painted Turtles (Chrysemys picta marginata) have so far produced eggs. John protects some of the nests against opportunistic skunks and raccoons, but he very carefully dug down to permit those who had not previously seen turtle eggs to view the eggs incubating in the ground.
Sadly, not a single Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina) has laid its eggs at RiverSong this year.
Susan produces a wide range of baked goods in the café and we can all attest that they are absolutely delicious.
We all got a coffee and a tasty tea biscuit or sweet treat to take outside to eat and returned before leaving to pick up bread and pies to go.
It was a lovely morning all round and we very much appreciated the kindness of our hosts in permitting us to share in their wonderful little Shangri-La called RiverSong.