22 January 2019
The six members of our group of eight who are still in the country met for a stroll along the Mill Race, a location with which regular readers have become familiar over the past couple of weeks.
The temperature was minus 21°C when I got up at 05h:30 and this is what the thermometer on my car registered at 09h:00 when we met at the entrance to the trail.
We were dressed for the weather, however, and enjoyed an envigorating walk along the trail, all decked out in its winter finery.
There was a pretty decent complement of birds, but I fear we have few pictures. Miriam, as always, was more than willing to act as photographer, but fiddling with the focus wheel through a layer of heavy mittens is not easy, and more often than not the object of her quest flew off before she was able to get a picture.
I could go to my files and select pictures from previous expeditions, but it seems more appropriate to provide only what we were able to achieve today, given the cold weather.
Judy had brought sunflower seed with her and was happy to scatter a little for the birds.
When it comes to hand-feeding wild birds I think that we are all children at heart, and take great pleasure in having a Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) land on our hand. I am no different in this respect.
A male Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) was puffed up against the cold and presented a striking figure against the denuded branches of trees, waiting out the winter perhaps, as are we, and longing for spring.
Downy Woodpecker (Dryobates pubescens) was a very cheery addition to the frigid landscape.
Some enterprising artisan has put his carving skills to work and has created this appealing artifact on the far bank of the Mill Race.
As has become our custom of late, we stopped in at the Eco Café in St. Jacobs to have a coffee and refresh a little, before returning to our vehicles.
On the way back we saw a Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) but Miriam was unable to get it in focus before it flew off.
Before driving away we checked the Conestogo River and this view of the weir gives you a good idea of winter.
In a prolonged cold spell the entire river will freeze over except in a few spots where the flow is so rapid ice does not get a chance to form.
Mallards (Anas platyrynchos) seem to take all conditions in stride and handle whatever Mother Nature throws at them.
Jim Huffman, who has an ability, proven time and again, to come up with a rarity, spotted this Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) about 500 metres down the river.
This species is very rare in winter, with most individuals having long departed for more benign conditions farther south. This bird was a male, and any time I have ever seen a Belted Kingfisher in the winter it has always been a male. One might conclude, perhaps, that the chance to occupy an established territory and be ready for females to return in the spring, is deemed more advantageous than migrating and having to fight for and re-establish a territory to attract a female later on.
It was a very pleasant walk, in good company, and we were all happy to have shared each other's companionship once again.