Monday, 11 March 2019

Waterloo Region Nature Annual Field Trip to North Shore of Lake Ontario 2019

09 March 2019

Leader: David M. Gascoigne

Members: Miriam Bauman, Scott Beemer, Kitty Corbett, Fraser Gibson,  Victoria Ho, Denise Leschak, Geraldine Sanderson, John Sanderson, Roger Suffling, Selwyn Tomkun.

Guests: Sal Aziz and son, Logan (8 years old and keen!), Tyler Hampton, Debbie Hernandez, Brigitte Huber,Carole Martin.

     When we left home it was a crisp minus fourteen degrees but the forecast was for a pleasant day with the temperature climbing to around zero before the day was out. We met at our normal spot, car-pooled to the extent possible and set off for a fine day of birding.  Old friends and new arrived, club stalwarts and welcome guests, all with the goal of enjoying a fine day with many birds to keep us company.
     As has become customary on this outing, our first point of call was at the DesJardins Canal in Dundas, where the signature bird at this time of the year is Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus). We were not disappointed.

     For some this was a lifer and they were exceptionally happy to see this handsome duck.
     A couple of Redheads (Aythya americana) were also seen swimming among the ubiquitous Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos).

     There was also a good number of Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) on the canal, open water of course being a major draw for waterfowl in winter.

     In fact, given the succession of cold nights we have experienced recently, I was afraid that finding open water might be a problem, but the flow in the canal is obviously sufficient to prevent ice from forming.
     This was not to be the case at LaSalle Park and Marina and we were greeted by ice across Burlington Bay, with barely a single patch of open water.

     Obviously this had an effect on the number of species present.
    Trumpeter Swans (Cygnus buccinator) had no hesitation about venturing out onto the ice, but certainly there was nowhere for them to feed, and supplements of corn are provided under such dire conditions.

     Ring-billed Gulls (Larus delawarensis), resourceful as ever, find ways to make a living, and are resplendent, beautiful and unappreciated by many.

     In a tiny ribbon of water at the very edge of the lake, ducks and geese congregated together, with a few diving ducks mixed in with the dabbling ducks, including this female Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula).

     One of the greatest pleasures for a naturalist, young or old, is to feed a wild creature, whose confidence in you is rewarded with a zen moment of interconnectedness with other life forms on this wonderful planet we are slowly destroying. So it was for Logan.

     This youngster already has a firm connection to nature and I commend both him and his father, Sal, who spares no effort to nurture and encourage his interest.
     I am not quite sure which person is at the other end of this outstretched hand, but it was a matter of little concern for the Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) coming in for food. Human and bird in harmony - now there is an image for the ages.

     Downy Woodpecker (Dryobates pubescens) is a resident species and is familiar to all.

     Ice and snow are no deterrent to a hardy woodpecker, nor to swans, ducks and geese it seems.

     The contrast between the native Trumpeter Swan and the introduced Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) is shown in the following two images.

     Actually the Trumpeter Swans seemed to be engaged in a ritualized display, possibly portending courtship, for there was no aggression at all, and several birds took part in the ceremony.

     No doubt this handsome male Greater Scaup (Aythya marila) had affairs of the heart on his mind too.

     Common Goldeneyes were well charged up with hormonal urges and both males and females were engaged in courtship displays.

     This fine male would no doubt have great genes to pass on to the next generation.

     We left LaSalle and moved onto to Paletta Park where warm, clean washrooms awaited the ladies, who especially appreciate such comforts in winter. After a quick lunch eaten mainly in our vehicles we strolled down to the water.

     Ring-billed Gulls were resting on the ice, a behaviour which nearly always elicits a question from someone about how they stay warm.

     Mallard was far and away the most common species, ever handsome, ever hardy, ever resilient and pleasure-giving, but seldom appreciated due to its familiarity.

     At Paletta Park we saw a couple of Hairy Woodpeckers (Dryobates villosus), the only location where we encountered this species.

     Our final stop for the day was at Bronte Harbour in Oakville and this proved to be the jewel in an already lustrous crown. Ice covered most of the harbour, save for a few very small areas of open water in the corners against the walls, and ducks were concentrated there, so close one could almost have reached over and touched them.

     Fraser Gibson, an eminence grise of Waterloo Region Nature to be sure, remarked that he had previously seen Long-tailed Ducks (Clangula hyemalis) only at a distance and was captivated to see them so close; one could actually see them swimming under water and emerging from under the ice.

     Greater Scaup was very common.

     Again it was possible to see both males and females at very close quarters and reinforce one's identification skills. The birds came to the surface after a dive, with mussels in their bill enabling everyone to see how they process their food.
    Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola) was not quite as numerous as other species, at least not close in, but some could be seen off in the distance riding the not insignificant swell of Lake Ontario.

     There were little flotillas of Common Mergansers (Mergus merganser) sometimes as many as twenty birds together swimming in a straight line one behind the other.

Common Merganser ♂

Common Merganser ♀
     Several White-winged Scoters (Melanitta deglandi) were seen but we were able to photograph the female only.

     In addition to occupying the sparse patches of open water in the harbour many ducks were on the lake side of the breakwater riding the roiling waves of a windy day on Lake Ontario. The picture below gives the impression of calm water but the swell was actually quite pronounced.

     It was with great pleasure that we saw many Redheads.

     This female Common Merganser was resting on an ice floe.

     On the way back along the breakwater we saw Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator) surprisingly enough the only one on the day as I recall.

     Many people lingered for a while to observe the ducks at close range and really get the chance to appreciate their various behaviours and survival skills. It was really quite remarkable.
     We parted company having very much enjoyed each other's company and knowing that an enriching day had been had by all. Same time next year folks!

All species: Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Trumpeter Swan, Mallard, American Black Duck, Redhead, Greater Scaup, White-winged Scoter, Long-tailed Duck, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Hooded Merganser, Common Merganser, Red-breasted Merganser, Double-crested Cormorant, Red-tailed Hawk, Ring-billed Gull, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, American Crow, Black-capped Chickadee, Carolina Wren, White-breasted Nuthatch, House Sparrow, Northern Cardinal.  Total: 26


  1. Hari OM
    Adorable variety of hardy birds you shared with us again! As we are being hit with Storm Gareth there will be no wandering to the shore for me over the next couple of days... YAM xx

  2. It looks cold outsude, David. I guess you all long for warmer days. Beautiful images.

  3. Now I know that you are a bit daft - temperatures climb to 0C.......
    Love the Long-tailed duck but I would have missed it, again as I would have still been at home!! Enjoy the comng week Diane

  4. Perfection David, loads of birds and lovely looking peoples, and there was Logan, great name.

  5. Hi David,
    In comparison to us you are having a proper Winter with snow and ice, we however seem to be having high winds, some but not much rain, and next to no snow or ice.
    What a wonderful outing you had and so good to see young Logan out with your group and looking as if he was having such a good time.
    Great set of images Miriam, the Long-tailed Ducks are so close and to see them swimming under the ice must have been fascinating.
    As I have said in my previous posts when the light is on them, a Mallard is such a wonderful duck.
    Look forward to next years visit.
    All the best, John

    1. Logan is a bright young fellow, John, and I expect we will see more of him.

  6. How good it is to teach children the love of nature, David, if we respect it, protect it, and that is good for the future.
    The photos are great. Very cold out there.
    Thanks for your visits.
    Un abrazo.

    1. Teaching children about nature is probably the very best thing that we can do, Laura.

  7. Hola David, muchas gracias por compartir tanta belleza, las fotos son espectaculares y es maravilloso ver tantas aves juntas y con tanto frío. Me alegra enormemente ver como un niño ama y respeta la naturaleza. Enhorabuena para todos. Un fuerte abrazo.

    1. You are so right, Lola. It is great to see young people involved with nature.

  8. Me habría encantado ir. Muy lindos todos los patos y gansos. Muchos besos.

  9. Thanks for the outing David! Logan and I had an excellent time. And Logan just reminded me that we _heard_ a Carolina wren.
    Same time next year indeed!

    1. And he is right. I just added it to the species list.

  10. What an outstanding walk-about!

    In the MidWest, geese migrated and filled up with corn left behind in fields in November. It was a black cloud tornado.

  11. Wonderful shots!

    I have not been around that harbour in many years.

  12. What a fun time...I really would love a closer look at a long-tailed duck!

    1. They will all be moving out of here soon, but come on up next winter and we will show them to you!

  13. Such a beautiful time you spent time with many pretty birds!

  14. Hi David,
    This clearly has been a winterday you could enjoy. Beautiful scenery, winter conditions and a lot to see. The variety of birds you have seen can make people jealous but for your group and yourself a pleasure. It's not surprising that you hope to do this again next year.
    Greetings, Kees

  15. Precioso reportaje amigo David. Al parecer un día maravilloso con nieve y gran cantidad de aves visionadas una mañana super aprovechada. Me encanta la imagen del niño Logan dando de comer a Cabeza negra una imagen enternecedora y que probablemente ese momento vivido niño y pájaro quede grabada en su cerebro como algo inolvidable.
    Gracias por compartir tanta belleza.
    Un fuerte abrazo de vuestro siempre amigo Juan.

    1. I am sure that Logan thought it was pretty special too, Juan.

  16. Your pictures are very beautiful. The light in these northern landscapes is splendidly reflected by the snow and it enhances the colours of the feathers in a spectacular way.

  17. Hi David - excellent shots by Miriam ... I loved seeing each one - as I know so little about birds ... but am always learning here - these were particularly varied and brilliant shots for us to see. Well for me - ghastly weather ... but excellent young Logan and his father Sal came out with you and 'booked' for next year's social outing - bet it won't be this cold. So many woodpeckers ... let alone the water birds ... all of them - cheers Hilary

    1. This was a pleasant day, Hilary, certainly not cold by our standards. I suspect we will be seeing Sal and Logan before this outing next year.

  18. Great to be able to see the the ducks up close, one of the perks of the ice I suppose!

  19. Wow, awesome photos. I love all the closeups of the ducks and swans. I guess a zero temp feel like a heat wave after those minus numbers. The views are fabulous too. Great report and post.
    Wishing you a happy day and week ahead!

  20. Hi David.

    You see beautiful Ducks and Birds.
    Beautiful in color.

    Greeting from Patricia.

  21. I think it's a great series of photos.
    Best regards, Irma

  22. Hola David.

    Una hermosa jornada para valientes, aquí si nos dicen para salir con -15ºC creo que solo se presentaría el guía, dicho esto disfruté viendo al niño saliendo a contemplar a la naturaleza en general y a las aves en particular.

    Me encantan las Larus delawarensis, yo solamente he visto de este lado del Océano Atlántico a un ejemplar juvenil de primer año:

    También he visto en tu guía a anátidas espectaculares (la primera por ejemplo deLophodytes cucullatus) y también a los Cygnus buccinator de los cuales hacías referencia en la última entrada de mi blog.

    La verdad es que en el lago Ontario tenéis muchas y hermosas aves para observar y un reto para conservarlas tanto a ellas como a su entorno.

    Un abrazo desde Galicia,


  23. Hello David,
    I see here again the most beautiful birds passing by my eye. Beautiful ducks and trumpet swans. In addition, also a beautiful black tit and a beauty of a woodpecker !!!
    There are ducks that I also see in Nderland, such as the wild ducks and the large and middle-sized merganser, but I also see ducks that I have never seen before. you will not encounter the trumpet swans in the Netherlands either. I have again enjoyed a wonderful moment with a very large G

    Dear greetings, from your girlfriend from the Netherlands xo

  24. It did not scared you cold, and splotch. You saw many water birds. I have not seen such variety yet. The long-breasted ducks charmed me. Greetings.

  25. Delightful!!! So many beautiful birds! One week ago I saw Tundra swans but they were so far away. I just watch them with our binocular. You were able to photograph Trumpeter Swans. Their photographs are so wonderful and they are such elegant birds! I have never seen Common Golden Eyes, also very beautiful birds.

  26. David - thank you to you and the crew for braving the arctic temps to bring us these delightful photographs. I spent many a working day in Burlington and Oakville, and the sights brought back lovely memories of good times with colleagues. (I was not as interested then in wildlife, or I might have seen some of these beauties for myself!)

  27. One of the best birding trip for me. The weather was perfect with the sun shinning So brightly. So many birds and waterfowls. Best of all you don't need binoculars. Having the black cap landing on my palm was awesome.
    PS we had superb leadership in David

  28. Det är en imponerande variation av sjöfågelarter som du så trevligt berättar om och i kombination med Miriams fina bilder blir det ett reportage som fyller alla naturvänner med glädje. Bilderna på svanarna på isen är så vacker.

    Här börjar sjöfåglarna också försiktigt anlända men än har vi vinter och idag snöar det ordentligt. Inga problem för mig för vi är i desperat behov av att fylla på vårt grundvatten.

  29. Wow, what amazing photography by Miriam on this sensational day. So many birds in such cold conditions. So wonderful to see.

  30. The bird in Miriam’s second-to-last photo makes a cute character with little tuffs of feathers sticking out of its head, long beak with a slight swoop and wide bright orange webby feet. :)

  31. Hello David, that hooded Merganser is stunning. What a beautyful bird this is. A bird that is not seen here. All the other waterbirds are also to be seen here but you had a lot over there. Good to see the boy has his hart on the right place for nature. I do hope enough will remain on the planet for him to see most this beauty. Your concern is my concern.

  32. I know very little about birds but I'd have been very pleased to see that Common Merganser on the floe. And swans of all kinds are always beautiful to look at, particularly good in snow, I think.

  33. Goodness, it does look cold in these photographs, but a wonderful collection … always nice to see.

    All the best Jan

  34. Ha, ha David. That temperature soaring to zero must have been most welcome.

    After the first picture I was surprised to then see open water but the most striking thing for me, apart from the array of wonderful birds was the clear blue skies for your chosen day. Little Logan is quite a hero. Pretty sure kids around here would not venture out in such (comparatively warm) temperatures.

    1. Don't forget this is a Canadian kid - they play hockey on frozen ponds. And Logan is pretty keen; he seems really taken with birds. And his dad is terrific in the way he encourages him.

  35. Hi David,
    Beautiful series of images! Special birds, especially the Trumpeter Swans and the ring-billed Gull! They are rather rare here.

  36. Thank you for this birdwalk. I discover the trumpeter swan.
    It's moving to see these birds at peace with men !
    Is winter the best time to visit Canada ?

    1. Hi Nathalie: From a birding perspective the best time is the first two weeks of May. The winter has its own delights, and species that are only present in the winter, but the overall species count is lower in winter. July and August are the slowest months of all for birding.

  37. Estoy alucinado con la cantidad de aves acuáticas que se congregan en las costas congeladas del lago. Muy hermosas e interesantes las fotos, con tantos patos muy diferentes a los de latitudes australes, eso me alienta a querer ver detalladamente estas imágenes. Qué bueno ver que haya amantes de las aves que salgan con ese clima frío de recorrida y observar la naturaleza, estimo que si eso pasara acá no habría tantos, no estamos acostumbrados a esos climas extremos.

    1. If you lived here, Hernán, you would have no hesitation in going out in these temperatures. The rewards are great.

  38. Hi David. I've a lot to catch up on, having returned from my 9 days away, so
    I'll probably keep my comments brief!

    Your day out seems to have been very productive as well as enjoyable - your group obviously had excellent leadership! Once again, Miriam's photography is shining out. Has she got a new camera recently?

    My love to you both - - - Richard

  39. I've never seen so many ducks in my life, except in a bird book. What a glorious outing. I don't think I would have even minded the cold if I could see all those. And now I think I should set up a spot in my yard and quietly sit with a handful of birdseed to see if any of my neighborhood chickadees are willing to take a chance with me!