Thursday, 31 October 2019

Tuesday Rambles with David - Toronto

30 October 2019

     Every member of our regular "gang of eight" was available, and up for a drive into Toronto to sample the avian life at some of our favourite spots.  Franc, Carol, Jim and Francine left together from Kitchener, and Mary and Judy joined Miriam and me at our house, and we set off in good humour with high expectations for a fine day of birding. It was not long into the journey before the reasons for not venturing eastwards to Canada's largest city, manifested themselves. Expressways become slow lanes, parkways become parking lots, speed limits seem like a fanciful and unrelieved bad dream. Based on the distance to be travelled it was a trip of about an hour and fifteen minutes; we struggled along for twice that time to get to our first destination, Humber Bay Park.
     The fog was of the consistency of pea soup; thick, murky pea soup even. Visibility was pitiable. But "the sun will soon be up and it will burn off" we all said. Hope springs eternal in the breasts of eight intrepid (some might say delusional) ornithophiles!
     Miriam, quite amazingly it seems, succeeded in obtaining pictures that showed the conditions in an appealing way; not merely dull as one might expect, but creative in their gloomy realization.

      Along the shore an obscene array of high-rise condominiums has been erected, far beyond the financial reach of ordinary folk, with vistas across Lake Ontario. Not this morning, however. The upper floors were not visible from the ground. There would be no coffee on the balcony, with biscotti or fig newtons perhaps, gazing across the tranquil waters.

     And Miriam still found beauty and captured it well.

     It was all just another day for this Mute Swan (Cygnus olor), busily engaged in rearranging and sleeking down its feathers.

     A Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis) took everything in stride, perhaps disdaining its human gawkers. And it probably could have flown from Waterloo  faster than we had taken to drive!

     There were not many birds to keep us company initially so we all paid attention to a male Mallard (Anas platyrynchos), giving it the admiration which is certainly its due, but to paraphrase what that old comedian Rodney Dangerfield used to say "It don't get no respect!"

     The pictures look remarkably clear given the conditions - and the gloom persisted - but the images below have the appearance of a creation from an artist's palette. 

     There were few birds to be seen, but a Muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus) enjoyed the water.

     And an American Mink (Mustela vison) patrolled the perimeter of one of cells in the harbour, no doubt looking for unsuspecting prey.

     A Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) looked like a spectre in the mist at the edge of a small island out in the lake, its reflection nevertheless shimmering below it.

     A short walk through an area of grassland, and scattered trees and shrubbery, yielded a Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos). How Miriam managed so clear a picture I don't know.

     This is a species that has become more common in recent years, but nowhere reliable, except for Humber Bay Park. In my experience this has been the most predictable location for this species over many years.
     We also observed a late Swainson's Thrush (Catharus ustulatus). I suspect that migration dates for many species are now undergoing revision.

     A Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia) probed the grass for juicy morsels along with a White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis).

     A Field Sparrow (Spizella pusilla) was not shy either.

     Mute Swans, Mallards and Ring-billed Gulls seemed content to perch together.

     And there were a few Ruby-crowned Kinglets (Regulus calendula), barely stopping for even a second, as they gleaned leaves and branches in search of food.

     The time on our parking tags was about to expire so we decided to go to Colonel Samuel Smith Park, where we would sit in the car and have our lunch, and then do some exploring. 
     Joy of joys, the mist started to clear a little; the sun broke through for brief intervals and it felt glorious. Our spirits soared!

     Gadwalls (Mareca strepera) were numerous, and we agreed one and all that this is a very attractive little duck.

     A lone Redhead (Aythya americana) was the only one of its kind that we saw, although I expect that this species will move onto the lake in great numbers very soon.

     There were a few Common Mergansers (Mergus merganser) and this female was close enough to permit an identifiable photograph.

     A quick scan reminded us all that this is a splendid park in the middle of a sea of urban development; an oasis of tranquility.

     For the second time today we noted that a Mallard is a bird not to be dismissed lightly.

     American Wigeon (Mareca americana) is another handsome duck that was easy to find in the large flocks ensconced in a small bay.

     Mixed flocks were noisy and sometimes argumentative, but for the most part the ducks all coexisted without incident.

     Within weeks, or even days, Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola) will become very common on Lake Ontario, but today we saw only three individuals, a male accompanied by two females.

     It is a tiny duck and very attractive.
     A solitary Pied-billed Grebe (Podiceps auritus) was seen practicing its flight capability in preparation for migration, after which it rested under some overhanging branches.

     Our final stop was at Long Branch Park, but there was very little on the water, other than ubiquitous Mallards and Ring-billed Gulls, with an amazing total of 49 Mute Swans, mostly far off, however. Two were close by and posed nicely for a picture or two.

     Since the birding was slow, what does a person of a certain age do? Why soar skywards on the children's swings, of course.

     Miriam can still pump her legs with the best of them!
     I would be remiss if I did not pay tribute to Mary at this location. We saw a woman feeding the gulls and Mallards, following which she tossed her plastic bag on the ground. Mary confronted her, pointing out oh so sweetly, "You dropped something, ma'am." The woman scowled, no doubt uttered a few curses under her breath, denied she had done so, and strode off. Mary picked up the trash. It is incredible to witness this kind of blatant disregard for even the most basic of environmental concerns, but perhaps Mary's action will cause this slob to think twice next time. Bravo, Mary!
     We took a vote as to whether we wished to continue birding, but given the dire experience of the morning's drive, everyone elected to head for home to beat the afternoon rush hour.
     Despite the weather, despite the dreadful journey, we had a very enjoyable day together and concluded one and all that we would not have missed it for the world.


  1. Hi David, what a great trip you had, except for the appalling traffic conditions. Seems to be the same misery everywhere these days. Love Miriam's beautiful photos, and even the fog looks good. You saw lots of beautiful birds, thanks for sharing. Best regards, Valerie

  2. The fog adds a nice touch to things!

    The heron is my favourite of these.

  3. Hola David, enhorabuena para Miriam, sus fotos son realmente hermosas aún con tanta niebla. Las aves son preciosas. Y también quiero enviarle un largo aplauso para Mary, seguro que la mujer se lo pensara antes de tirar otra. Y muchas gracias a ti por contarnos las cosas tan claras y fáciles de entender. Un enorme abrazo para todos/as.

  4. Huge compliments to Miriam for capturing the mystical beauty in the first shots - and indeed as always for ALL her photos.
    How I would love to come along on one of these trips - and thank you so much for the vicarious treat your posts give me.

    1. Just knowing you is a treat, Sue. If ever you make it over here you will be with us every time!

  5. A great day out some nice waterfowl, great photos!

  6. Hari OM
    My word, what an array, yet again... I have to say, though, the heron through the mist makes for a most intriguing and delightful shot! YAM xx

  7. ...sometimes be in a fog is a beautiful thing! Fabulous images, the waterfowl are great! How about if we do this again?

    1. Hi Tom: I have been trying to follow your blog but I can't figure out how to do it. What am I not seeing?

  8. The fog made some photographs so wonderful and mysterious. Many compliments to Miriam, she created unforgettable and very beautiful photographs!
    I have never seen before a Muskrat, he is so cute. You had a great day and brought to us many interesting photographs of birds.

  9. Many beautiful scenes and birds. I'm partial to Mallards and Herons.

  10. Olá David,
    As cores dessa vegetação são maravilhosas.
    Aqui no Brasil não temos tantos patos coloridos;
    esses são lindos!

    Obrigada pela visita, e que bom que a minha pequena casa
    possa agradar aos olhos.
    O seu país tem casas de madeiras muito belas.
    Boa entrada de mês de novembro.
    Hi David,
    The colors of this vegetation are wonderful.
    Here in Brazil we don't have so many colorful ducks;
    these are beautiful!

    Thank you for visiting, and I'm glad my little house
    might please the eyes.
    Your country has very beautiful log houses.
    Good November entry.

  11. Här är det nu tidig morgon, det håller precis på att ljusna och när jag tittar ut är dimman lika tjock som på dina bilder.
    Ibland blir det inte som man tänkt sig men jag är säker på att ni hade en fin dag tillsammans. Miriams foton är vackra, dimman skapar en dimension till i bilderna. Hägern i den kompakta dimman, det är ett foto som knappast kan upprepas.

  12. Hi David.

    Beautiful pictures of the Ducks and Birds.
    I also like the mist photos and carry out a lot of mistics.

    Greeting from Patricia.

  13. Beautiful foggy morning with the Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Common Merganser, Gadwalls to mention just a few.

  14. Hello David,

    Beautiful captures of the fog. Here I don't have fog very often.
    Lovely colors and animals. The swans are very pretty.

  15. The conditions are beautifully captured by Miriam's photos. I rather like foggy days and we usually saw lots of them during the autumn, but not so many lately.

  16. Wow!!Such great pictures of the birds and animals!!Ilove the foggy weather..Not everybody do take picures in such conditions..people most want to publish sunney timesSo i think this is great
    About the woman not picking up her trash..what a bad behaviour!!
    Iam glad you did pick it up and did a remark to the lady..Hope she got something to thinkabout

    Ok very good post !

    Greetings Anita

  17. Preciosa salida amigo David, que de llegar a ser siete en vez de ocho, podíais haber sido los siete magníficos ornitólogos, disparando con vuestras buenas cámaras a todo cuanto se moviese. Bromas aparte, mis felicitaciones a Miriam por tan buenas fotos captadas con la dificultad que conlleva esa niebla, algunas de ellas son de gran belleza. No cabe la menor duda que mereció la pena esa salida aun cuando el día no acompañaba del todo. Fue unas grandes y bellas capturas de imágenes. Muy bien con el detalle de la mujer, seguro que la próxima vez se lo pensará.
    Un fuerte abrazo querido amigo y compadre David.

  18. As if I walked with your "gang" David after reading your blog about the walk around this beautyful place. What birds so wonderful. Different kind of Ducks amazing. Than the colours of the leaves on the trees more beauty. Also the photos Miriam took of the mist at the beginning is stunning like all those other photos she took. Will you tell her that she makes wonderful photos! And than the woman who fed the Ducks and drop her plastic bag. Perhaps she did not expect to be held accountable for her bahaviour and thats why she reacted that way? Next time she will indeed think twice.
    I am glad you all had a wonderful walk.
    Warm regards for Belgium,

  19. What a fun day trip! I give the big HATS OFF kudos to Miriam for her glorious fog photos. She captured that mood so perfectly. They're very painterly and quite gorgeous. In fact, as much as I love the full-fall color photo, there's something very mystical, very Merlin, about those fog pix. But I'm glad you were able to get wonderful pix of the different birds as well. Very nice indeed. Loved this post and am imagining all the fun of it (apart from the harrowing drive.)

  20. Il y avait beaucoup de brouillard chez moi aussi ce matin.
    J'aime beaucoup le Gadwalls, il a un beau plumage.
    Tous les petits moineaux sont mignons.
    Il y a de belles couleurs automnales!
    Et oui il y a encore malheureusement beaucoup de gens qui jettent plastique et mégot de cigarette dans la nature...
    Bon weekend!

  21. A lot a fog David, but I like the fog photos. They are very beautiful. The birds and ducks are wonderful. I like the mink too. I don't like muskusrat but the photo is very beautiful. I think your day and walk was very nice.

  22. Hello David!
    A great trip. Miriam is a great photographer. She took very artistic photos. The fog gave them charm, mystery and magic.
    I don't know all these birds but I am delighted with them.
    Hugs and greetings to Miriam and for you.

  23. Lovely autumn colours and a lot of cute nice! :)

  24. Such wonderful photos, of landscapes and birds, with the fog and without.
    Oh, to be able to point out kindly to someone they are behaving badly! In a situation like that, I would sound angry or aggressive and the result surely wouldn't be good. :)
    Thank you for the beautiful post... and, as always, for your interesting comment!

  25. You certainly got to see a good selection of different birds for a group of delusional ornithophiles (love that phrase!) on a miserable foggy day. Actually, I shouldn't say miserable, because swirling mist can be mysterious and just as attractive as a bright sunny day (as Miriam's lovely photos show).

  26. A wonderful Post... I enjoyed reading. Fantastic captures!

    Thank you for sharing

  27. Great photographic and artistic skills from Miriam in turning a foggy day into a collection of delightful images, David. Although the fog and traffic were sources of frustration, you seem to have had a very rewarding time - but, of course, you were in good company!

    A pat on the back for Mary for confronting that 'blight on the planet'. I hope the message got home!

    We had a drake Bufflehead at Rutland Water recently. It caused a lot of excitement for a few days, and then someone photographed it preening with a narrow-banded leg, indicating 'an escape'! Sadly, it never got mentioned again.

  28. Hoi,

    I love to see the Song Sparrow. Very nice.

  29. Wow, that is some very heavy fog, but it looks like you managed to make a very productive day out of it. I really like the photo of the heron, and it's reflection, in the heavy fog. Enjoy your weekend, and Lilly says "hi"!

  30. Fog as thick as pea soup must be double challenging! The photos are beautiful, they really show the Autumn atmosphere.

  31. Preciosas fotos le quedaron a Mirian, y fue un precioso paseo, me encantó verlo todo. Un abrazo para los dos.

  32. The fog brings mysterious days and spectacular photos.

  33. Interesting that you brave the city to see birds. I bet those waters will be icing over soon.

    1. It seems counterintuitive doesn't it? But there are certain spots in Toronto, especially along the shore of Lake Ontario, that are very productive. Perhaps birds are concentrated in smaller areas and that is at least part of the reason. Similar circumstances prevail in New York, for example, where Central Park is an oasis of green in a sea in concrete, so bird activity is disproportionate there.

  34. Such a wonderful excursion! My favourite kind always involves birds too.

  35. That's one talented photographer. Those are wonderful pictures. I feel as though I were there on that ramble. And I do love the mockingbird picture.

  36. David, creo que el nido es de Chloris chloris o verderón común. Besitos y buena tarde.

  37. Hi David,
    It's true that this murky pea soup is thick, Miriam has taken some remarkable pictures. The trees are beautiful and the photo of the Great Blue Heron is fantastic.
    The Bufflehead is a magnificent bird, it is necessary to take advantage of this species that does not exist in France.
    Wondefull duck.

  38. Hello David. You came home from this trip with beautiful pictures.
    You had beautiful varieties in front of the lens again.
    Mirjam has made beautiful pictures of the mist and the autumn colors.
    Have a great weekend, greetings Tinie

  39. What a wonderful day you had. Miriam's photos are beautiful. The fog creates a mystery that shows its beauty. Lovely birds, mallards and scenery, I enjoyed it all.

  40. I'm glad you went and have these marvelous photos to share and good memories that outweigh the bad. Love the foggy photos of the water and the beautiful Fall colors! Of course you saw a wonderful variety of birds too! Well done!

  41. What a day you had! I can't remember the last time I went down to the lakeshore! I should change that soon.

  42. Un paseo maravilloso, me gusta ver a las aves y también a los patos y cisnes, tengo pocas ocasiones de ver estos animales acuáticos, en mi zona no hay lagos así sólo un río que años atrás era de abundante caudal y ahora lleva poca agua, en la ciudad sí puedo ver algún pato en jardines con estanque y muchas gaviotas en el puerto.
    Las fotos de Miriam con la niebla son deliciosas, de gran belleza y mágico misterio.
    Muchos besos.

  43. Despite the fog and diffused light it was a great birdwatching journey, it even gives it a softer and more homogeneous light, in addition to a great autumnal atmosphere. I liked seeing so many close up bird pictures, especially the aquatic ones. Congratulations

  44. Lovely blog David, Miriam did a good job despite the fog. I like the photo's of the Gadwall very much, they're really wonderful (and the other waterfowlphoto's too).


    1. Hi Marianne: I hope your injury is healing well. It is good to see you plunking away with your left hand. Bravo!

    2. Hahaha, yes I improved my left hand plunking a lot the last 2 weeks ;-). Next wednesday I have to go back to the hospital to let them remove the stitches. I think they'll tell me then when I can start with revalidation.

  45. I think I’ll call her Miraculous Miriam because she captured such magic in the fog and reached great heights on the swing!

    1. After all these lovely comments we may have to widen the door frame to get her head through!

  46. some beautiful wildlife in Toronto. :)

  47. hello David
    These are again very nice photos, the many ducks and swans, very nice even in difficult weather conditions are top pictures, thank you for pointing
    Greetings Frank

  48. In spite of the fog, Miriam managed to take so many beautiful photos.

  49. Beautiful captures by Miriam!
    Have a wonderful november,


  50. I love foggy days! Terrific photos today David. Great birds and wonderful narration. That trash lady was a fool...and Mary should be crowned queen for the day for picking up after her!!
    We all appreciate your linking in with us at I'd Rather B Birdin this week. Have a super Sunday. for correcting my MALLARD vs BLUE WINGED

  51. Hi David - made me feel cold! But I'm so pleased you progressed onwards ... the high rise was extraordinary to view - bet they had clear skies at the top. Love all the birds, but especially the Bufflehead .. and having just looked, am slightly surprised to see Linnaeus recognised the species in 1758 - quite amazes me.

    You're right Miriam take stunning photos ... love the heron and ghost one - lovely to see. I wonder if that woman will ever pick her bag up ... I won't go into more - will put me off for the day ... at long last our gales have gone through (even stopped the container ships in the shipping lanes in the Channel!) and it's sunny - so a good day for a walk along the prom ... lovely photos with captions - cheers Hilary

  52. You got some lovely photos despite the foggy start to the day. Sometimes we don’t realize how good the photos are till they are uploaded to the computer. Enjoy birding with your group of friends.

    1. This is our regular Tuesday group. We have been doing this for three years now.

  53. Hi David,
    I think anywhere in the world traffic will jam in these kind of foggy conditions. I dislike these wet air conditions, but it gives special photographic possibilities, as Miriam shows with some wonderful images thanks to the fog.
    The bird images are remarkable clear. I especially like the image of the small grebe (37).

    Best regards, Corrie

  54. Fog and mist make for some superb images! Nicely captured.

    My Corner of the World

  55. Prachtige natuurserie, Mooie herfstkleuren en de mist, prachtig.
    Groet Kees.

  56. So beautiful there. Yes, an oasis of tranquility.

  57. The birds are beautiful, every one...and I would love to see a bufflehead...all fabulous pictures. But special kudos to Miriam for making the foggy day magical rather than depressing! (And I mean her lovely photographs, but I have an idea that the joyful attitude shown in that one last picture you took has much to do with how her camera translates life!)

  58. Me gustán mucho las imágenes que has captado con la niebla.

    Has captado una buena colección de aves, con muy buena definición. Amo la Naturaleza y me gustan las aves.


  59. I'm so glad to see you at 'My Corner of the World' this week!

    My Corner of the World

  60. Hi Both,
    Another wonderful trip with the gang of eight, a bit murky early on but you still managed some excellent images,well done to the swinging Miriam.the Bufflehead really is a stunning bird. you have certainly given us a variety of images despite the conditions.
    All the best

    1. Welcome back, John. Great to see your name pop up.

  61. Hi David,
    Terrible weather! And misery in traffic!
    But Miriam has beautiful pictures of the fog! Bravo!
    The close-ups of birds are beautiful! I also like your photos of the Mute Swans, beautiful. And believe it or not ..... here in the Netherlands we also have these days a White-throated Sparrow !!! He had come here by ship ;-)
    Great Post,
    Best wishes, Maria

    1. I hope you get to see it, Maria. If it is an adult it is a beautiful little bird. And to hear it sing is also wonderful. It is a little sad that it is so far from home, however.

  62. Amazing that in spite of some bad traffic and weather the day turned out so well for you all. I did enjoy seeing the mix of photographs, even the foggy ones are amazing … it certainly did look an oasis of tranquillity.

    Shame on the woman who threw the plastic down, but well done to Mary for speaking out.

    All the best Jan

  63. looks like a great place to visit, lovely photos. I like the atmospheric mists.

  64. Hi David,
    Despite of the weather conditions you obviously had aa great day. Your way of describing the day and what you experienced, combined with a lot of pictures worth looking at, was once again a pleasure to read.
    Greetings, Kees

  65. The upside down photo is very nice!
    I'm glad that the child in you never gives up! 😅
    Gorgeous photo!

  66. Good thing you stuck it out there David. Many would have turned around when they hit that wall of fog. Some great pictures of your resident wildfowl and handy that they mostly like sliced (or wholemeal?) bread. I would have paid good money to see Miriam tackle that "bag lady".

    1. Miriam might have a problem but Mary could have taken her!

  67. I do love a walk on a foggy day, the photos show just how lovely it can be, everything takes on quite a different feel I think. The Buffleheads are a good looking duck, a female caused a bit of a stir on a local reserve earlier this year but it was an escapee from a private collection!

  68. Hello David,
    the photo with the fall colors attracts me the most.
    I see the date above it, October 31 and then I get sad again.
    2 years ago our little Jahnay was killed on that day and I am still not over it.