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Friday, 27 March 2020

Visit to Long Point, ON

25 March 2020

     COVID-19 is presenting many challenges to all of us and the degree to which we are affected is predicated somewhat on our lifestyle. If the most important part of your social life is going to movies and getting together with friends at your local restaurant, it is clear that your routine will be negatively impacted in a major way.
     For birders it is not (at least not yet) quite so dire.
     We are lovers of open spaces, and for us areas little affected by humans are cherished places. It is easy to continue doing what we love best, from our own backyard, on a local trail, or further afield to favourite destinations
     The area around Port Rowan/Long Point in Norfolk County, Ontario is the site of one of Canada's oldest bird observatories, and a major hot spot during spring and fall migration. It is significantly positioned for the passage of birds, situated as it is on the north shore of Lake Erie, constituting a magnet for waterfowl, in addition to having substantial forest cover for returning passerines. Long Point proper is in fact a World Biosphere Reserve.


     Miriam and I checked the weather forecast on Tuesday, and with a favourable augury for the following day, decided that an outing to Long Point was in the cards for us.
     Highway 401, going from Windsor on the international border with Detroit, Michigan to the border of Québec and Ontario, is Canada's busiest highway. Under normal condition there is a steady hum of traffic twenty-four hours a day. We have all been reading of lowered pollution levels around the world during the current crisis, with consequent improved air quality, as fewer vehicles are on the road, and international air traffic is virtually at a halt. Witness Canada's busiest artery during a pandemic.


     There was barely a car on the road! Most of the traffic we did see comprised trucks delivering vital commodities across the province and beyond.
     As is our custom, we first checked the harbour at Port Rowan where the most numerous species by far was Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis).



     A couple of pairs were very considerate and came in fairly close to shore to give us at least a chance for a few decent pictures.
     Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis) was the most common gull, as is to be expected at this time of the year, and this individual struck a nice pose for the camera.


    Several smaller Bonaparte's Gulls (Chroicocephalus philadelphia) were also present, some beginning to acquire their nuptial hood, but they darted and flitted like agitated dragonflies and photographs were out of the question.
     That most endearing overlord of the marsh, the Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoniceus), was present with males singing in defence of territory, warning off all rivals and preparing for the arrival of females.  As a matter of fact, at our next stop we would see our first female of the season.


     The headquarters of Bird Studies Canada (recently renamed simply Birds Canada) is at Port Rowan and there is a viewing area and several trails, always meriting a stop.


     Under normal circumstances it is also provides a welcome washroom opportunity, but under the draconian Coronavirus régime entry to the building was barred and staff were working from home. Miriam was relieved that the icy winds of winter were not blowing!
     The pond at Birds Canada contained a very pleasing array of ducks, but there is a considerable barrier of reeds between the viewing platform and the water, and it is difficult to take photographs. It is also a little beyond the desirable range for suitable picture-taking.The Gadwall (Mareca strepera) below is the best we could do.



     A pair of House Finches (Haemorhous mexicanus) on the rail presented much better opportunities.





     Just before leaving we spotted this pair again, up on the roof, and they were carrying nesting material. Their pair bond is obviously formed for the season.
     Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia) is a hardy species (in fact some individuals stay for the winter) but migrants are among the earliest of species to return, and a male singing from atop a high, visible perch is an iconic feature of spring.


     We moved on to Lee Brown Waterfowl Management Area where the concentration of geese and ducks was impressive, including the presence of a Eurasian Wigeon (Mareca penelope). Again conditions were far from ideal for photography without a large lens, and we had to be content with a few images of birds on land, mainly Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) and American Wigeon.




     In the picture below you can see that a Northern Pintail (Anas acuta) has come to join the others on the emerging grass.



     It was time for lunch and we pulled off a little farther down the road.



     Public access is not permitted to this area but there is a small fenced section where a half dozen or so cars could park. No one joined us today!
     We had a clear line of sight on a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) nest and through the scope could clearly see a bird sitting on it. The picture is far from satisfactory, but you can see the adult on the nest.



     Ironically it was here that one of the best photographic opportunities presented itself when a Horned Lark (Eremophila alpestris) perched close by in the open, but by the time Miriam put down her sandwich and reached for her camera, it was gone!
     Driving along the causeway numerous species were in evidence, with Lesser Scaup again predominant. 



     The American Beaver (Castor canadensis) has been justifiably called nature's engineer; it is not intimidated by size!



     Many Redheads (Aythya americana) dotted the water, disappearing from view as they dove for fresh water mussels and other delicacies. In the image below you can see a female Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis) off to the left.



     To assign the definition "song" to the doleful call of the Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura) is perhaps a stretch, but effectively that's what it is. Many seemed to have formed pairs and I have little doubt that early nesting is already underway.



     At Old Cut, home to the bird banding station at the Long Point Bird Observatory, careful attention has to be paid to inattentive wildlife.



     Phragmites (European Common Reed) is an invasive species in Ontario that has been wreaking havoc on native ecosystems for decades. It is unknown how it was  first introduced here, but it has spread exponentially. Phragmites australis is aggressive,  and out-competes native plants for water and nutrients. Toxins from the roots are released into the soil, retarding the growth of and killing native vegetation. It is extremely difficult to eliminate, but at Long Point a very serious attempt is being made to eradicate this alien pest.



     I was pleased to note that the University of Waterloo is one of the agencies involved in the eradication project.
     American Coot (Fulica americana) was quite plentiful in a couple of areas.




     A couple of Bald Eagles were spotted nearby and the presence of the coots was doubtless not unknown to them. The coots had better beware lest one or two of them becomes eagle prey.
     Mute Swans (Cygnus olor) were spotted here and there, but this individual was the closest to shore.



     Before leaving we revisited the pond at Birds Canada, approaching it from the rear, but all the ducks there during our morning visit had departed.  We managed a farewell shot of the headquarters, however.



     As was the case on the way down, the return journey along Highway 401 was eerily devoid of traffic. 



     This may be my most enduring memory of COVID-19!

All species: Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Tundra Swan, Blue-winged Teal, Northern Shoveler, Gadwall, Eurasian Wigeon, American Wigeon, Mallard, Northern Pintail, Green-winged Teal, Canvasback, Redhead, Ring-necked Duck, Greater Scaup, Lesser Scaup, Bufflehead, Hooded Merganser, Common Merganser, Ruddy Duck, Turkey Vulture, Northern Harrier, Bald Eagle, Red-tailed Hawk, American Coot, Sandhill Crane, Killdeer, Bonaparte's Gull, Ring-billed Gull, American Herring Gull, Mourning Dove, American Kestrel, Blue Jay, American Crow, Black-capped Chickadee, Horned Lark, Common Starling, American Robin, House Sparrow, House Finch, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, Song Sparrow, American Tree Sparrow, Northern Cardinal.  Total: 45 species.

69 comments:

  1. Hari OM
    I could almost smell the fresh air &*>... and thank you for the gull picture. All the rest too, but you know, I has a fondness... YAM xx

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  2. A good selection of birds. Here we've been asked not to make unnecessary journeys and most if not all bird reserves are closed to visitors (of the human kind, that is). It doesn't really matter too much; at this time of year the migrant birds visit us, you just have to get out there early in the morning.

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  3. Haha … that signage is pretty funny, Birder Crossing. Finches have to be some of the cutest birds around. The empty highway is a blessing for air quality that is for sure. It would be so weird if nature had this backup plan for getting us off the roads.

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  4. Hello,

    It is wonderful to be able to drive without a lot of traffic! The earth is sighing in relief. Great variety of ducks. The birder sign is cute. Great outing and photos. Happy Birding, have a great weekend!

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  5. It's a bizarre world at the moment. Luckily here we are still allowed to go outside, though preferably alone. Your photos are beautiful, as always :) Love the finches!

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  6. Hi David, great that you have some really good memories of this time to save! You really got to see lots of birds, what a fantastic variety. I have been watching the pigeons, crows and magpies from my balcony, and had a lot of blue tits there this morning, squabbling over the food I had put out. I don't know how such tin birds can be so loud! Hugs to you and Miriam, stay safe! Valerie

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  7. Hola David. Me alegra ver que podéis disfrutar de un día tranquilo. Aquí esto es imposible, ya no se puede ir más que ir a comprar lo necesario para comer. Esperemos que termine pronto porque echo mucho de menos darle besos a mi niño. Mientras disfruto de vuestros avistamientos y de vuestras preciosas fotos. Muchas gracias por tus palabras en mi blog, son muy reconfortantes y me hacen feliz. Un enorme abrazo para ti y para Miriam. Cuidaros mucho.

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  8. What a wonderful series of beautiful birds. Glad you got some fresh air and these lovely photos to share. Thank you!

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  9. Thank you, David, for sharing a wonderful outing!

    You certainly found an impressive diversity of birds.

    I empathize with Miriam's lost opportunity to photograph the Horned Lark. Birds have a perverse sense of humor and I'm convinced that lark told its friend "Watch this ..." as it deliberately waited until Miriam picked up her sandwich before making an appearance and flitting away before she could get the camera in position.

    We are fortunate here to not be on a declared "lock down" but are limiting our outings to, as you point out, typical birder locales. Although many parks and reserves are shuttered, we have plenty of back roads, lakes and remote swamps to explore. Fresh air and sunshine are a cure for many ailments.

    Gini and I also are practicing "social distancing" and have limited our group interactions to no more than eight birds and two alligators at one time.

    Please remain safe!

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  10. Well that was alot of different species to me!Good to see they are not affected byt the virus
    I think it must had been Nice to be out..Here we can only dream of it since the carantene updates are to over Easter and then it will go on With more stricktly rules.Here Norwegians cabin People want to Escape to their huts on the Mountains to avoid the virus but now the millitary are set in to avoid them(it is bec,the mountain community cant take them if they become ill ect et)

    Thank you for this post and hope you will continue blogging!

    Beautiful birds!

    Take care and be safe

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  11. Buena ocasión para ese desplazamiento amigo David, la carretera también está vacía al igual que aquí en España, con el único inconveniente que no podemos salir, una buena tregua para la contaminación aunque hubiese sido preferible dársela voluntariamente que no a consecuencia de este maldito virus.
    El reportaje ha sido precioso con gran cantidad de bellos avistamientos. Las fotos de Miriam aunque algo lejos son todas perfectas y muy buenas. ¡Felicidades Miriam! No esperaba ver tal cantidad de aves en estas fechas, eso demuestra la gran belleza que ofrece el comienzo de la primavera.
    Un fuerte abrazo queridos amigos y cuidaros mucho.

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    Replies
    1. It is a very difficult time indeed. Stay safe, my friend. Be well.

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  12. These days birds are in a better position than us, virus attacked humans.
    Miriam's photos are fascinating!

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  13. Heartbalm.
    Thank you.
    I loved the birder sign too, but was so very grateful to be able to travel with you and Miriam and share some of the beauty and the wonder.

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  14. De belles observations!Ce confinement sera bénéfique pour la nature, c'est au moins ça...
    Bonne soirée

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  15. Hello David,

    Yes, this cricis affects us all. Lovely photos. I'm glad you still can have meetings outside. Take care dear friend!

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  16. That was a productive outing. Wonderful photos!

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  17. How true my life, "personally" has not been affected much thank goodness...A lovely outing and some wonderful birds in this post...and I can really appreciate the big Beaver felled tree! Stay happy and healthy.

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  18. Hi David. That was a great day. A fine report, everything is beautifully described! The empty highway a little bit creepy. You will remember it, no doubt! Great pictures of lovely birds! And I love the header!
    Stay healty!
    Warm Greetings to you both!
    Maria

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  19. Looks like a nice, quiet outing :) I love the birder sign and so cool to see the tree felled by a beaver!

    I'm glad you guys are doing ok - stay well and take care!

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  20. It must have been so strange driving on those roads (and I am glad the wind was not too icy for Miriam LOL), but great to have been able to see so many different species. Stay happy :) xx

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  21. I would love to see a Bald Eagle in the wild and it is good that you are still able to carry on doing what you and Miriam both enjoy so much. I notice that there has been a big change in your weather, and that all of the snow has now departed.

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    1. Come on over, Rosemary, (whenever that might be possible again!) and I will take you to see a Bald Eagle or two.

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  22. Thanks for the list of all you saw. As I was reading through, I thought how nice to be looking at so many of my feeder friends again, come this spring.

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  23. Lovely photos. You are allowed to venture further afield than us. We are allowed to walk or cycle around our immediate are and only allowed to drive to the supermarket, pharmacy (not over 70's and those with health problems) or for medical reasons

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  24. Hi David - lovely 'spaces' without traffic ... and yes they're noticing more bird sound here too - and commenting that for instance the skylarks are moving back nearer roads, and I have definitely heard more bird song - even above the dreaded gulls! Loved the photos and journey diary of your day - take care and all the best - Hilary

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  25. Thank you for this wonderful posting from your bird world. Yes, there are restrictions everywhere and I also have the good fortune to be able to cycle without meeting large people. Vacationers are no longer allowed to be with us on the North Sea coast and so I can go for a walk and ride a bike.
    I am so happy that we have nature!
    Take care and stay healthy, Elke

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    1. How lovely to hear from you, Elke. Thanks for stopping by.

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  26. Hello. Interesting looking places and wonderful birds. Photos are great!
    (Oh, why there are no red-winged blackbirds in Finland?)
    Take care!

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    1. You will just have to come here and I will take you to see them!

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  27. Hi David.

    Super nice what you show.
    Beautiful geese and birds.

    Greetings from Patricia.

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  28. For a guy who is only aware of seeing mallards until now, it was nice to see your ducks. I have seen an American Widgeon this year and then a pair of Hooded Mergansers (which I have posted today).

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    1. We might make a birder out of you yet! Never too late to start.

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  29. Nice photos David, I like the red little bird. The ducks are also great. I see the snow has gone. Take care. Greetings Caroline

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  30. Beautiful birds. Good that you are still able to enjoy birding in the open space. The park is out of bound and the only space I get to enjoy is my little garden. Stay safe.

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  31. Interesting place to go birdwatching. I had no idea of ​​its existence, I had to look it up on the map. I liked the birder crossing signal!

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    1. When you come to Canada I will take you there, Hernán!

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  32. Hello, I wanted stop back and say what a great report and outing. Lots of wonderful ducks, birds and photos. The Wigeons are one of my favorites, I also love the House Finch images. Take care and stay well! Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Enjoy your day, happy weekend! PS, thanks for the visit and comment.

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  33. What a wonderful day and road trip. You saw a remarkable number of birds! And so very beautiful, too. I saw my first red-winged of the year yesterday. He was pretty flighty and the photo isn't good, but I have proof!

    I haven't been on the roadways since I've been "in" since March 16. But our neighborhood (under a flight path, albeit it one that's quite high and not usually too disturbing) is without many planes. It reminds me a bit of post 9/11. We don't hear as many traffic sounds from the nearby roads, either. It's rather nice.

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  34. Actually, it’s a good time of year here to have to stay at home. Our back yard is “hoppin’ “ with migrants and nesters and we can keep pretty busy going from window to window with binoculars announcing what we see to each other.

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  35. David...this was such a pleasant outing! I so enjoyed it all...your narration was like a CD on the player as we drove down and arrived at our destination (void of traffic...awesone). Beautiful water birds (and eagle...loved seeing the two finches in one photo). Most enjoyabke trek. Thanks for linking up with us at I'd Rather B Birdin this week.

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  36. Another wonderful selection of birds, David.
    Indeed, those of us that can get out into nature every day (or almost) will cope rather well with this situation. As to social distancing, it's what we Finns do best. :)
    Stay safe and healthy!

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  37. Lucky you to be able to go out in nature and admire the life undisturbed by crowds. That maybe the best outcome after this is all over, we have given wildlife a chance to recover.
    Most of your birds are new to me, I love the blackbird. I have crowds of blackbirds in my garden, they will soon start to wake me at 4 am, but they are all just black or dark brown for the female. But they have a wonderfully melodious, liquid song, well worth being woken by.

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    1. The song of the European Blackbird is one of the finest in all the avian world in my opinion, far superior to the more vaunted Nightingale - in Berkley Square or anywhere else!

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  38. I love signs and take photos of them every time we are out. LOVE the birders crossing sign! I would love to see one of those! The Geese are a neat sighting. Traffic is sparse here in our part of Florida and we can still get out in the forest and walk. It sure feels great! Take care and stay healthy...both you and your sweet wife!

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  39. It is wonderful that your love can still be enjoyed during these difficult times. We will still enjoy our nature walks too. Maybe we will start packing a lunch like you guys so we spend more time out of the house safely. It really feels like a different world now with most establishments closed and people remaining in their homes. This is a beautiful collection of photos Miriam took. We are seeing plexiglass now at our local post office and grocery store between the employee and customer. That may be what sticks with me most. However I am thinking that is a great idea to keep in place since during normal times, sick people still go out or work.

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    1. Those plexiglass screen are ubiquitous here too, Val, and I absolutely agree they should become a standard feature. I was out birding this afternoon, just returned home in fact, and saw my first Eastern Bluebird of the spring. That's enough to make anyone happy, COVID-19 or not! As for packing a lunch, we always do. Often we are in remote areas where there are no restaurants anyway.

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  40. You are lucky that you can go birding in the car. Not possible here we can only go out for shopping or an emergency, permits with the date and the time of leaving home have to be carried. If you should come to a police check, and they are everywhere, if the form is not in order it is a heavy fine. Never mind now I can watch the Little owls every minute of the day when I am not digging the garden or cooking in the kitchen inventing dishes with what is available. Stay safe Diane

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  41. We've been confined to our home for a couple of weeks at the insistence of our children who are concerned that we are part of the "vulnerable" population. But it is really no hardship for me. I work in my garden and the birds are my constant companions and consolation. I talk with my neighbors over the garden fence and wait for our younger daughter (who lives closest to us) to deliver supplies. It's a pleasant enough life were it not for knowledge of all the suffering going on around us. Stay safe, my friend!

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  42. Lovely to be able to go for a drive and photo the birds and scenery. Roads here with traffic, maybe a little less as we are supposed to stay home expect for essentials as in groceries, chemist and doctor, many of our shops are still open but few are closing due to people not shopping..eating houses are closed but they can sell take a way.
    Stay safe and well.

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  43. Hello David,
    here in Germany it looks just as empty on the streets, only some people are against the rules .. there are also such observation points here, but these are so far away from the animals that it is not worth visiting.
    Very nice post from you
    Stay healthy
    Regards Frank

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  44. Hi David, it's good to read your stury and to know that Miriam and you are fine. You made a lovely trip with loooots of birds and an empty birding area. That's impossible here (in my area). The Lesser scaup is a rare bird for us and it's nice to see some photo's. The photo's of the House finches are so wonderful, as is the bird itself, and nicely detailed. Lovely.
    Also it's good to see that nature does it normal 'work', breeding Eagles and singing males, we need that for now.

    A big hug tot you and take care!
    Marianne

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    1. Good to hear from you, Marianne. Stay well, dear friend,

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  45. Hi David and Miriam. I'm pleased to see that you are still able to get out, even if it is on a less sociable basis. It appears that it was well worthwhile too. I look forward to being uplifted by further blog posts from you!

    I'm not aware of Phragmites being considered a problem plant in UK, although it does have to be cleared on a regular basis.

    You may know that we in UK are now banned from all unecessary travel, and liable to a fine if we transgress. We are, however, allowed one short period of outside exercise per day, provided we keep more than 2 metres apart - although some science has just specified that the distance needs to be expanded to 8 metres!

    Take great care - - - Richard

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    1. There are those I would be happy to stay eight metres (or more!) from! How you would be able to maintain that distance while shopping, however, is hard to figure out. We are not suffering too much. Last night for dinner I made a black bean/corn chilli and Miriam baked wonderful cheese biscuits. That bottle of fine Italian red didn't sit amiss either!

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  46. We are indeed lucky people that we love birding and enjoy all living cratures in nature. Fil up a bottle with coffee and some sandwiches and watch birds from our hide on four wheels. As you show David not much people on the move. Are they all at home? Here roads are also empty except the trucks with cargo. Belgium has closed the borders with its nabouring countries. So I have to find my birds near home as we are also not alowed to wonder far from our home town. The only thing I regret is that I can not go watch the Peregrines. I adapt and find enough to enjoy Spring. Love all the birds you and Miriam were able to see. The nest of the Sea Eagle I find most impressing. The House Finches are stunning. The male in his red suit is gorgeous! Take care in these troubled times and stay save.
    Regards,
    Roos

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    1. It is sad that you cannot go to see your Peregrines, Roos, but they will do well without you of course, and perhaps by the time you see them later in the year the young will be on the wing, showing their mastery of their element. Stay well, dear friend.

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  47. What beautiful birds, my favorite was the Red-winged Blackbird.
    I loved all the photos, through them I ended up traveling virtually with you, thank you very much.
    Here (Lisboa - Portugal), we cannot travel, we must be at home and only leave when it is really necessary.
    Have a nice Sunday and keep safe and well

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  48. Está claro que los espacios cerrados en donde hay mayor peligro de contagiarse, pero en cuanto a los espacios abiertos no hay posibilidad de salir, ya que al tener orden de confinamiento, las carreteras son controladas para que no te desplace de un lugar para otro.
    Los agricultores, sí le está permitido salir para seguir con el cultivo y recoger las
    cosechas. También los camioneros que traen aliomentación y medicinas, para abastecer los pueblos y las ciudades.

    Disfruto con ver estos buenos espacios y la libertad en que se encuentran estas aves.

    Besos

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  49. David, I see you can travel till now, it seems you aren't in quarantine, lucky you.
    The highways are empty the same picture is here. My favorite birds are House Finch and Canada goose.
    Take care you both and stay healthy.

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  50. Querido amigo David, tienes suerte de ver tantas aves. En España no se puede salir ni a la naturaleza, yo tengo suerte, en el jardín hay bastante variedad de aves. Un abrazo y mucha salud.

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  51. I can't believe those pix of the 401. Are you sure you didn't accidentally get pictures of the main road from North to South in Portugal? It's like that all the time with a perfect surface. We spent a long weekend on Pelee island some years ago so know the area you wrote about. I believe that during the migration times the area is crowded with bird watchers. We were not there at the right time.

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  52. we have two pairs of Gadwall´s in one of the nearby ponds. I hoe they will stay, it would be fun if they nested here. :)

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    1. The nest will be well hidden but you will certainly see the ducklings if breeding takes place and is successful.

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  53. I did enjoy seeing all of your photographs, what a good selection of birds here.

    All the best Jan

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  54. Muy hermosas vistas. HERMOSO en todos los sentidos posibles!

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  55. What a lovely spot to visit. It was particularly enjoyable to see so many birds that we share: lesser scaup, red-wing blackbird,house finch, mourning dove. We've had rain all day, and right now I have eight well-soaked doves at my feeders, along with some house finches and a pair of white-winged doves. The chickadees seem to shelter during rain, but they'll be back.

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  56. Hello David,
    The small winner is a rare sight with us. It is sometimes seen on some plates and I was lucky to be able to meet it once :-) The Red-winged Blackbirdis very beautiful but your red colored finches are great.
    It seemed like a beautiful area to show and the great diversity of geese and different ducks is a feast for the eyes. Wonderful to see these animals.
    A big kiss xx

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