It has always been our practice to explore locally, but we are now getting to know familiar areas in greater depth, as we probe their secrets more frequently.
19 May 2020
Lakeside Park, Kitchener, ON
This park continues to deliver sub par results for us, but we persist in our visits - at least for the time being. On this excursion the bird life seemed to be next to non-existent, but there were flowers to capture our attention.
Forget-me-not (Myosotis laxa) is familiar to anyone who has ever ambled through a woodland glade in spring, and it sometimes carpets the ground in a scintillating show of colour.
What I do not recall ever having seen before is a white variant of the flower. A little research reveals that there are a couple of white forms, and perhaps the one shown here is M. verna.
Wooly Blue Violets (Viola sororia) were also widespread - and very attractive too.
The distinctive song of the aptly named Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia) is part of the background chorus of springtime in Ontario.
Ox-eye Daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare) is quite common in a wild state, but this is a flower that has been widely co-opted as a garden plant too.
Yellow Rocket (Barbarea vulgaris) thrives even in denuded and impoverished soil. It is a hardy competitor in the struggle to occupy a place in the ecosystem.
20 May 2020
RIM Park, Waterloo, ON
We spent a wonderful morning at RIM Park, where birds greeted us everywhere, and many people took advantage of fine weather to get outside for a while. I must say that the populace at large has become accustomed to social distancing and appropriate separation was maintained without exception. Everyone seemed to be dealing with the new norm with good humour and with respect for others.
A Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) was oblivious to such mundane preoccupations, of course.
People who know little of birds, who pay them barely a moment's heed, seem nevertheless to be excited by Baltimore Orioles (Icterus galbula). They are appealing birds to see and their glorious colouration seems to match the mood of summer.
It was a frequent occurrence to have people pass by and upon seeing our binoculars tell us they had seen an oriole.
American Robin (Turdus migratorius) is a very familiar bird, loved by all, and seemed to be nesting everywhere. We discovered four occupied nests.
Male Red-winged Blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus) were ardent and competitive in their pursuit of females.
It has always been a bit of a mystery to me why Common Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) has become such a pariah. It is bold, gold and glorious! It grows anywhere and needs no care. Its leaves are tasty additions to a salad. What is there to despise?
A Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) of a particularly pale morph rode the thermals above our heads.
It is our practice to give at least a passing glance to holes in trees to see whether an Eastern Screech Owl (Megascops asio) is perchance basking in the sun. There was no owl in this cavity, but the top of the head of a Raccoon (Procyon lotor) was visible as it snoozed away the daylight hours.
An Eastern Wood Pewee (Contopus virens) played hide-and-seek with us for a while.
A male American Redstart (Setophaga ruticilla) was a little more willing to pose in full view.
Shaded, wet areas with fallen logs are the haunts of thrushes.
It was here that we found both Hermit Thrush (Catharus guttatus) and Swainson's Thrush (Catharus ustulatus), but managed only to photograph the Swainson's Thrush.
The Grand River snakes alongside RIM Park in majestic splendour, attracting a wide variety of birds that make their living there.
This Western Osprey (Pandion haliaeetus) no doubt has young to feed and patrolled the river seeking to seize an unwary fish.
Eastern Kingbirds (Tyrannus tyrannus) seemed to be everywhere, sallying forth from their perches to grab a passing insect.
America Yellow Warblers (Setophaga aestiva) were similarly ubiquitous and were truly glorious to see as they zipped around from perch to perch, bathed in bright sunlight.
Grey Catbirds (Dumetella carolinensis) on the other hand are far more at home tucked away in the dark recesses of tangles and undergrowth.
22 May 2020
Kissing Bridge Trail, Elmira, ON
Our good friend Merri-Lee had recommended a couple of birding spots to us and we went to check them out, with a view to further exploration in the fall.
Most of the spring migration has already passed through, but the area holds great promise with mixed habitat, and we will look forward to discovering its wildlife on subsequent visits.
In the meantime we were able to get more pictures of Trillium grandiflorum for Marit to enjoy.
24 May 2020
SpruceHaven, St. Agatha, On
Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) are having a productive year and many of our nest boxes contain eggs or young.
Here are two nest boxes each containing a full clutch of eggs.
26 May 2020
Three Bridges Road, St. Jacobs, ON
The Eastern Bluebirds (Sialia sialis) that have bred each year at the Mennonite meeting house appear to be having another successful year, and we have seen adults delivering food into the nest boxes. For us, this is one of the most reliable spots to see this enigmatic little bird.
26 May 2020
River Song Banquet Hall, St. Jacobs, ON
The nearby wet fields are always a prime spot for Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus).
The osprey nest close to the bridge over the Conestogo River is very accessible, and surely provides one of the most reliable locations in the region to guarantee good looks at this species.
It is a happy story that this "fish hawk" has made a spectacular recovery from the grim days of organochlorine chemical pesticides, and is now quite common throughout the region.
26 May 2020
Chalmers-Forrest Road, Wellesley Township, Region of Waterloo, ON
It is a delight to meander through the countryside which forms the backdrop to the urban areas of Kitchener - Waterloo - Cambridge, and it is something Miriam and I do often. We never tire of it, whatever the season.
When Miriam accompanies me, the birding is so much easier; two pairs of eyes and two pairs of ears are obviously better than one. When we are driving along country roads and scanning for birds it is especially helpful, for when I am alone, between paying minimal attention to driving and scanning fields and hedgerows, I can only look at one side of the road, and doubtless miss a great deal.
The advantage of a combined effort was never more apparent than on this day while slowly driving along Chalmers-Forrest Road.
Horned Lark (Eremophila alpestris) is a common breeding species, but not always easy to spot - a brown back against the background of a ploughed field.
But we are not surprised to see one.
It would have been easy for Miriam to dismiss a bird she saw flying low over a field (at some distance initially I might add) as a Horned Lark, but she asked me to back up, and said, "I am not sure what I saw, but it is too streaky for a Horned Lark, and it seems to have a rusty patch"
Kudos to her ! Double kudos to her!
The bird was a Dickcissel (Spiza americana), a real rarity in this area.
In fact, we think there may well have been two birds, but we lost one completely, so we cannot be sure. A breeding pair would be wonderful!
She kept her eyes on the bird, and by giving me instructions to move the car judiciously, she was able to get several shots.
We were elated, of course, and stayed with the bird until it finally flew out of sight.
Miriam had made iced coffee for us to take along on a hot, sultry day. It tasted like fine Champagne!
It is going to be hard to top this sighting for the rest of the year.
No doubt many birders have their favourite companions for synergistic success. You don't get a prize for guessing who mine is!