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Thursday, 28 May 2020

Local Rambles and a Rarity in Waterloo Region

        Miriam and I get out most days, sometimes me alone, but often together. The Coronavirus has not appreciably affected our ability to enjoy nature, although it has imposed some restrictions on where we travel. 
     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!

81 comments:

  1. Wwat a grand week you had David. So many birds! I enjoyed all your photos.

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  2. Wow what great photos of the Dickcissel a bird I have never even heard of before , it is so pretty, well done Miriam. I have really enjoyed this post, it is nice to see your countryside and wild flowers as well, many which are the same as ours but some different. Take care and enjoy the rest of the week. Diane

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  3. The eggs in the nest have a story that is expected to be continued.

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  4. Great photos David and nice birds, greetings from Spain

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  5. Two is better than one, and not only in birding adventures. Miriam is the ultimate companion, and your most favorite one!
    My favorite birds on this journey of yours: the male red-winged blackbird, the yellow warblers,the eastern blue birds.

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  6. How wonderful to spot such a rarity for the area. I wished you were with me this morning, there was a hawk flying around our building, I think I red tail but I am not certain. Then when I was waiting in the lobby of Guelph General I saw a couple of small birds hopping around outside the windows, they seemed quite unafraid of the humans entering and egressing. Looked a bit like sparrows. Oh, and whilst I was waiting outside our building for the cab, I was watching some robins and heard the most gorgeous birdsong coming from the trees. But, I didn't know what it was. Frustrating.

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    1. Based on the time of year, and the fact that you talk of the song as gorgeous, I would suspect that you heard a Baltimore Oriole.

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    2. I know roughly where the song was coming from, would the Baltimore Oriole be likely to be nesting there or just visiting. If it is likely to be staying there, might take a pair of goggles out and see if I can see it. They'll probably think I'm quite daft sitting out there on my walker with a pair of binoculars.

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    3. Baltimore Orioles build a long, pendent nest suspended from the end of a deciduous branch, often quite easy to see. The nest is constructed by the female alone, taking a week or so to complete, so it should be possible to see her bringing in material. Keep an eye open for that. In the meantime be sure to wear your Tilley hat when you go out with binoculars. You might make it to the evening news!

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  7. Meant to say, I am familiar with the name Dickcissel but don't know where from. Loved the flowers and I 100% agree with you about dandelions.

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    1. Hi again Jo:
      You may well have heard the name Dickcissel when you lived in the US. It is quite common in places but rarely makes it this far north.

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  8. We too are finding new places to explore here on our doorstep, and one of my sons has told me that he has discovered lots of new footpaths and byways where he lives too.
    I envy the Trilliums, sadly I cannot grow them here as our soil is alkaline, but I do have pink forget-me-nots (Myosotis alpestris).
    Congratulations to Miriam for spotting such a rare bird, it must have been an exciting sighting for you both.

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  9. So many beautiful birds I’ve never seen. Thank you for sharing. There is so much to enjoy in nature this time of year. These are glorious days to enjoy the outdoors, with social distancing of course.

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  10. Beautiful photos, love those birds and flowers.
    Have a wonderful evening, David.

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  11. Encore une belle série d'oiseaux et de fleurs!Je ne connaissais pas le myosotis blanc.
    Les nids sont jolis avec des plumes et leurs petits œufs.
    J'ai vu que les queues rousses nichaient dans un de mes nichoirs!
    Bonne soirée

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  12. Such an amazing photographic journey you brought us on today, I loved every photo of it!

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  13. Beautiful wildflowers David! I like Myosotis very much even they spread themselves more than I like. They are very pretty. They bloom here right now too. We must have a very similar climate.
    Thank you so much for the photos of Trillium grandiflorum. They are so pretty. I love them very much.

    About Grey Catbirds, do they look like a grey cat? :)

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  14. Absolute magic.
    Beauty, the perfect companion, AND champagne flavoured coffee. Which made me think of Dorothy Parker.
    'Champagne to your real friends, and real pain to your sham friends.'

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  15. Hari OM
    You never fail us with locating the hard to spot, but the Dickcissel was a really 'cherry'! And I couldn't agree more about dandelions. I love them, not just fresh salad, but the dried root as a 'tea'. YAM xx

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    1. Dandelion tea is new to me, YAM. I would like to try it!

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  16. Thank you for the journey you provide for all bloggers. It feels like we are driving along and catching your delightful treasures along with you.

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  17. Another beautiful series of birds and flowers! I didn't know the white forget-me-not.
    The nests are beautiful with feathers and their eggs.
    I don't know why the dandelion is a weed ... not only in food, but also as an antiseptic bandage the dandelion leaves are used! The Blue Violets are my favorite flowers .. !
    Thanks for sharing!

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  18. He disfrutado de lo lindo con tan bello reportaje amigo David. Fantásticas y exuberantes floraciones y una muy buena colección de lindas aves. Tienes la mejor ayudante como ojeadora y disparando de cámara. Muchas felicidades a Miriam.
    El Diente de león es una planta que como bien dices amigo dan unas bellas flores y sus hojas pueden ser consumidas en ensalada por las múltiples cualidades que presentan como antiinflamatorias, antibióticas, anticancerígenas… además, de las grandes propiedades en vitaminas que poseen, en definitiva, es una de las plantas más beneficiosa para nuestro organismo.
    Un fuerte abrazo queridos amigos.

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  19. A trip around your neighbourhood is such a joy when viewing all this. The forget-me-nots are wonderful!

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  20. Hi David! Could the name of your favourite companion possibly be Miriam? How wonderful to have a companion who looks after you with coffee, bakes muffins for elevenses, and keeps an eye out for the birds! You saw a lot of them these past days, I would love to see an Oriole here. There are some living near the Rhine in an area in the south of Düsseldorf, but I never got to see one, shame. But you have treated us to lots of wonderful photos. I have never heard of a dickcissel, but it's beautiful. Glad you had such a successful week. I visited the geese again this afternoon, they are huge! Goodnight and hugs to you and Miriam, Valerie

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  21. I transplanted a dandelion into my garden once, and then (several times) had to prevent well-meaning visitors from pulling it out as a weed!
    Love all the bird photos. It is like I am actually there with you both, looking at them. The bonus is that so many are birds I have not seen before, and many I've never even heard of :)
    And, yes, definitely keep Miriam on!!!

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  22. You have so many wonderful birds over there. Thank you so much for sharing them.

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  23. Hello David, after your anouncement of a very special find I was ofcourse curious what you have in store for us. After reading all your encounters of flowers, birds and animals I came to the end and indeed what a wonderful bird. I read it normaly breeds in the south of the USA. So is this couple pionering in Canada because of the climat change? It is a beauty that is for sure and hope you will see more of them. For me also very special was to see the photo of the Osprey as you are aware that that is on of my favorite birds. The photo Miriam took is outstanding and may I be a bit jalouse? Here the season of asparagus is at its end but the Chardonay is always avalable. So I rais the glass on Miriams find and photos and your wonderful explanation of it all.
    Warm regards, and stay healthy,
    Roos

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    1. I was not reading well, it is you this time who took the photo of the Osprey, but I remain a bit jalous. ;)

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  24. I enjoyed all the birds you saw! And the plants too....Kudos for sure on the great find of the Dickcissel, had some in my view finder last week the colors of this bird is amazing. I'm smitten by the little raccoon ears showing in the tree cavity. Have a good upcoming weekend.

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  25. Glad I have lots of memories of driving rural roads and walking trails like you do.

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  26. My grown daughter, almost 55, called me, almost screeching, about a "glorious bird" in her back yard. "Flashing brilliant orange! What is it, Mom? What is it?" When she calmed a bit, I told her an Oriole, and hasten out with a sliced orange. Her Oriole has her number, now. He gets an orange a day, I think.

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    1. What a good news story! i am very happy that your daughter has discovered an oriole; perhaps this will stimulate more of an interest in nature writ large.

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  27. Hello, good evening Miriam and David, how are you, friends!
    I really enjoy these wonderful and relaxing walks that you do. These little birds are gifts of nature and they make my eyes so happy. Your shots are always dreamy, uplifting and so inspiring! Birds play with fairies and angels, right? that is why they have such unique songs, capacity for interaction, attributes of unique beauty that make them living treasures.
    The flowers provide that touch that can never be missing in the forest, a delight, they transport me to another environment 🐥🐦🌹🌸

    I really appreciate your comments, Mr. David (and, I confess, I also laughed a lot with the last one from Carrington. You are very right) XD

    Greetings from Buenos Aires,
    Carolina

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  28. Great name! My daughter's name is Caroline.

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  29. Lush green paddock there and what looks to be a nicely kept dutch barn.
    The birds are wonderful and pleasing to see the eggs.
    Flower in bloom are pretty also.
    Nice of you to show us what you see, it's always pleasing to my eyes.

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  30. Hi David - wow - you've given us lots here ... what an amazing range of flowers ... forget-me-knots and violets ... while the dandelion has lots of edible properties, including a tonic drink ... the different parks and open spaces ... glorious birds - both the Dickiossel, the Bluebird, the horned lark - Miriam is the best bird spotter and photographer - can't fault that applause for her. Take care and all the best - Hilary

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  31. You are not only a birder but quite a naturalist in general.

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  32. Lovely travels! I've a blue bird nesting box, but it might be in the wrong place!

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  33. Thanks for taking us on another wonderful journey David! And Miriam, too many streaks and a rusty patch?? Your eye for detail is amazing!! I'm so excited you were rewarded with that beautful Dickcissel.

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    1. Thanks from both of us, Carol. It was an exciting find to be sure.

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  34. Fabulous post, fabulous photographs and to see the Dickcissel … wow amazing.

    Have a lovely weekend.

    All the best Jan

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  35. Me alegra que Miriam sea tu compañera ideal. Un abrazo y a seguir sacando fotos tan lindas.

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  36. Hello David, what a great post. I enjoyed seeing all the birds and awesome photos. The flowers are lovely. I think the Dickcissel is a favorite, but I love them all. Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Enjoy your day, wishing you a happy weekend! PS, thanks for visiting and commenting on my blog.

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  37. David, it shines through in all your posts, that you and Miriam are a perfect duo.
    It has been a magical visit. I always love your bird sightings but the forget-me-nots and violets, took me back to my childhood. One doesn't see them in gardens anymore and they certainly don't grow wild here.

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  38. It's interesting how some birds (creatures in general) excite some people more than others. The first time I visited the Radipole Nature Reserve in Dorset (South Coast of England) a couple of people accosted me with the most enormous joy and enthusiasm because they had seen a Water Rail (Rallus aquaticus) and were very keen to give me directions to the spot so I could see it too.

    I too like holes in trees. I used to take photos on my phone and one phone had a torch that pointed in the same direction as the camera lens. So I'd turn the torch on, stick the phone inside a hole in a tree and take a photo. That way I could find out what was inside - in a place no human could actually go. Can't do that with my 'proper' camera!

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  39. David, a wonderful post with such extraordinary sights both birds and blooms. I've never heard of the dickcissel bird! So much to learn always. My sightings otherwise are similar in my corner of Ontario. The common dandelion has much written about its amazing attributes. I too feel badly it has become such a pariah in suburbia. Happy ramblings to the two of you!

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  40. I once found a bird singing its heart out atop a tree at one of our preserves, and I hadn't a clue what it was. Eventually, I figured it out: Dickcissel! I've never seen forget-me-nots blooming, but the flower was quite a part of my childhood. They were reproduced in straw for hats and bags, and in porcelain for every sort of decorative item. I still have my little bank made in the form of a pink elephant with yellow and blue forget-me-nots decorating its head and ears!

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  41. Hello. Interesting post and the photos are so wonderful. Thanks for sharing.
    Take care!

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  42. Hi David and Miriam, a nice post of your walk. So much beautiful birds with beautiful colors. I love the osprey too, I saw him once far away. How nice you have raccoons in the wild. We have them only in the zoo. Have a nice weekend. Greetings Caroline

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  43. I managed to contain my excitement and curiosity until I reached the tail-end of this post, David but, although enjoyable, it was not easy! I wouldn't have known that Dickcissel was a rarity there, but even without that knowledge, I'd have been immensely impressed by such a spectacular-looking bird. Isn't it great when you see a bird, and just know it's likely to be your 'bird of the year'.

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  44. The Dicksissel! WOW! We have that bird on our calendar and it's very eye catching! How amazing to see one. And we see a lot more when we hike together too. I was trying to figure out what bird was in the tree! heehee! A critter! Enjoy your weekend! You've sure seen a lot this week!

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  45. Gorgeous photos. You have some beautiful birds in your country. I have waged war on the humble dandelion for years, but have always thought that they are such a cheery yellow, so I might allow a few to grow in the garden, but not in the lawn!

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    1. Just out of pure curiosity, I wonder why you are so opposed to them in a lawn. An expanse of grass has never seemed especially appealing to me, and can rightly be called a green desert. And often it requires significant applications of chemicals to keep the lawn green, to say nothing of water consumption. My vote goes for the dandelions!

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  46. Hi David,
    You do'nt have to go far from home to have such great encounters! Lovely plants en awesome birds!
    Funny to see the raccoon in the tree and not the Owl.
    Great shots of the birds of Prey! Especially the Osprey!
    Happy weekend,
    Regfards Maria

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  47. So many colourful birds there, it's hard to chose a favourite.

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  48. A great post. I think people would like dandelions better if they did not grow so fast. My husband can mow the grass on Saturday and on Monday the dandelion flower stalks are six inches above the grass!

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  49. Hi David,
    You clearly can't complain about the abundance of birds in your environment, Maybe not everytime, but the different types are also important. So many beautiful coloured birds, and besides that also enough flowers. It isn't too hard to deal with the coronacrisis as long as you keep on using your brains, caring about others and yourself.
    Greetings, Kees

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  50. hello David
    the sleeping raccoon is great, Miriam had a good eye, if you are constantly out in nature you develop a good eye for details, dandelions are delicious with salads, here in Germany the meadows are only full of dandelions, this is the one thanks to the manure
    The farmers drive 20 cubic meters of manure on one hectare of land onto the meadows and fields, nothing else grows there
    Regards Frank

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  51. The colorful blooms at the post start really caught my attention, David, especially the forget me nots which I had only seen in blue, but then such a wonderful series of bird portraits. The yellow warbler was beautiful, but then so were all the photos. Thanks for the detailed explanations on locales as well. It must be wuite a project to catalog all the images, but you seem both to have it well in hand. Congrats to Miriam on that rare sighting as well.

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  52. Preciosos esos paseos cerca de la casa, en ellos también podéis encontrar numerosas aves y también me ha gustado ver la flora que os envuelve. Los nomeolvides son preciosos!
    Un abrazo grande.

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  53. Hi David.

    Beautiful flowers and birds.

    Greetings from Patricia.

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  54. What an incredible treasure of pure beauty...wonderful birds, beautiful scenery & a blessing of wildflowers. Thanks so much for taking time out of your busy day to link in with us birders! Those dickcissels are spare here, also. And I have yet to find any bluebirds.

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  55. Nature always offers us so much color and beauty.
    All the photos are wonderful, I especially loved the photos of the miosotis, they are such delicate flowers and the Baltimore Orioles photo, what beautiful colors it has.
    Take care and have a nice week

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  56. Hi David, you both had a great week out there with a lot of wonderful sightings. How great that Miriam found the Dickcissels, a handsome bird! It's always great when you find a rarity yourself and even can make photographs! I also like the America yellow warbler, he's wonderful.
    Lovely to see al the flowers too.
    Take good care and keep enjoying everything aroud you.

    Big hugs for you both,
    Marianne

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  57. Hola David, espectaculares fotos y maravilloso lo que en ellas se ve. Aquí estos días también florecen los no me olvides y le dan al bosque color. Me alegra que ver que estáis bien. En mi tierra de momento no hay ningún caso y estamos relativamente tranquilos. Un abrazo para los dos.

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  58. Beautiful photos, David.
    Lovely wildflowers too,

    Ida

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  59. Yes beautiful photoes from the bird watching hike!Many of the birds I have never seen before and it is so Nice:)))Love the" Forget me not" Flowers..I have been looking for those here at my Place but they still have not come up from the ground.The Dandelions are very pretty!Ilove them!It is the poor Peoples flower we say here-They grow everywhere and they are good to be in salats too

    That Racoon!!heh heh what a funny little fellow!

    Ok thanks David for Nice walk With you this sunday!

    Greetings Anita

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  60. Hi David,
    these days it's an extra blessing to have so much places to wander around nearby.
    Again, you saw a lot of beautiful birds. I especially like the colored ones, like the yellow warblers, the eastern bluebirds and offcourse, the wonderful dickcissel. Never heard of it before, but it's a beauty.

    Best regards, Corrie

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  61. your post today made me wish I could go an another birding trip. I miss going elsewhere seeing new birds and nature. In Sweden I would say it is a disaster. Going out there are not even insects. And not many birds around either. :( I wish it would be better soon.

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  62. Hello David,
    it is good to read that the coronavirus did not affect your nature visits.
    In this post I see the most beautiful birds and flowers but also a raccoon in the tree !!!! What a beautiful discovery and so cool to be able to photograph it :-))))
    Birds of prey, beautiful little colored birds, flowers, water, views and bird's nest. They are the true pearls of nature :-)
    Sweet greetings and a hug from the Netherlands xx

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  63. This post is truly a banquet for the eyes!

    The incredible diversity of flora bursting with color and fabulous display of bird life - it's enough to make one jealous. Also, it makes this person very thankful you have shared it all with us.

    A Dickcissel!! How fantastic! We only saw our first ones last year while visiting Texas.

    We seem to both be very fortunate, David, in having wonderful companions who share a love of nature. We're glad to hear you have safe places for outings.

    All the best.

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  64. Glorious blooms and birds, David. I love the feathers in the swallows nest. Dandelions -- the first bloom that a child gives its mother. They should be treasured (though they do ugly up when the flower is gone!)

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  65. David!
    I admire your wonderful photos. Beauty reigns over them!
    I was enchanted by huge amounts - Trillium grandiflorum. I see them for the first time in a natural environment.
    Hugs and greetings:)

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