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Thursday, 27 August 2020

Another Grab Bag of the Meanderings of Miriam and David

      The realities imposed by the global pandemic are a daily feature of our lives, but by careful planning, common sense and respect for others we have been able to continue on with our lives without undue hindrance.

Forwell Park/Hillside Park, Waterloo, ON

     Often, after dinner, we go for a walk through Forwell Park to Hillside Park, and are bound to encounter other walkers and cyclists, but everyone seems to be well aware of the precautionary measures to be taken, and it is a pleasant experience all round. I don't think that we have ever encountered another birder there, but many have inquired as to what we are looking at, and a few have given us tips about birds they have seen farther along the trail. 

  

     Common Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) appear to have had a successful breeding season and we frequently see large flocks with many hatch-year birds. Adults are underrated beauties in my opinion.


     A couple of Yellow-bellied Flycatchers (Empidonax flaviventris) were probably early migrants.



     This cat was handsome and very friendly but we hate to see felines wandering at large. They are fearsome predators of birds and other small wildlife, and seem to kill with abandon, their lethal pursuits bearing no relation to hunger.


     An American Robin has captured a tasty morsel or two.


     If there has been a constant component to our walks at Hillside Park this year it has been the presence of Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus). There is ample high quality nesting habitat for them and they have had a successful breeding season based on our observations.


     I always think we pay less attention to the sky than we should, other than looking for birds above us, and Miriam rectified this shortcoming with a dramatic intersection of branch and cloud.


     The faint outline of a rising moon is no less charming.


     It is a little early for even incipient signs of fall and I suspect that this tree has been subject to stresses of one kind or another. Perhaps its root system is unduly shallow and has suffered from drought. Whatever the cause, I do not think it represents a genuine herald of autumn.


     Jerusalem Artichokes (Helianthus tuberosus) were dotted here and there, enlivening a backdrop of green.


       To the best of my recollection, and that of Miriam too, this is the first occasion when we have observed  a Grey Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis) bathing in the creek.


     On the way out of the park we noticed this handsome Swamp White Oak (Quercus bicolor), a pleasant discovery indeed. Perhaps there are others, seeded from tiny acorns, likely hidden and forgotten by squirrels; we will be sure to look.



Columbia Lake,  Waterloo, ON

     The level of the water at Columbia Lake is regulated, but for reasons not apparent to us, it seems to have fluctuated unreasonably this year. It has gone from depths where Ospreys (Pandion haliaeetus) were able to plunge dive in pursuit of fish, to conditions where we could walk across the lake  with ease. Such was the case this evening.



     These conditions are favourable to shorebirds and there were groups of Semipalmated (Calidris pusilla) and Least Sandpipers (C. minutilla) feeding on the mud and in shallow water.


     Ever skittish, they rapidly took to the air if we approached too close, only to land again 
on the mud a few metres away.


     There were several Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes) present, often serenading us with their high, whistling call.


    A Solitary Sandpiper (Tringa solitaria) was mainly content to feed in a delicate manner, deliberately picking insects from the surface of the water. It appeared positively well mannered compared with the frenzy exhibited by the peeps all around it!


     Canada Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis) is at its peak in late August and presents a glorious sea of yellow.


     It is highly prized by pollinators of every description.


     There are many species of bumblebee seeking nectar, and I am not sure as to the exact species of the following individual.


     Mouse-ear Hawkweed (Hieracium pilosella) was ubiquitous.


     Clouded Sulphur (Colias philodice) is at its peak in southern Ontario from about mid June through mid September.


     Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) is among the most catholic of eaters, dining on just about anything it can swallow, and the low water level doubtless concentrated fish into shallow pools making for easy pickings.



Milverton Sewage Lagoons, Wellington County, ON

     Immediately upon arrival at the sewage lagoons we had the incredible good fortune to spot a Wilson's Phalarope (Phalaropus tricolor) among a large gathering of Lesser Yellowlegs. Actually, in all conscience we cannot lay claim to having spotted it; an old friend, Ken Dance, had arrived a little before us, and had already located the bird and pointed it out to us.


     It is a small bird - compare its size with a Lesser Yellowlegs.


     There were about a dozen or so Solitary Sandpipers present, all birds of the year making their first migration from the boreal forests to their winter quarters in South America. Their plumage is crisp and clean, not yet having endured the rigours of a year's life on the wing. The yellowish tinge to the legs is another clue that these are hatch year individuals.


     Lesser Yellowlegs was clearly the most common species and this bird was wrestling with some tasty food item hidden from view.


     Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca) was also in attendance, though in much lower numbers than Lesser Yellowlegs, as is usually the case.


     
Numerous Pectoral Sandpipers (Calidris melanotos) rounded out the contingent of shorebirds.




     It is hard to beat a Wilson's Phalarope for the "bird of the day" but a hunting Merlin (Falco columbarius) could perhaps lay claim to the honour.

     We first saw this young bird juking its way across the water in hot pursuit of a shorebird. The range of manoeuvers at mind-boggling speed was incredible, but the shorebird won the day and the falcon gave up. No doubt inexperience in the hunt played a role in the outcome; this youngster has much to learn in the honing of its survival skills.
     


     It perched on this snag, periodically leaving and making a circular flight, returning to the same branch.
There seemed to be no purpose to these forays that we could determine and they did not appear to reflect a bird in hunting mode.
     That all changed when it shot off the branch and returned mere seconds later with a bird in its talons.


   
 Success!
     It wasted no time in plucking and devouring its prey.




     It rested for a short period, perhaps to allow its food to digest, and then left the area completely.


     I would counsel those shorebirds, "Don't relax your guard. The Merlin will be back!"  
           

74 comments:

  1. You see so much on your walks. A pleasure reading of your experiences, especially with the falcon. To me, starlings are a beautiful bird and their flight patterns when coming in to roost are fantastic, BUT :) they seem to use the birdbaths also for toilets. What a mess to clean up in the aftermath!

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  2. Lovely meanderings and beautiful collection of photographs.
    Enjoy these last few days of August.

    All the best Jan

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  3. As ever, wow!, and thanks for another heron, and for the peregrine falcoln.

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  4. There are lots of shorebirds here these days. We are enjoying them. Thank you for sharing these incredible creatures. Great photos!

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  5. Hola Miriam & David, how are you, wonderful beings of Earth! joy and more joy you transmit to me with these sightings and romantic walks; the birds, the flowers, the moon, the yellow tree, the nectar that tastes like sugar... the mischievous kitten... Miriam and you Professor... everything is covered by a great halo of love! how beautiful is life together and share those special moments, full of fulfillment.
    The sound that the forest transmits is the most beneficial emotional state for me. That is, gives me peace, completeness. These posts make me feel harmony in the air... shine in the sky... those beautiful creatures, between lakes and swamps, will guide me to my house of roses.
    Good evening dear friends, sending hugs and flowers from Buenos Aires 💐🌺🌷

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  6. The last series of photos aptly show that in nature everything is someone else’s meal.

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    1. David, in reply to your comment on my current blog post, nearly 3 dozen artists have recorded Porter's song, which at one time had derogatory lyrics in the opening refrain.

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    2. Hi Beatrice: Thanks fir that! Now that is service above and beyond!

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  7. What a wonderful variety of birds - I wonder how the Grey Catbird got its name.

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    1. At the end of its song, Susan, it sounds like a cat mewing.

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  8. The falcon has a proud appearance, but the black cat will not reach it.🙂

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  9. Hi David, you saw a wonderful selection of birds at the lake, well done to Miriam for catching the wonderful photos. The trees here are turning to Autumn colours, too. Great shots of the falcon hunting and devouring her prey. Starlings are always beautiful, I love to see the colours in their feathers. Have a wonderful day, take care, and keep walking and recording the flora and fauna you see. Hugs, Valerie

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  10. It's nice to know that you can continue with your lives despite the Covid-19, David. Beautiful Peregrin Falcon! I am very fascinated of the predators. I love as you know cats too, but I understand what you feel about them. The photo of the cat was wonderful. Solidago canadensis have been forbidden to sell here. It spreads at the expence of other Norwegian plants. This applies to many other plants as well, such as lupins.
    Have a great weekend ahead!

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  11. Grab bag? Lucky dip more like. And thank you for sharing the generous rewards. I appreciated your skyscapes too.

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  12. J'aime bien les étourneaux, ils ont un beau plumage.
    De belles observations, nombreuses.
    Le faucon est très joli, c'est chouette de l'avoir vu chasser.
    Bonne journée

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  13. Thank you so much for this trip you took us to David! I really enjoyed all the different birds especially one of may favorites the Sandpiper which my friend Phil introduced me to through his blog. Those goldenrods look so beautiful! I remember having that color on my Crayola Caryon box and I really like i. It's yellow and its strong but its not too bright, just perfect!

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  14. The birds are always good to see and agree that cat shouldn't be out and about.
    It's good you can go if you wish for a walk after dinner in the evening..


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  15. Wonderful photoes David!Now I see now where our sterlings has gone :)I like very much The Falcon and the Grey Heron and all the little birds too.Even the kitty cat.They all have thier place in nature

    It is good to see you out on hikes..Must had been a beautiful day!

    Wish you a great weekend!

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  16. It’s true, starlings are beautiful too in their own way. I spotted a starling once hanging upside down from a branch to reach some cherries, they are true acrobats.

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  17. Hi David.

    How nice that you can still go outside and enjoy so much.
    Here I have to be careful, only in the early morning and late at night I occasionally go out.
    You have seen many beautiful things again.
    You show beautiful birds.

    Greetings from Patricia.

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  18. I like cats, and we have one, but IMO they should be indoor pets only.

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  19. The plump, black cat steals the bird show with its presence.
    The yellow color of flowers, weeds, and leaves always makes us happy and optimistic.

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  20. Que preciosidad de bello reportaje querido amigo. Nos muestras la belleza de naturaleza en todo su apogeo. Magnifico paseo con las debidas precauciones. Esto de la pandemia amigo David se complica cada día más. Veremos qué pasa con la vuelta a los colegios, ¡¡miedo me da!!
    Que tengáis un fabuloso fin de semana dentro de lo cabe y cuidaros mucho.
    Un fuerte abrazo mi queridos amigos y compadres.

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  21. Beautiful pictures you took during all your walks David.
    Glad you can still go out.
    Here too we have to adhere to the rules of the corona virus, 1.5 meters away.
    I now take more photos in the garden, but I also go out.
    Greetings Tinie

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  22. It was a wonderful group of photos!

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  23. Enjoyable to follow your updates David. I’m curious how easily accessible the Milverton lagoons are? Usually Mitchell is my go to destination for lagoon birds but I’ve been hearing a lot about Milverton lately.

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    1. Nice to hear from you Jonathan. Milverton is very accessible and a pleasure to walk around. It is a great alternative to Mitchell, which is still an enjoyable and productive spot.

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  24. You must have been studying birds for a long time to know and recognize so many species.

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  25. Your shot of the heron is my favourite.

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  26. What a great series of bird photos, David. I like cats too but agree they should be indoors. All of our cats were indoor cats. Have a wonderful weekend!

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  27. Nice photo of the moon. I hope the Merlin gets his hunting skills perfected before the winter.

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  28. It is amazing what you spot on your walks. Terrific powers of observation. I thoroughly enjoy your pictures and particularly enjoyed those of the young falcon. I didn't know Jerusalem artichokes grew wild in this area. Are they the edible variety?

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  29. The wonderful array of birds that you have close to your home never ceases to amaze me, David. I realise that this observation is, in part, coloured by my own unfamiliarity with most of the species there but, none the less, it does seem to be outstanding. From the numbers of waders, herons, etc. you show us, I suspect that there's significantly more water close to you than there is here. I loved the photos of the young Merlin!

    Best wishes to you and Miriam - - - Richard

    It's cold and very wet here at the moment, but Lindsay and I have started to spread our wings a little - we've each been to a supermarket this week for the first time since mid-March!

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  30. It's true, Richard, we have quite large bodies of water at Laurel Creek and Columbia Lake, both mere minutes from our house.

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  31. Gorgeous photos. The ones of the kestrel are stunning. thanks for visiting my blog & commenting. Teresa

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  32. Hi David what a wonderful post ,you see the most amazing things in nature and you have taught me to open my eyes more when i go walking and enjoy the beautiful sounds and sights that nature brings,so thankyou,stay safe and take care.

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  33. David - what you and Miriam see on your "meanderings" would fill a lifetime for other people! Interesting that the water level changes so dramatically. I suppose it helps diversity in a way. I struggle with the starling; I will take the merlin any day. And I was curious about the sewage lagoon - cleaned water, I presume? Thanks for your visit to my blog today!

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    1. There are five ponds at this location, Angie. I am not sure how it all works, but the water quality varies from pond to pond as the treatment process continues. The less "pure" the water the more food there seems to be for the birds and the first pond we reach is always more populated than others. Active treatment is ongoing and there are pipes and motors and so on, with water bubbling and spraying. The farthest pond had not a single bird on it, but I suspect that within a month or so as ducks begin to arrive from the north they will begin to occupy it. Right now the shorebird concentrations are quite spectacular. If I lived closer I would visit daily, for some birds move on and others arrive on a constant basis.

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  34. I always enjoy your fabulous bird photos David! A wonderful colorful bird on the banner. My cat goes only on leash, but never the less finds catch. Yesterday evening in the dark she found a small frog and I did not notice anything. She dropped the frog on the living room floor and I caught it with a drinking glass and took the frog out in the garden. It was well and alive. I don't like cats free in the nature either. No autumn coloring yet in southern Finland either. Happy weekend.

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  35. Excellent photos. I'm glad you had such productive walks.

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  36. Picking the Goldenrod as my favorite but they are all gorgeous.
    Amalia
    xo

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  37. Hello. So many great and interesting places for birding... And great number of birds!
    Wonderful photos. Thank you.
    Take care.

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  38. Hello David! I'm back ... did you miss me! LOL
    I'm not back on the blog yet ... I hope Monday will be my first blog post! How was your summer, how is Miriam?
    The blog header is so beautiful!
    Have a nice weekend! See you Monday!

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    1. I did miss you - of course I did. Summer was good and Miriam is fine, thank you. Look forward to seeing your post on Monday.

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  39. Fantastic photos of the Merlin; we occasionally see them flash by but seldom get a chance to see one perched like that.

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  40. Such a gorgeous collection of photos!

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  41. Hello David,
    Wonderful report of your outings. The birds and photos are wonderful as always. Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Enjoy your day, have a happy weekend! PS, thanks so much for leaving me a comment.

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  42. Hi David - you certainly do live in area rich in brooks, streams, rivers and lakes - presumably the water table changes affect some of the lakes. Wonderful bird shots - and yes I wish I learnt more as I 'gander' through your photos - I look I see - I recognise a few and then the mind has gone ... but birds, insects et al are all just amazing 'critters' ... beautiful markings and colourings - and then the speed adaption - extraordinary. Thank you - loved your evening wanders ... take care - Hilary

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  43. ...thanks a bunch for taking me along on your meanderings!

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  44. What a beautiful area to walk! I enjoy watching the flight patterns of the starlings but prefer to admire them from afar and not so much when they hang around our yard "decorating" our cars a bit too excessively. The black cat looks well-fed, hopefully not from a diet of birds. Fantastic capture of the Merlin and I enjoyed the story of his capturing his dinner as well.

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  45. The pic of the Blue Heron is so perfectly perfect it took my breath away.
    I really enjoyed this whole post. Thank you.

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  46. Its wonderful that you are now able to continue interacting with nature. It definitely lifts one's spirits. My knowledge of your birds and their habits is also benefitting me. Your captures of the Merlin and his feeding are pretty special. I was excited to see my first Wonga Pidgeon this week. Sadly I didn't have my camera with me.

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  47. Que maravilla poder ver tantas aves, yo sería feliz de pasear por ahí. Abrazos querido amigo para Miriam y para ti.

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  48. seems the merlins have all but disappeared in our area...it's been years since I've seen one. you two saw a great variety while out walking (love the moon framed by trees!)

    thank you for sharing & linking in this weeK at IRBB

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  49. Hi David,
    As long as you take care covid-19 doesn't influence your life too much. Of course there are a few exceptions but in general it ain't too hard. Going for a walk in nature is a lot more attractive than paying a visit to a town, a mall for instance. In the free nature you can act like you did before . You show us here enough examples to convince us that nature has a lot to offer as long as you keep your eyes open. The merlin is a great predator and is very well photographed.
    Greetings, Kees

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  50. Gorgeous series David. My favorite are Yellow-bellied Flycatchers and Merlin, beautiful.

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  51. This walk in the vicinity is magnificent, we will have to adapt and get used to these times while the covid19 lasts.
    I am glad that you have been able to see such beautiful birds and that you also detail the species of plants that you find.
    Many kisses.

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  52. You have some cracking photos in this post, it's funny we have a little tree near us that turns autumn like early every year, it's lovely shades of red/yellow at the moment. It's good to see the differences in the waders in your photos.

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  53. You've had some productive journeys with creatures I've never before seen. And beautifully photographed, each and every one. It's a pleasure to walk along beside you two!

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  54. I am happy you are still able to do your hikes. Sharing those beauties with the rest of us. Love the large eyes of the Yellow-bellied Flycatchers. You could drown in those :)

    And the waders. They rarely come my way as I live inland. And it is too far to drive to the areas where they usually pass. I miss those days when I was able to go to see them.
    Thanks for sharing.

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  55. Your local parks and lakes appear to be wonderful locations for walking and enjoying nature.

    We look forward to seeing some of your resident birds soon as migration gets into full swing. Indeed, we have already seen a few American Redstarts, Yellow Warblers and shorebirds. Early birds seeking worms.

    The Merlin is a bird we see infrequently during migration and those photographs are quite special!

    We hope your new week is filled with nature and peace!

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  56. Hi Both
    Another of your wonderful outings with another varied series of super images, well done Miriam. It appears people in Canada are being far more sensible in dealing with Covid thanthe idiots in the UK, and while it lasts you make the best of it and give us more of your walks, Our local sewage plant gives some real rarities fo my local birding pal.
    You stay safe and well
    John

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  57. hello David
    nice report of Merlin is beautifully taken, beautiful birds, but dangerous for others, the cat is such a killer too, I myself have had bad experiences with both. I have an aviary where I breed pheasants and partridges and then release them, now I had to secure the whole aviary with electricity because the infrared camera always shows cats that want to see animals.
    Greetings Frank

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  58. Lovely photos, David. Your falcon story reminded me of the day I was out in my garden and heard a whoosh as a bird apparently with two heads shot past me at great speed. It took me a moment to realise it was a falcon that had snatched a dove in mid air right next to me.

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  59. Hello David and Miriam,
    Sorry for answering this late but I am more out and about than at home. As you know this is the time when birds are on the move. Direction South. So much to see. As you show here you do have your birds as well. To bad and just as we see here is the low water level in ponds, lakes and streams. Your photos of the birds are again most wonderful. Further I have to tell you that the little crake Porzana parva two days later died. We still do not know what was the cause.
    Well take care,
    Regards,
    Roos

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  60. Querido amigo es una caminata maravillosa, las espectaculares fotos nos muestran una gran y variada cantidad de hermosas aves. La vegetación también es muy interesante. Muchas gracias. Abrazos para los dos.

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  61. Hola David, tanto tiempo.

    Maravillosa entrada combinando mis favoritas: las aves rapaces y las limícolas, algunas como el Phalaropus tricolor que jamás he visto. ;)

    Un abrazo y me alegro de que tú y tu familia estéis bien.

    Rafa.

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  62. I knew I'd read something interesting about why leaves turn red unexpectedly, and I finally found this article again. There's one tree I pass on my way to east Texas that turns partly red every year. It's not in a yard, but along a utility easement. There's no way to know what's affecting it, but once I saw it, I got curious. It certainly looks like this tree.

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    1. Thank you, Linda. I feel as though I have my own personal research assistant!

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  63. Ile postów napisałeś! ja mam zaległości w ich czytaniu. Musisz tłumaczyć z Polskiego! Niech wszyscy widzą, że ktoś z tak daleka Cię odwiedza!
    relacja niesamowita! Moje ulubione brodzące i ... drapieżnik! Ale też cudowne słoneczne kwiaty! Mniszek zakwitł!!!

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  64. Great Post!
    Thanks for sharing!
    Stay save and well,
    Regards Maria

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