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Saturday, 26 September 2020

Two Nuthatches Visit our Feeders

      It is not unusual for us to have a nuthatch visit our bird feeders, but in most years we have either Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis) or, (more frequently), White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) and neither Miriam nor I can recall having both species visit at the same time. 
     This year has been the exception to the rule and both have been regular visitors, once even appearing on different sides of the same feeder. It has given us a lot of pleasure to welcome these birds.

Red-breasted Nuthatch

     This is the smaller of the two species, with an overall length of about 120mm (4.75 in.).


     In common with White-breasted Nuthatch it is all business when it visits the feeders. It quickly snatches a seed and flies off to cache it under the bark of a tree, or in a crevice, sometimes even in a fissure in the mortar of a wall. Sunflower seeds seem to be its preferred choice of food.


     Once we spot a bird, it goes to and from the feeder several times before disappearing for a few hours, only to return again.


     It has been great fun to watch the antics of this charismatic little bird.

White-breasted Nuthatch

     Both longer and bulkier than Red-breasted Nuthatch, White-breasted Nuthatch averages 155mm (6 in.) and has a noticeably longer, slightly upturned bill.


     It is a very handsome bird, with chestnut flanks and a dark eye set in a white cheek.


     It often announces its presence with its relatively high-pitched nasal nit, nit sound, an easy song to learn, and one of the first to be remembered and recognized by those unfamiliar with bird vocalization.
     It will take a variety of seeds, but shows great fondness for peanuts, which it extracts from the feeder with ease.


     
Feeding from the hand

     Both species are quite confiding and with a little patience can be coaxed into feeding from the hand.




     These birds are resident in southern Ontario and we will look forward to enjoying their presence throughout the winter. I have no doubt they will sparkle like jewels set against the winter snow - that pleasure is still to come!



Thursday, 24 September 2020

Book Review - Birds of Malaysia & Singapore - Princeton University Press

 


     In 2013 I had the great pleasure of birding for four days in Singapore and Peninsular Malaysia with Lim Kim Seng, and I can say without hesitation that as a guide he was without equal, in a lifetime of birding all over the world. I did not have the pleasure of meeting his brother Lim Kim Chuah, one of the co-authors of this work, but by all accounts he too is force to be reckoned with.
     My signed copy of Lim Kim Seng's The Avifauna of Singapore with its lovely message is one of my treasured possessions, so it was with an extra sense of pleasurable anticipation that I looked forward to reviewing Birds of Malaysia & Singapore for Princeton University Press.
     It is entirely appropriate that the birds of these two countries should be grouped together since there are many shared species, and birders visiting one country as a principal destination, often combine it with a foray into the other.
     The front cover depicts the enigmatic and highly sought after Rail-Babbler, instantly setting the tone for what it is to follow, a deep and satisfying excursion into the avian wonders of this enchanted part of the world.
     Immediately upon opening the book the visual delights commence, as one is greeted by coloured images of birds grouped by habitat. This quick reference is very effective, and birds are assembled by categories, such as Birds of the Seashore, Garden Birds, Paddyfield Birds and so on. What may be obvious to the local birder may not always be so apparent to a visitor from another continent, and a habitat guide such as this with its attendant species is very helpful. Even within the city centre, whose pulse does not race a little at the prospect of Coppersmith Barbets, Blue-tailed Bee-eaters and Brahminy Kites?
     The Introduction provides an examination of the habitats to be encountered, with excellent illustrations and a succinct summary of each type. There are notes on taxonomy and nomenclature, bird migration, breeding seasonality and bird conservation. The standard diagrammatic representation of bird topography is well done, with a glossary to accompany it.
     One is then launched into the species accounts in the familiar, conventional format of modern field guides - illustrations on the right hand page with ID notes and other pertinent information on the left. The pictures are first rate, designed to facilitate identification of the bird, without the encumbrance of landscape and vegetation. Dana Gardener is a highly respected and well known illustrator of many field guides, who had a long association with the dean of Costa Rican avifauna, the legendary Alexander Skutch. His skill as a bird illustrator is on display in this guide; it will not disappoint.
     I have been poring over this book for hours since it arrived a couple of days ago, and my appreciation for its scholarship, design, clarity and usefulness augments each time I open it. 
     It is clear to me that it benefits from having been put together by three ornithologists resident in the area, who have a lifelong experience of their subjects. 
     I have field guides for every corner of the world, many battered and bearing the marks of extensive use. None are better than this one!

Birds of Malaysia & Singapore
Lim Kim Seng, Yong Ding Li & Lim Kim Chuah
Illustrated by Dana Gardner
Paperback - US$35.00 - £30.00 - ISBN: 9780691209906 - 400 pages - 167 colour plates - 6 in. x 8.25 in.
Publication date: 20 October 2020    
   
      

Sunday, 20 September 2020

Fall, Moult, Lily and Warblers

 Hillside Park, Waterloo, ON

     As we move closer to the end of September, mornings are decidedly cool, the days are crisp, and the colours of autumn are manifest.



     Each day brings another reminder of fall, and the nights draw in closer. It is time to think of soups and stews, to dig out scarves and sweaters.
     Young American Robins (Turdus migratorius) are rapidly developing the skills they will need to survive, migrate, and return to breed next spring.


    Miriam and I watched this Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) for several minutes at close range. It seemed totally unperturbed by our presence as it went about its business.


     It was perhaps the most inefficient heron we have ever seen for we did not observe a single strike! At times it approached the creek bank and seemed to be seeking prey there, but as far as we could tell it went on its way hungry.




Riverside Park, Cambridge, ON


     For any number of reasons I did not get around to blogging about our Friday walk with Heather and Lily last week, so today you will be treated to two such outings!
     Before going any further, take a look at our precious little girl.


     It is remarkable to see the changes each week and Lily is now clearly following objects, reacting to sounds and quite possibly is able to distinguish colours. 
     Riverside Park attracts a number of people who bring bird seed in their pockets to deposit along the rail of the boardwalk, and the birds have learned where to come for a predictable source of food. Among them are Northern Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis), vivid red, and it is postulated that red may be the first colour that babies can clearly recognize. I am convinced that Lily reacted to a cardinal with a little throaty chuckle.


     As you may note, many of the birds are now in various stages of moult, and this male looked a little scruffy.
     The female didn't look appreciably better either.


     But for Lily, there were flashes of colour, the noise of birds quarreling, the whirring of the wings of a Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura) and it appeared to me that she was absorbing it all. 


     I wonder if she noticed a Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) or two?


     In the centre of the picture below you will see a Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula) undergoing moult before migration.


     This Red-winged Blackbird is waiting for its tail feathers to grow back in.


     Lily is obviously happy to see Heather and Grandpa David!


     Her favourite activity, I think, is blowing bubbles!


     We were relieved to see this Eastern Yellowjacket (Vespula maculifrons) go about its business and not bother us.


     It does not even bear thinking about the anguish a sting from an angry female wasp would cause a baby - and an angry female will sting repeatedly at the least provocation.
     Purple-stemmed Angelica (Angelica atropurpurea) is a common plant in southern Ontario and was abundant at Riverside Park, in the wet swampy areas  it prefers.


     American Red Squirrels (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) are aggressive creatures and always manage to secure their share of available food.


     This Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata) was not at his or her most elegant, but it is still a striking bird.


     There were several Blue Jays in the area, screeching loudly as they sailed in to perch or feed. I wonder whether Lily picked up on that? Will she learn the speech of birds along with the speech of humans? I suspect she will.
     A basking Midland Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta marginata) paid no attention to all the commotion.


     Soon it will be trapped beneath the ice where it survives due to chemicals in the blood that effectively act as antifreeze.
     A Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) is a handsome bird often overlooked due to its familiarity.


     No matter that you do it a thousand times, to have a Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) come to your hand to feed is a rare treat and always a thrill.


     And how can I not end this account without a couple more looks at Lily and her mom? 



     It's all pretty special if you ask me!

RIM Park, Waterloo, ON

     Two days shy of her three-month birthday, we met Lily at RIM Park, having been transported there by her personal chauffeur, Heather - aka Mom!


     It was a cool morning and she was suitably dressed to stay warm.


      She was so good the whole time on this walk; she never fussed even for a moment. Usually, when we meet Heather and Lily each Friday, the whole purpose is to get together and birding becomes a bit of a secondary activity, with Lily demanding attention from time to time. This was the first time when we could all bird together and we had great success. 
     Migrating warblers and other small passerines are not the easiest subjects to photograph, so I have reached into the archives for pictures of some of the captivating neotropical migrants we saw.

American Redstart (Setophaga ruticilla)



Black-throated Green Warbler (Setophaga virens)


Chestnut-sided Warbler (Setophaga pensylvanica)




Nashville Warbler (Leiothlypis ruficapilla)


Myrtle Warbler (Setophaga coronata)


Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas)


Blue-headed Vireo (Vireo solitarius)


     It was a textbook fall day, cool, but with bright sunshine and we were very happy to be out together.
     And what shall I leave you with? A couple more pictures of Lily, of course!




     À la prochaine mes amis!
    

Friday, 18 September 2020

Book Review - Felids and Hyenas of the World - Princeton University Press

      Princeton Field Guides have an enviable reputation, much deserved, based on a long history of fine publications, all of which have proven invaluable for field observation and research alike.
     Felids and Hyenas of the World maintains this tradition of excellence.


     José R. Castelló has already carved out his niche in the realm of mammal field guides with his earlier works Bovids of the World (2016) and Canids of the World (2018). This latest volume maintains, perhaps even exceeds, the high standards that are the trademark of this renowned mammalogist.
     I am often at pains to encourage users of a field guide to read the introductory pages, all too frequently skipped over. In Castelló's guides there is so much information contained in the Introduction that you are seriously short-changing yourself if you fail to read it thoroughly. Everything from skeletal structure to feeding habits, classification, taxonomy, mating practices, distribution and conservation are covered extensively. This is akin to setting the table before you begin to eat.
     There is a section called, appropriately enough "How to use this book". I cannot imagine ignoring these directions because they enable you to fully benefit from what follows.
     A full account of all the felids by lineage ensues, comprehensively illustrated with excellent photographs. It is somewhat depressing, I must say, that in species after species, under the heading "Conservation Status", so many are designated "Endangered" or "Critically Endangered". We have modified and destroyed habitat, and persecuted these top predators in every way possible, and there is a serious threat that without active and enlightened intervention we may lose some of these magnificent animals to extinction.
     The situation with Hyenas is somewhat brighter, but of the nine species extant, only two are classed as "Least Concern". Human attitudes towards these creatures have been negative, and Hyenas have been shot, poisoned and trapped mercilessly. 
      In some areas at least, there is a faint glimmer of hope that we are starting to view all organisms as an integral and essential component of a healthy, functioning ecosytem, without pejorative anthropomorphic bias. One must fervently hope that this shift in attitude will form a new consciousness, and that animals and humans alike will benefit from a greater degree of commitment to preserve and protect nature writ large.
     The illustrations of the skulls of all the felids and the hyenas are quite fabulous. Key details are revealed about the hunting strategies of these predators and scavengers, by an examination of skull structure and dentition.
     The book ends with a comprehensive glossary and no less than ten pages of links to other references. 
     Felids and Hyenas of the World is a compendium of knowledge about some of the world's most emblematic species. What would East Africa be without lions? South America would be much the poorer without jaguars. 
     Whether you are an armchair naturalist, a member of your local zoo, or expect to encounter these animals in the wild, this is a book you should not be without.

Felids and Hyenas of the World
José R. Castelló
US $29.95 - £25.00 - ISBN: 9780691205977 -280 pages - 150 colour plates
Publication date: 20 October 2020

   

Sunday, 13 September 2020

Large Milkweed Bugs, Laurel Creek, Hillside Park and COVID Walks

At Home     

     Since discovering a Large Milkweed Bug (Oncopeltus fasciatus) a couple of weeks ago on the Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) at the front of the house we have been keeping a watchful eye on the plant.
     It has now produced an extensive array of seed pods, and Large Milkweed Bugs are known to feed on seeds of various species of Asclepias. Furthermore, since this bug goes through four instars, individuals in different stages of development may be found feeding on the same seed pod. In fact, it is believed that the first bug to arrive at the pod and begin feeding, releases a signal, in the nature of a pheromone perhaps, that is picked up by others who quickly join the feeding frenzy.


     Large Milkweed Bugs are capable of producing one to three generations per year depending on climate and geographic location, so the variation on a single pod may be significant.



     Upon finding a follicle, saliva is injected to predigest the seed, enabling it to be sucked up.
     We have seen no predation at all of this species and have concluded that as is the case for Monarchs (Danaus plexippus), (that other better known milkweed denizen, whose colouration is the same), aposematic protection is afforded and the bugs may feed with impunity, in plain sight.
     At our latitude the population is migratory and it has been fascinating to have been able to observe this activity before the insects depart for the year.

Laurel Creek C.A., Waterloo, ON

     Over many years we have observed Pied-billed Grebes (Podilymbus podiceps) at this location and they have bred there every year for as long as we have visited Laurel Creek. A few individuals were spotted in the spring, but since then we have hardly been able to locate a single bird. They obviously bred, however, well concealed from prying birders' eyes, for several are now out on the water, with this year's crop of young vigorously pursuing their parents for food.
     The pictures are not the best, but the lighting that day was quite awful.




     A mere four Double-crested Cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus) were present, having once again been subjected to an unreasonable, unwarranted, ill-considered, unnecessary and obscene cull. The politicians and their servile, slavering lapdogs who support this travesty in Ontario should hang their heads in shame.


     As before I apologize for the quality of the picture, but it is not entirely inappropriate that the image reflects the dark and gloomy state in which this species finds itself.

Hillside Park, Waterloo, ON

     The delicate, appealing blooms of Jack-in-the Pulpit have been replaced by their fruit, and these bright red berries dot the woodland floor. There is no surer sign of approaching fall.


     A walk through Hillside Park without a Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) or two would be a rare event.


     We are getting into the margins of my meagre knowledge of plants, but I believe this is a Guelder Rose (Viburnum opulus) shrub.


     It was quite widespread and there appears to be a bumper crop of fruit for berry-eating birds.
     Several species of grasshopper can be found springing along the ground and feeding voraciously on the vegetation, much as birds and other predators seek to feed on them. Red-legged Grasshopper (Melanoplus femurrubrum) is one of the most common species and they were abundantly present at Hillside park.



     The Woolly Bear Caterpillar is the larval stage of Isabella Tiger Moth (Pyrrharctia isabella) which will overwinter here as a caterpillar.


     A Common Eastern Bumblebee (Bombus impatiens) was one of scores of its kind seeking the rich nectar of Himalayan Balsam (Impatiens glandulifera). There was a bit of a breeze and that, combined with the swaying of the flower when the bee alighted, means that the picture is a little fuzzy.


     We came across an American Red Squirrel (Tamiascurius hudsonicus) that had found a walnut and was working hard at getting to the good parts.


     In the waning hours of daylight a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) was hoping for a final snack before roosting for the night.



     As we drove home it was clear that the sunset was going to be quite spectacular and we deviated from our normal route so as to be better positioned to view and appreciate its splendour.


     And just before darkness closed in we saw this cloud formation that resembles a cow.


     Is this perhaps the cow that jumped over the moon? It made me recall how much fun I had during my first childhood making creatures and scenes from clouds, and we must be sure to introduce Lily to this magical world of creative and fanciful interpretation.        
     It won't be long!

COVID Walks at Columbia Lake, Waterloo, ON

     It has been a source of concern as to how to keep the members of Waterloo Region Nature involved in the affairs of the Club, when virtually all activities were cancelled, courtesy of the pandemic.
     I came up with the idea of leading multiple walks with small groups rather than a single walk with twenty participants. So, I organized five outings to Columbia Lake, alternating between morning and evening, with a limit of four participants per walk, plus Miriam and me, when it would be easy to maintain social distancing while also permitting everyone to see the birds we found. Knowing that we would need a scope to enable everyone to have good looks at the finer points of shorebird topography especially, but other species too, we soaked cloths in isopropyl alcohol and wiped down the lens surround, the focus wheel and the directional handle, between views, leaving each person to determine whether that was in their zone of comfort.
     Within a couple of hours of making the announcement all spots were taken and there was a waiting list. The Pandora's Box of pent-up demand had been sprung loose it seemed!
     As it turned out the walks were spectacularly successful, with all participants expressing great pleasure in them, and urging me to do it again! And so I will!

Walk No. 1
Monday 07 September 2020, 09h:00 - 11h:30

Participants: Claire Asling, Charles Foley, Meg Slater, Diana Spearn

Claire, Charles, Diana, David, Meg

     This Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca) put on quite a show for us enabling everyone to appreciate all its field marks.


     It was joined by a second bird for reinforcement.


     A single Great Egret (Ardea alba) has been present for several days; we know it is the same bird because of the bands on its legs.


     Here I am explaining the finer points of something or other.....


     ..... and wiping down the scope before the next person uses it.


     It seems that we can hardly go on a walk of late without spotting Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus).


     At the end of the excursion it was interesting to see this American Crow (Corvus brachyrynchos) working away on a bone it had picked up somewhere, aggressively drilling at the ends to get to the nutritious marrow.


All bird species counted: Mallard, Killdeer, Greater Yellowlegs, Ring-billed Gull, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Belted Kingfisher, Northern Flicker, Blue Jay, American Crow, Black-capped Chickadee, American Goldfinch, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle.

Walk No. 2
Tuesday 08 September 2020, 17h:30 - 20h:00
Participants: Michelle MacMillan, Bev Raimbault, Roger Suffling (A fourth member cancelled at the last minute).

Bev, Roger, David, Michelle

     Several Black-capped Chickadees (Poecile atricapillus) were seen feeding on the seeds of cattails.


     Roger spotted this Spotted Lady's Thumb (Polygonium persicaria), an interesting plant, and pointed it out to everyone.


     It is the time of the year when Red-winged Blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus) are gathering in large aggregations in preparation for migration, and we saw several such groups.


     A Solitary Sandpiper (Tringa solitaria) was very cooperative and allowed everyone to appreciate it through the lens of the scope.


     Least Sandpipers (Calidris minutilla) were a little farther away.


     A female Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) dazzled everyone, at one point plunging into the water and coming up with a fish.


All bird species counted: Canada Goose, Mallard, Mourning Dove, Killdeer, Least Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Solitary Sandpiper, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Ring-billed Gull, Double-crested Cormorant,  Turkey Vulture, Belted Kingfisher, Blue Jay, American Crow, Black-capped Chickadee, Barn Swallow, White-breasted Nuthatch, American Goldfinch, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, Black-throated Green Warbler, Northern Cardinal.

Walk No. 3
Wednesday 09 September 2020, 09h:00 - 11h:30
Participants: Lynn Conway, Victoria Ho, Marg Paré, Andrew Wesolowski, Lorraine Wesolowski.
     
Lynn, Marg, Lorraine, Andrew, David, Victoria

      Several Greater Yellowlegs presented themselves for all to see, as they had on previous walks.


     The lone Great Egret was still present and we initially saw it in the water.


     While we were watching, the Great Egret and all the Mallards (Anas platyrynchos) took to the air, and our eyes immediately looked skywards to see what had caused the commotion. The arrival of an adult Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) was enough to cause panic in the ranks. The eagle finally perched and order was restored to the pond.


     The Great Egret decided that staying high in a tree was the safest place while the eagle remained in the vicinity.


     A Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) had not yielded its position in the water despite the threat the eagle might have posed.


     We had moved along only a short distance before seeing a juvenile Bald Eagle perched on a transmission tower, no doubt hoping for an easy meal.


     Andrew took the time to capture a group shot as we meandered along.


     Meanwhile, Lorraine, ever vigilant, captured this Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia) before it dived into dense cover.


     Miriam spotted this Common European Amber Snail (Succinea putris) making its way among the leaves.


     Mallards were spotted anywhere there was water, a common species, but always delightful.


     Lorraine was a dedicated photographer, pursuing her quarry with vigour.


     Her final success of our outing was a Black-throated Green Warbler (Setophaga virens), probably a first year female.


All bird species counted: Canada Goose, Mallard, Mourning Dove, Killdeer, Least Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Solitary Sandpiper, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Ring-billed Gull, Double-crested Cormorant, Turkey Vulture, Belted Kingfisher, Blue Jay, American Crow, Black-capped Chickadee, Barn Swallow, White-breasted Nuthatch, American Goldfinch, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, Black-throated Green Warbler, Northern Cardinal.

Walk No. 4
Thursday 10 September 2020 17h:30 - 20h:00
Participants: Jim Bowman, Rosalie Foyle, Curtiss MacDonald, Janet Ozaruk

Jim, Curtiss, David, Janet, Rosalie

     For whatever reason, this walk proved to be the least rewarding in terms of observations, but it was pleasant to get together with old friends again, and to make a new one in Rosalie.
     A Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularius) was a little distant, but with the aid of the scope everyone was able to see it well.


     New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) is dotted throughout woodland verges and meadows at this time of the year, a welcome source of nectar for Ruby-throated Hummingbirds (Archilocus colubris) preparing for their long migration to Mexico and beyond.


     
The Tamaracks (Larix laricina) have a bumper crop of cones, so if we are fortunate enough to have crossbills (Loxia sp.) move south in the winter there will be a ready supply of food awaiting them.


     The caterpillar of the Hickory Tussock Moth (Lophocampa caryae) will spend the winter in a furry cocoon under leaf litter and other debris.


     With help from Janet, I think we narrowed down this plant to Great Willowherb (Epilobium hirsutum).


      I am not quite sure of the identity of this seed cluster, but as far as I can tell it belongs to the Asteraceae.


    
All bird species counted:  Canada Goose, Mallard, Killdeer, Least Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper, Ring-billed Gull, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Northern Flicker, Eastern Phoebe, Eastern Kingbird, Blue Jay, American Crow, Common Starling, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, Northern Cardinal.

Walk No. 5
Saturday 12 September 2020 09h:00 - 11h:30
Participants: Jenny Lorette, Bill Prociw, Liz Prociw, Tracey Rainer

Jenny, David, Tracey, Liz, Bill

     All the keen naturalists who joined this group are quite new to the Club and it was my first time, and great pleasure I might add, in meeting them. They were enthusiastic and quickly became engaged with the whole exercise. As it turned out, they were the beneficiaries of the greatest variety of birds of the whole series, with some outstanding species too.
     There were but four Double-crested Cormorants on the water, joined by a fifth when they took flight, but Miriam managed a nice shot of one swimming by.


     I think that as long as we were close to the shore we were never out of sight or sound of Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus).


     The Great Egret that has been seen at Columbia Lake for a couple of weeks now could be seen off in the distance, adding to the excitement of the moment for these four relatively novice birders. Do you see the white "bump" in the background about two thirds of the way across the picture?


     Well, here it is close up.


     And the Greater Yellowlegs wanted in on the act too.


     A Great Blue Heron meandered stealthily through the shallows ready to spear anything that moved.


     Canada Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis) reveals a rare beauty when seen close up.


     Some might consider the presence of an Eastern Kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus) on 12 September unusual, but migration patterns of numerous species of birds are undergoing modification, as the effects of climate change influence their behaviour.


     How could anyone ever tire of New England Aster?


      This Western Bumble Bee ( Bombus occidentalis) was finding it exactly to its liking.


   
     Columbia Lake is a delightful place to ramble on a beautiful September morning.


     As I pointed out earlier, this was a keen group, and Tracey is animated in her discussion of something that has caught her attention.


     The most exciting find of the day, in fact of the entire sequence of these walks, was an Olive-sided Flycatcher (Contopus cooperi), high atop a snag, where it stayed for several minutes.




     A Northern Flicker showed why the form in the east is known as Yellow-shafted.


     Milkweed pods are filled with seeds waiting to be dispersed when the pods burst open.


     And Wild Teasel (Dipsacus fullonum was looking exceptionally splendid bathed in sunlight.


     I am not quite sure what I was pointing out here, but I hope it was worthwhile!


     We were almost at the end of our walk when a red-eyed Vireo (Vireo olivaceus) entertained us greatly as it battered a caterpillar into submission before gulping it down.



     Miriam and I puzzled over this dragonfly for quite a while, both in the field and at home, finally concluding that it a Black Saddlebags (Tramea lacerata), a fairly common migrant species. 


     I have been unable to find much information on the breeding cycle of this species, but I am wondering whether this is a teneral waiting for its exoskeleton to harden, and for its colour to develop. It showed no inclination to move as three people photographed it, but I am unclear as to whether teneral forms are present in September.

     Bluets (Coenagrionidae sp. were very common, but I find it just about impossible to narrow these damselflies down to the species level.


     A Northern Leopard Frog (Lithobates pipiens) is much easier!


     Midland Painted Turtles (Chrysemys picta marginata) were happy to catch the rays on a mild September morning.


     After a successful morning enjoying the wonders of nature we headed back to our vehicles.


     It seemed appropriate that an American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) came to see us off; perhaps this wise bird was congratulating us on our success.



All bird species counted: Canada Goose, Mallard, Rock Dove, Killdeer, Greater Yellowlegs, Ring-billed Gull, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Turkey Vulture, Northern Harrier, Red-tailed Hawk, Belted Kingfisher, Northern Flicker, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Eastern Phoebe, Eastern Kingbird, Red-eyed Vireo, Blue Jay, American Crow, Black-capped Chickadee, Common Starling, Grey Catbird, American Robin, American Goldfinch, Song Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, Northern Cardinal, Rose-breasted Grosbeak.

Acknowledgements

      My thanks are due to the Board of Directors of Waterloo Region Nature for signing on to this first attempt to renew our field trips, and having the faith that the format would work, without exposing anyone to undue risk. I am grateful to all who came out on the five walks; my days were enhanced by their company.
     Most of all I am especially appreciative that Miriam took part in every single outing and is responsible for most of the pictures used in this account.  In many respects she acted as a second guide.
      Finally, I received this postcard from my good friend Valerie-Jael Tups who lives in Düsseldorf, Germany. The card is Valerie's own design, and with its fanciful birds and its message of peace it seems especially appropriate for the times.


     Keep well everyone, and for those of you who live locally, stay tuned for news of the next series of walks.