The Linear Trail, Cambridge, ON
Recent outings have been characterized by benign weather, fall colours and interesting sightings.
It was a pleasant meander along the Linear Trail, initially following the bank of the Speed River, where a Mallard (Anas platyrynchos) and a Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes) enjoyed each other's company.
Judging by the sheer numbers of Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) it would appear that they have had a successful breeding season.
Had this bird wished to emulate Narcissus it would have had a perfect reflection to admire - and pay a very steep price for its self-indulgence!
We ambled along, happy to be enjoying nature on so pleasant a day.
Early into our walk we spotted a female Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) which flew ahead of us in short bursts, perching and then moving forward as though on cue, as Miriam raised her camera. Finally, it co-operated and permitted a portrait; even then, grudgingly, from the concealment of some branches.
About a kilometre or so along the trail one is presented with the confluence of the Speed and Grand Rivers.
In this area very interesting observations can be had, and it appears to be a favourite spot for Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) to congregate in the winter. We saw little but gulls, cormorants and ducks today, but it is always a splendid experience to look out over the water and scan for surprises. We have been rewarded for our diligence on many occasions.
We were delighted to have an American Toad (Anaxyrus americanus americanus) join us for a few minutes to pass the time of day.
Hillside Park, Waterloo, ON
Many are those who disparage goldenrod, but who can deny that it is a fine and wonderful part of autumn in Ontario?
A Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) is no less bold and enchanting, fabulously attired in scarlet, a reminder of how fortunate we are to be possessed of a naturalist's eyes, where the normal becomes incredible, and beauty is present at every turn; a goldenrod or a cardinal to stir the emotions and energize the senses.
There are so many bumble bees, some very similar indeed, that I hesitate to assign a species to the following individual foraging on Canada Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis), so I will restrict myself to calling it Bombus sp.
A Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinensis) could be heard high above us drilling into a dead tree in search of grubs and other tasty morsels.
A male Cabbage White (Pieris rapae) was industriously nectaring on New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae).
Four or five Eastern Phoebes (Sayornis phoebe) put on a classic display of flycatching, perching on a branch and sallying forth to capture passing insects.
Several lifetimes ago, or so it seems, when I owned a cottage on a lake in the Muskoka region of Ontario, a pair of phoebes built their nest each year on the porch light, so I have a special spot in my heart for this delightful little bird who was my companion through two broods a season, for many years.
To the best of my recollection, we had not previously seen the caterpillar of the moth evocatively called Goldenrod Hooded Owlet (Cucullia asteroides) so we were especially interested to see this form.
As mentioned above bees are difficult to identify for the non-expert and I have been unable to to pin this one down as to species.
I can tell you, however, that it was busily flitting among the flowers of Pannicled Aster (Symphyotrichum lanceolatum).
Of Diptera I have but miniscule knowledge, so all I can tell you about Miriam's extraordinary picture below is that it is a fly!
It seemed that we could hardly move, or sit on a log for that matter, without a Red-legged Grasshopper (Melanoplus femurrubrum) bounding along with us.
An American Crow (Corvus brachyrynchos) posed for several minutes and "talked" to us, before being joined by a few of his brethren, and they all flew off together.
Anecdotally, it appears that House Finches (Haemorhous mexicanus) have been in decline in recent years, and we see them relatively infrequently at our backyard feeders. It was a surprise to see a male perched high on a snag.
On a couple of occasions we have come across a black domestic cat at Hillside Park; in fact it seeks us out as soon as it sees us. It is a friendly cat, in splendid condition, obviously someone's pet, and rubs against our legs and purrs with pleasure. It generally then walks along with us for some distance.
This animal should be confined to its home. No matter how delightful it may be, it has the potential to wreak havoc on small wildlife, from young rabbits to chipmunks, to unwary songbirds, grassland rodents, and others. I hope its owners will take heed and restrict the movement of this cherished family pet.
I should also point out that Hillside Park is home to foxes, coyotes and Great Horned Owls (Bubo virgianus) so the cat is threatened too, and it would be better all round if the cat did not prey on some wildlife or fall prey to others.
The Mill Race, St. Jacobs, ON
Friday is "Lily and Heather Day" for us, and so it was that we met up at the Mill Race to perambulate and prattle on a glorious fall day.
For several years we have noticed that American Beavers (Castor canadensis) have taken to raiding the adjacent cornfields and dragging copious quantities of corn stalks with the husks attached into the water. You can see the extensive trails they create.
We found it very interesting to observe a group of Mallards (Anas platyrynchos) resting on the watery stash, and it dawned on us that they were feeding on the ears of corn, and doubtless invertebrate prey was accessible there too. Smart Mallards!
White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) is predictable along the Mill Race, but it is always a joy to see them.
It was while we were watching the nuthatch that a Green Heron (Butorides virescens) walked up to almost where we were standing and for several minutes remained in full view, unperturbed by our presence. It was quite remarkable.
The leaves of fall are always breathtaking; seen every year yet they never become commonplace, and always evoke admiration. I sometimes think that the camera starts taking pictures by itself the moment it sees them!
Thank goodness we live in this area of natural beauty, with four distinct seasons, each with its own treasures.
Lily, of course, is too young to take all this in, but we notice that every week she is more observant, and her eyes are darting hither and yon, and she unquestionably reacts to the screech of a Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata) or the slurred whistle of a Northern Cardinal.
Perhaps in ways that we are unable to understand she is storing up these experiences and they are forming the foundation stones of her life. We will never know, of course, but we can hope.
Look at these tiny feet.
To borrow from an old song, "These feet are made for walking." And her footsteps will make a difference.
Lily will make her mark in life. Whatever she chooses for herself, we have no doubt she will succeed, and we will all be there to help her.
It seems that every week as Heather lifts Lily from the stroller to put her in the car seat we get a final picture of the two of them together.