SpruceHaven, St. Agatha, ON
The restored grassland at SpruceHaven, known as the Sanctuary Field, is coming along very well, and we are all delighted at the way a native ecosystem is emerging before our eyes. It will be a a couple more years before it resembles a tall grass prairie, as native plants continue to sink deep roots and become established, but the initial results are very encouraging.
In the fullness of time, the native plants will crowd out weed species but at present various species of thistle (Asteraceae spp.), Common Burdock (Arctium minus), Common Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) and Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina) are problematic, as they invade the grassland and need to be removed as much as possible.
The WRN teens and their adult volunteers pitched in to help with this effort and we are extremely grateful for their dedication and hard work.
Michelle MacMillan one of the adult enthusiasts was handy with her camera and captured the following two images.
Jared with a Staghorn Sumac
And Marg Paré, the leader of this remarkable group of teenagers, and a person who has doggedly kept them involved throughout the pandemic, provided the following picture.
It was a good thing that Marg had her camera handy because I had not taken mine and she provided the following three images also.
Michelle and Jared
It was a day to work hard, have fun, share in the fellowship of people committed to common goals, and provide some much needed human contact following prolonged periods of isolation.
Thanks to everyone involved.
COVID Walks to the Linear Trail, Cambridge, ON
Regular readers of my blog will remember from an earlier post that on behalf of Waterloo Region Nature I organized a series of "COVID Walks". They were a great success and a second round was called for.
The destination of choice for this series was the Linear Trail in Cambridge, ON, and I was joined by an enthusiastic group each day to take part to take part in a ramble in search of birds, pleasant conversation, old friendships renewed and new ones cemented. Several new members of our club took part in their first hike and it was heart-warming to see their enthusiasm and to be able to share a little knowledge with them, and to help them with identification.
Miriam was a true stalwart and came along on every single hike, and took all the photographs you will see in these accounts, unless otherwise noted.
Monday 28 September 2020
Participants: Christine Alexander, Walter Friesen, Brian Smith (one person cancelled due to having had exposure to someone who might have COVID-19).
Christine, Brian, David, Walter
We set off through the leafy, woodland section of the trail, ready for an exciting morning of birding (and we would not be disappointed, as it turned out).
It was not long before we were walking alongside the Speed River, quite splendid in the warm sunshine of early morning.
There were many Mallards (Anas platyrynchos) along the river, and this male shows the second moult following the reacquisition of flight feathers following the eclipse moult, and males were seen in various stages of their advance towards what Kortight (1943) charmingly describes as "full winter dress".
The level of the river was sufficiently low that shorebirds were present. Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) was the most common species, keeping company with both Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes) as shown in the picture below, and Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca).
One of the most frequently asked questions by novice birders and others uncertain of their shorebird ID skills, is how does one tell a Greater from a Lesser Yellowlegs? Well, if you can have the two species stand together it helps a lot!
We estimate that we saw at least three Belted Kingfishers (Megaceryle alcyon) as they moved up and down the river, and finally one was perched in full view, not close mind you, but unimpeded, and Miriam took this fine picture.
I think at one point or another everyone commented that nothing quite compares to a walk along a river, and if you can share it with agreeable companions, so much the better.
This young male Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus) will very soon be winging his way south to spend the winter months in Central America or Northern South America.
It was captivating for all of us to see two female Common Mergansers (Mergus merganser) resting together on a rock in the river.
Fungi, for the casual observer are not easy to identify (precisely the reason that they should never be consumed without expert guidance, or having absolute certainty yourself), but I am fairly sure that these fine specimens are Lepista irina.
If I could see the splendid autumn red of Staghorn Sumac a thousand times a minute, I swear I would be equally gob-smacked each time.
The confluence of the Grand and Speed Rivers is a gathering place for many species of birds, and at times aggregations of deer, especially during the autumn rut, but none were present today.
Today we had to be content with mostly Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus), Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) and Ring-billed Gulls (Larus delawarensis).
This Ring-bill Gull had found a commanding perch.
We watched this Greater Yellowlegs perched on one leg for several minutes, finally realizing as it started to move around, that in fact it had only one leg.
A Killdeer presented an interesting pose.
We were reminded again that fall in southern Ontario is a sumptuous extravagance of beauty each year.
It appeared that a family of Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers (Sphyrapicus varius) were moving along with us. There were at least four individuals and possibly five.
Earlier we had seen both Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) and Hairy Woodpecker (Dryobates villosus), meaning that out of the six regular species of woodpecker to be found here, we had dipped on only Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) - quite remarkable really.
When we arrived back at the parking lot a Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula) was feeding on cracked corn that someone puts out each day.
It had been an auspicious start to this series of walks, with good companions who enjoyed the experience, and I was glad to have been able to facilitate it.
All bird species counted: Canada Goose, Mallard, Common Merganser, Mourning Dove, Killdeer, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Turkey Vulture, Belted Kingfisher, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Blue Jay, American Crow, Black-capped Chickadee, White-breasted Nuthatch, Common Starling, American Robin, American Goldfinch, Red-winged Blackbird, Northern Cardinal, Rose-breasted Grosbeak. Total: 28
Tuesday 29 September 2020
Participants: Hannah Enns, Sandye Moores, Andrew Wesolowski, Lorraine Wesolowski (plus one other person who did not wish to be named, nor appear in the group picture).
Andrew, Lorraine, Sandye, David, Hannah
Before we even left the parking area a Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata) paid us a visit, and a group of Common Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) perched high in a tree.
I have visited the Linear Trail many times, but I confess to never having noticed the sign or the plaque shown below, but they obviously have been here for some time.
We set off along the trail, eyes focussed and ears tuned in, but it was a little quiet along the woodland section.
The reeds may look empty but deep within them were hundreds of Red-winged Blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus) and periodically they would explode out of their cover and whirl around, some perching in trees, others returning to the safety of dense cover.
A Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) stalked deliberately, looking for hapless prey that might cross its path.
We do not see many American Robins (Turdus migratorius) at this time of the year, so we were pleased to encounter this individual feeding on plentiful buckthorn berries.
Several Song Sparrows (Melospiza melodia) were spotted, generally in dense cover, but Lorraine finally succeeded in getting an excellent picture.
Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) is a common species, but its familiarity does not render it any less spectacular.
I am not sure why I was looking so happy, but I am sure the sentiment represented the general mood of the day.
We noticed one of the Canada Geese with an unusual head pattern. It is perhaps a touch of leucism, but I am really not sure.
We observed Northern Flicker several times, but seeing the bird and having it in the right position for a photograph are two different things. We were, therefore, delighted when Miriam was able to capture images of this juvenile.
Perhaps the best moment of the whole walk came close to the end. A Western Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) plunged into the water and came up with a fish in its talons. As it veered around and started to gain height Lorraine succeeded with a picture for the record books.
All bird species counted: Canada Goose, Mallard, Mourning Dove, Killdeer, Ring-billed Gull, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Osprey, Cooper's Hawk, Belted Kingfisher, Northern Flicker, Blue Jay, American Crow, Black-capped Chickadee, White-breasted Nuthatch, House Wren, Common Starling, Grey Catbird, American Robin, House Finch, American Goldfinch, Song Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, Northern Cardinal. Total: 24
Wednesday 30 September 2020
Participants: Lynn Conway, Denise Leschak, Bill Prociw, Liz Prociw, Roger Suffling
The primary aim of our outings is to discover the bird life along the trail, but other organisms, such as this Northern Caddisfly (Limnephilidae sp.), do not escape our attention.
The Western Osprey was once again very obliging for our eager observers, perching in a tree at fairly close range, and unimpeded by intervening branches.
We saw Belted Kingfishers quite frequently, flying up and down the river, and this male came to rest directly in front of us.
I think I should try my hand at composing an ode to the river! It is due an homage of one kind or another.
As is so often the case, resourceful American Crows (Corvus brachyrynchos) were seen along the shore and plodding through shallow water in search of good things to eat.
The kingfisher deity was smiling on us today; having delivered the male for a picture it followed up with a female.
A small group of Canada Geese cruised in to make their descent to the river, honking all the while in a greeting that is as Canadian as winter snow.
Oh what a glorious sight it is to see CANADA Geese arrive in such fashion! Would that I were a talented painter to capture such a scene.
Towards the end of our walk we spotted a large and lumbering Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina) moving through shallow water, a farewell much appreciated by all.
All bird species counted: Canada Goose, Mallard, Mourning Dove, Greater Yellowlegs, Ring-billed Gull, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Turkey Vulture, Western Osprey, Red-tailed Hawk, Belted Kingfisher, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Blue Jay, Black-capped Chickadee, White-breasted Nuthatch, American Robin, House Finch, American Goldfinch, White-throated Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird. Total: 22
Thursday 01 October 2020
Participants: Carol Anderson, Ross Getsinger, Bev Raimbault, Mary Ann Vanden Elzen
For Ross and Carol, brand new members of Waterloo Region Nature, it was their first event ever with the Club, so we were especially happy to welcome them, and we set off along the trail together.
There were interesting pockets of birds feeding in the woodland and navigating through the vegetation along the banks of the Speed River. Photographs were hard to come by, however, as warblers flitted rapidly and constantly, and were able to hide behind leaves, seldom venturing into the open even for a brief moment.
We did spot a Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps) and were able to view it for some time, but it was fairly distant and the light was not conducive to good photography.
One or more of the Belted Kingfishers presented themselves at the outdoor portrait studio each day, and this morning was no exception.
A couple of Eastern Phoebes (Sayornis phoebe) entertained us by putting on a classic display of flycatching.
I know that Ross and Carol plan to take in Fraser Gibson's upcoming fern walk, so they are jumping into club activities with both feet. I will look forward to seeing them again on bird walks in the future.
All bird species counted: Canada Goose, Mallard, Pied-billed Grebe, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Belted Kingfisher, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Eastern Phoebe, Blue Jay, Black-capped Chickadee, White-breasted Nuthatch, Grey Catbird, American Robin, American Goldfinch, Red-winged Blackbird, Nashville Warbler, Palm Warbler, Myrtle Warbler, Northern Cardinal. Total: 22
Saturday 03 October 2020
Participants: Barb Bowman, Jim Bowman, Victoria Ho, Curtiss MacDonald, Karen Golets Pancer, Selwyn Tomkun
Barb, Jim, Miriam, Curtiss, Karen, Selwyn, Victoria
It was a little cool when we met at 09h:00, but pleasant, and we all set off in good spirits, anxious to find a few birds and enjoy actual physical company during this time of COVID confinement. It was a special pleasure to welcome Karen, a new member of our club, enjoying her first walk with us.
A White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) was not long in greeting us on the trail.
I believe this mushroom is
Greg has weighed in and advises that this species is Hypsizygus tessulatus. Thank you Greg.
Mallards are like great friends, always there when you need them, but at times unappreciated because of their familiarity.
This female Northern Cardinal was busy with feather maintenance when we came across her, a task she continued, unperturbed by our presence.
Myrtle Warbler (Setophaga coronata), and Audubon's Warbler (Setophaga auduboni) are sometimes considered a single species known as Yellow-rumped Warbler, and this diagnostic feature is shown in the second picture below.
The confluence of the Speed and Grand Rivers presented us with a wonderful panorama, as it always does, and a lone Great Blue Heron kept company with Ring-billed Gulls.
The highlight of our stop here was the arrival of a mature Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), cruising over the water and finally coming to rest quite far away, but still visible - a majestic bird by any reckoning.
The sun was now shining and we could feel its warmth on our backs, and the full flush of fall was revealed in all its beauty.
The Western Osprey we have been seeing frequently at this location is still present and once again showed well for everyone to enjoy.
A second Great Blue Heron was enjoyed by all.
During this series of walks Northern Flicker has been a constant (and very agreeable) companion, and today was no exception.
It was a good day for woodpeckers and as we neared the end of our walk we saw Red-bellied Woodpecker.....
All bird species counted: Canada Goose, Mallard, Common Merganser, Pied-billed Grebe, Killdeer, Ring-billed Gull, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Turkey Vulture, Western Osprey, Bald Eagle, Red-tailed Hawk, Belted Kingfisher, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Blue Jay, American Crow, Black-capped Chickadee, Red-breasted Nuthatch, White-breasted Nuthatch, American Robin, House Finch, American Goldfinch, Song Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, Myrtle Warbler, Northern Cardinal. Total: 29
To go birding is always a great pleasure. The excitement of discovering nature in all its myriad forms, and seeking out birds, using one's knowledge of song, habitat and behaviour is a challenge, and a source of profound satisfaction every time. Sometimes there is the added thrill of a bird performing behaviours one has not previously encountered, finding species out of their normal range and not to be expected here, or present beyond their normal period of residency in this area.
When one is able to share this activity with others the entire euphoric experience is magnified a thousandfold, and I have been very fortunate over these five days on the Linear Trail, to enjoy the company of a superb group of fellow naturalists. To each of them, I am deeply grateful for their company on these walks, conferring on me great pleasure. To have been able to alleviate some of the claustrophobic confinement imposed by the need to comply with COVID restrictions has brought an added dimension of joy to each of us.
I reserve my greatest debt of gratitude to Miriam who has come with me on every walk, helped out in every way possible, taken nearly all the pictures, and has been the all round wonderful companion she has been since the day I first met her.
I will look forward to doing it again.