Friday 11 December 2020
Bechtel Park, Waterloo, ON
Friday is our day to walk with Heather and Lily and we decided to try Bechtel Park for the first time together.
It was a beautiful winter day, not too cold with little wind and bright sunshine. Lily is already an accomplished winter warrior and enjoys her time outdoors.
No doubt being strapped on to Mom with all the extra warmth that position provides has something to do with it.
Lily is becoming ever more alert and aware of her surroundings, and laughs and chuckles if you play peek-a-boo with her. It will not be long before we will be seeing little white teeth when she opens her mouth wide.
There were birds in the woods, but they were encountered in highly mobile groups of mixed species, very active and extremely difficult to photograph.
Often we were alerted to their presence by their chattering high in the tree tops. This Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) will give you an idea of the angle we were dealing with.
Common Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) on the ground was much easier to photograph and presented a welcome burst of green against the dun uniformity of the forest floor.
Laurel Creek meanders through Bechtel Woods, and after periods of heavy rain becomes swollen and flows with great rapidity. The velocity of the surging torrent causes a good deal of erosion on the banks and tree roots become exposed.
There is ample evidence of trees downed by high winds, now returning nutrients to the soil and playing their role in the eternal cycle of forest renewal. Fungi have a substrate on which to grow, salamanders seek shelter under logs, and arthropods of countless species find refuge, hidden from view.
We walked along and chatted, we postulated and opined, cooed to Lily, laughed and reflected, enjoyed each other's company to the fullest.
All too soon it was time to say goodbye, but even as I compose this post it is Friday again tomorrow, and we will have Heather and Lily all to ourselves once again. There is no greater Friday morning enjoyment.
Friday 11 December 2020
Riverside Park, Cambridge, ON
As soon as we had finished lunch we decided that we wanted to go back outside and headed off for Riverside Park in Cambridge.
One could be forgiven for concluding that all the House Sparrows (Passer domesticus) in the area had decided to congregate there.
Northern Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis) are not shy about sharing in this feast, and are not reluctant to approach at close quarters either, an opportunity welcomed by photographers.
The male is handsome.....
One of the first birds that visitors from overseas wish to see is Northern Cardinal and it is not hard to see why. Fortunately, is is quite common, and readily comes to backyard feeders so it is easy to find.
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) is one of the most endearing of all our birds, beloved by everyone.
When my daughter, Caroline, was in primary school her floor hockey team was called The Black-capped Chickadees, and they were as tough and aggressive as their namesake tiny bundle of power and determination. It takes all that winter throws at it, and does so with a cheery song.
It always takes its seed and flies off to a nearby branch where it grasps the seed in its claws and hammers it open.
When I was filling my bird feeders this morning I was reminded of the confiding nature of our most common woodpecker, the diminutive Downy Woodpecker (Dryobates pubescens), as one perched on a branch no more that 45cm away from me, waiting for the feeder to be replaced on its hook.
It is a common species at Riverside Park and very approachable. The male is distinguished by his jaunty red cap.
A couple of drake Mallards (Anas platyrynchos) puttered around on the Grand River, upturning to yank submerged vegetation from the bottom.
By this time of the year I would have expected species such as Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula) and Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola) to be present, but the river flowed on devoid of ducks.
American Red Squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) is a pugnacious and fearless little character, who will tackle adversaries twice its size.
American Tree Sparrow (Spizelloides arborea) is a species whose number seem to have declined in recent years; fortunately Riverside Park remains a fairly reliable spot to find this charming winter resident.
Having seen a couple of male Downy Woodpeckers earlier we were delighted when this female paid us a visit.
A quick scan revealed the reason; this Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperii) had flown in, but it appeared not to be in hunting mode and left soon after arriving.
On the way out of Riverside Park we decided to visit the nearby confluence of the Grand and Speed Rivers, an excellent location to find a wide variety of species, with great variability from spring through winter.
Of late there have been a couple of periods of heavy rain, and branches have been washed down the river, to strand themselves in shallow areas.
Some unsuspecting boat owner lost his dock to swollen flows; no doubt it will make a fine perch for gulls and terns.
Tuesday 15 December 2020
A drive through the hinterland
We decided that a drive around some of the rural roads of the region was just what the bird doctor ordered.
The light was far from perfect, but it turned out to be a day for raptors, with four species being spotted.
None of our photographs are about to be entered into competition, but they do provide a record of the day.
Our first Buteo of the day was a magnificent Rough-legged Buzzard (Buteo lagopus) and by leaning out of the car window Miriam was able to catch its beautiful underwing pattern as it took flight.
Almost across the road a couple of Mennonites were working on their silo - dangerous work if you ask me!
Our next raptor, far and away the most common Buteo in the area was a Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis), looking back at us.
Our third raptor of the day was a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), two of them in fact, in Conestogo, near to the nest where they have raised young successfully for four years at least.
In the picture below you can see the two eagles (if you look very carefully) perched at either end of the row of trees.
As was the case when we left Cambridge earlier in the week night was falling and a warm home and a glass of wine seemed inviting.
Along the way, on Northfield Drive, a busy city street, we saw a male American Kestrel (Falco sparverius) perched on a wire, for our fourth raptor in a couple of hours.
Not a bad way to end the day if you ask me!