Thursday, 17 December 2020

Winter Walks

 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.

     No doubt the continuous supply of seed distributed by human well-wishers fueled the attendance!
     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.....

     ..... and the female is beautiful.

     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.

     Free food along the top rail of the boardwalk is an opportunity not to be missed.

     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.

     As we made our way back along the trail it suddenly was very quiet, and not a bird moved.
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.

     There were many ducks of several species, but mostly far out, and the light was beginning to wane.
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.

     The setting sun provided a fitting backdrop to end a wonderful day.

     It was time to head for home.

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!

     Not for them safety straps, tie-offs and harnesses. Bravado does the trick!

     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!


  1. These photos are wonderful to see.
    Lily is growing won't be long and she will be walking in front of behind you all.
    Love the Cardinals as always.

    1. By this time next year it will be a whole different experience taking Lily for a walk. I can hear the steady stream of questions already!

  2. Lovely colourful birds and wonderful photos as always.

  3. The winter walk makes people happy.

  4. Good morning dear David,
    What a lucky bird you are to see all this beautiful birds and nature. So fantastic captured.
    Have a wonderful day.

  5. Thank you so much for this generous dose of joy, of beauty and of wonder.

  6. Beautiful photos as always, David. The Northern Cardinals Female is very pretty. Lily is also so cute. The grows from a baby to a little child, and it's lovely to see the progress.
    Have a nice weekend!

  7. Hi David.

    You have made beautiful walks.
    Beautiful colored birds can be seen.
    Lily is a sweetheart, this makes me happy, to see such a sweet face shine.

    Greetings from Patricia.

  8. My word, Lily is growing fast - she's delightful! Your Black-capped Chickadees seem to have the same attractive behaviour as our Coal Tits, David, and many visual similarities too. If I ever get to Canada, one of the birds that I'd love to get to know is the Downy Woodpecker. The American Tree Sparrow is pretty amazing for a sparrow too!

    I wish we could have a few more crisp sunny days as you seem to be having. Wet and windy is the norm at the moment, with paths muddy (or worse) underfoot.

    1. To use an overworked sports analogy, Richard, it would be a slam dunk right now. Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers are daily visitors to the feeders in the backyard.

  9. Tus paseos me encantan y con Lily muchos más ( cada día está más preciosa ) Estas invitados Miriam y tu a pasear conmigo ¡ os encantaría, decídete cuando pase el Covid. Abrazos.

  10. Don't you love how cardinals just stand out once the leaves are gone? And even more when the snow hits. Beautiful shots of all the birds and of sweet Lily, too. What a charming smile that little one has! It doesn't look like you have much snow -- did you get some this week? We just have a dusting, maybe an inch; probably less. Those skies are gorgeous. What a wonderful post. It feels so warm and loving.

    1. We had a little snow, much like you, Jeanie. Nothing to speak of.

  11. How fast Lily is growing, David. She's a pretty baby!
    The weather in your place is similar ours, some snow, no sun and windy. I love Chickadees as well and always fill the feeder when I'm at the summer cottage. Woodpeckers are rare here and Cardinals do not live here.

  12. From your photos, David, it seems that the young Miss Lily is developing quite a charming personality with a beautiful smile as well. You do have far less snowfall than in Nashua, NH, thanks to yesterday's storm. We are planning a walk as well later today, but ours will be in an urban environment as we're walking to a retail pharmacy downtown.

  13. I am learning that lady cardinals are quite beautiful. You just have to get closer, as in these photos, to see it clearly.

    1. I am glad that you have learned to appreciate the subtle beauty of the female. She is really quite gorgeous.

  14. I loved scrolling through all the photos and there is no doubt that Lily is the star:-)

  15. The Northern Cardinals are breathtaking. A wonderful series and it’s a great area for a walk.

  16. Hi David - so wonderful to see your get together with Lily and Mum, Heather ... and then today you'll be seeing them again - definitely a warming view. Gorgeous photos of the birds out and about ... the Buteo is an excellent photo - thank you Miriam ... take care - Hilary

  17. How great it is that you get to see your granddaughter every week!

  18. Winter walks in the woods are wonderful - fewer leaves to hide the birds. I love the way that so many different species of small birds - chickadees, titmice, Downy Woodpeckers, Pine Warblers, etc. - seem to flock together in winter. Many eyes to keep watch for those Cooper's Hawks.

    Lily looks like such a happy baby. Spending time with her each Friday must be an incredible boost to the spirit.

  19. A fantastic walk about in nature with beautiful sights and birds to see and enjoy. Lily looked nice and warm bundled up with her mother. Thanks for sharing and have a wonderful weekend.

  20. Quite a collection of birds and creatures you encountered. Photos were outstanding. I've never seen such a colorful female cardinal. The ones that used to perch on a feeder just outside my window for close examination years ago were much more drab. Your little passenger appears to have thoroughly enjoyed the brisk outing.

    1. Great to hear from you. Thanks for stopping by my blog.

  21. Hi Both,
    Another excellent outing no doubt enhanced with the company of Lily and Heather, must agree that the female Cardinal is equally beautiful as the male , your Black-capped Chickadees are very similar in looks and habits to our Coal Tit,. Back to dear Lily, my she is really coming on and I get the impression she is going to be a permanent member of the 'Gascoigne' birding team
    Stay safe and have a good Christmas, keep that shirt sleeve rolled up, not long to wait.
    John& Veg

  22. Lily gets cuter by the week. Just adorable. You have a great number of birds around this time of year.

    We get Barrow’s Goldeneye after Christmas every year. I always look forward to seeing them.

    1. Barrow's Goldeneye would be a real treat for me, I have only seen one, a male fortunately, in my life. Common Goldeneye on the other hand is abundant here in the winter.

  23. I've read there are 200 or more kinds of American sparrows. I bought a sparrow identification book, because sparrows are the most common bird I see now. Sadly, I don't process information fast enough to to distinguish between them. Or maybe there is only one kind here.

    1. Hello Joanne: The most familiar sparrow for you is doubtless House Sparrow, a non-native species unwisely deliberately introduced into North America. It belongs in the old world family Passeridae. In terms of New World Sparrows (Passerellidae), those strictly confined to The Americas, there are around 135 species, approximately 62 of which are of regular occurrence in Canada and the United States. Current trends in taxonomy, especially those changes wrought by molecular analysis, tend to make the total number of species a little fluid. I hope this helps!

  24. Hello David,
    Wonderful reports on your outings. Lily is adorable and growing quickly. Great raptor sightings, I have been seeing the Eagles everywhere I go now. The squirrels always manage to find the bird food. Love the both the Cardinal images and the cute Chickadee. Great post. Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Take care, have a happy weekend! PS, thank you for leaving me a comment. Merry Christmas to you and your family!

  25. Just saw this about a cardinal on fb and thought that you might like it.

  26. Lily is simply adorable. That smile!

    1. And she is developing more and more of a personality. She will be six months old tomorrow.

  27. I love that big beautiful Hawk and the Eagle of course but you know when you show these that Lily will steal the show every time! What a precious little girl. She is delightful and I know you enjoy time in nature with her. Just think of the memories she is making! Happy weekend!

  28. Great assortment of photos. I'm glad you were able to spend some time with Lily. Your Cardinal photos are stunning. That first place you walked in reminded me a little of the Audubon trails where I enjoy walking. I haven't been out since we had our snowfall this past week. I'm hoping to get some snow trail photos this year. (I usually hibernate, but I'm going to try to force myself to get out there this time.) In a good news local Connecticut US story: a hiker rescued a Bald Eagle that had a damaged wing and was unable to fly. (I have no idea how he was able to capture it, though.) He found the Bald Eagle near the dam in Thomaston, CT, and was able to capture it, walk it out (wrapped in his coat I think) and it was taken to a rehab facility in Sharon, CT (I think).

    With regard to your comment to me about mining on the moon: I didn't know mankind has that on their next "todo" list. Great. They'll destroy the moon like they're doing to Earth. :-(

  29. Wow David!You have captured some amazing pictures!Love those birds,the red ones and the hawk and the Bald eagle!!Must be great to see them alive!

    and then there is cute little Lily who become more and more a beauty!Just like her mother!

    Wish you a fine weekend over there in America/Canada

    Greetings Anita

  30. Apreciados amigos, ya devuelta por estos lares intentando ponernos al día. La vesícula me jugó una mala pasada y después de pasar fiestas tienen que operarme para extirparla. Nada grave pero algo molesto.
    La preciosa Lily cada día está más guapa y ya se da cuenta de ciertas cosas, es una niña super encantadora. ¡Disfrutarla!
    Precioso reportaje querido amigo mío.
    Recibir un afectuoso abrazo de vuestros amigos Carmen y Juan. Os deseamos unas felices y encantadoras fiestas Navideñas en compañía de vuestros seres queridos.

  31. Oui les arbres morts ont aussi un rôle important en forêt.
    Encore beaucoup de beaux oiseaux, Lily semble ravi!
    Oula ils travaillent dangereusement vers le silo!
    Bonne soirée

  32. hello David
    To have such beautiful nature in the vicinity is something very nice, always discovering something new and yet "being at home" great report and photos I always have great fun reading this ...
    Stay healthy
    Greetings Frank

  33. Once again, the comment I left has disappeared, sorry. Hugs, Valerie

  34. Thank you for sharing these wonderful photos, through them I also walk, even if virtually, through all these beautiful places watching nature. All the photos are beautiful, but my favorites were the ones with the little princess Lily, the Cardinals and the squirrels.

  35. That is a great walk with great encounters!!!
    Warm greetings,

  36. Hi David,
    I cann't remember seeing pictures of the female cardinal, but she's as marvelous looking as the very red male.
    Offcourse the pictures of Lily are even more appealing 😊

    Best regards, Corrie

  37. Wow!Lots of photos of birds AND adorable Lily. What a wonderful post. Cool picture of the Cooper's Hawk. We have one who hunts in our backyard.