Monday, April 26, 2021

Staying local.....

      If there is one constant in life these days, it is that COVID-19 is a Sword of Damocles hovering over all of us, and affecting our daily lives. The situation seems to show little improvement in Ontario and the ability to get people vaccinated seems never to get fully resolved. I despair that we have elected such incompetents to run our province, but that is the sad fact. This government has been an environmental nightmare from the beginning, and has revealed itself to be inadequate in managing the pandemic. I hope that when the electorate is once again faced with the choice of empowering these right-wing, ne'er do well extremists, they will think back to what we are obliged to deal with now, and consign them to ignominy forever.
    But, enough of that. Let's concentrate on nature and brighten up our mood.

20 April 2021, St. Jacobs, ON

     Anyone who reads my blog regularly will know that Downy Woodpecker (Dryobates pubescens) is our most common woodpecker, always delightful, akin to seeing your children, I think! How about this beautiful female?

     A male was attacking the last of the suet left out by an unknown bird lover and the female seemed to be indifferent to his presence.

     That might strike a chord with couples who have been married for a while!
     Later we saw a flock of Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) walking along the edge of a cornfield like well disciplined soldiers, in single file. This is just a small section of the goose parade.

22 April 2021, Our Backyard

     A very late Common Redpoll (Acanthis flammea) paid us a visit.

     I would imagine that this is a bird that wintered farther south and stopped over to feed on its way north. It is unusual to see a single redpoll, usually they are in flocks, sometimes quite large.

22 April 2021, Benjamin Park Trail, Waterloo, ON

     This trail runs right behind our house and one of the first birds we saw was a Common Redpoll.

     Perhaps this was the same individual who was in our backyard earlier in the day.
     A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius) was the first of four species of woodpecker we saw on the trail.

      Squirrels can be a challenge to anyone feeding birds, but when all is said and done, it's hard not to have a grudging respect for them, and even to admit they are very attractive animals.

     This American Robin (Turdus migratorius) seemed happy to perch on one leg.

     Rarely a day goes by when we do not see Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura) - and a handsome bird it is too.

     A Hairy Woodpecker (Dryobates villosus) was busily excavating dead wood in search of food.

     Male Northern Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis) are ardent suitors at this time of year, but this bachelor seems to have taken a break from his non-stop singing.

     Rabbits in our backyard, and Miriam, don't get along too well, but out on the trail rabbits are a delightful addition to any walk.

     A male Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) seemed to be picking insects off the surface of the water.

     We spotted a female Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater), no doubt biding her time until she could lay her egg in the nest of an unwitting host species.

     Meanwhile, she dropped down onto the mud, perhaps to feed.

     Chipping Sparrows (Spizella passerina) are frequent targets of cowbird nest parasitism. Perhaps this one will be able to escape that fate.

23 April 2021. Health Valley Trail, St. Jacobs - Waterloo, ON

     This is a trail we don't walk as often as some of the other local pathways, primarily because it is often very busy. Such was the case today, with people getting out to exercise and rid themselves of COVID cares, if only for a short while.

     Perhaps because of the multitude of walkers, some exercising their dogs, the bird life was a little sparse, and it was not long before we turned our attention to plants. Not before we enjoyed a visit with this elegant fellow, however.

     Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum) blooms for a short time each spring, but it carpets the woodlands when it does, and is a real delight to see.

     Carolina Spring Beauty (Claytonia caroliniana) is no less appealing.

     Giant White Fawnlily (Erythronium oregonum) is a lovely addition to an Ontario forest.

As mentioned birds were a little sparse, but in one spot we saw a male Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis) and his mate. Neither stayed for long, but we did manage a picture of the male.

     A Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula) posed in the open, but declined to display the oft-hidden ruby crown from which the bird takes its name.

     Hairy Bittercress ( Cardamine hirsuta) was dotted here and there, its small white flowers punctuating the understorey.

     And that other common spring ephemeral, Dutchman's Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) was widespread everywhere we walked.

      It is so named because it is said to resemble the breeches worn by Dutch people in times past. Whether readers from the Netherlands would agree with this I am sure I will soon find out!

23 April 2021, SpruceHaven, St. Agatha, ON

     The main reason for our visit to SpruceHaven was to see whether we could locate Spotted Salamander (Ambystoma maculatum). We did not!
     Spring flowers are proliferating everywhere and it was great to see Birdeye Speedwell (Veronica persica).

     Common Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is surely one of the world's most maligned plants, yet its flower is as beautiful as any other.

     There are many examples of Violet (family Violaceae) and I am not sure of the exact species seen here.

     A Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa), wings folded, and looking a little the worse for wear, posed obligingly for a picture.

     Carolina Spring Beauty was not hard to find.

     Nor was Red Deadnettle (Lamium purpureum).

     A Milbert's Tortoisehell (Aglais milberti) was a first for the year.

     Virginia Waterleaf (Hydrophyllum virginianum) was abundant on seepage slopes in the woodlot.

     And Dutchman's Breeches was even more plentiful than it had been on the Health Valley Tail.

     Trilliums are right on the cusp of bursting into flower, and we did see a few Red Trilliums (Trillium erectum), looking as regal and splendid as only trilliums can. How about that Marit?

     I think that in a lifetime study of beetles I would barely scratch the surface, but I believe this is a species of Click Beetle (family Elateridae).

     It had the good sense to live in the vicinity of these beautiful Trout Lilies.

     Having dipped on our search for Spotted Salamander, we were rewarded with several sightings of Eastern Red-backed Salamander (Plethodon cinereus).

     Sometimes it's good to have a Western Dusky Slug (Arion fuscus) as a roommate!

     The woodlot is poised to explode into bloom - a couple of warm days will do it, and then we will have that brief, glorious interlude when the carpet will be stunning, before the mosquitoes appear to render their unique brand of torture.

     Scarlet Cup (Sarcoscypha austriaca) is one of the earliest spring mushrooms, and often goes unnoticed beneath its cover of leaves.

     A Cabbage White (Pieris rapae) on a dandelion makes for an attractive combination.

 In a section of SpruceHaven we formerly called The Swale, work has been done to dig out the area and create a small wetland. It is but a year into it, and water is already filling up the depressions, and we are very pleased with its progress to date.

     Waterloo Region Nature Teens have done a great deal of work in this area, including planting over a hundred trees.

     In their honour, it has been renamed Teen Hollow. What will the pictures show a year or two from now? A maturing wetland, I hope.
     I should mention that recently a pair of Mallards were seen on the water, the first ducks to inhabit the ponds since the excavation was completed.
     If I have seen European Field Pansy (Viola arvensis) before, I do not remember it.

     I will not forget it now, of that you may be sure.
     And to end this account (we are after all birders) one of several Song Sparrows (Melopsiza melodia) showed its approval of the restored grassland we call Sanctuary Field.

     And two female Red-winged Blackbirds bade us farewell as we made our way back to the car.

     You know, with all that there is to see so close to home, maybe COVID is not so bad after all!

Land Acknowledgement

We acknowledge that the land on which we are situated are the lands traditionally used by the Haudenosaunee, Anishinaabe, and Neutral People. We also acknowledge the enduring presence and deep traditional knowledge, laws, and philosophies of the Indigenous Peoples with whom we share this land today. We are all treaty people with a responsibility to honour all our relations.