Monday, 19 April 2021

A Sleeping Woodpecker and other Treats

      As travel continues to be severely restricted in the Province of Ontario, I am presenting once again tidbits from several local excursions.

11 April 2021, Benjamin Park Trail, Waterloo, ON

     As I have mentioned before, this trail is directly behind our house, and we have walked it scores of times over the years, in all its seasons.
     We came across this female Downy Woodpecker (Dryobates pubescens) asleep on a branch, head tucked into its scapulars.

     We observed it for a few minutes until it awoke from its slumber and moved upwards ever so slightly.

     Perhaps a nearby male had something to do with it, perched on a stout branch with its stiffened tail feathers acting as a prop.

     This closeup of the zygodactyl configuration of a typical woodpecker foot (toes 2 and 3 forward, 1 and 4 backwards) is not the clearest illustration I might have hoped for, but it will serve the purpose.

13 April 2021, Benjamin Park Trail, Waterloo, ON

     It is rarely that we walk along this trail without seeing and/or hearing several Northern Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis). This male was doing his best to impress a female, but at the time we observed she was having none of it.

     Eastern Garter Snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis) have recently emerged from their hibernacula where they have spent the winter months below the ground, and we were very happy to see our first individual of the spring.

     These delightful snakes are harmless and should be left alone to go about their business, occupying their role in a healthy ecosystem.

     We were careful not to startle it with any sudden movement and it remained in position for several minutes, finally entering the narrow creek and swimming across to the opposite bank where it disappeared into the undergrowth.

     There were Northern Flickers (Colaptes auratus) aplenty, including this handsome male.

     But the flickers that put on a show for us were two males, that we initially thought were a male and a female engaged in courtship displays.

     There was much head bobbing and ritualized shaking of the body and thrusting motions, with tail fanned.

     You can see the second bird, which we had concluded was the female, wedged in the fork of the tree. The individual on the left always seemed to initiate the movements, followed by an almost identical response from the other.

     Gradually the bird at the right emerged from its protected position, clearly revealing itself to be a male, and the posturing continued, but we never saw actual contact.

     Abruptly one bird flew off, and we observed what appears to be the cause for the dispute between two males.

     We are not sure whether possession is nine tenths of the law, or whether at some point one male acknowledged defeat in some manner lost to us, but no challenge was mounted once one male claimed the nest cavity.

     We watched this activity for close to fifteen minutes and were fascinated to witness behaviours we had not previously been privilege to, having seen hundreds of flickers over the years. 
      Between the Garter Snake and the flickers our day was capped with the seal of excellence.
     Our first Purple Finch (Haemorhous purpurea) of the year, a handsome wine-dipped male, was the olive in the martini, so to speak.

     A Star Magnolia (Magnolia stellata) is an early bloomer and we were treated to a magnificent display.

14 April 2021, Lakeside Park, Kitchener, ON

     Today found us at Lakeside Park in Kitchener. We have two good friends whose homes back onto the park and under normal circumstances we could have dropped by for a visit, but COVID kills those opportunities. Damn this pandemic!
     A Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula) was not concerned about COVID but nevertheless showed a great reluctance to show itself well and get close to us!

     A pair of Pied-billed Grebes (Podilymbus podiceps)
was courting out on the lake, but we were never quick enough with the camera to capture them together.

     Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) was the dominant picid and I don't think we were ever out of earshot and we saw several.

     It was very agreeable to see our first Midland Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta marginata) hauled out on a log to catch the warming rays of the spring sun.

     The subject of urban tree cover and the range of species in a city is the subject of great debate in recent times, and the City of Kitchener is aggressively attempting to restore natural balance to the areas under its jurisdiction, an action to be greatly applauded.

     This Big-toothed Maple (Acer saccharum grandidentatum) looked like a monster tree that surges menacingly through the forest in an animated film for children.

     It has awakened from its winter slumber and is welcoming spring as it always does, and I suspect it will not be trundling anywhere!

     There were many pleasant side trails that invited exploration.

     Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) is a handsome bird that evokes the ire of many.

     It is not native to North America, but it was deliberately introduced by nostalgic immigrants and has thrived in ways that no one might have imagined.
Unfortunately, it is an aggressive species and fights tenaciously for nesting cavities and is adept at supplanting native species.

     Cavities are in short supply, and once a pair of starlings has successfully taken up occupancy they are impossible to remove.
     We witnessed a ferocious tussle going on between a pair of starlings and a pair of Red-bellied Woodpeckers over a cavity which the woodpeckers had excavated.

     There was no clear victor at the time we left, but neither side appeared ready to concede defeat.

     There are starling haters who despise them with a passion so intense it is hard to accept. I am not one of them, but I freely confess that I hope the woodpeckers maintained the home they had worked so hard to create.
     House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) is another species introduced into North America by early acclimatization societies, and it too has become ubiquitous across much of the continent. It is equally proficient at displacing native species and represents a serious threat to Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) and Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis) among others.

     A pair has claimed this nest box.
     I know you are all waiting for my next example of avian feet - so wait no more!
     Here is the palmate configuration of a male Mallard (Anas platyrynchos), with toes 2, 3 and 4 fully webbed, with 1 (the hallux) facing backwards. 

     And to enhance your pleasure even more, I present the foot of a female, and you also have a wonderful view of the speculum.

     How lucky can you get?
     I think that the drake had had enough of this voyeurism and sat down to conceal his feet from my prying eyes!

14 April 2021, Waterloo, ON

     Less than ten minutes from our home, behind the local library, a pair of Western Ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) has successfully raised young for years.
     One might be forgiven when driving by to conclude that they have returned this year, but a close examination reveals that it is a Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) that has been frequently seen.

     Ospreys have been reported from several locations but there has been no sign of them here, and I am wondering whether we are going to enjoy their presence this year. I am sure that a pair of ospreys would have no difficulty driving off a Red-tailed Hawk.

17 April 2021, Benjamin Park Trail, Waterloo, ON

     The trail was exceptionally quiet today, but just before actually entering it, we were happy to first hear, and then locate, our first Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina) of the year.

     We expect them soon to be a fixture in our backyard.
     To miss an American Robin (Turdus migratorius) at this time of year I think you would have to walk blindfolded with your ears plugged!

     Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura) is always stately and beautiful.

19 April 2021, St. Jacobs, ON

     We decided to drive into the country a short ways and have our coffee and muffins there.
     A Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis) doubtless approved of our choice and sang to us for a while.

     A Red-tailed Hawk meantime, scanned the terrain to see what might be on the menu for its mid-morning snack.

     A kind bird lover had hung a ball of suet on a tree and a Downy Woodpecker was taking full advantage of it.

     A Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) had also found food to its liking.

     A couple of farms along Three Bridges Road have erected substantial structures to attract Purple Martins (Progne subis) and I have no doubt that the owner of this condominium was happy to see a pair checking out the accommodation.

     Ironically the focus of our attention for a good part of the time we were out was the presence of two church services that were total contrasts in social and civic responsibility.
     The local Mennonite community, that rejects the trappings of what we would refer to as civilization, does not have the option to conduct on-line religious observance, so worship has of necessity to be actual.
The elders of the Old Order Mennonites have been in consultation with the local health department and have come to an arrangement to conduct open air services in a safe manner.

     Families are required to stay together and they may sit in their buggies and participate in worship in the same manner as they would indoors.

     We noticed that even when the Mennonites hitched their horses, they were led singly, and spacing was maintained so that members of different families did not come into close contact with each other.
     This behaviour was in total contrast with Trinity Bible Chapel, a local bastion of right-wing Christian extremism, that has defied COVID restrictions on assembly from the very beginning.

     The church has already been fined many thousands of dollars, yet continues to conduct services in total defiance of provincial regulations. The Attorney General of the Province of Ontario sought to have the doors barred, but this request was denied by a local judge, pending further clarification, and the case is due back in court.

     As you may see, there is no shortage of parishioners willing to flout the law and join with their pastor in this act of civil disobedience, and utter disregard for the health and well-being of the community.

     When the congregation left the church there was not a mask in sight.

     All of these people have been exposed to each other and are now going out into the community to potentially infect innocent citizens who are doing their best to ensure the safety of themselves and their neighbours. If the conduct of this group is not the very definition of a super-spreader, I am not quite sure what is.

     It is beyond my level of comprehension that people who are perhaps rational in other aspects of their lives will participate in conduct that is clearly reckless, not only to themselves but to the community at large.

     What we witnessed was the end of the first service, the second was about to take place.
     It is sheer madness, and I hope the authorities can shut down them down soon. Believe whatever you want, but don't inflict the folly of your stupidity on your fellow Canadians. Your conduct is nothing short of obscene.


  1. Hari Om
    A wonderful wander through your week in nature, David... and I hear you about those congregations! Indeed, I see no reason why the Trinity group, given they don't have the tech restriction, couldn't go "outdoor cinema" with their gatherings too. Stay in your cars, wave to everyone, watch on your phones... YAM xx

    1. Some deny the existence of the virus and others claim they will receive divine protection in any event.

  2. I admire your beautiful pictures, David. Nature is the best place to let go all thoughts of corona. On Wednesday all cafés, restaurants and museums open here in Denmark - I hope we avoid a new lockdown.

  3. Wonderful photos of the wildlife and flowers. I loved the sleeping woodpecker. I have no patience with these people who disregard the Covid rules, we have enough of them here! Enjoy your day! Hugs, Valerie

  4. We have the same trouble here too. Some people don't belive in Covid19, some don't belive in vaccines and even burn their facemasks. I give them up!
    Beautiful photos David, and ecpecially the magnolias.

  5. Hello David,
    Beautiful captures of the birds, I love the sleeping woodpecker. Great shots of the Flicker. Hubby and I have not been inside anywhere except for the food store. We wear our mask and keep the required distance. We do enjoy our nature walks as much as you do. Take care, have a happy day!

  6. Hopefully blogger will allow this comment to go through. She says hissing and spitting through gritted teeth.
    I adored wandering with you - until the last series. Perhaps if the congregation was fined as well as the church behaviour would change. Perhaps...

    1. The ultimate irony is that a Go Fund Me site has been started to help them pay their fines.

  7. I'm sad to see that Canada has its own contingent of coronavirus deniers, even as we do here. The damage that they inflict on their communities is considerable and completely unnecessary.

    We still have a few Chipping Sparrows hanging around here but most have moved on by now and all of our winter Purple Finches have moved on. It's good to see that some of them have made it to your area.

  8. The two male flickers you've mentioned as putting up a courtship show, were perhaps displaying homosexual behavior.

    1. Same sex partnerships have been recorded in various species of birds, but as far as I know not in woodpeckers. And these two birds separated; they did not stay together.

  9. We have the far right Christians here, too, who have never stopped church attendance no matter what science or the government says. Sadly now many of them have been given the okay by judges, too, to continue big services. Freedom of religion. Does that give them the right to be free to possibly kill others? Makes no sense to me, either.

    Just love your posts! You describe the activities so well, too. :)

  10. I enjoyed your wander through nature. I have found woodpeckers exceptionally difficult to photograph. As the for the people of the Trinity Church I am speechless...which is probably just as well.

  11. You are right. Sheer madness.
    "a handsome wine-dipped male" that is priceless!

  12. You are lucky to have those trails so close and obviously full of beautiful birdlife. Sad to hear about the irresponsible church goers. Also bad news about your trip to Australia. Hopefully when we are all vaccinated you can come.

  13. What an interesting post, starting off with a sleeping woodpecker and ending with all those Christian churchgoing people disregarding the latest safety rules. I just can't understand that kind of behaviour.

  14. Lovely photos..except for TBC. I have been following the reports about TBC with no small amount of anger. On social media platforms the parishioners are disturbingly toxic and hateful, about what you'd expect from people who care for no one but themselves.

  15. That is the most lovely finch I've seen, ever. They usually are much more dull. I've never seen a kinglet, either.

  16. So much in this post, the birds, fox, turtle and snake were great. Something as simple as the bird, the tree buds and the blue sky were just perfect. Maskless people, not at all.

  17. Wonderful shots.

    I have heard of Trinity. Utterly disgusting.

  18. Les gens des dernières photos sont des égoïstes.
    Beaucoup d'observations d'oiseaux, les pics sont jolis.
    J'aime bien aussi le serpent, ici je n'ai que des vipères.
    Bonne journée

  19. It's difficult to fathom why anyone thought it a good idea to import Starlings and House Sparrows to N America as they're despised by many here too. The behaviour of human beings didn't make any more sense then than it does now.

  20. This post started out so joyfully, I was really impressed with the all of the wonderful bird and animal life that you have right on your very own doorstep.
    Like you, I do not understand or begin to comprehend people who deny or completely ignore what is happening all around the globe. As you rightly say they are also putting other peoples life at risk.

  21. Hi David.

    Beautiful birds pass by.
    The sleeping woodpecker is really great.

    Greetings from Patricia.

  22. Hi David – how absolutely delightful to see the dozing or sleeping Downy Woodpecker … quite extraordinary. Feet too … Cardinals – they do stand out … that long garter snake – seems to have found a happy space to live in … beautiful Flickers. The Purple Finch is stunning to see … and that Magnolia – I gave my B+SIL one a few years ago … a tranquil time by the lake.
    Good to see that restoration is going on … one can so easily see a story being awakened with your Acer – wonderful shape. It is a beautiful area you live in …
    Yes – non-native inhabitants of birds, plants, animals etc – we even had people bring them in here … not very sensible – now they come in on those huge ‘ships’ … or just plain ships. I hope the excavator worker of the hole won out …
    More feet … delightful … such brilliant colours and that speculum … soo good to see them all.
    The people aspect – yes if only people were respectful to others … it’s a challenge – which I hope the vaccinations help over time. Equally fascinating to see … thanks for all these wonderful pictures and notations – loved them. Enjoy all your Spring walks … - Hilary

  23. Precioso reportaje amigo mío. Ya me doy cuenta de cuenta belleza tienes tan cerca de casa y al mismo tiempo también de algunos desalmados que se saltan las normas impuestas para toda la sociedad. Eso tendría fácil solución con unas importantes multas que tuvieran que rascarse el bolsillo, se terminaba la tontería de muchos. Ahora bien, las sanciones deberían ser importantes, cuando se les toca el dinero la cosa cambia.
    He disfrutado mucho de esos paseos primaverales estimado amigo y compadre David.
    Un fuerte abrazo de tu siempre amigo Juan.

  24. I imagine that the snakes will be back in their sheltered spots, especially tomorrow.

    Don't get me started about right-wing evangelicals. Among other considerations, defying the law does not follow the scriptures which they claim to love.

  25. Enjoyed seeing your bird pictures as always. It is disheartening and aggravating to those working so hard to follow health guidelines to see individuals flaunt them like unruly children unwilling or incapable of grasping the seriousness and selfishness of their actions.

  26. Reading your blog is very educational. I didn't realize mallard ducks had that back toe. You've also witnessed some interesting interactions among birds. Your hawk perched on that pole reminded me of how a few years ago, a hawk couple had set up a nest on a pole like that, but they were dive bombing people walking underneath, talons out. I think the town called in a group that handles wildlife issues, and they had to remove the nest, for the safety of the humans below.

    With regard to covid-19 rules, and those who ignore them: I've seen the entire cross section of humankind ignoring the rules. But it goes along with the devolution of society as a whole: when the majority of people live by the rule "Me, Myself, and I first" they aren't going to change suddenly for any reason. I don't know about where you live, but where I am in Connecticut US, one need only look at vehicle drivers' behavior, to find the parallels: Four way stop intersection, and the other driver goes when you had the right of way to go before them. Highway drivers: vehicle in passing lane going slower than traffic in the lanes to the right of them. Drivers texting instead of looking where they are driving. The list goes on and on. Those people are "Me, Myself, and I first" and are probably some of the same people who enter a store, then pull their mask down below their chin, etc. So that church isn't the sole location of the problems of people ignoring the covid-19 rules.

    (And the Bleeding Hearts on my blog: unfortunately they don't really have a scent, but they are beautiful. And the deer don't eat them, so they are one of the few flowers I can grow successfully.)

    1. I have to say, Anne, that outside the fringe element here, compliance seems to be pretty consistent. I went to Costco this morning to take advantage of the early opening for seniors and I did not see anyone improperly masked. Discourtesy on the road is a universal phenomenon it seems.

  27. Maravillosos esos paseos querido amigo David. Desgraciadamente los incívicos se ven por todas partes por España también los hay. Abrazos.

  28. I’ve never come upon a woodpecker asleep in the woods. Nice treat! I did not know that starlings took over cavities from the builders, or even that they nested in cavities. I’ve learned so many interesting bird facts through the internet the last few years, lots of them from your blog!
    The members of Trinity Bible Church certainly aren’t loving and caring for their neighbors, same as many churches here in the South. I always thought that was what Christianity was all about.

    1. Sadly it is all too frequently about bigotry, insensitivity, intolerance and it is not without downright hatred.

  29. Beautiful wildlife photos. Unfortunately we have the same kind of ignorant people here who do as they wish. Sad and sefish!

  30. Love the woodpeckers but it makes me jealous, I am hearing them close by and even in the garden but I have not seen one not even flying away. The Garter snake is a pretty snake, I see very few snakes here but they are around.
    Some people just ignore rules and regulations, it is sad they a few have to be a problem to the rest of us that are doing what we should. Is it ignorance or selfishness?
    Keep safe, Diane

    1. It is certainly not ignorance, Diane. This renegade congregation has received a huge amount of publicity.

  31. Hello Both,
    You are fortunate in having these walks so close to home and having a good supply of wildlife about, the sleepy Woodpecker is perfection. You appear to be having an outbreak of stupidity, we have likewise suffered with the same, why can't people realize how this damnable virus spreads, the damn church needs shutting.
    Say safe,

  32. I love the sleeping downy woodpecker. I absolutely do not understand a church that would continue to hold services indoors and take no precautions AND be willing to throw away money on fines. That money could be used to help the homeless and the hungry.


  33. Hi John,
    I find it amazing that you can find so much to talk about during lockdown when all I've got is the foxes in my garden. Take care and stay safe.

  34. Well done, the Mennonites! Those others need to have their heads read. I met a man recently who told me "God will protect us" and shook my head in sadness. Don't they realize that one of the greatest tenants of Christianity is to "love they neighbour?" Surely their God would then expect them to care about their community and the risks they are putting upon each other?

  35. Hi David... Beautiful collection of pictures and birds... Well done ✅😊... Cheers

  36. Querido David me encanta este hermoso paseo en el que disfrutamos de tan hermosas aves, las fotos son preciosas. Se ve todo muy muy bonito. En cuanto a esta gente tan poco respetuosa y nada solidaria tengo que decir que su comportamiento no me gusta nada. Un enorme abrazo para ti y para Míriam. Con cariño Lola.

  37. I don't suppose you know what this small flower is:

    I thought it looked similar to the bloodroot you posted recently, but it has less petals, so it's not that. My plant knowledge is relatively limited, like my bird knowledge. :-)

    1. This is Spring Beauty, a common woodland plant at this time of the year.

  38. How sweet the wood pecker is sleeping. Beautiful photos David! Those mallard feet are fantastic. We are always on the lookout for baby snakes. They sun themselves on the paved wooded walkways here and often look like a twig. So we have to be careful where we step!

  39. You are so fortunate, David, to have so many diverse and beautiful spots of nature so close at hand. Lovely images, all. But I can't help but settle most on the contrasting church services. When I grew up, one of the main tenets of the Christian faith was to do unto others as we'd do to ourselves and to care for our fellow humans. It is striking to see how one group is doing that with great care while the other so-called Christians are doing anything but, as they spread their virus germs to their fellow congregants. Ironic, isn't it?

    1. The thing that dumfounds me most of all is the fact that hundreds of people are willing to take part in this travesty.

  40. I'll never cease to be amazed at what you have virtually on your doorstep, David. Such wonderful birds - and then there's that fabulous Eastern Garter Snake. I am a bit fond of snakes, but have a healthy respect for ones that I know little about, just in case!

    How can those people consider themselves to be good Christians when they are jeopardising the health and safety of others so recklessly? It beggars belief!!

    Stay safe - you are well aware that there are too many idiots out there. Best wishes to you both - - - Richard

    1. Garter Snakes can become quite "friendly" if they have a chance to get used to being handled, but if you try to pick one up in the forest it exudes a really stinky smell - eau de politician I think it's called.

  41. hello David
    beautiful photos of the woodpeckers and the sleeping one is seldom seen, and the worshipers ... well here in Germany the maverick movement is called and the church here has its own laws .. sad
    Greetings Frank

  42. Nice shots of various wildlife. I especially like the Purple Finch and the series of Raccoon. Thank you for your visit and leaving a comment.


  43. As you have already accustomed us, among several species of birds, this time you show us beautiful images of woodpeckers trying to protect the house that has been hard to build. And with regard to deniers, a minimum sense of commonness would do them no good...

  44. These is a beautiful collection of photos. Be well!