Thursday, 15 April 2021

More Local Observations

      As the lockdown continues, with its ever-confusing array of regulations, some of which seem totally contradictory, all of our walks and observations are very local. It perhaps reinforces the point that there is much of interest without going far afield. It seems also to make crystal clear that we have elected a cadre of idiots, destructive idiots at that, to run the province. I read an interesting op ed recently that discussed the fact that to practice medicine you have to be well trained, to be an engineer you have to be qualified and certified, to earn your living as an architect you must understand how to construct a building that will stand, but to be a politician you need no prior training at all. You only require the ability to convince the electorate that you are less of an odious choice than your opponent, and then devote all your attention to staying in office, whatever it takes. Our premier dropped out of a community college after only two months and has no higher qualifications of ANY kind, yet we reward him with our vote, feeling he is ready to run the affairs of a province larger in area than many countries, and with natural riches to be exploited, environments to be  destroyed, greenbelts to chop up, regulations to be diluted or abolished. Ah, what a wise electorate we are! And this is who we expect to successfully manage a pandemic. Hah!


09 April - Our backyard, Waterloo, ON

     Towards the end of winter we were visited by a few Pine Siskins (Spinus pinus), but recently as many as twenty have been feeding in the backyard. 

     I assume that these are birds from farther south stopping off on their way north to breed in the boreal forest.

09 April 2012 - The Mill Race Trail, St. Jacobs, ON

     This trail, mere minutes away from our home, has long been a favourite.
     We have walked it so often that perhaps this Eastern Chipmunk (Tamias striatus) recognizes us!

     This beautiful yellow flower is found in the genus Sternbergia and I believe that it is Sternbergia vernalis. It is quite similar to croci. 

     I don't recall having seen this plant on the Mill Race Trail before, so I suspect that it has origins in a domestic variety. The range of invasive, introduced and native species seems to blur more each year, and it is clear that we will never be able to return to the pristine landscape viewed by the first European settlers in the area.
     Turtles turn their thoughts to procreation at this time of year, and we saw three Snapping Turtles (Chelydra serpentina), probably females, ready to exit the water and find a suitable substrate in which to lay their eggs.

     Snapping Turtles are quite ill-tempered and if you wish to help one across a busy road, be very careful how you handle it.

     In the water, however, where they are at home, they pose little threat to bathers, preferring to feed on the decomposing flesh of organisms that have died and sunk to the bottom.

     People who buy summer cottages on a northern lake, without knowing anything about the ecosystem, sometimes mount frenzied hunts to rid the water of Snapping Turtles, in the process overturning the ecological balance and degrading the quality of the lake which they have selected for their weekend pleasure. It is a foolish pursuit founded in ignorance.
     If one bird can be counted on to cheerily accompany us on our walk it is Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus).

     When I took out my pencil to make a few notes a chickadee immediately landed on it, and so started a game of "Perch on the Pencil" enjoyed by several individuals. And by the human holding the pencil I might add!

     Being ever cognizant of my passion for birds' feet, Miriam took a nice picture of this bird's anisodactyl configuration.

      So many tree species have been attacked by a fungus or insect invader, that I sometimes wonder  what our forests will look like fifty years from now as more and more species succumb.
     Ash (Fraxinus spp) have been decimated by the Emerald Ash Borer (Agrilus planipennis) and one of the attempts to control it is preemptive removal of its host trees.

     It is heartbreaking to witness so many apparently healthy trees being sacrificed, but it is a necessary action in the ongoing struggle to protect our forests.
     We spotted a female Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) busily working up and down a trunk.

     It appeared to locate and capture a choice item of food.

     Rather than gobble it down immediately, the woodpecker proceeded upwards, perhaps wishing to dine with a view!

     We stopped in the village of St. Jacobs to enjoy a coffee, where it is only available to take away of course, and the process to get it seemed more difficult than one might have possibly imagined before COVID influenced every action we take.
     Many creative ways have been devised to urge people to maintain their distance from each other, and in a Mennonite area, where horses and buggies are commonplace, I thought this was charming and effective.

09 April 2021 - Benjamin Park Trail, Waterloo, ON

     Having walked the Mill Race Trail in the morning, we opted for the Benjamin Park Trail behind our house for our afternoon walk.
     An American Robin (Turdus migratorius) was drying off after a vigorous dip in the creek.

     And a handsome male Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) was letting all the females in the vicinity know that he was their best choice.

     And you will not be surprised that we could not resist a quick look at "our" Eastern Screech Owl (Megascops asio).

10 April 2021, SpruceHaven, St. Agatha, ON

     Sprucehaven is abuzz with activity, and breeding, and preparations for breeding are taking place everywhere.
     Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) have returned from the south and are checking out nest boxes.

     When a pair are seen together at a nest box there is a very good chance they intend to occupy it.

     Eastern Bluebirds (Sialia sialis) have also concluded domestic arrangement and one nest box has a full clutch of five eggs.

     Song Sparrows (Melospiza melodia) are no less determined to perpetuate the species.

     The highwater mark of this visit was our first Field Sparrow (Spizella pusilla) of the spring, a robust singing male.

     Even at a distance the pinkish bill of this species can be seen.

     In some individuals the colour is very pronounced and in older field guides has been described as "bubblegum pink".

     I find this species exceptionally appealing and there is always a level of contentment at seeing the first bird of the spring.

     Its song is very pleasant and has been likened to a bouncing ball.


     We were actually back in the car ready to leave when we spotted this bird, so it was a very satisfying way to end our visit.
     Until the next time, happy enjoyment of nature!


  1. The covid have changed many things in our lives, David, but to be more out in the woods or in the garden is very good to our health. Very funny with the bird and the pencil. The last photos are very beautiful!

  2. A lovely series of captures here David. The chipmunk is especially captivating (not seen here in Australia I think!). Thank you for visiting my blog. Keep safe

  3. Things, life has been changed for sure. Our 2 teen gr-daughters want it all to return to the way it was, but know it will not.

    Seeing birds return after winter is exciting. We put out birdfeed and are starting to watch the songbirds.

    You sparked a bird-interest within me.Thank you.

  4. That's great, Susan. I hope you have many visitors to your feeders and that you enjoy identifying them.

  5. I’ve never been fast enough to photograph a Tree Swallow. I’d love to see an owl and a turtle too. I enjoyed this post!

  6. That Field Sparrow is a very attractive bird, David, and once again your mention of its song had me heading for Xeno Canto. To me, that song is reminiscent of a marble bouncing on a wooden table.

    I'm delighted that you have plenty close to home to keep you occupied during this damned pandemic, but a little concerned by the apparent resurgence of your foot fetish.

    Stay safe - - - Richard

  7. The last picture in your post, with the bird singing open-mouthedly - is priceless!
    The yellow flowers are stunning and warming the heart of those viewing them!
    Regarding the first part of your post: politicians are corrupt; it is the voters that are idiots.

  8. Huge thanks to you and to Miriam. Delights and wonders even close to home in difficult times.
    Sadly I have chosen 'the least bad' at the polls more than once. Self serving politicians are a species I would love to see become extinct.

  9. Certainly an abundance of creatures. Snapping turtles bite can still be a dangerous reflex for long after their head is separated from their body. The severed head had to be buried deeply in the soil so the dogs couldn't dig it up. I know we don't want to hear this today but as I was growing up any caught on a family member’s fishing line were brought home, cleaned, cooked to be eaten. It was said various parts had the taste of 7 different types of meat. As a child I didn't really know to experience the truth of that.

    1. I much prefer to hear they they were eaten rather then being tossed aside to rot.

  10. Hello David,
    A most enjoyable post. Good photo's, interesting and about creatures I'd never heard of. All I get is I/R pictures of animals that roam my garden when I am in bed. We did have a sea eagle over the village the other day while we were shopping and the camera was in the car. Stay safe.

    1. Thanks for dropping by, Mike. Always great to hear from you.

  11. I love the song of the Field Sparrow. I call it the 'ping pong bird'.

  12. Lovely, lovely post, as usual. You get the best pictures. :)

  13. Me alegra saber que puedes disfrutar por los alrededores, yo también lo hago hay gran variedad de aves, todos están preparando sus nidos. Abrazos.

  14. A publication where you show a good diversity of birds to delight the eye, as well as other fascinating creatures like that aquatic turtle. Among the birds without a doubt and as I have said several times is the woodpecker, in this case a beautiful Melanerpes, a genre that I like a lot, this one in particular has very different colors from those I have seen in these southern latitudes.

  15. So many of my favorite birds represented here. We probably still have bluebirds; we have the habitat. I haven't seen on in years.

    1. It's a shame that you don 't live close by, Joanne. I could show you a dozen.

  16. Hello dear friend David, que tal!.
    thanks to Life there are birds and spring is advancing at a fast pace in Canada, everything continues its natural rhythm, even with politicians around!they are a kind of inextinguishable plague... they cling to their posts in a frenzy,
    just for their own benefit, and they do it! many people don't notice it.
    I suppose it will be like this in all parts of the world.
    Anyway, sending many greetings to you and to all
    the loving animals of
    the forest.
    Many kisses and hugs from Buenos Aires
    hasta la amada Ontario.

  17. I've always found snappers to be fascinating animals.

    My terms of describing that joke of a premier would involve a lot of swearing. So I'll just say that I despise that man and his entire scumbag family.

  18. Who doesn't want to eat the decomposing flesh of organisms sunk to the bottom?


  19. I love your photos of birds and flowers, David. The covid have changed many things in our lives, and now we have found out that beeing in the woods or the garden is very good for our health.

  20. A post of highs and lows, but thankfully these wonderful creatures [birds, turtles, squirrels] left me in high spirits. I love the Mennonite sign.

  21. Glad to hear you and Miriam are still out and about taking beautiful pictures and recoding the birds you see. The photos of their claws are wonderful. Spring is springing, lovely to see the trees budding. And I had to laugh at the one horse distance, too funny, that thought will accompany me when I venture out today! Hugs, Valerie

  22. Hi David – don’t talk about those we elect … sad and we have to live with their short-term views …
    I’d prefer to look at your or Miriam’s images … those Sternbergia are beautiful to look at … interesting to see the Snapping Turtle … why can’t people be encouraged to learn … rather than, as fools, rush in. The chickadee is quite amazing … and how wonderful to have one ‘on hand’ so to speak – while their feet are extraordinary …
    Brilliant sign – perfect … as are the rest of the photos … love looking at them … the Field Sparrow … to see it with a bubblegum coloured bill is a little much I think – but you can see it on the bush before it burgeons much more. It is certainly vigorously singing … and certainly a great spot before you left.
    Thanks to you both for sharing – enjoy the weekend - Hilary

  23. I think Sternbergia looks like crocus David. I have to read more.
    The birds are wonderful especially now in the spring. I love the most chickadee sitting on your pencil! If I am not mistaken, the Red-bellied Woodpecker also lives here. It is beautiful.

    1. I hate to disappoint you, Nadezda, but Red-bellied Woodpecker is found only in North America; in fact woodpeckers in the genus Melanerpes are exclusive to the Americas.

  24. Dearest David,
    I'm amazed more and more at your shots, the posts you share depict you as part of the Nature you want to catch, what a Wonder!
    With utmost gratitude for everything you publish,
    I'm sending hugs and more hugs to you
    Daniela at ~ My little old world ~ (Dany)

  25. These are troubling times. The provincial new case load was up to 4700+ yesterday. If we don't soon get a handle on it, it will escalate . . . rest of rant deleted. :)

  26. Hello David,
    Fantastic outing! The closeups of the Snapping Turtle and Chickadee are some favorites. Love the sweet Field Sparrow. The flowers are a pretty sight to see. Have a great day and a happy weekend!

  27. I hear you about our leaders. Such a mess, as he responds to lobby groups, rather than healthcare specialists.
    Anyway, lovely birds, as always.

  28. Another stellar read about your local walks David. And Miriam gets full marks for her photos.
    You are a great team! Miss you both. Stay well and keep walking.

    1. We miss you too, Carol, and it looks like the lockdown is going to become even more draconian.

  29. Love the Pine Siskin. Never saw one. We filled our old pond with fish and they disappeared quickly. We saw the turtles had moved in and we tried to remove them...only until more came. We gave up on stocking the pond with fish.

    1. Oh dear! While it is possible that the turtles ate the fish, without knowing the species of turtle it is a leap to come to that conclusion. Many North American species are principally vegetarian and the omnivorous species generally consumers of worms, invertebrates and other small organisms. Snapping Turtles might have eaten the fish, but it was far more likely predation by piscivorous birds, or nocturnal animals like raccoons and skunks.

  30. Precioso reportaje amigo mío y todo tan cerca, eso es una bendición.
    Pensé por un momento que solamente éramos nosotros los españoles los que tenemos políticos incapaces y auténticos inútiles, pero ya veo que este mal abunda también en otros países. Por lo visto debe ser una especie de plaga a erradicar, más que a esos pobres árboles fresnos enfermos.
    Me encantó ver ese adorable pajarillo en tu lápiz haciendo de percha 😁 y tan cerca de ti. Saben muy bien donde se arriman.
    Un gran placer como siempre amigo profesor, compadre y amigo David, lo he disfrutado.
    Un fuerte abrazo y buen fin de semana apreciado amigo.

    1. Eradicating the there's a thought!

  31. Some great photos and lots of variety. I like the snapping turtles never saw one that close.

  32. While I smiled in recognition at your description of and complaints about your politicians, I can only imagine how frustrating the situation is. Thanks to robust vaccination programs and a significantly declining case rate, life here is very much back to normal. There are places like grocery stores, museums, and hospitals where masks continue to be required, and people comply. Even better, reports of people being ridiculed for choosing to continue mask-wearing as standard practice have faded away. Honestly? I think people are so grateful for moving out of The Recent Unpleasantness, they're more than willing to do what's necessary to make things even better. I hope things improve for you.

    In the meantime -- what a feast you offer us! That field sparrow is pure delight, and the setting for its portrait is perfect. The hint of leaves is there for color and contrast, but the bird's still wonderfully visible. Well done to you both!

  33. Je ne comprends pas non plus les choix de nos politiciens pour gérer ce covid...
    Les oiseaux sont plus agréables!La tortue est impressionnantes, c'est un vautour d'eau :D
    Elle débarrasse les cadavres.
    J'aimerai bien qu'une mésange se pose aussi prêt de moi!
    Bon weekend

  34. It seems that politicians have similar qualities, or rather non-qualities, in not only the U.S. but other countries as well. I refrain from rants, but certainly can understand the need to post them and vent.

  35. Great Post David
    Love the Chickadee, how exciting that must have been, and the Chipmonk is so photogenic.
    Regarding your opening statement, I think most will completely agree with you.
    Regarding the contradictions of covid regulations it is baffling. Here in the UK I can go into a supermarket and watch countless people handle fruit and vegetables, bump into someone coming round a blind corner at the end of an aisle, stand on a bus with people I don't know from Adam, yet my partner cant see her own dying mother in hospital..... This world is f***ed.
    Keep safe and well David

  36. Hello Both,
    What was it they used to say, if your son cannot get into the church, let him be a politician ,and still how true today, again Miriam's normal high standard of images, good to see you are still getting out and keeping the rest of us supplied with interesting birds, the Eastern Screech Owl is a real beauty as your Tree Swallows, but tops has to be the Field Sparrow,
    You both stay safe and keep the posts coming,

  37. you have so many bautiful birds. :) Your chickadee seem very curious and not afraid at all. I never seen that in Sweden. It would be fun to have a bird in my hand. :)
    We have problems with the Ash tree in Sweden as well. But not the same as yours. I think it is some kind of fungi that kills them :(

  38. Nice photos of the snapper in the water. And lucky you, pen to nose with a chickadee!

  39. I was amazed by the picture of the chickadee landing on the pole you are holding ... the bird can be tame and familiar with you.
    That was an amazing moment!

  40. Hi David,
    Many people are surprised and even irritated by the regulations the government has chosen. Apparently there is not so much difference between Canada and the Netherlands. I am pretty certain that complaints can be heard in many European countries. It is easy to talk about this subject for "hours".
    Luckily you find your distraction in nature. The wildlife gives you clearly enough chances to relax and bring to you back in balance again.
    Greetings, Kees

  41. Hi David.

    You have described that well, that is how rules come and go in most countries and no one knows how and what and hardly adheres to them.

    You have seen many beautiful birds.
    That Squirrel is really great fun
    Beautiful that Tortoise Beautiful the Woodpecker and what tame are those birds that they come to sit on your pencil.

    Greetings from Patricia.

  42. Hello, David

    During these Covid times I have enjoyed outings to see the birds. It looks like you have done the same, beautiful sightings of the birds and flowers. It is sad to hear about the trees being damaged by the Ash Borer. The woodpeckers do enjoy the trees after they come down. Love the Screech Owl, awesome sighting. Thank you for linking up and sharing your post! Take care, have a happy weekend. PS, thank you for leaving me a comment.

  43. Lovely series! These are wonderful observations. Many favourites in these.

  44. Turtles ars so fascinating to watch! I had no idea they had a bad temper.
    I was suprised to find, that many (top) politicans are less than average wise...

    1. It is the Snapping Turtles that can be a little grumpy - the other turtles found here are quite agreeable!

  45. The little Sparrow is a fun way to end the day! It really is such pretty colors. We've been happy to have so many hiking trails nearby to use this past year. But it will be nice to get out for more day trips soon. LOVE the Owl too!

  46. Hello. Marvelous sightings and great photos.
    Have a wonderful weekend. Take care.

  47. What a pleasant tour of your area that you gave us! My urban walks are not so bird friendly.

    1. When COVID restrictions are over, come on down and we'll take you for a tour!

  48. I didn't reward him!! But I have to confess I was warming up to him.
    I enjoyed this post very much... as usual!
    Good job, Mr. Gascoigne!

  49. Excellent post! We are fortunate to live in a state where the governor has a medical background, but some states have paid a high price for a complete lack of caution. Stay safe!

  50. Oh. Don't get me started on the politics of the world!! That said, I really enjoyed ALL of your nature shots!!!
    We all at IRBB send thanks to you for letting us view your blog post!!

  51. My friend David, it has been very nice to see the turtle, chickadee, woodpecker and swallows, I haven't seen swallows in a long time, it reminded me of my childhood. I see with joy that the trees are already beginning to show their green shoots, announcing spring.
    Many kisses!

  52. hello David
    And these politicians who try to rule us, still collect a very generous fee month after month ... here in Germany not different from you, one says so the other says so you don't know which rules apply ... but now on your walk, again very nice photos, I like the snapping turtle .. and of course the owl is always nice to look at
    Greetings Frank

  53. You are lucky that you have so much close to home and that Field Sparrow is so pretty. I have not been out walking for weeks, either too busy in the garden or too cold which the past week has been. Instead of the garden I got stuck into working in the kitchen, and doing things like cleaning windows, all very time consuming. Next will be a total spring clean as once the wood fire has been closed down until next winter, I can remove all the 'volcanic' dust that has settled throughout the house.
    Hope all is well otherwise and we wish you both well. Diane

  54. I see we have a huge common problem regardless of the country we live in. You must accredit a university degree, in addition to languages and experience for any job in a company in any sector, but to manage the resources of a city or town and manage where spending public money serves us a mediocre politician.
    What important is to have near home those trails through the forest, which allow us to continue observing and enjoying all those interesting beings, whether birds, mammals or inhabitants of lakes and lagoons. Greetings David

  55. Hi David,
    fortunately you don't have to go far from home to see spring is coming, pandamic or not.
    You show us a lovely blog; beside alle the birds also a chipmunk (like that one), turtles and flowers. The field sparrow looks lovely between the branches. it has fine colours.

    Best regards, Corrie

  56. Great photos of beautiful birds! The chickadee on the pencil is amazing!

  57. Very happy to have discovered your blog!

  58. All the photos are fantastic, the funny Eastern Chipmunk, the beautiful yellow flowers and how many beautiful birds. I especially loved the photo in which the chickadee landed on your pencil, it's spectacular, it was certainly a very happy moment for you.

  59. You are so right about the politicians - sometimes one has to wonder if they have their head screwed on right as they seem to make the most illogical decisions. Our leader has a degree in communication and she uses it most effectively, but that alone unfortunately does not make her a good leader.
    It seems so much of our natural world is being destroyed now by human activity. The looming issue here is the amount of land, suitable for growing food, that is rapidly disappearing beneath urban sprawl. There doesn't seem to be any easy answer to all of this :(

    1. Population control surely, and a national resolve to conserve land, not only for agriculture, but to safeguard the natural heritage of the country.

  60. Wow, great assortment of photos. It makes me a little ashamed to admit that I haven't really gone out on any trails now that Spring is here, yet you guys, north of me, are out and about viewing plenty of beautiful birds.

    I agree with your view of politicians. I have no use for either party (Democrat or Republican) here in the US, especially the ones in DC, who are there to enrich themselves, not serve We The People.

    Our covid-19 Lock Down rules here in Connecticut (CT) have loosened up, so they aren't as stringent as yours. Yet, they are also contradictory: 3 feet distancing is fine in public schools (President Biden's goal is to get all kids back inside schools within his first 100 days), yet 6 feet distancing is required everywhere else. I have yet to see anyone explain the "Science" behind that. I could go on, but I won't bother. I'm still erring on the side of caution, so my self rules are more stringent than what CT says we can do.

    I will have flower posts popping out on my blog, as the day goes on, if you get time to stop back to visit. My final post, of Bleeding Hearts, pops out just after 3pm Eastern time.

    And I don't think I knew that about the male seahorses (your comment on my blog). Very interesting.

    1. Thanks very much for this intelligent, detailed response. If ever you make it up to southern Ontario once the pandemic permits (some time this century!) stop by and have lunch.

  61. Such beautiful photos, you truly have a gift, thank you for sharing these beauties!

  62. What a splendid walk. Or rather, series of walks. I can see why you like that pink billed sparrow and that chickadee on a pencil would more than make my day. I keep looking for turtles at the pond but haven't seen any yet -- that photo of the one coming straight toward you has a Loch Ness feel! Well done on the chickadee feet to Miriam!

    I wish we could lockdown hard again but no one would pay any attention. It's terrible here. I wouldn't blame Canada if you shut us out forever.

  63. Hi David, thank you for visiting my blog. Your local observations are very beautiful. I love the eastern chipmunk and the owl. The little bird that is landing on your pencil is very domestic. I enjoyed your blog with all your beautiful birds and animals.

  64. It is a great pleasure to see your photos and wonderful birds. On your excellent blog, I can see other animals as well.
    Yesterday I listened to the beautiful singing of Turdus philomelos for a long time.
    Hugs and greetings.

  65. Gosh I could go on and on and on about the politicians here who are also elected with no or very little experience in anything (other than lining their own pockets!), it's beyond frustrating.

    To nicer things and your lovely photos, how obliging was the Chickadee! I've just seen my first Swallow yesterday, it's good to see them back isn't it.