We continue to explore the riches of our local area, bound as we are by COVID restrictions, but life is far from dull.
10 May 2021
At least some of you will recall that I told of a Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) that made its nest in a busy commercial plaza.
I am happy to report that the outcome was successful.
People had obviously warmed to this goose and some well-intentioned person left a tray of fresh vegetables, keen to ensure the goose ate a balanced diet, I suppose!
One gosling did not even make it out of the nest, but death in young birds is a reality and if the others made it to safety this family did well.
Martin Creek Road, Woolwich Township, Waterloo, ON
I have never quite understood how the Common Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) became so universally despised. The flower is beautiful, requires no care, and the leaves make a tasty salad.
Perhaps the next time you are ready to foam at the mouth over dandelions, keep the following image in mind.
St. Jacobs, ON
A male Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis) waited for us in the graveyard of a church where we often see this species.
We noticed a Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) foolishly (or so it seemed to us), tangling with a couple of Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus).
The red-tail had a couple of gaps in its primary feathers so its maneuverability was compromised perhaps, and wisely it broke away from the tussle.
14 May 2021
The Mill Race Trail, St. Jacobs, ON
I was attempting to calculate how many times we have walked this trail and I came up with an estimate in the order of four hundred times. But it still holds secrets that we have not uncovered, and we stand little chance of knowing more than a small fraction of the wonders of nature occurring there in every season.
It remains one of our favourite spots.
A Downy Woodpecker (Dryobates pubescens) is predictable and it is rare that we do not see at least one individual and most frequently several. This male is probing for insects and their larvae in the dead wood and hollows of this rotting trunk.
It was Miriam who first spotted a large concentration of what we initially assumed were Water Striders (Gerridae) but a closer examination revealed a mass of Whirligig Beetles (Gyrinidae), in the genus Dineutus if I am not mistaken.
Whirligig Beetles are interesting from many angles, not the least of which is that their swimming legs have been modified into unidirectional paddles. These beetles are actually in the water, not on it.
Three male Brown-headed Cowbirds (Molothrus ater) were perched high above us.
Not for them the rigours of parenting. Their sole purpose in life is to provide sperm for the female; once that deed is done, the warm, balmy breezes of summer are to be enjoyed. One might be inclined to recall George Gershwin's immortal words, "Summertime and the livin is easy"!
A female Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) will never rival the male for ostentation, but she is certainly lovely.
Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula) surely ranks as of one of nature's great troubadours, clad in finery to match his golden voice.
A species of maple (Acer) is about to burst into full leaf, but at this stage I am not sure of the species.
Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa) can still be found fluttering through the woodlands, often alighting with wings outspread.
We saw a couple of Palm Warblers (Setophaga palmarum), but never in the open, and difficult to photograph.
15 May 2021
Grass Lake and Area, Cambridge, ON
Much of the wetland component of the area known as Grass Lake, ancestrally known as the Paris Cranberry Bog, has been invaded by Common Reed Grass (Phragmites australis) and is unfortunately slowly filling in.
Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis) is guaranteed to be there, with males seeking fenceposts and bushes as vantage points to sing in proclamation of territory, and to lure females to join in a tryst to assure the survival of the species.
Bobolink (Dolichonyx oryzivorus) is a classic grassland species, and the expanse of uncut meadow provides perfect habitat for this visitor from the pampas of South America.
Horned Lark (Eremophila alpestris) is an easy species to find in winter, but far more difficult once breeding is initiated. It is a safe bet that this individual gathering grit from the road, is a member of a breeding pair.
Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) still nest in natural cavities when they can find them, but most breeding now takes places in nest boxes provided by humans.
Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) is an interesting plant, thriving in cold, wet meadows and swamps.
Heat generated by Skunk Cabbage can melt surrounding snow and may help to release the foul smell of decaying flesh that helps it to attract pollinators.
If you would like some to plant in a wet spot in your garden, be sure to let me know and I will ship it immediately!
Trumpeter Swans (Cygnus buccinator) are majestic birds, and have been reintroduced to Ontario, (with great difficulty I might add), having been extirpated many years ago. And their population is expanding.
Last year we found a pair nesting locally and were ecstatic to find them in the same spot again this year.
Miriam was busy photographing the swans, having scampered across a busy road I might add, when I saw a pair of Sandhill Cranes (Antigone canadensis) with a chick, on the far shore of the wetland.
It's hard to jump for joy strapped into a car seat at the side of a busy road, but mentally that's what I was doing.
The combination of the swan sitting on eggs, with a pair of Sandhill Cranes with a young baby, is probably going to remain the highlight of the year.
It's hard to beat exultation like this. To hell with COVID, I say. Pandemic or not, scenes such as this are eternal.
There is more, but I think we will save that for the next post. Until then stay safe, and be thankful for nature in your life. Nothing beats it!