Thursday, 30 September 2021

An Outing for Waterloo Region Nature - 25 September 2021

      On 1 September I ran an outing for Waterloo Region Nature to the DesJardins Canal in Dundas, ON, and to various points on Lake Ontario, and I repeated the same outing for a new group of participants on 25 September.

Leader: David M. Gascoigne

Members: Christine Alexander, Miriam Bauman, Barb Bowman, Jim Bowman, Douglas Brunton, Victoria Ho, Jennifer Leat, Karl Malhotra, Selwyn Tomkun.

Guests: Caroline Cudmore, Sam Cudmore

Jim, Barb, Christine, Victoria, Selwyn, Sam, Caroline, David, Karl, Douglas, Jennifer

     Normally I am little inclined to indulge in the narcissism of eternally posting pictures of myself or Miriam, but I am showing below three generations in our family.

David, Caroline, Sam

      Caroline is my daughter and Sam my grandson. They both came down from Ottawa to take part in the outing, arriving around 21h:00 the previous night and leaving around lunchtime the next day.
     A brief visit!

DesJardins Canal/Urquart Butterfly Garden, Dundas, ON

     The signature bird at this time of year is the Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) shown on the sign above. We were not disappointed, sighting the first individual as we drove in.

Photo courtesy Jim Bowman

     We saw four adults, all partially hidden in the vegetation, but despite a careful search were unable to find a juvenile.
     While we were looking at the night herons a couple of Double-crested Cormorants (Nannopterum auritum) entertained us with diving displays.

     For those readers interested in such arcane matters you will note that the scientific name of this species has recently changed.
     Pied-billed Grebes (Podilymbus podiceps) can be frustrating for a photographer as they are prone to dive almost as soon as they have surfaced from the previous plunge. Jim Bowman was able to capture a fine picture of this individual.

     Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) is now producing seed pods, which will soon burst, dispersing their seed far and wide.

     I wonder what attracted this snail to the plant? My knowledge of gastropods is quite limited, but I think this specimen is found in the genus Cepaea. Snails seemed to be everywhere, and as much as possible we avoided stepping on them.
     There seems little need to remind you that a Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis) is a handsome bird indeed.

     Rock Doves (Columbia livia), aka Feral Pigeons, are interesting birds and much can be learned about avian behaviour by simple observation. You will be following in the footsteps of Charles Darwin, no less.

     You may note the bird above has a band on its right leg, probably indicating that it originated in the coop of a pigeon fancier. Perhaps it is a homing pigeon attracted by the lure of the wild and it has joined its free-flying congeners.
     Rock Doves present an amazing array of forms and colours following centuries of selective breeding by humans.

     A Western Honey Bee (Apil mellifera) was seeking nectar and fulfilling its role as a pollinator.

     A Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum) is transitioning to the glorious colours of fall.

     Here is another look at the very attractive snails we saw.

     I have several times seen people collecting them in buckets, destined for the table I assume. Never having tried this delicacy, I am quite sure I will continue to eschew the pleasure!
     They probably evoke little interest from a Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) either.

     Jim was in position with his camera to capture a  Monarch (Danaus plexippus), perhaps en route to Mexico.

     You will no doubt agree that the canal presents a lovely scene.

     Walnut trees (Juglans sp) have produced a prolific crop this year.

     We found a dead Northern Short-tailed Shrew (Blarina brevicauda), but there was no indication as to how it met its demise.

     An Eastern Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa virginica) was busy exploiting the flowers on a Butterfly Bush (Buddleia davidii).

     Wooly Bear Caterpillars are common in the fall, preparing to overwinter beneath leaves or other debris. This is the larval stage of the Isabella Tiger Moth (Pyrrharctia isabella).

Grindstone Creek, Hamilton, ON

     An innovative use has been found for discarded Christmas trees. They are piled up to form a barrier to prevent invasive, destructive Asian Carp (actually any one of four species) from penetrating farther into Lake Ontario.

     As I understand it, the technique has been quite effective.
     Several Great Egrets (Ardea alba) were present, well photographed by Jim.....

     ..... and by Miriam.

     Not surprisingly the rich resources of the  wetland also attracted several Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias).

     A Western Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) put on quite a show for us.

     Several Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) were present, one of which got into quite a tussle with the Osprey. 

     Unfortunately no one was able to capture them in the same frame.

(Update: Jen Leat just contributed the following dramatic image of the Bald Eagle and one with the Osprey and the Bald Eagle engaged in their mid morning duel. Thank you Jen.)

     A Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) surveyed the scene from a bush.

     Perhaps he was contemplating his good fortune in making his home at Grindstone Creek.

     There were several groups of ducks far off on the opposite shore, some of which were noticeably smaller than Mallards (Anas platyrynchos), but it was really difficult to get enough detail to identify them, and I had left my scope in the car.
     Victoria was convinced they were Wood Ducks (Aix spona) and let out a whoop of delight when Miriam's picture validated her claim.

     We may have to seriously consider changing her name to Wood Duck Ho!

LaSalle Park and Marina, Burlington, ON

     It was lunchtime when we arrived at LaSalle and we all enjoyed sitting outside in warm sunshine.
     An Eastern Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) appeared to be enjoying its lunch too.

     Double-crested Cormorants seemed content to loaf around, enjoying a perfect early fall day.

     One individual was occupied with drying its feathers and performing its toilette.

     Caroline and Sam were entranced as a friendly female Mallard walked right by them.

     The only species of swan present was Mute Swan (Cygnus olor), of which there were many.

Photo Courtesy Jim Bowman
     American Coot (Fulica americana) is not common on Lake Ontario, so we were delighted to see this singleton, and Jim obtained a fine picture.

     Ring-billed Gull was the most numerous larid present, but there were a few American Herring Gulls (Larus smithsonianus) too.

Photo Courtesy Jim Bowman

     A walk along the woodland trail yielded a Hairy Woodpecker (Leuconotopicus villosus).

     There was also a nice movement of warblers, flitting around so actively, however, that photographs were almost impossible. The leaves have not yet fallen from the trees making the situation even more difficult. Jim managed a shot of a Blackpoll Warbler (Setophaga striata), not his best work I am sure he would admit, but with enough detail to identify the species.

     Fall warblers were sent to challenge and frustrate birders; I think we can all agree on that!
     A Northern Cardinal is much easier to identify, adult or offspring.  

     There were a few Common Mergansers (Mergus merganser) on the bay.

     Soon their numbers will be augmented as birds move in for the winter.
      There is a decidedly odd duck at LaSalle, probably a hybrid with more than two species in its ancestry. Beyond that I am unable to offer much speculation as to its origins.

Paletta Park, Burlington, ON

     There was no bird life at all on the lake, at least none that we could see, but it was a lovely walk alongside the creek.

     A Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilocus colubris) was incredibly cooperative and posed in the same position for about five minutes.

     Male and female Northern Cardinals were easy to spot.

     We heard a Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus) singing beautifully, and after a little dogged searching Jim was able to get a decent picture.

     There was a movement of warblers busily feeding and moving with lightning speed. Miriam managed this portrait of an American Redstart (Setophaga ruticilla).

Bronte Harbour, Oakville, ON

     Our target at Bronte Harbour was Red-necked Grebe (Podiceps grisegena) and two were within a few metres of us as soon as we reached the water.

     As you will note there is substantial difference in the bill colour on the two birds above, and the second bird is considerably duller. I am not aware of the reason for this difference, but I suspect it has to do with moult. I will have to hit the books!
     In the picture below the size difference between Ring-billed Gull and American Herring Gull is apparent.

     An odd duck was present and I am not quite sure what to make of it. It has the look of a Canvasback (Aythya valisineria) but not the colouration, and it would be incredibly early for a Canvasback to be in the region. It is a winter resident on Lake Ontario.

     This one may remain a mystery.
      Finally, this sign at the entrance to the restaurant at the harbour is good advice for all of us.

     It was a great day or birding, a great outing for all. The camaraderie of the day was contagious and we all journeyed home well satisfied with our adventure.     


  1. I am very behind on my commenting/checking blogs, but am glad to see your post today. Wonderful photos and nice to read that you enjoyed the people in your group, as well!

  2. What wonderful outings - and the presence of family could only have made the first better.
    LOVE that sign. And would like to see more people pay attention to it.

  3. Hello David,
    So nice for you to have visit of your daughter and grandson. Beautiful photos as always, and my favotite photo today is the Monarch and Buddleia davidii. They are very beautiful together.
    Many hugs, Marit

  4. What a wonderful outing you had. It's nice to know that you passed your love of birds down to your daughter and grandson.

  5. Hari OM
    Oh I am so glad to be wandering by proxy with you once again! Having looked up Canvasback (being unfamiliar until now) all images and descriptions suggest to me that your own expertise does not fail you - a female and early arrival! YAM xx

    1. You could be right, YAM. We'll see if others weigh in on it.

  6. Lovey family photo and all the rest--enchanting, as usual. :)

  7. Querido David que estupendo ver que a ti hija y a tu nieto también les gustan las aves. Las fotos son espectaculares. Muchas gracias. Besos y abrazos para todos.

  8. The egrets and herons particularly appeal to me.

    1. They are graceful and stately, easy to admire, William.

  9. Thanks again, David and Miriam, for another wonderful trip. The talks and discussions, were as always, so educational and interesting. The photos are beautiful. Victoria was squeezing Miriam to get her camera to do the impossible on the wood ducks. It was wonderful to meet Caroline and Sam.
    Cant wait for the next trip. Got to brush up on my Latin.
    Muchas gracias otra vez

    1. My pleasure entirely, Selwyn. It's always a joy to have you and Victoria join the group.

  10. Thanks for all the pictures and descriptions. So many herons, and egrets, too.

  11. Looks like a very successful outing David - what a great variety of birds. The Isabella Tiger Moth larva makes for an interesting picture. You must be pleased that Caroline and Sam joined you on your walk. It's wonderful to see that your love for birds has been passed on down through the generations.

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  13. Good sign at the end, love it.
    Ever so pretty the Northern Cardinal always a pleasure to see along with the white swan.
    All photos are lovely and so good to see 3 generations of your family and my word Sam must be tall. Both our sons are just over 6ft.

    1. Sam's dad, Andrew, is around 6'4" and Sam has inherited those genes it seems! Sam's brother, Will, is over six feet too.

  14. David - your grandson is quite tall! I enjoyed the pictures of the snails. What a clever use for Christmas trees! And thanks for including the photo of the "kindness" poster. It shouldn't be necessary, but some people do seem to need the reminder!

  15. Hello David, that was an great outing with lots to see with a happy group of people. Also nice to meet your daughter and grandson this way. The Night-Heron is a wonderful bird. I did see them in Israël once.
    Regards from Belgium,

  16. It is almost as I was there myself. I think your blog is a hit to all participants as the can recall everything in details.

  17. Hi David.

    Glad you were able to travel with others again.
    And nice that your daughter and grandson were there too.
    Lots to see and beautiful photos.

    Greetings from Patricia.

  18. C'est super ces sorties en groupe, cela permet d'avoir plein de photos! :D
    La chenille en boule est jolie, tout comme les nombreux oiseaux observés.
    Bonne journée

  19. Estupenda salida con acompañamiento incluido de tu hija y nieto. Una salida excepcional que seguro lo pasaron de maravilla aparte de ver a su padre y a su abuelo, gran momento y mejor encuentro.
    Hermosas instantáneas como siempre, un placer contemplar tan bello reportaje.
    Un fuerte abrazo de tu amigo y compadre Juan amigo David.

  20. Nice family pic :-)
    And the seagull. Great bee-shot, too.
    Interesting how walnuts look like. And the caterpillar looks cute. As the squirrel.
    Love the red and sad but good sign.

  21. This is a wonderful post so many birds, beasts and humans to see. Great to see your daughter and grandson, he's so tall! Your daughter is beautiful. Thanks for sharing so many beautiful birds. Love the row of cormorants, I've never seen so many at once. And the snails are lovely, but I cannot imagine eating them, never! I've never seen a night heron before, it's beautiful. We had a white egret on our stream yesterday, but it flew off before I could get my camera out. I love the kindness photo at the end, great idea. Have a great day, take care, hugs, Valerie

  22. So many wonderful things to enjoy. Love the coot and the grebe, birds I haven’t seen. That was a beauty of a snail too.

  23. Wonderful to have your daughter and grandson joining you. As always, your post is filled with beautiful birds. I like the cute squirrel. I like the sign at the entrance of the restaurant.

  24. Such riches! Here are a few thoughts that crossed my mind as I read. The Black-crowned Night Heron that roosted in the live oak next to my parking lot is back; I found the 'evidence' all over my car, and a bit of peering into the branches revealed the bird. We've been making good use of used Christmas trees as a way to rebuild dunes, and that, too, has been quite successful. Farther inland, the trees are added to lakes as shelter for fish.

    Are those black walnuts? They resemble the ones I remember: so hard a hammer and a driveway were needed to open them, and such a mess their stain remained on our fingers for days.

  25. I'm well satisfied reading about your adventures. We found two dead baby shrews about two months ago in our back yard. A few days later an adult one dead by the bird feeder. A week after that another adult one dead on the driveway. I guess that took care of our shrew family that moved into our yard. We think the problem was cats.

  26. Hello Both,
    Another delightful birding session you have taken us all on, I am so jealous of you going out in a group, something as yet I find impossible with the cases we are still enduring.
    Some super images to feast our eyes on, your Osprey is very late, ours are all sunning themselves in Africa.
    Our best wishes,

    1. Socializing with fellow birders is very pleasant, John. I hope that nothing happens to put the brakes on it.

  27. Thanks for sharing your fantastic outings with us. All the pictures are fabulous but my favorite may be the American Redstart, not always easy to photograph. And, of course, it is great to see your lovely daughter and handsome grandson. How nice that they were able to share the adventure with you.

  28. A nice variety of birds and interesting about the Asian Carp barrier made of Christmas trees. I hope it is working.
    I have a new game I play with your blog, skimming through the first time before I read it to test my bird i.d. capabilities. 100% this round, I’m happy to say!

    1. Well done, Cynthia, especially on the Blackpoll Warbler in fall plumage that can be confusing for some.

  29. Awesome photos (again!). I found the snail most intriguing. We mostly only see the common garden snail here, with our native snails being difficult to find unless one is specifically looking for them.

  30. Love the photos of the bees on the flowers, the sign at the end is precious :)
    So nice that your daughter and grandson accompanied you on the bird walk. We saw a lot of egrets and cormorants in the Northern Territory.
    As for snails, I don't like them in the garden or on my plate either!

  31. A lovely family photo of you with Caroline and Sam. It must be energising to be able to get out socially again and your birding day was obviously successful.

  32. Hello David,
    What a great outing and photos! It is wonderful that your daughter and grandson were there to enjoy the birds. Awesome sightings, you saw a nice variety of birds and wildlife scenes. One of my favorites is the bee on the flower. Great capture of the Osprey with the Eagle. Thank you so much for linking up and sharing your post. Take care, have a happy weekend. PS, I appreciate your comment and visit.

  33. A veritable haul from the bird walk. So many beautiful pictures. Nice to see you with your daughter and grandson.

  34. A very rewarding day in so many ways, family and feathered and human friends.

  35. Un gran día de fotos y también familiar. Guapa familia tenéis David amante también de la saves. Buena diferencia entre las dos gaviotas.
    Os deseo un buen fin de semana.
    Un abrazo.

  36. Hello, David. Your blog post inspires me to continue working on the design of my own. Your photos are excellent and I appreciate your captions and descriptions. I smiled about that very first photo of the group ... serious birders usually have some binoculars along. It must have been a great day to be out with that group. And, your daughter and grandson as well. My newest blog post includes some pics of Coopers Hawk and Osprey you might enjoy. Thanks for sharing your blog. John

  37. Nature, camaraderie, family - a formula for happiness!

    Did I mention birds? It's like having an excellent appetizer as a prelude to a feast. Your observations alert us down here in the Deep South that migration is happening and we can look forward to our feathered guests arriving any day now.

    Thank you, David, for continuing to share the good news Nature has to offer!

  38. What a wonderful variety of birds! Your group got great photos!
    I thought all the Hummingbirds would be on their way south by now. Ours here in north Mississippi are gone already. Our feeders are still up, and we see one or two Hummingbirds just passing through now and then.
    Have a wonderful weekend!

  39. Wow - what an assortment of birds. Thanks for the wonderful post.

  40. Hello David,:=) Another great post, with so many different species of birds and other wild life all beautifully photographed. It has been an absolute joy to see them all. It was also a pleasure to see you with your daughter and Grandson. I'm glad they were able to join your group, and enjoy the outing with you. Hugs and my very best wishes.

  41. Loved seeing all the photos of the birds and your family. How nice that they were able to join in with you. Interesting photo of the snail, I can't see myself ever giving that culinary option a try either. Surprised to see a hummingbird. Mine seems to have left though I did see one the other day, probably on his way south. The conservation for this area gives us a date of Oct 15 for taking down the feeders. Hope you are enjoying your weekend!

  42. Looks like it was a wonderful excursion....I especially liked the photos of the Wooly Bear Caterpillar and American Redstart.

  43. David, What a great day with friends, family and feathered friends. Yep, everyone was attired like our bird groups here - loose clothes and a pair of bins hanging from our necks! Only difference is we will not be wearing windcheaters. Nope, our climate calls for shorts and Ts! You sure did see a humongous number of birds including those on wet lands. We watched only between 7.30am till about noon, after which both birds and humans disappear into the shade. I like the water birds as they are larger and easier to spot, especially the Great Blue Egret you showed. Over here i have seen the Grey heron and we call your Rock Doves as Rock Pigeons. Beautifully taken pictures. I like escargots in garlic butter ... wonderful flavour 🤣🤣!!

  44. hello David
    a great day for every bird lover, I think that the participants were amazed by your huge expertise .. ;-))
    You will have to talk about this day for a long time, also because such wonderful pictures and friendships were created ..
    Greetings Frank

  45. Impressive post! Thanks for sharing.

  46. I really liked meeting your daughter and your grandson and seeing you in the photo with them enjoying that excursion and the great variety of birds you have seen. As always, it is a pleasure to see your reports.
    A big hug.

  47. Just one word of your group's excursion...FANtastic. The grebe would be the highlight for me as we don't see these here often. And that gull comparison image is genius!
    Hope you enjoyed your weekend and thanks for linking in.

  48. David!
    Thank you very much for the beauty of nature and the beautiful birds you present on your blog. I love seeing your photos and when you present blooming flowers, I'm happy.
    I admire the beauty of your daughter Caroline. I wonder if grandson Sam is a basketball player?
    Hugs and greetings.

    1. He played hockey when he was younger and has a passion for golf now.

  49. I love seeing your family, especially in the great outdoors. How neat that the duck walked right up to your daughter and grandson. They are natural lovers just like you. Enjoy your week!

    1. I don't know whether they are natural lovers, but they are certainly nature lovers!

  50. What a wonderful outing! All of the photos were lovely David, that American Redstart is a perfect bird for October with its colours!! ☺

  51. Thanks for sharing this outing you shared with friends and family. There certainly was an abundance of bird life and I rather envy all your sightings. The snail was beautiful to see, but not something I would ever eat not even as a delicacy.

  52. Hello David, Just saw your blog. Great commentary and the pictures. Can't wait till the next outing.

    1. Thanks for stopping by to leave a comment, Karl. It has been a pleasure to have you join two of my walks.

  53. What a fabulous walk! Such great sightings. I love that mallard the was drying its features. (And by the way, you have a very handsome family!). The snail captivated me, too. Have you read the book about the sound of a wild snail eating? I haven't seen cardinals in ages and looking forward to their reappearance! That kingfisher is capturing my heart this morning!

  54. This looked such a wonderful outing.
    I enjoyed seeing all of the photographs.

    All the best Jan

  55. Hi David - what a wonderful selection of photos - but so pleased to see your daughter, with her son/your grandson - tall chap!

    Interesting to see all the varieties of birds and insects ... as too the gastropod - they usually have wonderful shells. The black-crowned night heron - I see they have an interesting history in the UK.

    It’s amazing what they’ve found to do with used Christmas trees … this is for me a new one as a barrier in the water; ours are used to stabilise sand-dunes … and/or made into wood-chippings …

    The woolly bear caterpillar looks lethal – though very pretty … but was pleased to see it’ll be a Tiger Moth. The Great Egrets are wonderful contorters – which Jim and Miriam have beautifully captured …

    Lovely photos and storylines … I’m catching up – internet vagaries are plaguing me … a trip to Mexico would be amazing! Cheers Hilary

  56. Gracias por tan bonito reportaje. Un placer para mí conocer a tu hija y nieto, tu hija se parece a ti bastante. Abrazos para todos.