Sunday, 23 January 2022

The Linear Trail and Riverside Park, Cambridge, ON

     Hard on the heels of Ontario's biggest snowfall in many years, a couple of outings were scheduled for Waterloo Region Nature, and, intrepid outdoorspeople that we are, we went ahead undeterred.

19 January 2022

Leader: David M. Gascoigne

Members: Miriam Bauman, Pauline Copleston, Lisa Den Besten, Beth Hobson, Wendy Shaw, Kath Werner

Kath, Beth, David, Wendy, Pauline, Lisa

     There were a couple of last minute cancellations, due perhaps to the weather in one case, and for personal reasons in another. I would be remiss if I did not extend a warm welcome to Kath who was joining us for the first time.
     It seems to me that to share a morning with six attractive, intelligent women is reward enough, and the prospect of good birding only added to the allure.

The Linear Trail, Cambridge, ON

     This trail is popular with the residents of the area and a fairly decent path had been beaten down by many boots.


     There were lots of birds right from the beginning of our walk, and Beth is scanning the trees to zero in on some of the activity. 


     Perhaps she was taking delight in a Downy Woodpecker (Dryobates pubescens).



     At this stop, there was a great flurry of activity with many Black-capped Chickadees (Poecile atricapillus), Northern Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis), Downy Woodpeckers, Red-bellied Woodpeckers (Melanerpes carolinus), Mourning Doves (Zenaida macroura), Red-breasted Nuthatches (Sitta canadensis), White-breasted Nuthatches (Sitta carolinensis), Blue Jays (Cyanocitta cristata), and, best of all, a Brown Creeper (Certhia americana), always a great winter bird. Amazingly we would find a second one farther along the trail.
     Mallards (Anas platyrynchos) were quite at home on open water, and kind people had left corn for them.



     In a world beset by lying, conniving politicians, warfare looming in different parts of the world, destructive weather events, the pandemic, starvation and famine, it is uplifting to see an act of kindness, like a wreath left on a bench for all to enjoy.


     It was nothing short of enchanting to see a large number of Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula), including a flyover of about twenty-five birds, when the musical sound of their wings brought a smile to every face.


     They had been playing peek-a-boo with us as we glimpsed them through the trees that line the bank of the Speed River. Pauline was especially anxious to get a good look and finally we succeeded.


     The males were in high courtship mode, and while this individual is playing ardent suitor to a female who appears to be disinterested (even human males know that feeling!), I am quite sure it was also saluting Pauline.
     The show they put on for us was nothing short of spectacular.




     A small group of Hooded Mergansers (Lophodytes cucullatus) added more sparkle to the moment.


     If that were not enough, a group of about a half dozen Trumpeter Swans (Cygnus buccinator) cruised right above our heads.


     I know that Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) is generally referred to as the "Royal Swan", but for me Trumpeter Swan wears the crown.
     Black-capped Chickadees were rarely out of sight, or earshot, and many took advantage of seed left out for them.


     At the confluence of the Grand and Speed Rivers, open water was quite far off, and it was difficult to identify all the waterfowl. Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) and Mallard were fairly easy to spot, but other species remain unknown.


     I am quite sure that Lisa has a couple of neurons in her brain dedicated to the call of a Golden-crowned Kinglet (Regulus satrapa), for she unerringly finds one or more on our outings. Today was no exception.


     Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) is a hardy species and will tolerate cold weather as long as there is open water.


     The worst of winter is no match for the stoicism of a Canada Goose.


     As we approached the parking area, the loud nasal call of a White-breasted Nuthatch punctuated the silence at several intervals.


     And the fungi of fall, created an appealing diorama of winter.


Riverside Park, Cambridge, ON

     Riverside Park is one of those places where you can be virtually assured of lots of activity, primarily  due to the long boardwalk where people have fed birds for years, and leave seed along the rail. Many species have come to know that an approaching Homo sapiens means free food!
     We were greeted by a female Northern Cardinal, an exceptionally fine welcome it seems to me.


     Red-breasted Nuthatch is not a rare bird, but generally is seen in singles, and not frequently. At Riverside Park on a good day it is quite possible see a half dozen. 


          Here they are a little closer, attracted by the seed distributed along the boardwalk.




          Lisa was hoping to coax this one onto her palm.


     Northern Cardinal is never shy, and I don't think a male ever fails to evoke admiration.



     A female does not have the gob-smacking punch of a male, but is beautiful in her own right, with subtle colours blending into a tapestry of perfection.


          Another Red-breasted Nuthatch came to check us out.


     I think we all commented on the sheer number of Dark-eyed Juncos (Junco hyemalis). It seemed that they were scurrying around wherever one turned one's head. 


     The word Junco is derived from the Spanish for rush or reed, often used in conjunction with bunting in Europe, but I think we can take a little poetic licence here and designate it to indicate sparrow. The specific epithet means "of the winter", so there we have it, the "winter sparrow". Perfect!
     Another perfect sparrow is the eminently Canadian, delightfully melodious, White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis). Most of them migrate, but a few always remain here despite the cold, as befits a winter warrior.


     If we didn't see a Downy Woodpecker, or three or four, we would make an appointment with the optometrist to have our eyes checked.


     I am very taken with Percy Taverner's 1917 description of a Blue Jay; "The Blue Jay is alert, inquisitive and mischievous. A strange noise in the woods or a moving figure attracts him and he steals quietly up to it; on discovering an enemy he flees shrieking away in exaggerated fright."



     There is no need for the jays at Riverside Park to flee in fright, actual or exaggerated, for there are no enemies, only adoring humans bringing tasty peanuts, with lots to go around.
     When people speak of favourite birds I always deem it a little fatuous, for "favourite" is as subjective as the moment; and I doubt whether it is ever permanent. However, if pushed to the limit, American Tree Sparrow (Spizelloides arborea) would occupy a place in my top ten.


     The classic field marks of this wonderfully attired little bird are its rusty cap, central breast spot and bicoloured mandibles, all of which may be seen here.


     I am not sure whether Pauline is frustrated with her camera or happy with the pictures she is taking.


     Perhaps she got a great shot of a Red-bellied Woodpecker.


     I am sure you will agree that a tree sparrow warrants another look.


     Mourning Doves fed at will, without squabbling (well mostly), seeming to know that the cornucopia was not about to come to an end.



     A White-breasted Nuthatch joined his Red-breasted cousin.

 
     Wendy is a model of concentration as she gazes at the chickadee on her hand.


     Didn't I tell you there was lots for everyone?


     The river was frozen so we started our way back to our cars; with a feisty American Red Squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) to warn us to leave his domain.


      The final bird of the day, as we neared the parking area was a Blue Jay. And it doesn't get much better than that.


     Miriam found and installed an app on our phone that records the distance of a walk and I am showing the two segments below. There seems to be some anomaly with the time, but we were more curious as to the distance travelled, so it worked well for us.



22 January 2022
Linear Trail, Cambridge, ON

     It was a cold morning as you may see and this may be at least partly responsible for the low turnout on the weekend segment of this outing.


Leader: David M. Gascoigne

Members: Miriam Bauman, Janet Ozaruk, Roger Suffling

Janet, David, Roger

     One couple had cancelled a few days before the walk, and there were two no-shows.
     There is an active bird feeder at the house adjacent to the parking area; usually it attracts a "standard" cast of birds, but this morning, perhaps driven by the frigid weather, a Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus) was feeding voraciously.


     In contrast with just a few days earlier, there were few birds to be seen or heard. 
     Canada Geese and ducks were unphased by the temperature and went about their business.


     Winter does impart a beauty all its own.



     American Tree Sparrows were not shy about taking advantage of food placed out for them.....


     ..... and nor were Black-capped Chickadees (Poecile atricapillus).


     The open water at the confluence was becomong a little narrower.


     Trumpeter Swans could be seen off in the distance.



Trumpeter Swans with Hooded Mergansers and Common Goldeneye

     As we trudged back to the car the prospect of a hot coffee was pleasant to contemplate.


     An immature Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) would have make do with cold fish!



Riverside Park, Cambridge, ON

     Riverside Park was quiet both from an avian and human perspective.
     An Eastern Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) was happy to indulge in a snack.


     Janet seemed especially happy to see American Tree Sparrows and carefully went through their distinctive field marks.



     It's hard not to be impressed with 18 grams of toughness facing the worst of whatever winter can throw at it.
     One has no less respect for a Black-capped Chickadee.


     A Red-breasted Nuthatch is nothing if not acrobatic.


     There were many Blue Jays present, drawn especially to unshelled peanuts.


     A House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) was huddled against the morning chill.


     When we left Riverside Park on Wednesday a Blue Jay had come to bid us farewell. Today it was the turn of an American Crow (Corvus brachyrynchos). 



     À la prochaine mon ami.
     As always, I am deeply grateful to the wonderful corps of naturalists who come out to make the outings I conduct so enjoyable. It is such a pleasure to be with you.
     See you all again soon. 
David M. Gascoigne,
David M. Gascoigne,

I'm a life long birder. My interests are birds, nature, reading, books, outdoors, travel, food and wine.

78 comments:

  1. I agree with you David, because I change favorite bird every time I read your blog. Today it was Darkeyed Juncos, but still I like the Blue Jay very much.
    Hugs and kisses, Marit

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    1. They are all wonderful, Marit! Hugs and kisses, David.

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  2. You have some amazing bird photos. And you saw quite a variety of them too. I find it hard to pick a favorite (although I am especially fond of chickadees). They are like kids in a classroom. All different but all have their own personalities to add to the mix. I had to laugh today as my husband actually took a moment to look at the bird feeders and exclaimed that had all these larger birds underneath them. I had 6 mourning doves. Can you tell he is not into birds at all, although he is impressed by eagles and owls. Smile. Happy just about new week. Hugs-Erika

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    1. Hi Erika:
      I am pretty sure that even the most disinterested observer is impressed by eagles and owls. Hugs, David

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  3. What a fabulous collection of photographs from your recent visits to The Linear Trail and Riverside Park.
    From the warmth and comfort of my chair, a cup of tea by the side of me, I delighted in scrolling up and down several times to fully appreciate the beauty here.
    Thank you David.

    All the best Jan

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  4. The tally of birds seen and the collection of photos from that first outing are particularly impressive, David. I am very much appreciating the beauty of the American Tree Sparrow - it makes our House Sparrow (and now yours too!) look rather drab in comparison.

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    1. American Tree Sparrow truly is a gorgeous little bird, Richard.

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  5. It is nice to see that the cold winter weather is not keeping the humans or the birds away! As usual I enjoyed your commentary and Miriam's amazing photos, especially the Carolina Wren.

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    1. And in about five weeks we will be looking fir the first early migrants. Amazing!

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  6. All the birds are lovely and so are the people. There is a hushed beauty in a blanket of snow.

    Love,
    Janie

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  7. Great sunlight for that first outing!

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  8. Kindness, beauty and companionship NEVER goes astray. You and the other participants were blessed with all three.

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  9. So many wonderful birds in this post, David. I love that flock of mallards. It’s been a while since I’ve seen any. I love the goldeneyes too. We haven’t been out to look for them this year yet. I enjoyed seeing all those sparrow. We don’t see them in the areas we visit this time of year. The woodpeckers are always around the boardwalk though. Gotta love those swans. Those we never see.

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  10. I would love to be part of one of your wonderful observation walks...the photos are breathtakingly beautiful. I'm always happy to see them. Many thanks.

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    1. You will have to make a trip to Ontario in the winter and join us, Viola. You are certainly accustomed to winter weather.

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  11. Hi david,
    Wonderful photos that show us a great diversity of birds and beautiful winter landscapes. I especially loved the photos of the Northern Cardinal, what an incredible color the male has, which contrasts with the nature around him. Despite the cold, they are certainly extraordinary walks.

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  12. A lot of excellent pictures of those birds today!

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  13. Another fine set of walks. That very first female cardinal had a bad hair day.

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  14. The Hooded Mergansers look... wow, and so many colorful birds!
    I wonder how those tiny beings make it through winter. -18C.... huhhhh.
    Peanut´s cousin looks cute, too. A different red, but as sweet.

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  15. Nature is so amazing no matter the weather there are animals and birds. Beautiful photos and each one is a pleasure to see.
    The Northern Cardinal sure does show well with no leaves on the trees and snow.

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  16. Love seeing all your different birds :)

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  17. Buenos días amigo, David, aunque las temperaturas no acompañaban mucho con los -18ºC fueron mañanas esplendidas de muy buenos avistamientos y de un bello paisaje invernal.
    Unos excelentes reportajes y buen ambiente matinal, más no se puede pedir amigo mío.
    Un gran abrazo amigo y compadre. Os deseo una excelente semana.

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  18. It is amazing how these birds succeed in adapting to the coldest temperatures.
    I am glad that many people feed animals.
    Winter landscape is magic!
    Great photos as always.

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  19. Not sure I would enjoy walking in those temperatures so all credit to you and your fellow walkers. Beautiful winter scenes and lots of wonderful photos.

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  20. Seeing these beautiful birds up close is special. Thank you, David.

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  21. Hello David,
    Wonderful reports on your outings. The birds are all beautifully photographed, love the snowy scenes. It does look cold out there. The Common Goldeneye is beautiful, it is on my list of want to see birds. Beautiful photos and post. Take care, enjoy your new week!

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  22. I am always in awe of your beautiful bird photos, David.

    I enjoyed the gorgeous snowscapes too.

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  23. The winter landscape looks stunning. Nature in winter can also delight. I admire the beautiful, colorful birds and even the sparrow looks beautiful in your photos.
    I wish Miriam and you David, good health and wonderful winter walks:)

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  24. This is a photo bonanza … there is no stopping bird-watching fans, not even the coldest weather it seems. The white winged swan in mid-air was a splendid capture of a beautiful creature among many others.

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    1. There are many species that only spend the winter here, so it's a great motivator to get out and enjoy them while me may.

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  25. You got some fabulous images, David. I'm pretty wild about those golden eye and Merganser ducks and of course the smaller birds are always favorites. That really was lovely, seeing the wreath on the bench. I still have mine on the door. Just think how lucky we are to have digital so we can take bezillions of photos without having to pay for the very high processing of film as in back in the day! What a great walk!

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  26. Hi David, you had some wonderful wanderings through the snow with your intrepid band of disciples and were rewarded with sighting lots of beautiful species. I think it would have been too cold for me! Thanks for sharing, hugs, Valerie

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  27. Hello David, wow snow! Lots of snow in your part of the world. Great you had such a wonderful walk with al these women it must have been great. The amount of different birds is super. I do can not say wich onces I like the most. But the coulours are outstanding in this winterwonderland. Great photos as well!.
    All the best and regards from Belgium.
    Roos

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  28. Another superb series of outings! What a wonderful diversity of birds observed.
    Fresh air, the excitement of exploring what Nature has to offer, camaraderie - good for the body and the soul.

    I even enjoyed seeing all the snow. (Especially since I don't have to shovel it.)

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  29. Wonderful outings -- the birds are fabulous and you are intrepid naturalists out in that weather -- which I can barely imagine. Thank you for sharing the beauty .

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  30. What a great walk David! The Downy Woodpecker is beautiful, as are the Cardinals. I never see them here!

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  31. I'm always astonished by the variety and number of birds you find. It did occur to me today that the presence of humans who provide food probably helps to account for them clustering in certain areas. I noticed your mention of the Bluejays' love of peanuts in the shell. I put out shelled peanuts, but I've yet to see any Bluejays. I believe I'll get some still in the shell and see what happens.

    Also: do you know what that colorful mix in front of the Chickadee might be? I've never seen a bird food mix that includes anything like it. Perhaps it's a specially designed high protein mix, or some such.

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    1. I confess to not having noticed it at the time, and it struck me too when I saw the picture. I don't know what it is and it's not something I have seen before.

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  32. The birds and photos are wonderful. Each more than the other.

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  33. Siempre te daré gracias por compartir tanta variedad que nunca veré al menos por Béjar. El Trepatroncos, el Arrendajo azul, el Cardenal...También tenemos muchas heladas y frío, pero es su tiempo. Gran día pasastéis.
    El Buho de la cabecera es una maravilla.
    Que tengáis buena noche David.
    Abrazos.

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  34. A great set of photos of many birds that I do not know and I am never likely to see. I have fallen in love with the Tree Sparrow though. I am glad I get to join your walks in the warm, That weather would be too cold for me as I am sure you already know.
    Keep safe and I love, love, love your header. Diane

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  35. I am always fond of seeing herons.

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  36. That is a beautiful owl in your blog header. It is amazing the birds and squirrel still come out in search of food when it is so cold. Bird watching sounds so much fun in the company of beautiful ladies. The squirrel is cute.

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    1. Birding is always fun. Beautiful ladies just add to the pleasure.

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  37. lots of great nature and birds photography. Seems like you have lots of fun on your outings :)

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  38. Wonderful pictures as usual. All that snow makes me cold just looking at it. Love the Barred Owl.

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  39. The owl in the cover photo is masterful!

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  40. Wow, great assortment of photos. And it is always nice to see a human act of kindness, like that wreath on the bench. It gets very discouraging, sometimes, with everything going on, on the planet. (Did I mention an article I read a little while ago, about a baby rhino that was saved, and paired with a zebra "friend" at a rehabilitation place? Poachers had killed the baby rhino's mother, and if the baby hadn't been found shortly after, it would've died out in the wild without its mother. Just awful, many of the things humans do.)

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    1. Poaching is a huge issue in Africa. Greed always trumps everything.

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  41. P.S. I forgot to mention I love your new blog header image!

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  42. Para mí todos los pájaros son favoritos, el reportaje me pareció precioso. Un abrazo.

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  43. Hi David,
    Sensational birds!! The most of them I can only dream of!
    Beautiful walks in good company. Today I saw two Great egrets courting.. no winter here at all...I think you are cool to go out with the cold.
    Warm greetings,
    Maria

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  44. Hello David,:=) A splendid post with sublime bird images. It was a warm sunny day when I went a walk on the farm today, but I didn't see any birds near enough to photograph, and then only a few, and yet, you saw so many beautiful birds, as you explained they are only seen at this time of the year. It seems extraordinary that they prefer to spend winter in such a cold climate, but lucky for you, because you are a hardy bunch, and also don't mind the cold conditions. That gadget Miriam bought is a great find. Your header photo is stunning.
    All the best, hugs from Portugal.

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    1. Many of these species breed farther north, Sonjia, and migrate here for the "mild" winter.

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  45. It amazes me how many birds there are in such a snowy winter, it looks like a region of Narnia! hehe. And very cold in your area, I was watching Windy and I saw the cold wave in North America. A week and a half ago we had an unprecedented heat wave 6 days with highs between 38 and 47C; inside my house we woke up with about 36C one of those days.
    Beautiful your photos accompanied by a pleasant story that invites you to continue reading.

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  46. Another couple of lovely days out, the colder the weather the more birds there are or at least that's how it seems here and by the looks of your photos there too!

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    1. The birds are there, it's just a question of getting out and finding them.

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  47. Hi Davis,
    I am impressed. It isn't just because of the winterlandscape but even more the amazing variety of birds you show us here. The colours fit perfectly with the white color of the snow. Your company was probably very enthousiastic about all the great moments you had.
    Greetings, Kees

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  48. Wow David! A day out with wonderful women, walking the snowy trails and getting the best shots. We are all fortunate that you share these amazing birds with us.

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  49. While I'm here in Florida, I miss my backyard bird-feeders, which attract many of the birds you've highlighted here, so thanks for taking me along, albeit virtually, on your walks, and helping to fill that void. And, I always enjoy your photos of birds I've never seen before.

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    1. The mere thought of using my money to support any jurisdiction with DeSantis in control fills me with instant revulsion.

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  50. Canada is so beautiful and cold! Those beautiful animals and nature are to be protected dearly.

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  51. ...you hardy souls captured so much winter beauty. Thanks for taking me along.

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  52. So many beautiful birds in this post and many that are not found here in the Netherlands.
    Great to see that the cold winter weather doesn't stop people from spotting and photographing birds.
    I enjoyed this blog.
    Greetings Irma

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  53. Querido amigo nos dejas una caminata maravillosa, me sorprende la gran cantidad de aves que hay a pesar del frío. Las fotos son esplendidas. Abrazos para ti y para Miriam.
    La foto del Búho de la cabecera es espectacular, enhorabuena.

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  54. David - so many spectacular photographs, but the standout for me is the Golden-Crowned Kinglet.

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  55. Such a glorious outing would not be impeded by the biggest snowfall in ages… : )
    I will join you more often!

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    1. Maybe one day, Catarina, you will come and join us physically and we can show you some of the wonders of nature.

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  56. Hello David,
    there are still a lot of people who care about flora and fauna. here with us I see very few who represent this interest. But when I look on the internet.. there are quite a few who share this hobby. Maybe I'm always on the road too early and that's why I don't meet anyone..;-))
    Greetings Frank

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  57. Hello David,
    I am a little jealouse to see and read about your trip. I always loved to go on this kind of trips but we were not aloud to go out in a group for a long time, because of the COVID. I hope now that it will be noticed as a "normal"flew now. Fantastic photo's.
    Have a wonderful day.
    Marijke

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  58. Hi David - behind the times ... but what an amazingly delightful range of photos to look through and to see so clearly the wonderful colouration of avian life, let alone the views and animal life - gosh it's cold in your neck of the woods, even more so now. Miriam's Barred Owl header is stunning ... thank you so much to you both for sharing with us - cheers Hilary

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  59. Excellent Group There And Top Shelf Photos - Well Done Brother D

    Cheers

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  60. Hello dear David,
    wonderful to be able to make these kinds of trips and to see so much snow and beautiful nature. The birds are beautiful again. I suddenly see a lot of white-eyes and they are really so beautiful! That special sawbill is also great to see. I also see beautiful rodents :-)
    Firecrests, mute swan, herons, geese and many beautiful little birds. Especially those bright red cardinals 😍. You make me happy again :-))))))
    big kiss xx
    Helma

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  61. If only I lived a bit nearer I would love to come on one of your outings. The amount of wildlife you have is more than I see in a couple of years. Take care.
    Mike.

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