Monday, October 02, 2023

WRN Outing to North Shore of Lake Ontario

23 September, 2023 

     I have been running this outing for Waterloo Region Nature for about eleven years now, in different seasons, and it has not lost one scintilla of its appeal.

Leader: David M. Gascoigne

Members:  Miriam Bauman, Betty Brechun, Lisa Den Besten, Sharon Dillon-Martin, Victoria Ho, Greg Michalenko, Crystal Rose, Roger Suffling, Selwyn Tomkun, Min Min Tong

Guests: Amanda Armstrong, Thomas Charky, Harry Cheng, Jane Park, Angela Rooke, Chris Rooke, David Rooke, Zach Summerhayes, Brooke Wade

Back Row - Lisa, Harry, Thomas, Brooke, Zach, Roger, Greg, Chris
Front Row- Jane, Victoria, Selwyn, Amanda, David G., Min Min, Crystal, Angela, David R.
Kneeling - Sharon, Betty

     There were several novices or near-novices on this outing, so a power line filled with Rock Doves (Columba livia) was a great opportunity to explain a little about introduced species, and the dire consequences that can result from good intentions.

     Ironically, the very next species we observed was another example of an introduced bird that has thrived and now poses problems for our native avifauna. A female House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) is shown on goldenrod (genus Solidago), while the male is taking full advantage of seed left by a doting resident of the area.

     Spiders' webs are eternally attractive, and form critical nest-building material for some birds too. 

     From time to time a domestic Mallard (Anas platyrynchos domesticus) escapes from a farmyard or ornamental pond and joins a flock of wild birds, but it was very unusual to see a little flotilla like this.

     They seemed to be keeping to themselves too, and we didn't see them join forces with their wild congeners.
     Mouse-eared Hawkweed (Pilosella officinarum) looked quite splendid in the morning light.

     A snail in the genus Cepaea was content to use Wild Carrot (Daucus carota) as a convenient pathway.

     When this old industrial area was razed to the ground and rehabilitated as a little nature preserve, this chimney was left standing to provide habitat for Chimney Swifts (Chaetura pelagica) - and success has finally been achieved.

     Foresight, sound planning, and following the advice of knowledgeable people is a good thing!
     Evergreens in general seem to have had a fine year, at least in southern Ontario, and Northern White Cedar (Thuja occidentalis) attests to this fact.

     We wandered through the goldenrod.....

     ..... and rimmed the observation deck to scan for birds.

     The sun was in our eyes, but a Double-crested Cormorant (Nannopterum auritus) took advantage of it to dry its wings.

     One of the highlights of the day was to see a Merlin (Falco columbarius) plucking and consuming freshly caught prey.

     Would that we had been witness to the chase and the capture!

Urquhart Butterfly Garden, Dundas, ON

     The Urquhart Butterfly Garden is really an extension of the canal walk, and is in spectacular early fall bloom. I swear that the goldenrods and asters have never been so vibrant as this year.

New England Aster

     A Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) flew up and down a couple of times and then perched very conveniently.

     Guelder-Rose (Viburnum opulus) has produced a fine crop of berries.

Grindstone Creek, Hamilton, ON

     As soon as we arrived at the water, a Trumpeter Swan (Cygnus buccinator) graced us with its presence.

     For a few minutes it was alongside a Mute Swan (Cygnus olor), facilitating a close comparison of the two species.

     Mute Swans are not entirely mute, but rarely are they heard, and even then a mild hiss. Legends abound about Mute Swans only singing before they die - the first song also being the last. Orlando Gibbons' set of Madrigals & Motets of 5 Parts (1612), captures it perfectly.

The Silver Swan, who living had no note,
When death approached unlocked her silent throat,
Leaning her breast against the reedy shore,
Thus sung her first and last, and sung no more,
Farewell all joys, O death come close mine eyes,
More Geese than Swans now live, more fools than wise.

     A keen group, binoculars at the ready were scanning around the marsh.

     A couple of Great Egrets (Ardea alba) were present.

     Wood Ducks (Aix sponsa) stubbornly remained at the far side of the wetland, so it's a little hard to see their distinguishing characteristics.

     A gorgeous Common Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis) was a lovely image to take with us as we headed for our cars.

LaSalle Park and Marina, Burlington, ON

     Even as we parked, a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) soared over our heads, an image of avian majesty if ever I saw one.

     A Double-crested Cormorant posed nicely, and then obligingly went into the water too.

     It remained close by as we enjoyed our lunch sitting on the retaining wall of a short spit, basking in glorious sunshine, savouring the moment.

Before we sat down!

     A group of Mallards seemed to be taking life easy.....

     ..... as did a fairly large contingent of Double-crested Cormorants.

     An American Black Duck (Anas rubipres) posed very nicely, showing off its speculum.

     A female Belted Kingfisher had been flying up and down the water, announcing its presence by its distinctive rattle, and finally perched briefly where it could be photographed. 

     This House Sparrow did not appear well. 

     It was very lethargic and tolerated a close approach. Perhaps it was suffering from an overload of parasites or a debilitating (or lethal) pathogen. Given the overall concern for avian flu we left it alone to await its fate.
     Mute Swans sailed along like the royalty they are.

     A fall walk in an Ontario woodland would not be complete without an Eastern Chipmunk (Tamias striatus) or two.

     I would think it is a rare juxtaposition of species when a Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperii) and a couple of Turkey Vultures (Cathartes aura) are caught in the same frame.

Paletta Lakefront Park, Burlington, ON

     We gathered in the parking lot, waiting for the last car to arrive.

     With everyone accounted for, we set out on our walk.

     It was not long before we spotted this Pure Green Sweat Bee (Augochloropsis viridula), matchlessly beautiful I am sure you will agree.

     The Mallard in the picture below is an excellent example of a male coming out of eclipse plumage and regaining his splendour.

     A Common Eastern Bumble Bee (Bombus impatiens) is not as spectacular as a sweat bee, but is a vital pollinator, well deserving our admiration and protection.

     In some respects, it was the Day of the Snail - they seemed to be everywhere.

     This Downy Woodpecker (Dryobates pubescens) puzzled us all a little. It entered a hole, disappearing completely, only to come out again, perch at the rim and repeat the whole performance - to what end I am not sure.

      Common (Spotted) Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) is one of my favourite plants of all time, and it was abundantly present at Paletta Park.

     Miriam's picture above is about as perfect as it gets, in my opinion. Were I an artist my brush would already be in my hand.

     I could be forgiven for concluding that American Winter Ant (Prenolepis imparis) shares my enthusiasm for jewelweed.
     Pannicled Aster (Symphyotrichum lanceolatum) was common.

     A Green Cone-headed Planthopper (Acanalonia conica) did me the rare honour of landing on my shirt.

     Did I mention that we had snails?

     A couple of Red-bellied Woodpeckers (Melanerpes carolinus) charmed us with their antics.

     The indomitable Greg was breaking in a new knee, and decided to hang back on this segment of the walk, until we rejoined him on the return circuit. He sets a new paradigm for relaxing in style!

     Many chose to call it a day at this stop, but a few of us soldiered on for one more kick at the proverbial can.

Bronte Harbour, Oakville, ON

      There was not much to see here, other than a multitude of Double-crested Cormorants, but we enjoyed a walk around the harbour and along the breakwater.

     A Silver Maple (Acer saccharium) was captivating.

     What a wonderful day it had been. Good friends, keen naturalists, experienced teachers, novices, young and old. It really doesn't get any better.
David M. Gascoigne,
David M. Gascoigne,

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


  1. ...Like a bird on the wire
    Like a drunk in a midnight choir
    I have tried in my way to be free~Leonard Cohen.

  2. Hi David,
    It must be absolutely fantastic to be so many bird enthusiasts together at once. As always, the photographs are so beautiful. The asters are so pretty and so are the swans. They are majestic where they swim.
    Hugs and kisses, Marit

  3. Glad you had such a wonderful trip, and ssw so much beauty. Your Greg seems to be a tough cookie! Hugs, Valerie

  4. You saw so many creatures, large and small! It has been years since I have seen a belted kingfisher. They used to be very common here. Jewelweed, which used to be abundant along our roads, seems to be getting pushed out by Japanese stiltgrass, sadly.

  5. A very nicely Team, and high quality photographs in the article, that shows us the fantástic nature and the wild life inside.

  6. As always wonderful - and without doubt a delight for all the senses. Thank you for taking us along. And thanks as always to Miriam for capturing the beauty and the wonder.

  7. You took some really beautiful shots of Waterloo Region Nature. It's a bless to have so many friends who share the same interest and have fun together.

    1. It really is great to share one’s passion with others.

  8. Looks like a fabulous outing, you had a good size group on your walk. Beautiful photos, I always enjoy Miriam's nature photos. The birds, the flowers and the snails are favorites.
    Take care, have a great day and happy week ahead!

  9. What a great fieldtrip!....I can see the changes in colors......Abrazotes, Marcela

  10. Such eclectic groups. And the array of plants and animals is so interesting each time.

    We saw vultures this past week at North Cape. Fascinating to watch them. No hawks around though. That photo with the hawk and vultures is a great one! Well done, Miriam.

  11. Hari OM
    So much to see, so little time! You made a fair job of it though and I am sure all were very satisfied. YAM xx

  12. Querido David me encantaría poder realizar esa caminata con vosotros, sería maravilloso. Y sin duda me parece muy muy bonita el Impatiens. Enhorabuena para Miriam por sus espectaculares fotos y Muchas gracias por compartir tanta belleza. Un abrazo enorme para los dos.

  13. Lovely egret. I have seen only one in my lifetime.

  14. 🌸🌟💕🐰☀👼🐰🌟🌼💫🌸💖🌟💕💘☀️🌸🌼🐰🐻💖🌟💕💘☀️🌸🌼Good evening friend, que tal!
    the only thing missing is the fireworks here! it has been a post as magnificent as the swans the snails and the eagle, how wonderful! soul of the lake is a swan, as serious and gentle as a prince ohhhh my god, i think i'm going to faint. At one point I thought that they could meet little red riding hood or snow white collecting yellow flowers and singing with the birds!
    Congratulations on eleven years leading such heterogeneous and harmonious groups.
    Have a beautiful start of week ahead 🌸🌟💕🐰☀👼🐰🌟🌼💫🌸💖🌟💕💘☀️🌸🌼🐰🐻💖🌟💕💘☀️🌸🌼

  15. What a wonderful day was had, the birds and bugs were cooperating with the camera lens, and the flowers provided a beautiful back ground. Thanks for sharing with us!

  16. What a large group! Beautiful places and lots of critters and plants to see, as usual. You guys get great photos, too. Thanks for always sharing your adventures. :)

  17. A happy, happy gathering of people all doing something they love, a delight to see.
    The photos are good and that house sparrow, yes, it doesn't look so good for it, maybe an off day.

  18. What a great series of photos David.
    I think the New England aster is beautiful with the water drop.
    I also think the Belted Kingfisher, Trumpeter Swan and the Mute Swan are great to see.
    Great flight photo of the bald eagle.
    It's nice that you are doing this with a large group, it also seems like a lot of fun.
    I enjoyed your blog.
    Greetings Irma

  19. I have never seen a wild swan of any kind or a chipmunk. Only photos. I do know all about species introduced where they should not be. Florida has plants, snakes, giant lizards, the list is long. once someone plants something here it goes quite mad and covers the earth where is should not. we have birds flying free from other countries that should not be hear. it seems Mankind likes to remove and replace to other places what they like about those other places... I would be on a bench doing what your friend was after that long of a hike. the golden rod brought a smile. the man in the wedding picture of me in 1963, was from Utah and when the goldenrod bloomed, I did what mother always did, brought bouquets of it inside in vases... he was allergic! what a mess that was.

  20. Hello David, sorry for my late respons on your posts. My excuse is that I was out in nature as soon as I could because of outstanding nice weather. But I will catch up now on your postings. This walk with all these friends of nature you had is wonderful and I am sure it was a great experiance for all of them. The birds, insects and animals you saw on your walk is just amazing. My favorite this time is that Kingfisher. A kind we do not see in my parts of the world. It is a beauty.
    Warm regards,

  21. Many wonderful sightings and thank you for sharing them. I have always found when meeting more knowledgeable photographers on our walks, they are very generous sharing that knowledge.

  22. Hi David.

    This was a beautiful walk
    They will have enjoyed it

    A beautiful spider web.
    The Kingfisher was very beautiful and the Squirrel really nice.

    Greetings from Patricia.

  23. What could be better than a walk in autumn!

  24. What a wonderful trip. Your photos are always so interesting and beautiful. Have a very nice day today.

  25. A very large variety of fauna.

  26. A very beautiful and interesting walk.
    Spider's webs are a masterpiece of architecture.
    There are many doves around my house and yesterday a tragedy happened: a seagull attacked a dove. I tried to rescue her but I was late.

  27. Otra buena excursión, con grandes fotografías en tu reportaje.
    Un abrazo

  28. An outing with the two of you would be great fun...I don't know about wandering thru Goldenrod though...allergies!!

    The residents here destroy Sparrows nests in favor of the Bluebirds.
    I didn't know that there were winter ants.
    We don't have Kingfishers here...Love its colors..
    We have planthoppers but I never knew what they were called.
    Looks like a good day...Great pictures as well...

    1. I don’t think that goldenrods cause anywhere near the allergic reactions they are accused of. Ragweed is more implicated than goldenrod.

    2. I guess I thnk of them as being the same thing..There is so much pollen around at that time...It could be anything!!

  29. Duck? Speculum? Is that the throat or the beak? I sometimes find very small snail shells in my yard. They're light colored, kind of a pale pink.


    1. The speculum is the coloured panel you see on a duck’s wing.

  30. It was certainly a spectacular walk.
    The photos are fantastic, I especially liked the photo of the Guelder Roses, with their red berries and the photo of the eagle, absolutely majestic.
    Thanks for sharing.

  31. You certainly saw a huge variety of species on your walks. I wonder what was so sweet and appealing in the jewelweed. And I'm really curious how to ID a Coopershawk. What do you look for Hope your first week in October is enjoyable.hugs-Erika

    1. Send me an email and I will reply with ID tips for Cooper’s Hawk.

  32. Hello David,
    One thing is certain: we will definitely see many of the beginners and almost newbies again soon on your tours, everything you have seen and photographed is great.
    Greetings Frank

    1. I have another outing coming up shortly, Frank, and almost thirty people are registered for that one.

  33. Hi David,
    Quite a few interesting places you visited. Variety in wildlife was abundant so every member of your group obviously had a great time. It must be a pleasant feeling that so many people took part and were satisfied. It was worth the effort of organizing.
    Greetings, Kees

    1. I have heard from a couple of the novices who say that they learned a great deal, but even more importantly perhaps, the outing fuelled their enthusiasm for nature and is leading them to learn even more. They are young too, so hopefully they will be in the vanguard of people fighting for the environment.

  34. What a beautiful 1612 poem! I love it. I didn't know that about Mute Swans. How incredibly beautiful swans are. I remember seeing them for the first time in Zurich, Switzerland in November 1969. Such graceful birds! I loved your photo of the Kingfisher, too. There is a beer in India named "Kingfisher." David enjoyed it when we were there in 2012.

  35. I am amazed by how much you mananaged to fit into a single day with so many people, David, and how productive that day was. I am sure that your 'novice' attendees will now have grown in knowledge and enthusiasm.

    My apologies for the tardy visit. Sunday evening was spent packing. We should then have departed the Isles of Scilly early on monday morning. However, the flight was cancelled due to weather and we ended up sailing back, not getting home until late Tuesday instead of Monday. Yesterday was spent recovering!

    Best wishes to you and Miriam - - - Richard

    1. I suppose weather-related delayed are always a possibility when visiting (or leaving) the Scillies, but at least you are now back home, safe, sound, warm and cozy!

  36. In the category of right place at right time, that pic of the cormorant spreading its wings tops the cake!

  37. Summerhayes - a moderately unusual surname. But a youth with that name and with exotic geographical origins (details now forgotten) joined my class at Bradford Grammar School, Yorkshire West Riding, UK, in the late forties. Memorable in that a flask of fuming hydrochloric (?) acid spilled over his thigh and he was shipped off to hospital. Any relation?

    1. Hi Roderick: I will send your comment to Zach and we will find out!

  38. Como siempre encantada del recorrido. Abrazos.

  39. A wonderful trip with some wonderful photographs, thank you.

    All the best Jan

  40. Another great walk, David, and if we were ever so fortunate to be in Canada when you were leading one, it would be a pleasure to be included and learn from such an experienced and knowledgeable guide. I am sure that all the participants felt much the same.

  41. Your excursions are always such a pleasure to see on your blog. So much in regard to birds, insects, snails (you should have mentioned that a bit more often!) and plants - I always learn something and simply enjoy the excellent photography.
    How do you pronounce Urquhart? I only know this as the name of a castle at Loch Ness in Scotland and I have always wondered how to pronounce it properly.

    1. Good question, Carola. I can see how this might be a difficult word to figure out the pronunciation. Phonetically is is erkart. Your mastery of written English by the way is nothing short of phenomenal.


Land Acknowledgement

We acknowledge that the land on which we are situated are the lands traditionally used by the Haudenosaunee, Anishinaabe, and Neutral People. We also acknowledge the enduring presence and deep traditional knowledge, laws, and philosophies of the Indigenous Peoples with whom we share this land today. We are all treaty people with a responsibility to honour all our relations.