Tuesday, February 20, 2024

F.W.R. Dickson Wildlife Area, Riverside Park

 04 February, 2024
F.W.R. Dickson Wildlife Area, Ayr, ON

     Miriam and I decided to pay a visit to this often productive location - and many others had decided it was an equally good plan. There were more people present than we might have liked, but we are unable to control that and we focussed on nature. There were those who felt that a running commentary was necessary and at times it was intrusive. Nothing to be done, however.
     In recent years, we have found American Tree Sparrow (Spizelloides arborea) to be less common than in times past and no doubt this is still true overall. At Dickson Wilderness Area by contrast they were numerous; at one time we had seven in view at the same time and many more were all around us.

     It is such a tough little winter warrior, delicately attired in rust, beige and white, with accents of black, in every way a picture of loveliness.
     Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) is bold and striking by contrast.

     It is a common complaint that this bird is poorly named and that may be true, but above you can see the red smudge on the belly that gives the bird its name. 
     Mosses (phyllum Bryophyta) are a widespread and distinctive aspect of a moist forest.

     Eastern Teaberry (Gaultheria procumbens) was abundantly distributed on the forest floor.

     In the picture below of a male Downy Woodpecker (Dryobates pubescens) you can see the nictitating membrane which moistens and protects the eye.

     Here is the same bird with a "normal" eye.

     Another delightful American Tree Sparrow.

     No less than mosses, lichens are prolific . This species is probably a type of Greenshield Lichen (genus Flavoparmelia), although my knowledge of lichens is rudimentary at best.

     Black-capped Chickadees (Poecile atricapillus) were perhaps slightly outnumbered by American Tree Sparrows - and I can't recall when I have ever experienced that!

05 April, 2024
Riverside Park, Cambridge, ON

     Time spent with Lisa is always to be cherished and she picked us up to travel down to Riverside Park.
     Almost immediately on starting our walk we heard the slightly nasal zweet of Pine Siskins (Spinus pinus) and it didn't take long to locate them intermingled in a large flock of American Goldfinches (Spinus tristis). 

     Even though winter has barely been worthy of its name this year, here and there a little winter magic enlivened the landscape.

     American Tree Sparrows were not quite as numerous as they had been at F.W.R. Dickson Wildlife Area, but there were many of them, and they were not reticent about feeding close at hand.

     The goldfinches dropped down from the trees to feed on seed along the rail; their cousins the Pine Siskins did not follow them, however.

     Blue Jays (Cyanocitta cristata) were common and opportunistic, not passing up a chance to take advantage of food left by friendly humans.

      We saw several American Robins (Turdus migratorius), none positioned well for photographs, however, and this is the best we could do.

     I am quite sure that were I to see a Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura) every minute of every day, I would still not fail to be impressed by its beauty.

     It was very satisfying to discover Hooded Mergansers (Lophodytes cucullatus) in their element, diving for food in the turgid waters of the Speed River.

     This drake Mallard (Anas platyrynchos) seemed inordinately proud of his orange legs and feet!

     Flocks of majestic Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) were observed throughout the park - a wonderful and stirring sight.

     There were several Common Goldeneyes (Bucephala clangula) on the water, all males as best I recall. Here is one swimming with a couple of female Hooded Mergansers closer to the shore.

     It is such an agreeable little duck, its golden eye beaming out to the world.

     Common Merganser (Mergus merganser) was also frequently seen, both male and female.

     This individual seemed proud to display her white belly and clap her wings in greeting.

     In the time it takes for a Mallard to quack she was joined by a friend.

     Four Mourning Doves were resting on the floor of the woodlot; but try as we might we could only encompass three in one photograph. All our cajoling and pleading were unproductive and we were unable to coax the fourth one into the picture. 

     Even Lisa, who is the sweetest sweet talker of all had no luck. 
     This Hairy Woodpecker (Leuconotopicus villosus) was seen quite well, but never did position itself for a clear picture either.

     Dark-eyed Juncos (Junco hyemalis), jaunty and perky, kept us company most of the time.

     Northern Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis) were both bold.....

     ..... and beautiful.

     I am quite sure that a convention of House Sparrows (Passer domesticus) was taking place, perhaps to discuss the housing crisis and to seek solutions, and we happened upon them at lunch time.

     A male House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus) looked exceptionally splendid, I thought, dapper and well groomed, ready for the first female that happens along.

     It's impossible for me to resist showing you another American Tree Sparrow.

     Perhaps we should form a club with the catchy and altogether original name, The Tree Sparrows. We'll have to compose a constitution with by-laws and voting requirements, of course. We'll need emblems and badges, perhaps even tee shirts, sweaters and baseball hats with a logo yet to be designed.
     I am hereby placing Lisa on special notice that I have summarily appointed her to take charge of this, and I will await her initial proposals by the end of the month. I am secure in the firm conviction that all will proceed in a speedy fashion; Lisa never lets anyone down.
     Upon due consideration we could grant this Red-bellied Woodpecker honorary membership.

     It's a fitting tribute to a distinguished bird don't you think?

     I don't know about you, but I'm excited. Lots to look forward to! 

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. The first shot of American Tree Sparrow looks stunning. And I absolutely love cardinals.

    1. You had a wonderful walk and saw lots of birds. Here in the park around the clinic is a paradise or birds, mice, squirrels etc, always lots to see. Hugs, Valerie

  2. Wonderful outing and beautiful birds. I notice the mosses on our walks, they are such a pretty bright green. Take care, have a great day!

  3. Hari Om
    Your walk was indeed productive...and we had the advantage of viewing in silence! YAM xx

  4. ...fabulous feathered friends, but Gaultheria procumbens is one of my all time favorites.

  5. Although woodpeckers only come second to owls in my ranking of delightful bird families, David, I never thought a sparrow could be lurking, awaiting a place on the list, but that American Tree Sparrow is a strong contender - as is our own Tree Sparrow.

    I hope that you're having a splendid time. Best wishes - - - Richard

  6. It's just like you haven't had winter this year, David. The frost on the branches is so beautiful to look at. The Blue Jay is also so pretty. I love the color.
    Hugs and kisses, Marit

  7. What a great series of photos these are David.
    I enjoyed it, photo 33 is my favorite this time.
    Greetings Irma

  8. the sweet adorable precious little house finch, the red one is my favorite I have never seen most of the birds or if i did i had no idea what they were..... i love mourning doves, their look and sound and sweet gentle personalities. at age 15, my dad went on a hunting trip with his cousins, brother and nephews. they took bird dogs and were gone all day. I did not know what they were hunting and did not want to know.
    at dinner that night, mother put a plate full of doves on the dinner table. I carried on, cried, sobbed, asked how can you eat those tiny birds. i got my 4 years younger than me brother stirred up and both of us had no dinner that night.
    it worked. mother never served birds again, i once over heard Daddy say to his brother, yes I can go this week end, but you will have to take what I shoot home with you. we can't eat doves here. I was devestated to think he was still hunting birds. no hunting of anything in this house, and never will be. unless of course the world blows up and we have to hunt for food to live. maybe i need to study up on how to be a natural veggetarion and live off the land

  9. The red-headed bird is interesting.

  10. That photo of the tree sparrow -- the opening -- is magnificent with that pinkish background, which is so unusual. Really lovely. And I love the cardinals. The females never get the "press" but I think they are as lovely as their male counterparts. It looks like a terrific walk!

  11. Chickadees have been scarce here too this winter. Goldfinches have taken over the feeders. Don't know if I would recognize a pine siskin.

  12. David, I could have sworn I commented here because that shot of the tree sparrow that opened the post is one of the most beautiful I have seen -- that pinkish glow with the branches is beyond amazing. Yours or Miriam's? Either way, a winner. And I'm so glad you also featured the lovely lady cardinal. In their own more muted way they are just as lovely as their male counterparts. Loving the woodpeckers, too. And if this is redundant, oops!

  13. Hello David, So full of information and lovely photographs and I am getting nothing at the moment. Excellent post.

  14. The tree sparrows is a great name for a club. I enjoy winter birds because they come out to feeders so much more than some of those summer visitors. My yard is half moss and I think the only bad thing about moss is that it pulls up so easy when I clean up leaves. But then you can just put it back. And lichens are are definitely fascinating. Is there any other organism that is made up from life from 2 kingdoms? Not that I know of. Hope your week is going well. hugs-Erika

  15. Such great shots. I’ve captured photos of the nictitating membranes over the eyes of a Bald Eagle. It is unusual to see it and rare to capture a shot. At least it is in my experience,

  16. I seldom see American Tree Sparrows. Lovely little bird, thank you. And the usual thanks for all my old friends, too.

  17. Hi Miriam & David, goodnight friends! today you take us on a picturesque journey full of charming details; these birds are beautiful, I can imagine the chirps of the goldfinches and observe the majesty of the Canadian geese, they are so delightful..!

    Wishing you a happy and pleasant nite, goodbye soon!

  18. I enjoyed all of these photos but particularly the various waterfowl, as I never really get to see them close up.

  19. Beautiful images of beautiful birds. I love the Downy Woodpeckers - they are feeding at our station these days.

  20. Beautiful shots of these delightful birds, they are really lovely creatures.
    Those Northern Cardinals such a delight.

  21. I do believe I know where these places are - and I can recognise the bird species! I wonder why. Great set of pictures. Hope all is well, Stewart M - Oakhill, Somerset.

  22. Fantastic photos, I especially loved seeing the Blue Jays and the Red-bellied Woodpecker.

  23. I guess you're in Cuba now. Enjoy the birds there. I love to see those colorful Blue Jays and Cardinals. And that cute woodpecker, too. Good sightings.

  24. Birds can be most uncooperative subjects for photographers but you got some good ones of the Tree Sparrow. And that little Dark-eyed Junco - oh my! He's one of my very favorite winter visitors. As for the Mourning Dove, he's probably my all-time favorite of the permanent residents, both for his beauty and his sweet song which I have never found mournful.

  25. Your photos are always so bright and clear and wonderful. Have a nice day.

  26. I believe the sparrows would do a far better job than anyone right now of managing our sorry planet. Love the cardinals, always. I had a pair return year after year, Such a joy.

  27. Always a delight visit your blog and see all those beautiful birds David !
    So different from what we have here in Europe !
    Have a great evening !

  28. I haven't noticed a shortage of American Sparrows here..They are cuties aren't they?? I think those and Finches of all kinds are our most frequent visitors... Hope you are enjoying your trip.

  29. PS... Miriam and I use the same camera. There's a picture of it on the side bar of my blog. I love it.. I have to admit that I do not use all the bells and whistles.

  30. Loved seeing each and every one of these fine specimens!! :)

  31. The Tree Sparrows seems like an apt name for a birding group. I would skip all the formal things like a constitution and bylaws and just go for the fun things like t-shirts, sweatshirts and baseball hats with a logo.

  32. A lovely collection of birds, my favourites are the Cardinals.

    All the best Jan

  33. I love those cardinals!....my backyard is full of cardinals every morning....For a moment I thought I was coming from the future.....you wrote April 5, 2024 (05 April, 2024
    Riverside Park, Cambridge, ON)....please tell me that we are still in February!....time is flying!......Abrazotes, Marcela

  34. Good evening dear friend!! I thought left my comment here (I almost always come back to confirm that this is the case) and oh, surprise, it's not ! Sorry, I'm a little clueless... I don't know, maybe didn't click Publish. I was telling you that it seems to me that they had a fabulous walk with such beautiful birds that make one go very happy and cheerful through life.


  35. I wonder if the goldfinches did not migrate this year since you had a mild winter. I'm not seeing any yet. just the usual house finches, chickadees, cardinals, sparrows, and white wing doves who have chased most of the mourning doves away.

  36. So who is invited to join your "Tree Sparrows"? We had Tree Sparrows and Chipping Sparrows at our lake house and it was sometimes difficult to know which one I was looking at unless they turned to a good angle. The Tree Sparrows are bigger and the brown eyeline is usually what I went by. They are both beautiful and fun. All of the birds in your post today I would see on a regular basis when I lived on the lake. Here we have house sparrows, the cardinals, of course and the beautiful Mourning Doves. We had an occasional Raptor, but since they started digging up the farm fields and prepping them for yet another housing development, I don't see them anymore. It makes me sad that we (meaning mankind) have no respect for nature and are all driven by greed.
    The Canada Geese and the Mallards are here year round, but the Mergansers and Golden Eyes on our lake just passed through twice a year during their migration. And I know I have said it a hundred times, but I really miss the nature we had all around us on the lake. And being away from it, I have forgotten a lot of what I knew about the birds we had up there ... sad :( So I love coming to your blog because I can relearn what I have forgotten and at least enjoy nature from afar. I am still trying to identify all the bird pictures I took in Australia and in Thailand. Some that I thought I remembered, don't show up in the bird book so I am going to have to tap Stewarts knowledge again before I post anything. We saw 70 birds when we went out and that was only in one Lagoon area ... I wish I had more time to spend so I could go further into Australia and even to New Zealand ... maybe another time, right? So, another "Well Done", David. Always enjoy my visits with you ...

    Andrea @ From the Sol

  37. Lovely birds! I like the pretty tree sparrows. You’re getting ahead of yourself, by the way. April it’s not.

  38. Hi David,
    Your walk in the park was succesful again. Maybe too many other visitors, but the wildlife was attractive anyway. So may different kinds of woodpeckers, I envy you. Most of the different local species of woodpeckers are not so easy to find with us. Mergansers and goldeneyes belong to the visitors during the winter period. Unfortunately their number has decreased the last few years. You had the luck to see a lot of attractive, colourful birds, making the trip worth doing it.
    Greetings, Kees

  39. I always have a flock of sparrows at the birdhouse...they love oatmeal, just like the blackbirds and it's fun to watch their busy activity...I'm all for it, I volunteer.
    And I'm impressed by the plumage of the blue jay... and the Canada geese. I like her so much. Yes, I'm very excited and looking forward to the sun outside, the first crocuses, and my birthday. I am also a February child. All good wishes go to you, dear David.
    A big hug from me.
    I am happy.

  40. Hello David, great birds and the Tree sparrow in particular. Love all those colourful birds you have in your seroundings. It brings colour in cold winterdays. But we are not far from Spring with lots more colours and sunshine. So enjoy all this beauty, and so will I.
    Love from Belgium,

  41. Beautiful photos. I can't choose which bird I like te most. Everything is beautiful. When the weather is good it is always busy with visiters. Have a nice day.

  42. Yo estoy feliz de pasear contigo para ver esas aves tan preciosas. Abrazos.

  43. Beautiful birds, but for some reason I liked that first photo the most.

  44. Wonderful captures! I recently set-up a bird feeder camera in the back garden to capture footage of our visitors here in Wales.

  45. Wat een spectaculaire vogelsoorten David, enkele soorten komen ook hier in Nederland voor, maar de meeste tref je hier niet aan. Toevallig heb ik gisteren de grote zaagbek ook nog kunnen fotograferen.


  46. Querido David es realmente maravilloso poder disfrutar de tantas y variadas aves, si a esto le añadimos tu valiosa información y tan espectaculares fotos leerte se vuelve un verdadero placer. Muchas gracias. Un fuerte abrazo para ti y para Miriam.

  47. Hello David :=)
    I came upon your post by chance just now, because I hadn't realised you had posted before leaving for Cuba. It was a delightful surprise and I enjoyed it immensely. Because of the kindness of people leaving food for wild birds in your parks you do see a lot of birds on your walks, and they are all beautiful. This does not happen here in Portugal so sightings of birds are rare. Three different species of Woodpecker and all the photos of the understated beauty of the Tree Sparrow besides the Colourful Cardinals and male House Finch, "which I haven't seen since 2014" were a joy to see.
    It was lovely that you spent some time with Lisa an added pleasure to your walk. Thank you Miriam for your captures and you David for your pleasant commentary.
    All the best to you both
    Hugs and xxxxxx.

  48. A precious outing that provided us with extraordinarily beautiful pictures.

  49. The American Tree sparrow is particularly pretty. I have just looked up Eurasian Tree Sparrow and I am wondering if we do not have them in our French Garden. We have so many house sparrows that I take them for granted, but I well could have missed seeing a tree sparrow. I must look more closely at our sparrows on our return,
    I hope all is well bisous mon ami Diane


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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.