Saturday, 22 July 2017

Tuesday Rambles with David - RIM Park, Waterloo.

18 July 2017

     My daughter, Caroline, was visiting from Ottawa and we decided that RIM Park would be a perfect spot for our Tuesday ramble. When Caroline's two boys, Sam and Will, were little they would come and stay with us for a week in the summer and RIM Park was one of their favourite places to walk. Caroline had never been there so the opportunity seemed perfect.

     All the members of our regular group were there, except for Mary who is away camping. Miriam took a picture of the group, minus herself, of course.

     Then she took one of Caroline with her dad.

     I am sure that you can all see where she gets her good looks!
     Quite often Francine has a bird that she especially wants to see, and it is amazing how often, right after she mentions it, we are able to find one for her. This week her wish was for Great Crested Flycatcher (Myiarchus crinitus) and Franc was photographing it within minutes.

     Shortly afterwards we saw what I initially identified as a female Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus). 

     Upon close examination of Franc's pictures, however, the bird is clearly a juvenile male, as evidenced by the distinctive red underwing coverts seen below.

     As might be expected along the river, we saw several Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias), this one balancing itself in a tree.

     Green Heron (Butorides virescens) is usually not as prominent as Great Blue Heron and requires a little more persistence and patience to get a good picture - the hallmarks of a good photographer, of course.

     Cedar Waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum) were seldom out of sight as they were flycatching over the river, finding rich pickings in the abundant swarms of insects darting over the water.

     There were relatively few gulls, but a Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis) and an American Herring Gull (Larus smithsonianus) were taking turns perching on the same rock.

     There is a substantial population of White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in the Grand River watershed, but they are primarily nocturnal or crepuscular in their habits. Recently we have been seeing them during daylight hours, but always across the river. Perhaps having the water as a barrier gives them more confidence to come out during the day.

     Miriam was not behind the camera for this shot of the female component of the group. Looks to me like they are just having too much fun!

     A Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) seemed totally uninterested in everything going on around it and concentrated on a tasty snack.

     We saw three Belted Kingfishers (Megaceryle alcyon) in all, usually perched on a branch in deep shade, or too far off for a decent picture, but this female was finally a little more obliging.

     And the icing on the cake for Francine was yet another Great Crested Flycatcher.

     The familiar witchety song of the Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas) was frequently heard, although the bird was seldom seen. This male was the exception.

     Based on our observations Downy Woodpeckers (Dryobates pubescens) seem to have had a prolific year and this juvenile male is one of many young woodpeckers we have recently seen.

     A juvenile male Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) is evidence of the breeding success of another species of woodpecker.

     There is a good deal of suitable habitat for Eastern Kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus) and I had seen a couple of families feeding young on a visit to RIM Park just two days earlier with an undergraduate student from the University of Waterloo I am mentoring. Today we saw only adults as far as I recall.

     We did, however, encounter a juvenile Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe), another common summer breeder in the family of tyrant flycatchers.

     A Swamp Sparrow (Melospiza georgiana) represented my first sighting of this species at RIM Park.

     The weather was perfect, the birds numerous, and the company of the very best kind. Caroline could not have wished for a more enjoyable walk and she enthused about it for the rest of her stay.

All bird species: Great Blue Heron, Green Heron, Turkey Vulture, Western Osprey, Red-tailed Hawk, Ring-billed Gull, American Herring Gull, Mourning Dove, Belted Kingfisher, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Eastern Phoebe, Great Crested Flycatcher, Eastern Kingbird, Warbling Vireo, Barn Swallow, Black-capped Chickadee, American Robin, Common Starling, Cedar Waxwing, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow Warbler, Chipping Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, American Goldfinch. Total: 30 species.

The next day........

     Jim and Francine invited us to drop by for one of their legendary breakfasts. Franc was able to join us too, although Carol was babysitting her grandson and had to pass.
     When we arrived at 09:30 the table was set beneath a large tree in their beautiful garden.

     When Jim and Francine say breakfast, what they really mean is a feast of mythical proportions. To celebrate Caroline's presence we started with mimosas (Champagne and orange juice) - then there were croissants, muffins, toast, coffee, fresh fruit, cheese, jams, eggs cooked to order, sausages, bacon, home fried potatoes, baked beans - and more than anyone could eat!

     How fortunate we are to have such great friends!
     Thank you Francine and Jim - it was fantastic!

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Double-crested Cormorant (Cormoran à aigrettes)

     Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) is a familiar sight on the waterways of southern Ontario, especially on the Great Lakes, and has made a resounding comeback from the low population levels of the mid to late twentieth century.

     This population resurgence should be a cause for great rejoicing, since the expanding population of this obligate fish-eating bird, indicates an improvement in the health of the Great Lakes. Furthermore, Double-crested Cormorants eat "junk" fish, unattractive to commercial or sports fishers, and are especially important in consuming large quantities of invasive Round Gobies (Neogobius melanostomus) which are heavily implicated in the decline of native species.

     Repeated analyses of the stomach contents of Double-crested Cormorants have revealed time and again that their take of "desirable" species is negligible, but hard science has failed to convince sceptics, or those with a preconceived dislike of the bird, and the clarion call of those wishing to control the population of this native species never abates.
     The fact that they are colonial nesters leads to the death of trees in their colonies over time and this only serves to exacerbate the frenzy of people wishing to cull their numbers. The simple truth is that as the colony expands as part of a natural cycle, trees will be killed and the birds will move to another area, or adapt to ground nesting. What is left behind when the birds translocate is a great depth of guano, rich in nitrogen, which enhances the quality of the soil, and stimulates new growth of trees and the cycle will ultimately repeat itself, as it has done for millennia.
     It is a disgrace that the management of Point Pelee National Park and Nature Conservancy Canada have lent their good name, and their financial and logistical support, to the destruction of thousands of birds from the colony on Middle Island in Lake Erie, using spurious, illogical reasoning to justify their inhumane and totally unwarranted slaughter.
     The following video illustrates what is going on.


     One can only hope that naturalists, birders and concerned citizens will withhold their support, both physical and financial from these two organizations.
     I highly recommend The Double-crested Cormorant - Plight of a Feathered Pariah by Linda Wires, with superb illustrations by Barry Kent MacKay, as essential reading, to fully understand the long history of prejudice against this species.It is a damning indictment of humanity and our attitudes to wildlife.

     As Keith Hobson, Environment Canada, has commented: The Double-crested Coromorant is extremely important, given the unprecedented nature of the history of the management of this species and its ramifications for the way we manage wildlife and respond to these apex predators we see as competitors. It is also a rare treatment that places human society as much under the magnifying glass as the bird itself.


Friday, 14 July 2017

Tuesday Rambles with David - The Linear Trail the second time around.

11 June 2017

     Last week we had a very productive outing to the Linear Trail in Cambridge, ON and covered about half its length. This week we decided to begin at the opposite end and work our way towards the point where we turned around last week. The weather was a little foggy, and the light far from ideal for photography, but we enjoyed a great walk filled with wildlife of different taxa.
     In the parking lot, before even embarking on the trail, we saw this Polyphemus Moth (Antheraea polyphemus), a stunning species. We initially thought that a woman parking her car had inadvertently run over it, but it was fluttering, and the driver of the vehicle, filled with remorse, carried it over to a tree. Without further ado it flew back towards us, so no harm seemed to have been done.

     In high spirits, we set out along the trail.

     We had not gone far, no more than four or five hundred metres, when our walk was abruptly brought to a halt.

        Quite what happened to the bridge is open to speculation, but it appears that someone attempted to drive over it with equipment exceeding the load-bearing capacity of the structure.

     Had we been children, we would have taken our shoes and socks off and waded across, but being a conservative bunch, and no doubt older and wiser (or is that less adventuresome?) we headed back to the parking lot.
     Common Whitetails (Plathemis lydia) were common. Here is an adult male...

     ...........and here is a juvenile male with its characteristic brown abdomen and pale diagonal dashes along each side.

     On the way back to our vehicles, Franc and I ventured off into a bushy area, filled with tangles and saplings of various heights, and plagued with mosquitoes unfortunately. In any event, we made our way down to the river and were rewarded with a great range of species.
     Common Tern (Sterna hirundo) is rare around here, but this year I have seen as many as three individuals at the Hespeler Mill Pond, and today Franc and I were treated to the delightful spectacle of seeing a delicate Common Tern, in superbly choreographed flight, alongside the bruiser of this family, Caspian Tern (Hydroproge caspia).
     The scientific name of Common Tern translates to Swallow Tern, and you can judge for yourself from the pictures below that it is aptly named.

     Franc had never seen a Common Tern before and was thrilled to be presented with such great opportunities for photographs.
     The powerhouse Caspian Tern was a study in contrast.

     A male Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) was perched just over the water, a little farther away than we might have liked, but photogenic nonetheless.

     A Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) stalked its prey, patiently waiting for every opportunity to make a lightening strike.

     Kildeer (Chardrius vociferus) is our most common shorebird and is frequently observed in large numbers, especially as we approach migration time. 

     As we picked our way back through the tangles, Grey Catbirds (Dumetella carolinensis) were frequently seen and heard, gurgling their delightful, cheery song, with a little mimicry thrown in for good measure, and ending on the miaow exclamation point from which the bird derives its name.

     Having donated our share of blood to the ravenous female mosquitoes we rejoined Miriam, Judy, Mary and Carol in the parking lot, and set off to park adjacent to the trail around its midpoint, so that we could traverse it back to the defunct bridge which had stopped us in our tracks.
     The birding was terrific. Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), no longer subjected to idiotic and obscene levels of persecution, have made a resounding comeback across the continent and are now fairly common in the Grand River watershed. It was with enormous satisfaction that we saw two adults perched at the river's edge, quite far away, but close enough for a record shot.

     One of the birds flew a little closer and perched at mid height in the trees along the riverbank. It is indeed a majestic species.

     Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis) is a skillful and opportunistic feeder and this individual had caught a catfish, a fine meal indeed. It is amazing what a bird can swallow!

     After all that exertion, and with a full belly, perhaps it needed to rest for a while.

    We have a watermelon in the fridge and I think that to match the feat of the gull I would have to swallow it whole!
     American Herring Gull (Larus smithsonianus) is less common at this time of year and this is the only individual we saw.

     American Robin (Turdus migratorius)is a prolific breeder and often has three broods in a single season.  Juveniles are seemingly everywhere. 

     Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularius) is common along suitable watercourses and we saw several of them.

     It is always interesting to watch them zoom across the water with their typical rapid wing beats.

     There were several small flocks of Northern Rough-winged Swallows (Stelgidopteryx serripennis) and we were fortunate to have one perch for a picture.

     This male American Yellow Warbler (Setophaga aestiva) has lost his tail somehow. Perhaps sacrificing it saved him from a predator bent on making a meal out of him.

    House Wrens (Troglodytes aedon) were spotted several times, often announcing their presence by their rollicking song.

     Birds need to keep their plumage in prime condition and bathing is an important part of feather maintenance. This male American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis) is drying off after immersing at the river's edge.

     Japanese Beetle (Popilla japonica) is a serious invasive species, with adults damaging leaf tissues and ripening fruit of more than two hundred plants. This pair seems intent on making sure that we have more of them.

     Maybe Song Sparrows (Melospiza melodia) will eat a few!

     Warbling Vireos (Vireo gilvus) have a robust population along the Linear Trail.

     Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura) is a very common species, of course, but this is an interesting shot.

     I always think that Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) is like an old friend that you never tire of seeing, no matter how often it happens. 

     Another great Tuesday ramble. Now we have to think about next week's destination.

All birds species: Canada Goose, Mallard, Great Blue Heron, Western Osprey, Bald Eagle, Sandhill Crane, Killdeer, Spotted Sandpiper, Ring-billed Gull, American Herring Gull, Caspian Tern, Common Tern, Mourning Dove, Chimney Swift, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Belted Kingfisher, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Eastern Phoebe, Warbling Vireo, Red-eyed Vireo, Blue Jay, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Tree Swallow, House Wren, American Robin, Grey Catbird, Cedar Waxwing, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow Warbler, Song Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird, Baltimore Oriole, House Finch, American Goldfinch, House Sparrow.   Total:  39 species.