Total Pageviews

Mar 31, 2010

Scenes from Seneca

A few metres east of Keele Street on the Oak Ridges Trail, north of King City, is a rivulet that passes under a narrow boardwalk and spills into a small pool. It is a perfect little scene, accompanied by the sweet sound of gurgling water. The picture below doesn't do it justice, so keep an eye out for it if you pass by that way. Beyond this spot today, I saw many Canada Geese on Lake Jonda, or as it's known now: Lake Seneca. Among the geese, I counted 25 Common Mergansers and a few Mallard Ducks. Away from the lake, I spotted three Killdeers and three Tree Swallows: firsts of the season. I also saw and heard numerous Song Sparrows. That's one of them, pictured above. I still haven't seen any bluebirds, but they'll be along. I certainly recommend the King Campus of Seneca College for birdwatching.

Mar 28, 2010

Migrants at Cold Creek

I went looking for bluebirds at Cold Creek Conservation Area today, but they have not returned yet. I had to settle for my first Turkey Vulture of the season. The ice is off the ponds at Cold Creek and Canada Geese have returned to claim their favourite spots. The pair which I photographed, above, seem to have taken a liking to the island in the main pond. They were one of eight pairs, which is a lot for such a small pond. I imagine things will get quite confrontational in short order, but I also know that eventually everyone will find a spot they can work with. It's forecasted to be a beautiful, sunny, warm week. I hope to post a picture here of the first bluebirds of the season, some time very soon.

Mar 24, 2010

The Grackle

He loudly intrudes hither and thither
Causing some to quake and others to quiver
A black and blue fellow
With eyes sickly yellow
Yet confronted the coward's all a-dither
I don't know why I have this love-hate relationship with grackles, but I do. One moment I'm shooing them away from the feeders, so smaller birds have a chance at the seeds, and the next moment I'm thinking this strikingly good-looking bird is one of my favourites. As it happens, I was in the backyard last week with my camera and one of the visiting grackles commented to me that he had seen me taking pictures of starlings. He claimed he was a much better example of avian resplendency, than the starling. So, I took his picture also. You see it above. I tweaked the sharpness a bit to make him look even more menacingly edgy than he normally appears. I was so impressed with my own efforts, that I blew up the image and had it framed, which you see below. It has now taken a place on a wall in the BarrytheBirder den, which you can see even further below. Ah, Quiscalus quiscula, it seems people either love you or hate you. And while the grackle has only one latin name, he has many nicknames, such as Cling-cling, Chango, Mozambique, Bequia-sweet and Tinkling. He's known as Ting-Ting in Jamaica, Ching-ching in the Caymen Islands, and Pichon Prieto in Puerto Rico. In Haiti, he's known as just plain Merle. I'm not fond of grackles because they are greedy, shrieking bullies. But I like them because they are bold and handsome (in a Darth Vader kind of way) and because they are harbingers of spring. Please comment if you wish. BtheB

Mar 18, 2010

Local trail a delight

For my money, the Ed Millar Side Trail, off the Oak Ridges Moraine Trail, just north of King City, on Seneca College lands, is one the prettiest, short, public walks in all of King Township. Access is from Keele Street, about 100 metres north of King's 16th Sideroad. Even in mid-March, the trail beguiles. It helps, of course, when the temperature is 16C and the sun is shining. Below are some shots I took today. A downed tree presents no real obstacle. Two cuts from a chain saw, roll the cut-section aside, and carry on.
This Seneca beaver pond is thawing and bubbling over the top of the dam. It looks like the beavers and the King Township Roads Department have reached a compromise on water levels. Keele Street isn't flooded and the beavers have not made any adjustments to the dam's height, in over a year.
The trail climbs along an elevated ridge that culminates with a pleasing contrast of very tall, slender, White Birches (some 70 to 80' tall) and a mass of dark Hemlocks. There is even a handful of Black Spruce, which are more common, much further north in the Boreal Forest, especially in boggy areas. If you look about here, you will see that this particular area is surrounded by many wet and boggy spots, including the beaver pond/swamp. In a few weeks, this trail will be in its spring glory and it will be a reward for any walker with an hour for leisure. For the lucky ones who walk softly, the many ephemeral wet spots often are home here to Wood Ducks (spectacular sights in their right). One last trail note: there is parking for three or four vehicles, on the east side of Keele, where the stile climbs over the wire fence. Enjoy, BtheB

Mar 15, 2010

Blackbirds are back

My friend and neighbour, Ed Millar, emailed me yesterday to say he had a bunch of grackles and a Red-winged Blackbird in his backyard. I replied that if he had them yesterday, I would probably have them today. Then, my wife, Linda, informed me she had heard Red-winged Blackbirds, in the neighbourhood, a week ago. Sure enough, today there were grackles, cowbirds, starlings and Red-winged Blackbirds in the backyard. The starlings were making short work of the last of the suet (see the photo above). To me, the appearance of blackbirds means spring has arrived. I trust blackbirds about these things a lot more than I do those grumpy groundhogs at Wiarton and Punxsutawny. I love it when a neophyte birder sees a starling in its winter/early-spring, plumage, with all those white spots against the glossy black, green and purple colours. Somehow, new birders often have a pre-conceived idea that the starling's appearance is plain and dull. When they see one up close and are told what they are looking at, they are usually amazed at its striking presence.
Please comment if you wish. BtheB

Mar 1, 2010

She's gone

Edith Muriel Wallace
February 27, 2010

Edith Muriel Wallace, of King City, 7 days after her 94th birthday, at King City Lodge Nursing Home. Wife of the late Emerson Wallace and dear mother of Barry Wallace (Linda) King City, Diane Wallace of Calgary, Denise Georgekish (Fred - deceased) Wemindji, Quebec, and Robert Wallace (Nancy) Parry Sound. Cremation has taken place and a private interment of Muriel and Emerson's ashes will take place, later this year, at the 6th Line Cemetery, Churchill, Ontario. Their ashes will join the remains of Muriel's parents, Sid and Alice Thomas, and her beloved Auntie Laura Thomas. Muriel was a 55-year resident of King City and active in her community. She was a Past President and first Life-time Member of Kingcrafts, a member of King City United Church, a singer in its choir and a CGIT leader. She was a blood donor for four decades, beginning during WWII. She will be remembered as a skilled and prize-winning quilter, a gifted arts and crafts person, and an avid collector of antiques, Canadiana, and collectibles. For many years, Muriel's handmade wildflower cards were collectors items themselves. And who can forget her homemade bread and all those 1st Place Fair Ribbons? While Muriel travelled throughout the United States, to Mexico and to Britain, she loved to travel in Canada most of all, and saw Canada from Vancouver Island to Newfoundland and north to James Bay. She revelled in Canadian Native culture, both as a collector and a lecturer in her own community. Muriel was one of seven children of Sidney and Alice Thomas, and is survived by three of her sisters: Audrey, Mabel and Jean. Muriel also leaves eight grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren. Many thanks to Dr. Paul Randall and to Muriel's second family: the staff of King Lodge who cared for her so kindly and respectfully for the past 10 years.