Total Pageviews

Aug 31, 2011

Grapes for the grandkids and the Robins

Photo by BarrytheBirder
The photo above is one of two labrusca grape vines (Concord variety) that grow in my yard, and up over an arbour, and parts of the roof on my house.   There are many grapes now, but they are green.   A month from now they will be purplish-blue and the Robins will be prepared to eat them all.   My four grandchildren, particularly the two grandsons who live nearby, will eat their share whenever they visit.   Hopefully, my distant granddaughters will have a few handfuls also.    Meanwhile, there is this great, green umbrella of leaves that transports me to southern Europe whenever I look at it.   And now, in late August, the hummingbirds are frequent flyers under the leafy canopy and I try to remember to stoop each time as I pass through.   Once again, I'm starting to wish summers would never end.
Please comment if you wish.

Lunch at Toronto's Distillery District

Milady salutes a warm and lovely summer afternoon on the patio of the Pure Spirits Oyster House & Grill, in Toronto's truly unique Distillery District.   Brewery Lane separates the oyster house from the Mill Street Brewery (left) which features almost 30 of its own brews.   Milady also got to share some of her lunch with and an English Sparrow.   I wasn't aware English Sparrows liked fish, but why not?

Please comment if you wish.                                                                                     Photos by BarrytheBirder

Aug 30, 2011

Deep summer on the Humber River

Summer afternoon ~ summer afternoon;
to me those have always been the two most
beautiful words in the English language.
                                                                                                       -- Henry James, 1934, quoted by Edith Wharton in her autobiography

I'm sure Henry James had something more bucolic in mind, when he spoke the words above, than I have while borrowing them to accompany my photographs below.   Nevertheless, I fully understand how he was seduced. 
Female Mallard Ducks on patrol and ever alert. 
This haphazard, thrown-together dam marks the site of mill-dams from the mid-1800s.
A number of paths follow the banks of the Humber in several spots.
Aquatic plants ripple alluringly in the gently flowing water.
 A long-fallen, streamside birch stills captures the passing eye.
A Spotted Sandpiper, far from a lake or beach, has the river-bank to itself.
Daylilies, growing wild, have found their spot on the banks of the Humber.
Choose your bridge: man-made or something more natural and challenging.
Phlox ~ now wild and widespread in the river valley.
These photos were taken near Nobleton, in southern King Township, at the Humber Trails Forest & Wildlife Area, on the Mill Road, halfway between the King Sideroad and the King-Vaughan Townline.   Please comment if you wish.
BtheB                                                                                                  All photos by BarrytheBirder

Aug 28, 2011

Seneca summer scenes

Top: old bridge over lily ponds, bottom right: ancient boathouse on Lake Jonda, bottom left: thousands of waterlilies fill the ponds around Eaton Hall, now Seneca College King Campus.   The boathouse is of some interest in that local legend says Lady Eaton's son, Timothy, managed to persuade his parents that a high-speed motorboat was not excessive for a small pond like Lake Jonda.   My late father-in-law, Clyde Cairns, worked at Eaton Hall in its early days and says that Timothy Eaton once drove his boat right out of the water and up onto the lawn, in front the chateau.   Boys will be boys, I suppose, especially the rich ones.
Please comment if you wish.
BtheB                                                                                                             (Photos by BarrytheBirder)

Aug 26, 2011

Sandhill Cranes near Orangeville

Photo by BarrytheBirder
Admittedly, these Sandhill Cranes were a fair distance from me, but I was thrilled to get the picture anyway.   They were gleaning leftover seeds from the recent harvest of a field, several kilometres north-east of Orangeville, Ontario.   At their tallest (48"), they are almost as tall as Whooping Cranes.   I decided immediately to re-visit this area, and search out the Luther Marsh area in particular to search for large and small cranes and egrets as well as shorebirds.   Hopefully I'll have some pictures to show soon.

Aug 24, 2011

Shorebird fall migration is more than half over

MMLesser YellowlegsMM
Tringa flavipes
Today is August 24.   It's hard to believe that 60% of the fall shorebird southward migration, from Arctic Canada, has already occurred, but it has.   According to Ron Pittaway, of the Ontario Field Ornithologists, The migration begins back in late June, with Lesser Yellowlegs (pictured above) and Least Sandpipers heading south.   By Mid-August, nine more common species of shorebirds have finished their southern migration through Ontario (Greater Yellowlegs/Solitary Sandpiper/Stilt Sandpiper/ Short-billed Dowitcher/ Red Knot/ Sanderling/ Semipalmated Sandpiper/ Baird's Sandpiper and Ruddy Turnstone.   Between late August and mid-September, seven more shorebirds have made the migration (Semipalmated Plover/ White-rumped Sandpiper/ Pectoral Sandpiper/Long-billed Dowitcher/Black-bellied Plover/American Golden Plover and the Dunlin.   The Dunlin's migration is late and short: mid-September to Early November.   Many other shorebirds pass through Ontario and  rarely nest here, so are excluded from this list.   Most birds that fail to nest north of Hudson Bay are not on this list also.   Tjhey all have a long way to go after Ontario also.   My visit to the Holland Landing sewage lagoons today turned up a dozen Lesser Yellowlegs and one Spotted Sandpiper.

    Please comment if you wish.                                                              Lesser Yellowlegs photos by BarrytheBirder  

Aug 23, 2011

Heavy horses at Kettleby

          Hot sunny August afternoon 
                 not much wind to speak of 
                        darned flies peskier than ever
                                stand close and share the swattin'

Please comment if you wish,
BtheB                                                                                                 Fly-swattin' photo by BarrytheBirder

Aug 22, 2011

Hummers don't make it easy on themselves

My backyard has several Ruby-throated Hummingbirds roaring about.   The fact that I have several nectar feeders on the go has something to do with it.   By mid-August all hell is breaking loose as they all roar about defending the feeders which they think are their personal feeders.   This of course includes all available feeders by each and every hummer.   How they ever manage to double their body weight in order to get across the Caribbean Sea during the upcoming fall migration is amazing to me when one sees how much energy they are expending in protecting a food supply that is under constant assault.   To quote an old friend, I suppose it is "...all part of life's rich pageant".                                                                                                     BarrytheBirder Photo
Please comment if you wish.    

Bits of colour and form on the King Ridge

I came across this cute canine who was taking his mistress for a walk along the King Ridge.   Although I started out looking for birds but ended up finding fungi and berries, I quickly decided that this pooch was trying to disguise the fact he was actually a truffle dog.   He divulged nothing.  
Please comment if you wish.
BtheB                                                                                                                                   All photos by BarrytheBirder

Aug 19, 2011

Monsieur Cardinal

BarrytheBirder Photo
    Always shows up fashionably late for dinner, at the feeder.

Aug 18, 2011

Blue Jay buzz cut?

Photo by BarrytheBirder
This poor Blue Jay has an avian form of 'a bad hair day'.   Actually it is more likely to be one of the following: a molt, bird mites, mange infection, malnutrition or an unidentified disease.   My guess is a mid-to-late summer molt that some Northern Cardinals, Common Grackles and Blue Jays, in particular, undergo.   Some of these molts are abnormal in that they occur all at once, leaving birds looking scalped, if you will.   This total molt only occurs on the head and feather regrowth is fairly quick.   So far, this is only one I have seen this summer.   The black hole seen behind the eye, pictured above, is the bird's ear.   Basically the same as a human ear, it only lacks the outer, shaped part of the ear that we have.   Inside the bird's head, the ear parts are somewhat similar to ours. 
Please comment if you wish.

Aug 17, 2011

Our most familiar butterfly...

Photo by BarrytheBirder
He said, 'I look for butterflies
That sleep among the wheat:
I make them into mutton-pies,
And sell them in the street.'
The White Knight speaks to Alice in Lewis Carroll's Through The Looking Glass (1872) ch. 8
I photographed this Monarch Butterfly on the King City Trails this afternoon.   This evening I browsed the field guides to see if there was anything I might learn that I had never stumbled upon before.   Well there was.   Anyone in North Ameica knows that the Monarch is our most recognizable butterfly and is found in Canada, the U.S.A. and Mexico.   But did you know that it was colonized and is resident on many oceanic islands, including Hawaii and Australia.   So says the Roger Tory Peterson Field Guide to Eastern Butterflies (2001 Edition).
Please comment if you wish.

Aug 16, 2011

Lazy, hazy days of summer

All sorts of birds today seemed confused about what they wanted to eat today.   Several over-sized birds were trying to get at the Black Niger Seed that we had put out for the goldfinches, including this immature male Downy Woodpecker.   Try as he may, he just couldn't get the hang of it, not even when he hung himself upside-down.   Eventually, he gave up and went to the tray feeder  a metre or so away (below) and had his fill.
Please comment if you wish.
BtheB                                                                                                              BarrytheBirder Photos

Aug 15, 2011

Bald-faced Hornets take over feeder

Photo by BarrytheBirder
There are seven hummingbird feeders in the backyard but only six are regularly visited by the hummingbirds.   The seventh feeder has been taken over by Bald-faced Hornets.   Although Bald-faced Hornets do not rank at the top of either the Sshmidt Sting Pain Index or the Starr Sting Pain Scale, they are nasty creatures to mess with.   Both the male and female are very easily provoked but it is the female that is completely blind to your intentions, as innocent as they may be.   Females are in the habit of stinging repeated when threatened and one female stinging is bad enough, but when dozens or hundreds attack, the results are excruciating.   The photo above was taken with a 300 mm lens so that I maintained a safe distance.   The hummingbirds, except for the odd young, first-season bird will have nothing to do with this feeder or hornets.   The Bald-faced's large size and black and white appearance do make they interesting however.   They should always be approached with caution.
Please comment if you wish.

Aug 14, 2011

Scatter! It's the Grackle

Grackles, like the Blue Jays, always manage to make every other bird, at the feeders, scatter in a mad panic when they arrive.   But, for the most part, they are neither ferocious or pugnacious and after a few moments are content to share the feeder they have overrun with even the tiniest of the Chipping Sparrows.  
Please comment if you wish.

My grandchildren's connection to this barn

I saw the spiders marching through the air.
Swimming from tree to tree that mildewed day
in latter August when the hay
Came creaking to the barn.
Robert Traill Spence Lowell, 1917-1977

What do we have here?   One more 6,000 lb. rock, with a plaque, sitting near a barn in the middle of nowhere.   Well, hold on now.   This barn is one of the historical connections between my four grandchildren and their great-great-great-grandfather, William Cairns.  Aha!   Suddenly this item takes on some real importance.   The plaque on the rock does not mention the Cairns name - a grievous oversight.   I can however fill in some details and I promise to keep it short, more or less.   My wife's great-grandfather, William Cairns was 13 years old when he emigrated to Canada in 1831, in the care of his 29-year-old brother, Adam Cairns.   William worked on the farm, for his brother, for several years before setting off on his own elsewhere in King Township.   Young William would grow to know the farm only too well as it was hacked and sawed from the virgin forest.   He would no doubt have helped to build the first barn.   A later barn, the one commemorated recently and pictured above, he would have known later, as a visitor.   The significance of the barn, according to the plaque, is in its style and construction: a combination of English Wheat Barn design incorporating an American Swing Beam.   Other related Cairns families were also King Township settlers and there are those who still live in King Township 180 years later.   The last of Adam Cairns' direct descendents to live on the farm, that would eventually become part of Cold Creek Conservation Area on the 11th Concession of King Township, were three siblings: two bachelor brothers and a spinster sister.   There names were Mac, Jack and Annie.   Mac (Malcolm) and Jack (John) died in the early 1930s and Annie in 1959.   All three were buried in Laurel Hill Cemetery in Bolton, bringing an end to almost 130 years of Cairns family members at Cold Creek.

Please comment if you wish.
BtheB                                                                                                       Photos by BarrytheBirder

Aug 13, 2011

Today's colour is black

A black beauty near Kettleby, Ontario
Black Jelly Fungus among us
AMERICAN CROW ~ Corvus brachyrhynchos
Black-crowned Night Heron in Holland Marsh

Please comment if you wish.

Aug 12, 2011

Painted Turtle ~ now you see him...

Photo by BarrytheBirder
A Painted Turtle moves about a pond on the newly connected, Tom Taylor/Nokiidaa Trail between Newmarket and Aurora and only the very watchful see it appear, like a surfacing submarine under the Duckweed and algae.    Fellow blogger, Anna, of 'Living in Aurora', wrote to say that Black-crowned Night Herons, which I wrote about earlier this week, have also been seen and photographed on the Tom Taylor/Nokiidaa Trail.   The Trail and adjacent MacKenzie Marsh are home to hundreds of ducks, including a few interesting cross-breeds.   Below, a home is what you make of it.
Please comment if you wish.

Aug 11, 2011

More Herons ~ lots more

A Black-crowned Night Heron comes in for a landing at the Holland Marsh near Bradford today.
A Great Blue Heron in a very green world
An immature Black-crowned Night Heron retreats from the canal to dine on a small fish it caught.
The Holland Marsh rivers are favourite fishing spots for more than just herons.
I returned to the Holland Marsh today to try my hand at seeing more herons.   I was not disappointed.   The first heron I saw today was once again a Black-crowned Night Heron in the same spot I spotted one yesterday.   I thought that might be it for today...the same bird.   Over the course of the next hour I came across 10 Black-crowned Night Herons.   It was once again around the noon-hour and I was starting to feel a little foolish for saying just three days ago that this was a bird best seen around dusk.   All of these herons were actively hunting for food.   The only heron a saw today with a fish in its beak was an immature Black-crowned Night Heron.   As I made my way along the Holland Marsh canals, I also spotted a nine Great Blue Herons.   I stopped counting at this point even though they continued to show up.   I had spotted more Black-crowned Night Herons in one hour than I had in a lifetime and was most grateful.   I also spotted Belted Kingfishers, Wood Ducks, Barn Swallows, and a few turtles.   I suspect this heron activity is not customary in that the Holland Marsh canals are being relocated away from the major roads that run beside them.  It is being done in the interest of road safety.   Over the years, many cars have plunged into the canals and a number of deaths have resulted.   Its a huge relocation job but one that seems to be a boon for wildlife, especially birds, that have a plethora of new perching/feeding locations to choose from.   The new spots are also at a greater distance from the roadways, thereby giving creatures a greater comfort zone while feeding.   The narrow canal roads are hazardous for birdwatchers, like me, because we are constantly slowing down. pulling over, and generally being a pain in the butt for local marsh farmers.   Care is to be cautioned when wandering about here.   Nevertheless, the Holland Marsh canals are excellent for local herons at this time of year.
Please comment if you wish.
BtheB                                                                                                        All photos by BarrytheBirder

Ps. This very satisfying outing was capped off at the Kettleby General Store, with a Strawberry Shortcake ice cream cone.  "Barry, Barry, Barry...will ye never learn, lad?"