Canada Geese, Mallard ducks, and various migrating shorebirds make Seneca College's sewage lagoon a busy place in October. The surrounding backdrop of autumn hardwood trees certainly adds to the overall vista.
This is just one of dozens of new storm-water retention ponds that are, and will be, popping up all over the village of King City, as several large housing developments are underway after years of waiting for municipal sewers to be installed. The pond pictured above is just south of King Road and just west of the railway tracks. Several Canada Geese were in this and other ponds in this area today as well as a migrating Lesser Yellowleg (see photo below). Many of the other new ponds in King City have also attracted migrating shorebirds already. Many residents will be rather surprised I think when they start to walk the new trails around these ponds and see so many more wild birds than before. They will be seeing all sorts of birds: year-around residents, migrants nesting here and other migrants passing through to nest further north. Birdwatching in King City is about to undergo a renascence, I believe.
I have recently received a comment from a fellow who signed his email Andrew S. Andrew had inadvertently come across a blog of mine from March of 2011 in which I claimed to have seen a Cozumel Thrasher while vacationing on the island of Cozumel, off the Yucatan coast of Mexico. I was relying on a birding guide who spotted and identified what he said was a Cozumel Thrasher. It looked like a thrasher to me but I had to take the word of the local guide that it was a Cozumel Thrasher. I did not know at the time that the Cozumel Thrasher was believed to be the most endangered species of bird in Mexico. I have now learned that the last confirmed sighting was in 2004! Unconfirmed sightings were made in 2006 and 2007 but none since then. Unfortunately, I did not get a picture of the bird. Brown Thrashers have been occasionally spotted in Mexico, but Cozumel is quite far south of their normal range. The two types of thrasher are quite similar in appearance, although the Cozumel Thrasher is the smaller of the two. There are also 14 species of thrashers in Mexico...just to complicate things. I am now not entirely sure that I saw a bonafide Cozumel Thrasher. But I'm too old to worry about it, although if I return to Cozumel I will keep an eye out for this bird. My thanks to Andrew S. for alerting me to this remarkable situation. (Cozumel Thrasher drawing above from Birdlife International) Please comment if you wish. BtheB
The last two Ruby-Throated Hummingsbirds (females) have left our backyard and I presume headed south to Miami Beach and other warm destinations. The September 22nd departure was a full 9 days longer than last year. I hate to see them leave but I wish them well. As always, they were a highlight of the summer. Please comment if you wish. BtheB
While sitting in the garden yesterday watching a number of hummingbirds chasing each other about, my cat, which wears a harness and a short leash, drew my attention to the Philadelphia Vireo pictured above. I immediately thought this was a life bird for me, as I couldn't remember seeing one before. After I took the picture above, I went inside to check my life list. Darned if I hadn't already listed one six years ago. Oh well, I still enjoyed the bird, which was continuously flitting from branch to branch to avoid my camera lens. Bird Number 426 will have to wait for another day.
This beautiful bird is one of several that are being protected on a private pond on Dufferin Street in King Township. They are all banded and monitored as part of the great effort over the past several years to re-establish the Trumpeter Swan in Ontario. We are all the richer for it.
Band-tailed pigeon and Red-shafted Northern Flicker
Photographer Dave Kemp who is languishing out on Canada's wonderful west coast has sent some of his acquaintances a few recent photographs which he has taken in the Terra Nova area of Richmond, British Columbia. The 'two-for-one' shot above shows a Band-tailed Pigeon on the left and a Red-shafted Flicker on the right. Both of the birds are native to the west coasts of Canada and United States. The Band-tailed pigeon is the largest pigeon in North America, measuring up to 40 cm (16 in.) long and sometimes weighing over half a kilo or 1 pound. Its main diet is acorns. The Red-shafted Flicker is native to the southern area of British Columbia and all the western states of America. The Red-shafted Flicker, of western North American and the Yellow-shafted Flicker of most of Canada and the central and eastern American states have distinctive identifying marks but the two birds do interbreed and offspring show features of both forms, well beyond their zone of contact
The towhee in Dave Kemp's photo above is a juvenile Spotted Towhee and is native to south-western Canada and all of the western United States. The name towhee comes from the sound of the bird's call note. In eastern Canada and the U.S., the same bird, although somewhat different in appearance is known as the Rufous-sided Towhee. The western and eastern versions do interbreed and they are considered to be the same species. These photos and many other great Dave Kemp pictures can be seen by Googling Dave Kemp's Picture Perfect Photo Gallery.
Just a note to say that as of yesterday (Aug.8) this blog has had 68,414 page views since its inception on the last day December, 2006. My other blog, called Camera on KING has had 31,622 page views since its beginning 22 months ago. Together, the blogs have now had 100,000 page views. That's more than some other blogs and a heck of lot less than a great many others. I want to thank everyone who takes the time to read my blogs and look at the pictures. The blogspots are mainly photo blogs with usually a line or two of info to put some perspective on places and situations. I'm going to continue for the foreseeable future. I hope you keep looking me up and passing along your comments. Have a great day. Barry
One of my 10 hummingbird feeders is a real nuisance when it comes to cleaning it. It was so stained on the inside of the bottle portion that I could not see through. I had tried everything to clean this feeder/bottle and nothing worked. Today I opened my email and there was the Audubon Society's new citizen science email newsletter, called "American Birds". One of the articles in this online publication was entitled Hummingbirds and Nectar Feeders. The part that particularly interested me read as follows: "Clean the feeders with a solution of one part vinegar to four parts water about once a week. If your feeder has become dirty, try adding some grains of dry rice to the vinegar solution and shake vigorously. The grains act as a good abrasive. Rinse your feeder well with warm water three times before refilling with sugar solution." My feeder was so stained that I used all vinegar and no water. It took about twenty minutes of shaking in total, with several breaks, for the bottle to be cleaned, but it worked like a charm.
My daughter, who lives near Ottawa has sent a couple more photos of the four Peregrine Falcons (a mother and three youngsters) who have been occupying a large dead tree in her backyard. Pictured above are the three young birds awaiting their mother's arrival with another meal. In the picture below, all four of this family unit are seen in the same photo. This is quite unfair, as I am the avid birder in my family and do I have four Peregrine Falcons in my backyard? Nooooo! Lucky you my dear and thanks for sharing your photos.
Here is a photo of one of three immature Peregrine Falcons in my daughter's backyard, near Ottawa, and which I mentioned in the previous blog. It certainly appears to be keeping a sharp eye on her as she takes the photograph. Apparently four of these marvellous birds staring down upon her at the same time is very unnerving.
The younger of my two daughters lives in a pleasant little village about 20 minutes south of Ottawa. She and her family have a large backyard bordering on nearby wooded areas. This summer had been fairly quiet around their home, bird-wise. That's all changed however with the arrival of four Peregrine Falcons (a mother and three fledged offspring) into a dead pine tree in the backyard. They came from the nearby wooded area and use the new perch of bare pine limbs, as the perfect spot for the mother to feed her large youngsters. When she does show up with some dispatched feathered creature, all hell breaks loose. There are huge noisy
greetings and then demands from the youngsters to be fed. There is great commotion as hungry birds frantically jostle for position. The feeding frenzy goes on noisily for quite some time. Underneath all the feathered fury, my daughter and her one-year-son are going about their backyard business, while keeping an eye to the sky. The falcons are become intimidating with their hovering and screeching behaviour at mealtimes, which are apparently quite frequent.
My daughter quickly lost her fascination with these interesting creatures and looks forward to when they take their rude behaviour elsewhere. Now, if I can just get her to take some pictures, which of course I will publish in this space.
One of the homes on Sunday's Nobleton-King City Garden Tour was that of Kathryn and Craig Corcoran, on the 15th Sideroad. One expected to be impressed with the outstanding grounds and gardens, but for me the highlight was discovering the Cliff Swallow nests under the eaves, around the house. In the top photo, you can make out one of the Cliff Swallows in the left gourd-shape mud nest. In the second photo, there are 12 nests see above a garage door. Around a corner, are six more of these nests, for a total of 18. Kathryn told me that last year, they had 63 nests, under the eaves, encircling the house! The Corcorans are leaving King Township in the near future and I couldn't help but wondering to myself how a new owner will react to the swallows' fascination with this special country residence. Hopefully they will be wild-bird fanciers.
I took the photos below at King Township's northernmost tip in the Holland Marsh today. The end-of-road site on Bathurst Street, at the West Holland River, is one of three Osprey nest locations in King Township that I have been visiting this year. One of the other sites is located at Temperanceville, on the south-west corner of King Road and Bathurst Street atop a huge communications tower, and the third site is on the north shore of the lake at the Ranch Wake Park on Keele Street, north of Hwy. 9. Unfortunately, while the first two locations have Ospreys on nest, the Ospreys at the Ranch Wake Park have abandoned their nest. This has been a site occupied for many years by these magnificent raptors. I saw an Osprey at the nest in the early spring. One of the operators of Ranch Wake Park confirmed to me today that none of the big birds have been seen for several weeks.
Now that our first-ever House Wren babies have fledged, some peace and calm has returned to the backyard. For the past month and a half, the very loud male wren has stormed about constantly and warned everyone, in an extremely loud voice, that the backyard is his and anyone else in the vicinity ventures there at their peril and under his permission. The wrens have been a wonderful addition to our backyard but it is also nice to see all the other birds a little less harassed, especially the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds...those jewels of the garden.
My friend Dave Kemp's hummingbirds in British Columbia are now 11 days old. They will fledge at 20 to 26 days. I am looking forward to see Dave's photos of the mother bird feeding her two youngsters when they out of the nest. Please comment if you wish. BtheB
My west-coast friend, Dave Kemp, in Richmond, British Columbia, has been rewarded for his patience by the Rufous Hummingbird he has been photographing for the past three weeks. The first of her two eggs has just hatched. Number two egg should hatch tomorrow or the day after. Momma Rufous was quick to start feeding her chick, as can be seen in the photo above. Below, the new chick huddles beside its own hatched shell and the shell of its soon-to-be-hatched sibling. The egg provided nourishment for 17 days before the wee bird hatched.
In the photograph below, which Dave took a few days before the first egg hatched, the mother hummingbird is seen on her nest. The nest, by the way, is only 3 feet off the ground and 1 foot into the brush. There is concern that this situation presents some peril for the hummer and her nest.
Below are a couple of shots that Dave took at Iona Beach on the same day as the Anna's chick hatched. The first photo shows a group of Caspian Terns and the bottom photo is a Spotted Sandpiper. More of Dave's great photos can be seen at pictureperfect.nu/photogallery
A female Baltimore Oriole has been visiting one of the hummingbird feeders in the backyard for a couple of weeks now. This the first Oriole ever to become a regular visitor at our feeders. I finally decided to buy an oriole feeder but so far this lady bird prefers to use the hummingbirds' feeders. In this photo she looks a little wet from a rain shower moments before.
There are two pairs of Mute Swans on Swan Lake in the old village of Markham. One of the pairs have two 'ugly ducklings' or cygnets to care for. Today, at the lake, the male swan with the two cygnets spent most of the afternoon chasing off the male swan of the other pair. It was amusing at first but quickly wore thin and I soon preferred the quiet interludes of peaceful swans.
My friend Dave Kemp out in British Columbia has just sent these great photos of a female Anna's Hummingbird on her eggs and in the air. See more of Dave's photos by going to pictureperfect.nu/phptography/ Please comment if you wish. BtheB
It was wet and chilly around Cold Creek Conservation Area today but I considered myself lucky to see and hear Bluebirds, Pileated Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Ruffed Grouse and Great Crested Flycatcher. Not only is Cold Creek a great place to watch birds, but its amenities keep getting better. It is open Mondays to Saturdays now, from 8.30 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. The Township of King has made huge strides forward in returning Cold Creek to its former glory days of 20 and 30 years ago.
One of the blessings of this spring's unusual weather has been the incredible blossoming of wild trees and shrubs in King Township, including Cold Creek Conservation Area. In the photo above (taken June 7th) lane-ways and hillsides at Cold Creek are laden in large white Black Locust blooms that look like a covering of snow, from a distance. The sound of birds here is wonderful. Below, Gareth Hussey works at one of the gardening chores he has at Cold Creek.
Birdwatchers in Eastern Canada are quite familiar with the Wilson's Warbler and the Killdeer, but most have probably not seen a Rufous Hummingbird. In the summer, the Rufous Hummingbird is usually restricted to British Columbia, southern Alaska, Washington, Oregon and northern Idaho. Once in a blue moon, one will show up up in the east in the fall. If seen in the east in spring, it is usually an accidental, blown way off course. Thanks for the photos Dave.
My wife and I are completely captivated by the first-ever nesting pair of House Wrens that have moved into the one-and-only birdhouse in our backyard. Everything about them appeals to us; their appearance, their personality, their tameness and most of all their voices. Our National Geographic Field Guide describes the sound as: "Exuberant song, a cascade of bubbling whistled notes", while our Audubon Handbook says: "Song a rapid, liquid, bubbling chatter, often given throughout the day". Our Royal Ontario Museum Birds of Ontario says: "Male sings complex series of rapid, bubbling notes that rise in pitch and volume, then fall toward end. Calls includes chatters, rattles, and harsh, scolding notes. Incubating female produces short, low whine." Above all else, for their size, they are amazingly loud!
I noticed in the recent 2012 Cold Creek nesting report numbers that Tree Swallows seemed to be down a little, while wrens, bluebirds and chickadees appeared up quite a bit. I went back seven years and compared nesting numbers for 2005. There were only 33 bird boxes at Cold Creek in 2005, compared with 55 boxes in 2012. Taking that increase into consideration, one discovers that Tree Swallows occupied 15 of the 33 nesting boxes in 2005 or 45%. In 2012, Tree Swallows occupied 12 of 55 boxes or 22%. Other national bird surveys have shown even larger drops in Tree Swallow nesting numbers. On the other hand, Cold Creek's number for wrens, bluebirds and chickadees are up much more, percentage-wise, than national bird surveys. Obviously, Cold Creek's nest-box program has been very successful (for many different reasons) with lower rates of declines for some birds (swallows) and higher rates of increases for other nest-box birds. Let's hope the Cold Creek Conservation Area's Stewardship Committee continues its fine work with its bird box program and that it contributes in its own way to fight the decline of many bird species in North America.
For a number of years, but not every year, chickadees have nested in a bird box attached to our garden shed. This year, for the first time ever, House Wrens have taken over the space and we are delighted. They are currently filling the box with twigs that will fill the box almost to the top, leaving just enough room for a nest full of 5 to 8 tiny hatchlings, and the parents to feed them. I have heard wrens before, of course, out in the fields and woods, but I now think one never really appreciates how loud they are until they are right over your head in one's backyard.
Their song is a rapid, liquid, bubbling chatter and loud, often given throughout the day. They also give a rapid churring note and rough, buzzy scolding chatter, a sound I have heard quite a lot over the past few days.
No twig or stick seems to be too big for the House Wren to get inside its new home, once it has decided it is the right spot to nest. It wiggles and jiggles every stick until one end goes in and rest is academic...a push and a tug and and it's off to get another stick.