Rusty Blackbirds and a Cattle Egret at Valley Inn

Finally, I have some time to catch up on pre- and post-Thanksgiving birding. As I type I’m hoovering the best apple fritter I have had in years. Here’s a close up of the fritter.

Close up of apple fritter

Close up of apple fritter

This is one of six doughnuts purchased this morning from Sunshine, a relatively new bakery located on Brock Street.

Apple fritters, pumpkin delight, Burlington cream doughnuts

Apple fritters, pumpkin delight, Burlington cream doughnuts

Now that I’m relatively high on sugar here we go!cont

Two weeks ago Environment Canada forecasted a 60% chance of rain along the Golden Horseshoe. I headed to Niagara only to find their report was wrong, wrong, wrong. Anyhoo, after a couple hours at Bird Kingdom we stopped in at Dufferin Islands. Lots of Mallards and gulls. Here we had stellar looks at a Green Heron.

Green Heron - Dufferin Islands

Green Heron – Dufferin Islands

As we drove through the countryside we came upon a host of Turkey Vultures on the roof and lawn of this property.

12 Turkey Vultures on the roof

12 Turkey Vultures on the roof

15 Turkey Vultures on the lawn

15 Turkey Vultures on the lawn

Returning home, I noted report of a Sedge Wren and a couple Marsh Wrens at Van Wagners Ponds. Got the Marsh Wren.

Marsh Wren

Marsh Wren

Yet another story of the Kinglet and I. This time, at the Lift Bridge. Noticed wee bird hopping across the promenade, then trying unsuccessfully to make it over the wall. Not only could it not fly, its beak was damaged.

injured Ruby-crowned Kinglet

injured Ruby-crowned Kinglet

I kept watch as the Ruby-crowned Kinglet returned to the woodlot where it foraged for insects.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet foraging as best it can with damaged beak

Ruby-crowned Kinglet foraging as best it can with damaged beak

During the Thanksgiving weekend a moderate sized flock of Blue Jays popped into Hendrie Valley on their migratory journey.

11 Blue Jays in the foreground

11 Blue Jays in the foreground

Zoomed in photo of the 13 Blue Jays further down the boardwalk (note the frost)

Zoomed in photo of the 13 Blue Jays further down the boardwalk (note the frost)

White-tailed Deer appear every now and then.

Ever had the feeling that you were being watched?

Ever felt you were being watched?

White-tailed Deer

White-tailed Deer

Kinglets (both species), Dark-eyed Juncos, Winter Wrens, White-throated, White-crowned, Swamp Sparrows were also observed as well as a Palm Warbler.

Dark-eyed Junco

Dark-eyed Junco

A White-crowned Sparrow foraging in the company of two White-crowned Sparrows

A White-crowned Sparrow foraging in the company of two White-crowned Sparrows

Palm Warbler

Palm Warbler

Got a brief glimpse of a Fox Sparrow.

Brief look at a Fox Sparrow

Brief look at a Fox Sparrow

Cedar Waxwings are busy feasting on berries.

Cedar Waxwing (juvenile)

Cedar Waxwing (juvenile)

Red-winged Blackbirds have re-appeared in good and vocal numbers.

Red-winged Blackbird (male)

Red-winged Blackbird (male)

Three raccoons below the boardwalk beg for food. They are chubbier than their Valley Inn kin. Who could resist those eyes?

Raccoon

Raccoon

Valley Inn remains a great spot for shorebirds, Egrets, Great-blue Herons, and Black-crowned Night-Herons. While two of us observed and photographed this juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron using its bill to attract prey, the chaps behind us were shooting continuously at high speeds. Sounded like we were in a war zone. The chap beside me was aghast.  I whispered, “they’re known as the film crew”. He asked one of the photographers how many photos he takes in a day. The response: 10,000!!!  Oh, so here’s the action, in three photos.

juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron using bill to attract fish

juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron using bill to attract fish

juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron catches fish

juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron catches fish

juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron successfully used bill attract and catch fish

juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron successfully used bill attract and catch fish

A small flock of Rusty Blackbirds passed through Valley Inn during the Thanksgiving weekend.

Rusty Blackbird

Rusty Blackbird

Rusty Blackbird at Valley Inn

Rusty Blackbird at Valley Inn

Rusty Blackbird

Rusty Blackbird

Two fabulous birds were discovered at Valley Inn last week. The first, a Franklin’s Gull. I tried for it after work on Tuesday but it was long gone. The second, a Cattle Egret, found on Friday, October 14th. I was at work when I saw the notification and immediately lost focus. Should I leave early or take my chances after work? Then there was the matter of the planned birthday dinner for my confidant/Sherpa/Chief Supporter of all things Birding. How was I going to break it to him gently that I needed the bird while maintaining that I was singularly focused on his birthday? Methodology: warm smile, fresh breath and a “would you mind if we pop in to Valley Inn for five minutes… rare bird…I don’t have it…you know I missed the Franklin’s Gull this week…AND VOILA!!

Cattle Egret resting on the berm

Cattle Egret resting on the berm

Another look at the Cattle Egret

Another look at the Cattle Egret

Cattle Egret checking the sky

Cattle Egret checking the sky

Cattle Egret, Valley Inn, October 14, 2016

Cattle Egret, Valley Inn, October 14, 2016

Cattle Egret, Valley Inn

Cattle Egret, Valley Inn

Forty-five minutes later we were heading to Marciano’s Pasta Cafe in Waterdown where he had Chicken Marco Polo, and other dishes he loved, loved, loved!

Yesterday, we watched this hyperactive Mink pop in and out of the water numerous times, chasing after but not catching any of the fish. It was as if he was toying with them.  Great fun to watch!

Multitude of fish

Multitude of fish

Mink scaring the fish

Mink scaring the fish

Mink

Mink

Last night I tried my hand at photographing  the Harvest Moon. Not bad for a first attempt!

Hunters Moon (October 15, 2016)

Hunter’s Moon (October 15, 2016)

 

 

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Heron observation + a Brant + Hanlan’s Point trip

Valley Inn, Hamilton

Am having a marvy time photographing juvenile Black-crowned Night Herons.

Juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron having a bit of an scratch

Juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron having a bit of an scratch

Juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron waiting in the shadows

Juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron waiting in the shadows

Two of us observed and photographed this juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron as it foraged in the rain.  We believed we were recording tool-baiting behaviour. “Herons place bait, either natural or artificial, in the water to lure prey. The behavior is called Baiting. They can use real food, such as bread, maize, or dead insect, or choose as a lure something that floats, such as stick. Fish are attracted to the lure, coming within striking range of the baiting bird.” (See here)

Black-crowned Night Heron checking if bait attracted prey

Black-crowned Night Heron checking if bait attracted prey

Juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron retrieving the bit of wood

Juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron retrieving the bit of wood

Juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron rethinking strategy

Juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron rethinking strategy

Black-crowned Night Heron

Black-crowned Night Heron

Juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron retrieving the bit of wood from water

Juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron retrieving the bit of wood from water

Black-crowned Night-Heron with stick

Black-crowned Night-Heron with stick

This went on for a few more minutes. Afterwards the heron waded over to where we were standing then hopped onto the edge of the pier, mere feet from us.

Landing less than 20 feet from us

Landing less than 20 feet from us

We weren’t quite sure how to interpret this look!

Looking for parental guidance perhaps?

Looking for parental guidance perhaps?

Recently, this beaver tarried for about ten minutes to consume lunch.  What a thrill!

Beaver consuming lunch

Beaver consuming lunch

Cute beaver

Cute beaver

The Lesser Yellowlegs are quite entertaining. When not foraging they are fighting.

Lesser Yellowlegs

Lesser Yellowlegs

Lesser Yellowlegs stand-off

Lesser Yellowlegs stand-off

See how well the Green Heron camouflages with its surroundings.

Nicely camouflaged Green Heron

Nicely camouflaged Green Heron

This is one of five Northern Shovelers observed last Friday.

Northern Shoveler

Northern Shoveler

Gotta love this Great Blue Heron.

Mirror, mirror on the wall who's the fairest of them all? (Great Blue Heron)

Mirror, mirror on the wall who’s the fairest of them all? (Great Blue Heron)

I took a brief walk through yesterday noting a seed notice posted at the Cherry Hill Gate entrance.

Seed notice at Cherry Hill Gate entrance

Seed notice at Cherry Hill Gate entrance

Interesting. I still think they need to state clearly that only nyger or black-oiled sunflower seeds should be offered.  In the past week or so I’ve removed beer nuts, flavoured peanuts, and pumpkin seeds left as offerings to the birds by visitors.

Bayshore Park, Hamilton

A Brant arrived at Bayshore Park in Hamilton on September 22, where it remains to date (September 28th).  I made a beeline to the park after work. The Brant had an unbridled appetite.  I had to wait eons for the bird to look up.  It felt like eons because I was also contending with flies (horseflies?) feasting on my legs.

Brant at Bayfront Park, Hamilton

Brant at Bayfront Park, Hamilton

Brant strolling in the evening

Brant strolling in the evening

Brant preening

Brant preening

Brant (in profile)

Brant (in profile)

Heading back to the parking lot I stopped to photograph this juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron foraging in the water beneath a large weeping willow.

Juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron

Juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron

Whilst doing so I heard, “Is the Brant still here?”  Lo, it was the voice of B. Coombs.  After greetings and confirming directions, I let it slip that I was thinking of joining the Toronto Ornithological Club’s outing he was leading at the Toronto Islands on Saturday, September 24th.  And so I did avec mon Sherpa.  Loads of birds.  Seventy-one species were observed during the walk from Hanlan’s Point to Centre Island.  The Blue Jay count was estimated 500! ‘Twas a never-ending stream of jays. There were fourteen species of warblers.  We observed Dark-eyed Juncos, White-crowned and White-throated Sparrows, and two Common Ravens soaring over the city as we stood on the ferry dock. Here are a few photographs:

Black-throated Blue Warbler

Black-throated Blue Warbler

Northern Harrier (juvenile)

Northern Harrier (juvenile)

Field Sparrow

Field Sparrow

female Rusty Blackbird

female Rusty Blackbird

Black-throated Green Warbler

Black-throated Green Warbler

I left prior to the last leg of the trip and missed out on an American Bittern.  This was after missing  a photo op of a Grey-cheeked Thrush due to a poorly timed washroom break.  As the song goes, “If it weren’t for bad luck I’d have no luck at all”. Lol!

Back on shore, we had a lovely lunch at Stoney’s Bread Company in Oakville.  The soup is to die for!

Last week at Lasalle Marina, Common Mergansers, a Great Blue Heron, a Belted Kingfisher and this Pied-billed Grebe were observed.

Pied-bill grebe

Pied-billed grebe

Am still having loads of fun and good eats!

 

Happy Valley!

On cooler days I’ve walked from Beach Road and Eastport Drive to Spencer Smith Park. On one such walk the cries of juvenile raptors caught my attention. I was curious as the Lift Bridge’s Peregrine Falcons did not have young this year. I soon found a trio of American Kestrels. The sun was harsh. Fortunately, this kestrel found a perch on the underside of the Burlington Skyway Bridge.

american-kestrel-perched-under-burlington-skyway-bridge-begging-for-food

American Kestrel perched under Burlington Skyway Bridge begging to be fed

Along the route to Spencer Smith Park, I heard/saw Warbling Vireos, Baltimore Orioles, Northern Mockingbirds, two Great Black-Backed Gulls, etc.

great-black-backed-gull-tugging-avian-carcass-on-the-beach

Great Black-backed Gull tugging carcass on the beach

This Semipalmated Plover has pluck. I have visited the bird about three or four times. Each time the bird has successfully managed to dodge the throng on the beach.

semipalmated-plover-finds-a-spot-to-forage-among-the-throng-of-beachgoers

Semipalmated Plover finds a spot to forage among the throng of beachgoers

semipalmated-plover-on-the-beach

Semipalmated Plover on the beach

semipalmated-plover-resting-on-the-beach

Semipalmated Plover resting on the beach

semipalmated-plover-resting-on-the-beach-2

Semipalmated Plover keeping an eye out for predators

Been having loads of fun lately hanging out at Hendrie Valley and Valley Inn. I’ve enjoyed spending some time with the group I nicknamed the Boys of Summer as I only see most of them in the summer.  We’ve had many good laughs. I shall miss them when they move on.

These last two-three weeks photographers from as far as Ajax and the Niagara area have migrated to the area to photograph the Osprey.

photographing-osprey-at-valley-inn

Photographing Osprey at Valley Inn

osprey-on-the-hunt

Osprey on the hunt

Some days the Osprey spend much of their time roosting in nearby trees.

osprey-resting-on-a-branch

Osprey resting on a branch

osprey-in-profile

Osprey

Fortunately, rather cooperative Great Egrets, Green Herons, juvenile Black-crowned Night-Herons and Great Blue Herons are nearby.

green-heron-on-the-hunt

Green Heron on the hunt

Sometimes I telepathically ask a bird to do something other than standing still.  Sometimes it works!

green-heron-contorts-body-during-preening

Green Heron contorts body mid-preening

green-heron-yawning

Yawning

green-heron-stretching-wing

Wing stretch

green-heron-stretching-after-preening-voyeuristic-midland-painted-turtle-in-the-background

Green Heron stretching while Midland Painted Turtle observes all

green-heron-hunting

Green Heron hunting

wild-looking-juvenile-black-crowned-night-heron

“Wild looking” juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron

black-crowned-night-heron-juvenile

Black-crowned Night-heron (juvenile)

black-crowned-night-heron-juvenile-seeking-sustenance

Juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron looking for something to eat

juvenile-black-crowned-night-heron-standing-on-one-leg

Juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron standing on one leg

stoop-to-poop

Stoop to poop

great-blue-heron-scratching-an-itch

Great Blue Heron scratching an itch

great-blue-heron-and-raccoon-in-the-fog

Great Blue Heron and raccoon in the fog

So, do you remember the #Melanistic Great Blue Heron?  Well, after the rains and much pruning, guess who is now confirmed to be oiled?

youd-look-crazed-too-if-youd-spent-weeks-preening-your-feathers

You’d look crazed too if you’d spent weeks preening your feathers!

More recently a small number of quite confiding Lesser Yellowlegs have posed for the photographers.

lesser-yellowlegs

Lesser Yellowlegs

lesser-yellowlegs-3

Lesser Yellowlegs

lesser-yellowlegs-2

Lesser Yellowlegs

I often stray to see what I what other birds are around.

black-throated-green-warbler

Black-throated Green Warbler

northern-flicker-a-preening

Northern Flicker a-preening

common-yellowthroat-male

Common Yellowthroat

turkey-vulture-warming-in-the-sun

Turkey Vulture warming in the sun

While we still miss our beloved guinea pig, Caramel, for a bit of fun and to help raise the profile of guinea pigs, we attended a pignic last Saturday at Greenwood Park, Toronto.  The guinea pigs were beyond adorable!

guinea-pig-pignic-announcement

guinea-pig-on-the-red-carpet

Guinea pig posing on the red carpet

guinea-pig-check-up

Common Ringed Plover & Piping Plovers

Much to the delight of birders, two great species appeared last weekend. Two juvenile Piping Plovers travelled from Darlington Provincial Park to enjoy a few days on Burlington Beach.

Juvenile Piping Plover

Juvenile Piping Plover

Juvenile Piping Plovers on Burlington Beach

Juvenile Piping Plovers on Burlington Beach

Also on the beach:

Things are looking up! (Spotted Sandpiper)

Things are looking up! (Spotted Sandpiper)

Juvenile Mute Swan

Juvenile Mute Swan

The bigger draw, however, was a Common Ringed Plover at Tommy Thompson Park. This is the first record of the species in Ontario. I tried for it on Sunday (#species 214), enduring the 2.5 to 3 km walk from the park entrance to Cell 2 where the bird was located.  I was just thankful it was not hot, hazy or humid.

Common Ringed Plover at Tommy Thompson Park (Toronto)

Common Ringed Plover at Tommy Thompson Park (Toronto)

Birders of all ages travelled great distances to see the bird.

Birders viewing the Common Ringed Plover

Birders viewing the Common Ringed Plover

This video of the plover, recorded by Jean Iron, is a treat.

Only one book in my library mentioned this species.  If it interests you, this site provides a wealth of information:

Having a bit more energy in the tank I walked to the protected colony where cormorants, herons and egrets breed.

Juvenile Black-crowned Black Heron at Tommy Thompson Park

Juvenile Black-crowned Black Heron at Tommy Thompson Park

Adult Black-crowned Night-Heron

Adult Black-crowned Night-Heron

One last photograph prior to leaving the park!

Image of Toronto Skyline taken at Tommy Thompson Park using minature feature of camera

Image of Toronto Skyline taken at Tommy Thompson Park using minature feature of camera

The putative juvenile Great Blue Heron at Hendrie Valley Park has been the topic of discussion. Is it oiled or melanistic? Only two habits I note are a bit off – the bird preens more than the average great blue and I’ve witnessed it gag a few times. All will be revealed in due course. In the meantime, it’s a rather interesting bird.

Great Blue Heron preening

Great Blue Heron preening

Trying to keep cool

Trying to keep cool

Putative melanistic Great Blue Heron

Putative melanistic Great Blue Heron

Putative melanistic Great Blue Heron standing in the rain

Putative melanistic Great Blue Heron standing in the rain

Also seen at Hendrie Valley Park.

Great Blue Heron trying to keep cool

Great Blue Heron trying to keep cool

Great Blue Heron on rail at the boardwalk

Great Blue Heron on rail at the boardwalk

American Goldfinch (male) feasting on thistle

American Goldfinch (male) feasting on thistle

Warbling Vireo

Warbling Vireo

molting Blue Jay

molting Blue Jay

Midland Painted Turtle

Midland Painted Turtle

Juvenile House Wren

Juvenile House Wren

Green Heron at Hendrie Valley

Green Heron at Hendrie Valley

A check at Confederation Park netted more herons (Great Blue, Green, Black-Crowned), terns and a few song birds.

Great Crested Flycatcher

Great Crested Flycatcher

Great Blue and Black-crowned Night-Herons sharing a tree

Great Blue and Black-crowned Night-Herons sharing a tree

juvenile Common Tern begging incessantly

juvenile Common Tern begging incessantly

juvenile Cedar Waxwing

juvenile Cedar Waxwing

Passersby had a chuckle at this novel way to explore the trail with grandma.

New way to tour with grandma (father pushing wheelchair while riding a hoverboard)

New way to tour with mother-in-law while riding a hoverboard

We worked up quite an appetite after birding last Saturday.

Lunch for four at Southern Smoke Barbeque (we took two doggy bags home)

Lunch for four at Southern Smoke Barbeque (pulled pork fried chicken, mac and cheese, ribs, hush puppies, cornbread, wings)! Yum! We took a doggy back home.

Then it was off to Bronte Marina. Only one of the two Red-Necked Grebes nests at Bronte Marina was successful this year. The two youngsters are gorgeous. One is more self-sufficient than the other. Kudos to the parents for their tenacity.

Two juvenile Red-necked Grebes at Bronte Marina

Two juvenile Red-necked Grebes at Bronte Marina

Juvenile Red-necked Grebe swimming in the cool of the evening

Juvenile Red-necked Grebe swimming in the cool of the evening

Great Egrets (High Park) and a melanistic Great Blue Heron (Hendrie Valley)

Eh?

Eh?

Decisions, decisions!  I opted to start at Grenadier Pond.

A view of Grenadier Pond

A view of Grenadier Pond

Reflection photo no. 2, taken further along the path

Reflection

Reflection photo no. 1

Nestboxes

Black-crowned Night-Heron resting on a log

Black-crowned Night-Heron resting on a log

Black-crowned Night-Heron's profile

Black-crowned Night-Heron’s profile

Then stopped briefly at the zoo.

Two American Black Duck opportunists taking full advantage of never-ending supply of food at the High Park Zoo

Two American Black Duck opportunists taking full advantage of never-ending supply of food at the High Park Zoo

Then off to the duck ponds near the children’s playground.

Multilingual Signage at duck ponds

Multilingual Signage at duck ponds

This is a fab spot to photograph Wood Ducks, Great Egrets, Green Herons and Kingfishers.

Juvenile Wood Duck (male)

Juvenile Wood Duck (male)

Juvenile Wood Duck

Juvenile Wood Duck

Belted Kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher

Green Heron

Green Heron

Green Heron on a branch

Green Heron on a branch

Green Heron hunting

Green Heron hunting

There’s a little story about these catfish.  Six of us were taking our pictures when a chatterbox joined in.  After some time, the listener’s ear was beyond fatigued.  Said photographer (not me) asked chatterbox (not me – I photographed them earlier) directed the individual to the catfish. Ah, silence reigned for 20 minutes.

Catfish galore

Catfish galore

On day one there was one egret present.  The photographers said three egrets were foraging prior to my arrival.  On day two I arrived a bit earlier and saw three.  Of course, he who arrived shortly after sunrise viewed seven in the pond. One Great Egret foraged within 20 feet of us.  A good time was had by all.

Reflection shot of two Great Egrets

Reflection shot of two Great Egrets

Great Egret searching for prey

Great Egret searching for prey

Another reflection photograph of a Great Egret

Another reflection photograph of a Great Egret

A preening Great Egret

A preening Great Egret

Great Egret on the hunt

Another look at a Great Egret

Another look at a Great Egret

Great Egret preening on a tree limb

Great Egret preening on a tree limb

Great Egret resting on a tree limb

Great Egret resting on a tree limb

Shaking after preening

Shaking after preening

Hendrie Valley

The water levels are low.  The water lilies are spreading and clogging the ponds.

Shrinking pond

Shrinking pond

As the Great Blue Herons and others have less room to forage, they are appearing below, just beyond and above the boardwalk.

Great Blue Heron's eye

Great Blue Heron’s eye

Last Sunday a photographer in full camo gear sporting two cameras said he photographed a black heron.  I scratched my head.  I asked to see a photo but he was so over the moon happy that he didn’t heard me.  Yesterday, August 6th, a couple reported observing a brown heron.  I asked to see a photo but it was buried in the hundreds of photographs they took during the day.  I remained puzzled.  Today, I ran into a photographer I met several weeks ago. He spoke of a melanistic Great Blue Heron.  Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?????  As I had helped him out previously he told me exactly where to find it.  What a brilliant sight. I will be returning soon to try for better shots.

Another look at the melanistic Great Blue Heron

Another look at the melanistic Great Blue Heron

Melanistic Great Blue Heron

Melanistic Great Blue Heron

You never know what you’ll find at Hendrie!

White-tailed Deer

White-tailed Deer

Muskrat

Muskrat

Lesser Yellowlegs

Lesser Yellowlegs

Groundhog enjoying supper

Groundhog enjoying supper

Lad proudly displays a toad he found

Lad proudly displays a toad he found