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)

 

 

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

Virginia Rail and Sora

The following birds were photographed at Hendrie Valley:

Yellow Warbler

Yellow Warbler

Red-eyed Vireo

Red-eyed Vireo

Juvenile Blue Jay

Juvenile Blue Jay

Juvenile Wood Duck

Juvenile Wood Duck

Green Heron on the hunt

Green Heron on the hunt

Green Heron stretching wing

Green Heron stretching wing

Belted Kingfisher

female Belted Kingfisher

Last Saturday we pulled over on Eastport Drive. A gent was busy photographing the cormorants when we arrived. Such was his displeasure that he stopped taking photographs and set his face to the most miserable look he could find. A bona fide humbug.  We ignored him as we did not disturb the family of cormorants he was photographing nor did we block his view of them. We took our photographs and left.

Partial view of Double-crested Cormorant colony on Eastport Drive

Partial view of cormorant and gull colony on Eastport Drive

Double-crested Cormorant

Double-crested Cormorant

Black-crowned Night-Heron

Black-crowned Night-Heron

Black-crowned Night-Heron on a nest

Black-crowned Night-Heron on a nest

Windermere Basin was our next stop. Here a Green Heron was sunning on a log.

Green Heron sunning on a log

Green Heron sunning on a log

The following day we headed to Kerncliff Park to try for Virginia Rail and Sora. Both species breed here. They vocalize loudly but run about silently.  You always have to be at the ready as you never quite know where they will appear.  A second pair of eyes on the marsh was most helpful.  This Virginia Rail gave us gripping views.

Virginia Rail walking in marsh

Virginia Rail walking in marsh

Virginia Rail in marsh

Virginia Rail in marsh

Virginia Rail enjoying the warmth of the sun

Virginia Rail enjoying the warmth of the sun

Virginia Rail stretching wing after preening

Virginia Rail stretching wing after preening

Virginia Rail

Virginia Rail

In due course, I photographed lifer no. 213, the Sora.

Sora

Sora

We hit the trail for City View. Along the route we saw Northern Flickers, a female Red-breasted Grosbeak, Eastern Towhee, swallows and a singing House Wren.

House Wren singing

House Wren singing

Yesterday we headed to Fort Erie to photograph Purple Martins. There seemed to be fewer martins this year.

Purple Martin house

Purple Martin house

Purple Martin nestling longing for parent's arrival

Purple Martin nestling longing for parent’s arrival

Purple Martin nestling waiting to be fed

Purple Martin nestling waiting to be fed

male Purple Martin

male Purple Martin

Purple Martin with insect

female Purple Martin with insect

After this we headed to Mud Lake Conservation Area in Welland. We tried birding at this spot about two years ago but turned back because (1) the trail was swarming with mosquitoes, and (2) a visitor found ticks on his person. This visit, maybe one or two mosquitoes. Great Egrets were the target. We found four.

Four Great Egrets

Four Great Egrets

Great Egret with fish

Great Egret with fish

As shorebirds were well out of camera range we focused on frogs.

Frog

Frog

Another green frog

Another green frog

I see you

I see you

There were four Osprey at Hendrie this morning. As none were hunting, I spent time acquainting myself with Turkey Vultures. At least 20 Turkey Vultures were variously soaring, roosting, preening, ambulating, and resting.

Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture preening

Turkey Vulture preening

14 Turkey Vultures

14 Turkey Vultures

They had no qualms sharing their favourite tree with a rather vocal Osprey.

Osprey (but for the branch...)

Osprey (but for the branch…)

In this heat, birding early in the morning for short periods, preferably close to water, is the best strategy.

Wilson’s Phalarope (Townsend Sewage Lagoons)

June 4th – Townsend Sewage Lagoons

The journey from Burlington to Townsend, Ontario was lovely.  It’s always an adventure to leave the familiar for the unfamiliar. We were unsure what to expect. Would we be turned off by the sights and smells? We, well I, worried needlessly. It’s a gorgeous spot.

A singing male Bobolink greeted us warmly then headed off to a nearby field.

male Bobolink

male Bobolink

We, in turn, greeted two Burlington birders, who put us on to our target species, the Wilson’s Phalarope. The female Wilson’s Phalarope is larger and more colourful than the male.

female Wilson's Phalarope

female Wilson’s Phalarope

male Wilson's Phalarope

male Wilson’s Phalarope

During our stay we observed Killdeer (many), Canada Geese (numerous), Savannah Sparrows, an Eastern Kingbird, Spotted Sandpipers, a Least Sandpiper, two Northern Shovelers, and others.

Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

Painted Turtle and Spotted Sandpaper faceoff

Painted Turtle and Spotted Sandpaper faceoff

male Northern Shoveler

male Northern Shoveler

Killdeer's broken wing posture

Killdeer’s broken wing posture

Beautiful countryside abutting Townsend Sewage Lagoon

Beautiful countryside abutting Townsend Sewage Lagoon

Prior to our departure, we put two newly arrived birders on to the female Phalarope.

Then on to the Tollgate Ponds on Eastport Drive. Quite a number of Ring-billed chicks have hatched. They are easily photographed, having hatched immediately behind the concrete barrier. Do pop by if you can. They are incredibly cute!

Ring-billed Gull chick begging to be fed

Ring-billed Gull chick begging to be fed

After lunch we checked in at Bronte Marina, Oakville, to check in on Cliff Swallows and the two Red-necked Grebe nests.

Nesting Red-necked Grebe No. 2 standing allowing for view of eggs

Nesting Red-necked Grebe No. 1 standing allowing for view of eggs

Red-necked Grebe sitting on nest

Red-necked Grebe No. 2 sitting on nest

Nesting Red-necked Grebe No. 2 stands allowing view of eggs

Nesting Red-necked Grebe No. 2 stands allowing view of eggs

Red-necked Grebe transporting nesting material

Red-necked Grebe transporting nesting material

The Cliff Swallows are confronted by heavy competition from the House Sparrows.

Cliff Swallow constructing nest

Cliff Swallow constructing nest (Typical nest construction requires between 1,400 and 1,800 trips to sources of mud.)

Cliff Swallow ignoring House Sparrow

Cliff Swallow ignoring House Sparrow

Cliff Swallow making it plain to House Sparrow that the mud nest was unavailable

Cliff Swallow making it plain to House Sparrow that the mud nest was unavailable

June 5th

This snapping turtle was digging when I arrived at Hendrie Valley Park.

Snapping Turtle

Snapping Turtle

Nearby her previous nest lay exposed, having been destroyed by a predator, likely a racoon or mink.

Snapping Turtle's eggs destroyed by predator

Snapping Turtle’s eggs destroyed by predator

 

Close up of snapping turtle's destroyed eggs

Close up of snapping turtle’s destroyed eggs

Further on, an Eastern Phoebe rested on a branch, undisturbed by my presence.

Eastern Phoebe

Eastern Phoebe

My last stop was Spencer Smith Park where a Common Tern slowed down enough for me to get a couple in flight shots.

Common Tern at Spencer Smith Park

Common Tern at Spencer Smith Park

Parched and hungry, I walked over to my favourite coffee shop.  Overhead, at the intersection of John and Pine Streets, Chimney Swifts were twittering as they zoomed by.

Chimney Swifts

Chimney Swifts

A pair of Barn Swallows have constructed a nest in the corner of the parking garage at the above-noted intersection.   This swallow will dive-bomb pedestrians if they linger too long.

Maintaining watch in car park at Pine and John Streets, Burlington

Maintaining watch in car park at Pine and John Streets, Burlington

Barn Swallow resting on the antennae of a parked automobile

Barn Swallow resting on the antennae of a parked automobile

Barn Swallow

Barn Swallow

This was the last photo I took before the bird went after me!

vigilant Barn Swallow

vigilant Barn Swallow