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

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.

Birding and Train Spotting

During the week I made two trips to the beach strip in Burlington to check on the Baltimore Orioles.  All three nests are empty.  The fledglings are thriving.

Baltimore Oriole feeding its young

Baltimore Oriole feeding its young

During the last walkabout the begging cries of Warbling Vireo nestlings and fledglings led to the discovery of two nests and this fledgling.

Juvenile Warbling Vireo

Juvenile Warbling Vireo

There are quite a number of juveniles along the stretch including Red-winged Blackbirds, European Starlings, Common Grackles, American Robins and all the other usual suspects.

Juvenile European Starling feeding on berries

Juvenile European Starling feeding on berries

Still working on capturing Chimney Swifts in flight.

Chimney Swifts in flight

Chimney Swifts in flight

The plight of this Rough-winged Swallow was reported to me by beachgoers.  Unfortunately, it was injured and unable to fly.

Northern Rough-winged Swallow

Northern Rough-winged Swallow

Northern Rough-winged Swallow

Northern Rough-winged Swallow

Saturday, June 25th was the laziest birding outing I’ve ever had at Hendrie Valley.  I pretty much spent most of it socializing.   Loads of fun!  At the entrance of Cherry Hill Gate there were Downy Woodpeckers (adult and juvenile), a Hairy Woodpecker as well as this juvenile Red-bellied Woodpecker.

Red-bellied Woodpecker (juvenile)

Red-bellied Woodpecker (juvenile)

Down the hill and along the boardwalk, Red-winged Blackbirds were observed harassing a pair of Belted Kingfishers.  Onward to the area known as Valley Inn.  I hung out with the raptor photographers chatting about everything from Brexit to soccer as we awaited the arrival of Osprey.  In the interim we photographed visitors to the nearby mulberry bush.

Juvenile American Robin in mulberry bush

Juvenile American Robin in mulberry bush

Red squirrel enjoying berries of mulberry bush

Red squirrel enjoying berries of mulberry bush

A family of geese appeared.

a pair of juvenile Canada Goose out for a stroll

a pair of juvenile Canada Goose out for a stroll

Finally, an Osprey appeared.

Osprey on the hunt

Osprey on the hunt

Later I joined the train spotters at the bridge near Laking Gardens.  Among the group were two visiting American train spotters/photographers.  I learned quite a bit about trains in the hour plus I spent with the group and tried my hand at a few photographs.  I left with the thought – there’s something for everybody at Hendrie.

Reflection

Reflection

GO Train heading to Appleby GO station

GO Train heading to Appleby GO station

Double stacked railway cars

Double stacked railway cars

Please do visit glc392, a member of this great group of guys, to view spectacular photographs of trains.

My little buddy, Rastro, an Australian Shepherd, joined us for the afternoon.  As Rastro has a touch of arthritis we ensured we only visited locations requiring minimal walking.  He helped us find this snake.

Eyed by a watersnake

Eyed by a watersnake

These snakes were photographed last weekend.

Northern Watersnake

Northern Watersnake

Garter snake sunning along the path

Garter snake sunning along the path

Our first stop was Kerncliff Park, in Burlington, to try for Virginia Rails.  No luck but we did observe House Wrens, Brown Thrashers and quite a few Painted Turtles.

Tiny Painted Turtles appearing to kiss

Tiny Painted Turtles appearing to kiss

Next was Eastport Drive.

Ring-billed Gull chicks harassing adult for food

Ring-billed Gull chicks harassing adult for food

Adult Ring-billed Gull regurgitates food for its young

Adult Ring-billed Gull regurgitates food for its young

I almost puked. Consequently, the balance of the photos of this quartet were out of focus.

Next up was the Great Lakes and Rebecca storm water ponds in Oakville.  Last week we observed a female Hooded Merganser.

Hooded Merganser (female)

Hooded Merganser (female)

This week we encountered a doe and her fawn.

White-tailed deer fawn

White-tailed deer fawn

Thereafter, we stopped in at Bronte Marina.  The Red-necked Grebes have rebuilt their nest and are sitting on a new batch of eggs.  No chicks yet at the second nest but it appears quite precarious.  The Killdeer chick is doing quite well.

Last stop was Lasalle Marina.  The park trail is in dire need of a visit by hawks or the Pied Piper of Chipmunks.  Waaaay too many. There are two Mute Swan families on the water.  This is the younger group.

Mute Swan feeding cygnet

Mute Swan feeding cygnet

Rastro enjoyed the outing.  Having been thoroughly spoiled by all of us, he slept on the ride home.

Today, I returned to Hendrie.  The heat was too much for me until I observed two photographers on the boardwalk.  Picking up the pace, I soon joined them in photographing a doe and her one year old fawn.

female White-tailed Deer observed at Hendrie Valley

female White-tailed Deer observed at Hendrie Valley

female White-tailed Deer

female White-tailed Deer

I had enough energy to snap a few photos of this Hairy Woodpecker.

Hairy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker

CCIW was definitely cooler.  Here I encountered five photographers enjoying the challenge of photographing the terns and cormorants but probably not the gulls.

partial view of the multitude

partial view of the multitude

Lift every voice and sing

Lift every voice and sing

Caspian Tern choir - there is always one that never joins in

Caspian Tern choir – there is always one that never joins in

Caspian Tern in flight

Caspian Tern in flight

Caspian Tern chick and parent at water's edge

Caspian Tern chick and parent at water’s edge

Caspian Tern chick cools off in the water

Caspian Tern chick cools off in the water

Caspian Tern chick stretching its wings

Caspian Tern chick stretching its wings (This confounded gull almost always photobombed my attempts at capturing the chick on its own.)

Until next time!

Ring-billed Gulls foraging behind ship

Ring-billed Gulls foraging behind ship