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!

 

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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.

Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks (Bayshore Park, Hamilton)

Wednesday, July 13, 2016, was the hottest day this summer.  Accordingly, I avoided heading outside at lunch. Surfing the internet, I noted a report that Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks were found on a beach at Bayfront Park.  I left in the evening taking a chance that they remained on the beach.

Having only visited Bayshore Park once previously, I promptly headed to the wrong gazebo.  I found myself at the grey, not the silver gazebo where the Cops N’ Rodders Car Show was underway.

Vehicle on display at Cops N Rodders Car Show. Note the grey gazebo in the background.

Vehicle on display at Cops N’ Rodders Car Show. Note the grey gazebo in the background.

At the car show two Halton Regional Police officers, on their break, extended a greeting to me.  We chatted for a while.  I inquired whether there was a second beach.  One of the officers advised the second beach was some 750 meters from where we were standing.  Off I went.  Soon the silver gazebo was in sight and as I rounded the bend, the sight of photographers and birders were a sure sign that I was in the right spot.

So, a few things.

  1.  These rare Black-bellied Whistling Ducks were thought to originate in Texas, U.S.A.  These ducks breed in Louisiana and southern Texas.
  2. They are thought to be the same ducks reported days earlier in New York.
  3. This species is a first for the Hamilton Study Area.

A mix of eight photographers and birders were on the beach.  Initially, the light was against us but that soon resolved. Our second issue were the gulls photobombing our efforts.

During their spell on the beach the ducks slept, preened, stretched, vocalized, squabbled a bit, and occasionally ate.

Five Black-belled Whistling Ducks

Five Black-belled Whistling-Ducks

Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks heading to the beach

Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks heading to the beach

Preening on the shore

Preening on the shore

One sunning, one resting

One sunning, one resting

Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks asleep on the beach

Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks asleep on the beach

Having a bit of a stretch

Having a bit of a stretch

Having a drink

Having a drink

But for the gulls...

But for the gulls…

Fluffed feathers

Fluffed feathers

Confounded gulls photobombed most photographs

Confounded gulls photobombed most photographs

Black-bellied Whistling Duck on the beach

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck on the beach

Gulls and a tern surround the ducks

Gulls and a tern surround the ducks

Returning to the water

Returning to the water

Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks on the water

Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks on the water

The above was my last look at these stunning ducks, just shy of 7:30 p.m.  They departed at approximately 8:30 p.m. and haven’t been seen since.