Friday, December 23, 2011

Two Lunches along Bayfront Trail

Earlier this week I was able to spend two lunch hours away from work along Bayfront Trail both on the Coote's Paradise and Hamilton Harbour sides enjoying the variety of birds that this time of year brings.  There has been quite a buzz about a number of birds rare for this time of year here including some warblers and gnatcatchers.  You can read the reports and see the photos on Josh Vandermeulen and Brandon Holden's blogs.

I've never chased any birds that I saw on any of the bird reports before, but this time, since the reports of these birds were on the Bayfront Trail right within reach from my work in Hamilton, I thought I'd give it a try and see if I could see them too, let alone maybe get a picture or two.  In my search, I met lots of other birders, young and old, thoroughly armed with binoculars and cameras.  The birds might be getting a little self conscious with all the equipment showing up because when I headed out there, not many were having success in finding them any more.  I did find the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, but they are hard to photograph - not staying still for long at all in their constant inspection of every little crook and bud of the brambles and shrubbery they were in, looking for bugs to supply the energy for their constant motion.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher - best shot I could get.

Amongst the birders, I got to meet Josh Vandermeulen, a birder who I've learned quite a bit from while reading his very regular blog posts.  I got to chat with him for a while as we waited where the Black-throated Gray Warbler had been seen earlier.  While chatting, a runner flushed a bird up from the ground and we both saw the flash of it as it headed for cover.  We were sure it wasn't just a sparrow which shortly after seemed to be hanging around in the same vicinity - strange how your memory of something can sometimes be affected by what you want something to look like.  It might have been the warbler, but we never saw anything, and I wasn't to see any more of the other rareties either.

A Norther Mockingbird was also still there, enjoying the sun.

Northern Mockingbird

And a male Downy Woodpecker was tapping at trees branches looking for food.

male Downy Woodpecker

However, I did see many firsts in the duck department those two days.  Quite a list of firsts for me:
Lesser (I think) Greater Scaup
Red-throated Merganser
American Black Duck
Black Scoter - I think I saw one from a bit of a distance in the marina side of Bayfront Park, but I never ended up going back to check.

from left to right:
female Common Goldeneye, three male Common Goldeneye
and a female Greater Scaup

male Greater Scaup

male and female Northern Shovelers

This shot still makes me smile... The migrating ducks would skidaddle right out to deeper water with any approach of mine.  A lone mallard with in the mix of this group of birds and as they were heading out, he, more used to humans looks like he's thinking, "Calm down already!  Watch where you're going!"  He's pretty much headed the opposite direction of the Scaups and Goldeneyes paddling furiously to safety.

A male Mallard duck wonders what all the fuss is about.
I couldn't get very close to this little Bufflehead duck.  This one was the slowest of the bunch as the rest headed off quickly at my approach as well.

male Bufflehead

I also saw this pair (I think?) of American Black Ducks.

American Black Ducks

At the end of the hour which always goes way too quickly, I headed back to the parking lot.   Close to the boat launch end was a female Red-breasted (thanks Peter) Hooded Merganser that had just finished preening on a rock.

female Hooded Merganser through the Bullrushes.

female Hooded Merganser

Well, it's Christmas Eve and we'll be enjoying a movie night with the kids tonight.  A number of  us are struggling with a bad cold, but we exchanged our gifts with the kids last night and they're enjoying a new Wii!  They're quite excited and we're all getting the hang of it slowly.  Some very hilarious moments actually if you just watch the person moving about with the motion controller.  We'll likely be getting some teaching moments with the kids with this gift, and as parents, the opportunity to learn patience. :)  Looks like some fun family times ahead though...

But at this time of year we also remember that the Creator of all the amazing variety of birds and creatures we get to enjoy, humbled Himself to become one of us as a baby, growing up and eventually, as a man, dying to pay the debt we owe.  The debt owed is because He created all we see and know to praise Him. We all know none of us is perfect, but what we don't like to hear is that we owe a perfect life to the One who gave us life in the first place.  Thankfully, He chose to make a way available for us out of this mess, and believing in Him as our Saviour is the way to not only know the designer of all the amazing wildlife and heavenly wonders, but to know a new joy and meaning and purpose in life and see the world through different eyes.  If we believe and accept this gift, when we die some day, He'll welcome us instead of pronouncing judgement because of the debt paid for us on the cross.  

I was asked one time, "Why do you Christians always have to push your way as the only way and try and get more people in your club?"  This person was a "bystander" to me answering questions from someone else regarding my faith, and thought I should keep my opinion to myself.  My answer was something like this. "If you believed someone was desperately in need of life saving measures and you knew you had the cure, would you share it?  Even if you knew they might not appreciate it first?  Of course!  I believe the same has been done for me, and now I have the same great news to share.  Sharing the gospel has nothing to do with me, and everything to do with you!  It's only that I care for you that I'd risk our friendship or possibly what you'll think of me after, to let you know the great rescue that I've been given."

And so, if you even wonder a bit about what this Christmas Day is really all about, I encourage you to visit here.  It's doesn't directly speak to what Christmas Day itself is all about, but it does ask and answer some big questions about Christianity and who Jesus claimed he was.  And to the person who asks, "What do you gain from sending me here?" - nothing at all, but I hope you do.

Merry Christmas and happy birding(/wild-lifing?) in 2012!

PS. If you'd like to email me on anything at all, I welcome your thoughts or questions.

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