Saturday, September 8, 2012

Not All Detours are Bad

This summer my route to work has been lengthened with two detours.  As frustrating as they can be, both have turned out to benefit me with seeing birds up close.

But first, during a site visit for work out in Campbellville I saw a few opportunities for a few photographs.  I had my camera along to take site photos of a development I had to provide entrance designs for, so was able to take a few photos near the site and on the way back to the office.  A pair of Barn Swallows were preening over Campbellville Pond in the morning light.  Unfortunately the sun was shining from across the pond so the lighting was hard to work with.

Barn Swallows

Some turtles were sunning on a log.  They must have very good eye sight because it is hard to get close without them slipping quickly into the water.

A pair of turtles sunning with one thinking about it.

Honey Bees on Purple Loosestrife
Female American Goldfinch
hiding in the Chickweed

A Trumpeter Swan was preening on a floating log.  It was tagged, so I submitted a bird encounter report.  I haven't heard anything back, and may never get a response.  The number on the metal band on its right leg would have given them more specific information than just the wing tag.  That obviously wasn't going to happen.  I didn't think Trumpeter Swans usually stayed around this area during the middle of summer.  Hopefully I get some sort of response.

Trumpeter Swan with wing tag.

On my way back to the office there were a few Wild Turkeys on the far side of a harvested wheat field.  When I stopped and got out, only one turkey remained for a picture.  Either it was smart enough to know I didn't have a gun, or it will be the one the hunters get during Turkey season.

Wild Turkey

From Wild Turkeys, to Turkey Vultures... As mentioned earlier, my detoured route to work has taken me down Old Guelph Road on the East border of Dundas.  One morning, a number of Turkey Vultures were roosted on a hydro tower, preparing for a day of soaring.

Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vultures are not the most attractive birds, their featherless heads giving them a rather unappealing look.  However, they are a bird with many specifically designed characteristics.  Their heads and most of their necks are featherless to minimize the affect of reaching inside dead bodies for tasty treats to eat.  They have an incredible sense of smell enabling them to detect the odour of dead animals before their more mediocre sense of sight locates them.  This is because they can detect this odours at concentrations of as low as just a few part per trillion ( This sense of smell is sometimes used by officials with trained birds to detect natural gas leaks.   Turkey vultures have amazing digestive systems.  In order to eating decaying animals and to be able to overcome diseases and poisons which killed the animal in the first place, they have special stomach acids and bacteria which will destroy those toxins.

Turkey Vulture

On my continued progress back to work from my field visit mentioned earlier, my route took me along the same detour of Old Guelph road.  At one point right in front of me, a Red-tailed Hawk launched off of a hydro pole and swept down into the long grass in pursuit of some prey.  I pulled over quickly and grabbed my camera (which was unusually with me and at the ready).  As I was stepping out of the car, the bird landed on a hydro pole right across the road.  It must have been preoccupied with its failed operation because it didn't notice me at first. I was hardly 15m away.

Red-tailed Hawk

I was hesitant to even move to raise my camera for fear that it would notice me, but with a slow and steady movement I lifted it and got off a few shots before it did look straight at me for a moment, and then flew off. As it left, it cried out loudly to another Red-tail which must have been perched nearby and they headed out together for the protection of the trees in the distance. A beautiful bird!!

Red-tailed Hawk

On my continued way into the office, (lunch time by this time) I quickly stopped at the York Street bridge which goes over two railroads and the waterway link (a remnant of the old DesJardins Canal) between Coote's Paradise and Hamilton Harbour. In Coote's Paradise, a large group of Double-crested Cormorants were feeding, then lifting off, circling to gain elevation and crossing over at the bridge to spend time in the harbour.

Hundreds of Double-crested Cormorants in Coote's Paradise

Double-crested Cormorant in flight.

Double-crested Cormorant flying over York Street bridge.

Double-crested Cormorant approaching the bridge.

While waiting for the next cormorant to approach, I spotted a dragon fly facing into the wind.  I wonder if it was using the breeze coming from Coote's to blow bugs towards it and just waiting their to snag them as they blew by.  Hard to photograph though - it hovered, but never long in one place and it's a small object focus on zoomed way in.

Hovering Dragonfly.

I popped down the long set of stairs and walked a short bit towards Bayfront Park.  A small man made island off the shore in the Harbour was full of sunning cormorants.

Double-crested Cormorants sunning.

A juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron was perched up in a Willow hanging over the water, and a lone Mute Swan was bathing and preening its feathers, while a two Opsrey were noisily calling as their wheeled about in the air overhead.  

Juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron

Mute Swan


I still chuckle now as I write this.  There was a couple standing beside me exclaiming at how nice the spot was and something to the effect that it was nice to see wildlife around.  I was able to point the Night Heron out to them and tell the the name, just as some Caspian Terns flew round the bend.  Moments later the Osprey noisily appeared, and I'm pretty sure a cormorant surfaced pretty close by.  I can't remember if there was anything else, but I could point out some interesting birds, all literally within a few minute's time span.  It was almost comical.  The couple was very appreciative and it was very rewarding to be able to look back and realize that within a short time, I've learned quite a few birds by name and can share it with others to add to their enjoyment of an afternoon out for a walk.

Just before I left, a Turkey Vulture made a teetering glide just overhead as it crossed the ridge of York Road.  A nice finish to a detoured drive into work.

Turkey Vulture in flight.


  1. What a great detour route! The photo of the Red Tail looking right at you is amazing! Good catch of the dragon fly too :)

  2. Brian, nice mix of birds here in this posting! I liked the story about the shared nature viewing experience. I have many raptor shots to share from the weekend as well. Will post soon!

    1. Looking forward to it. Raptors top my birding list!!


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