Saturday, September 22, 2012

A Turn for the Terns

Acting on a post from Pete Scholtens on the Hamilton Birders Group site, I headed to Princess Point early before work a few weeks ago (yes, I'm very behind - this was last August I believe) with word that the mud flat in the outlet from Chedoke Creek was exposed and populated with lots of shore birds.

I started on the east shore of Princess Point and across the water on the mud flat where a mix of about 30 to 40 adult and juvenile Caspian Terns were raising a very large ruckus.

Part of the large group of Caspian Terns mixing company with gulls.
Aside from raptors, one of my favourite birds are Terns.  They have such clean lines, the rhythm of their flight is so unique and purposeful, and they are constantly busy with an eye to the water, resulting in frequent plunges into the water in pursuit of a small fish.  I spent some time trying to capture them as they circled around, resulting in some nice photos and a large crick in my neck and shoulder from holding my camera posed for so long.

Hovering before the plunge.

Deodorant still fresh?

Caspian Tern

Flying into a bit of sun.

A catch of a small fish is the reward of the many attempts they make.

Caspian Tern dive.

Unsuccessful dive attempt.

The smaller Gulls there (I never was able to ID them) waited opportunely for just after terns begin the ascent from the water after their dive and then chase the Terns, hoping to harass them into dropping their catch for a hijacked meal.  Interesting, considering the Gulls were smaller than the Terns.

Caspian Tern chased by smaller gull.

A successful catch.

This Tern's crop shows evidence of a recent meal.

Caspian Tern in flight.

As I headed back to the car along the shore, I flushed this group of Mallards which had been sleeping under a willow tree.

Female Mallard Ducks taking flight.

At the same time an Osprey circled overhead, and Great Egrets and Great Blue Herons were wading in the waters. Although I enjoy my work, they were all making me want to linger instead of heading to the office. So, over the next few days, I headed back a couple mornings, heading to the other side of the outlet, closer to the mud flat to see the shore birds. A post on that to follow.

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.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Four-Winged Beauties

As promised in my last post, I'm sharing some of the pictures I've taken this summer of the four-winged type.  My interest definitely increases as I move from insects, etc, on to birds, and then too wildlife, but there sure is a lot of diversity and beauty in the butterflies around us.  Before I started this hobby a little more seriously, I had never really noticed more than the typical butterfly or the odd other variety, but now that I'm out more, I see there is a greater variety around.

We went as a family to Pinehurst Conservation Area on the July Long Weekend, and they have a walk which passes through the Carlolinian Forests and then opens into a meadow walk which was full of butterflies.  It was at the end of the walk and with the whole family along, chasing them around was not to be.  I did get one decent shot before I had to run and catch up with the gang.

Painted Lady Butterfly

The boys had cared for a couple Monarch butterfly caterpillars this summer, but only one spun a chrysalis and that one had actually fallen down from the lid.  We didn't figure it would end up emerging, but thankfully we found it before it died in the garage by the garbage.  Their colours are stunningly brilliant when they just new like that.

Newly emerged Monarch Butterfly

Monarch Butterfly

When I followed the Monarch to the church gardens behind our house to get the picture above, I noticed one bunch of flowers covered in Aphids.  A few Ladybugs were there feasting away.

Aphids and Ladybug

Aphids and Ladybugs

There is a relatively new (about 2 years I think) nature which we pass on the way to church every Sunday. The place has been named Amaolo Nature Sanctuary after the donour of the lands. I think I headed out there a little late in the season for butterflies as many of the flowers were already finishing, though I'm no butterfly expert by any stretch of the imagination.  I've added it to my location list and you can see the spot here.

The sign by the road.  Look carefully or you'll miss the spot.

The  Amaolo Nature Sanctuary

Justin - my butterfly hunting buddy.

Here are some of the butterflies I saw.  I could figure out the names of most, but I haven't found a very good website to identify them for here in Ontario. If you know what any of the ones I've missed naming (or incorrectly named), feel free to let me know.

Cabbage White Buttefly

Canadian Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly

Clouded Sulpher Butterfly

Common Buckeye Butterfly

Common Buckeye Butterfly

Black Spicebush Swallowtail Buttefly

Tawny-edged Skipper

Common Ringlet (thanks Dwayne)

Peck's Skipper (again, thanks Dwayne)

And another unknown -
A tiny white butterfly or moth, hardly a cm across.

Viceroy Buttefly

Here is a sampling of the wildflowers which were planted in the abandoned field to attract butterflies.  I don't know most of their names.  My mom might be able to inform me.

Sun glistening through the soft grasses.

On the way home, Justin and I stopped by the Fox den but didn't see anything more than the ground covered in fresh tracks.  We did see this very cool, big grasshopper though.  Although it doesn't have four wings, it is winged and so I thought I could legitimately insert it into this post.

unknown Grasshopper.

Well, the typical "summer" portion of summer is officially over, Labour Day (in Canada here) marking that point.  The kids schooling here at home is already begun, and even mentally, I think at work people buckle down a little more.  But there's still lots of God's good creation to enjoy, and I have some good shots of things to share which are still in the queue. Till then...