Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A Grand River Trail Walk

I'm a bit behind, and spring has in fact finally come.  But back only about three weeks ago, it was the first Sunday with some warmer weather and I was itching to get out for a spring outing.  I headed straight west of St. George and at the end of Blue Lake Road, there is a hydro corridor which needs only a short three minute walk to bring you to the Cambridge-Paris Rail Trail.

Along this path, I spotted the energetic movement of a lone Blue-gray Gnatcatcher** Ruby-crowned Kinglet weaving through the buds and catching small bugs. They are hard to capture in picture since they rarely pause to stay still.

Thanks to Caleb for correcting me... We had a back and forth ID argument :), but he won pointing out the tail on the Blue-gray extends much further past the primary wing feathers).

Ruby-Crowned Kinglet

I walked the path in both directions and didn't see a lot of birds.  I met an older gentlemen along the way who said he walks this stretch every day and he had the same conclusion for the day.  That didn't encourage me much.  I headed up the steps to the top of an abutment from a long abandoned railway bridge and scanned the river and surrounding horizon.  Out of the corner of my eye, swift movement caught my attention and I turned around just in time to see a Sharp-shinned Hawk land about 30 or so meters away in a large Oak tree. It had some half eaten prey in its grasp which I hoped it would calmly eat there - often hawks will permit you closer when they're distracted by their meal.

Sharp-shinned Hawk with prey.

However, he quickly noticed me and I slowly lifted my camera hoping it would not be spooked.  Despite my careful efforts, I was able to get only a few shots before it took off again across to the opposite and upstream side of the river for a more private dining location I assume.

Sharp-shinned Hawk leaving.

Sharp-shinned Hawk departing.

Before turning to head back down to the trail, my ear caught the scolding call of a Kingfisher and I took a distant shot of it across the river.

Belted Kingfisher

I didn't see much else that afternoon, and spent about half of my time chatting with the same older gentleman mentioned earlier. It's interesting the people you meet while out and about. There are so many people who have the impulse to say hi because I'm walking around with the larger than normal lens.  Some times I have to admit, I'd rather keep walking and exploring, but it is enjoyable to meet people from so many different walks of life and to hear their stories. Many people have their own exciting bird finds they've made either recently or in the past and its nice to share the memory and show interest in their finds.

Walking back to the car, I was followed by a friendly Chipping Sparrow which had recently arrived from the south replacing the very similar looking American Tree Sparrow which made a very big showing this winter in Southern Ontario.  The most of the latter bird have headed north to mate and raise young. The quickest way to tell the difference between the two birds is to note that the Chipping Sparrow has a completely black bill where the American Tree Sparrow's bottom portion is yellow.

Chipping Sparrow

Well, spring is definitely here, and as I write this post, a good old thunderstorm is passing through. The next few days are forecasted to be filled with rain, so I doubt I'll be out birding.  But I have some fun stuff to show from a recent trip to the State of Washington, so stay posted for another post.

Till then...
Keep enjoying HIS handiwork!


  1. Brian, great to see a new posting! I am not 100% sure, but I think that hawk could be a coopers hawk! Sharp shinned a Coopers are both very close in appearance but coopers are bigger. They have bigger talons and slower wingbeats. Also, remember when there are big storms at night with lots of rain, its often a good time to check out your local forest... at this time of year, you might experience a little "fallout" birding!

    1. Hi Dwayne! I should have really mentioned my uncertainty as well... I was not 100% sure. But so far I have your thoughts on it being a Cooper's and another comment (through Google+) that they agree with the Sharpie ID. The reason I settled on Sharp-Shinned was the thinner legs. The tail, being the other big ID helper was not visible enough to tell. Thanks for the suggestion to do some "fallout" checks :)


Sorry about the annoying word verification... I've been deluged with Spam comments lately and some have been offensive.