Sunday, July 20, 2014

Grass Lake and West Shore of Hamilton Harbour

The very first day of June was a Sunday and I went to Grass Lake for a quiet afternoon. I started out walking on the south side of the 570 AM antenna field where five huge metal spires send the radio signal at the KW Cambridge area.  I met one of the technicians there one evening last summer and chatted with him for hours into the darkness. It was a very interesting chat as he explained lots of the technical information about the antennas and system. The first two (southern) towers actually cancel out background signals, the middle one sends out the radio signal, and then the last two (northern) towers repeat and boost the signal.

Being early afternoon, there wasn't a lot of bird activity, but a Tree Swallow perched for a picture for me not far from its nest box in the radio field.

male Tree Swallow

There were a few pairs of Bobolinks flying around, but not as many as I've seen in the past. I hope that's only because they were all attending nests or young.  But I finally saw as well as got a half decent photo of a female. I'd only ever seen the males before. I still love hearing the completely unique call of these birds. It is such a un-birdlike sound. I've noticed recently though, that Red-winged Blackbirds share slightly in that very different sound characteristic. Has anyone else noticed or heard it too?

female Bobolink

Along the same fence line, you are always sure to see some of the Savannah Sparrow pairs.  They, of all the birds in this area will allow you to get closest.  Moving slowly but surely, they often let me get quite close. It's interesting how different birds characteristically allow approximately the same distance until they are no longer comfortable with your approach.

Savannah Sparrow

Walking towards Grass Lake, a House wren was signing heartily in a small patch of mostly dead Pine Trees.

House Wren

As I walked along the dirt road which sweeps around the water's edge of the shallow, grassy lake, a pair of Sandhill Cranes quietly glided in. I was too slow on the draw and missed getting any pictures.  They landed quite far back in where the deeper, open water is and proceeded to make their presence known to the rest of the lake with their loud calls and comical head movements.

distant Sandhill Cranes

I got startled as I walked along the road edge when suddenly, something large enough to move a significant amount of the long grass at the top of the bank moved quickly towards the water's edge.  The creature turned out to be a large snapping turtle and made a mad slide down the bank, crashing into small trees and branches as it headed for the cover of the water. I went back to the spot and noticed a circular track it had made in the grass with an untouched area of grass left in the middle about a foot and half in diameter. Being early June, it's possible it was looking for a nest site, though it didn't seem like a prime location given a hard packed gravel shoulder with grass roots reinforcing it all.  Then again, those stocky legs and sharp claws would likely suit that task well.

I had heard that there was a Brown Thrasher nesting on the north west end of the lake, but saw no sign of the nest nor the bird. I headed home and decided to leave the opposite directly I usually do, and though not intentionally, past the supposed Thrasher location.  Just as I passed, a big Brown Thrasher flew right in front of me and swept up and landed in a dead tree.  Quickly stopping and trying to get my window down and camera up and ready was too long for the bird to get wary and it flew. I got out and after some searching finally found it way up in a big tree.  I climbed a bank for a better view and still got some nice pictures of life bird #204.

Brown Thrasher

Later that week, I headed out early in the morning before work to the east shore of Hamilton Harbour close 1to the Canadian Centre for Inland Waters on the west side of the QEW.  There had been reports of American Pelicans regularly visiting the man made islands for a number of days and I thought I'd see if I could get some pictures in the early morning sun. Turns out I waited too long and they were not reported again.  But I got to see the large colony of Caspian Terns nesting there mixed among the Ring-billed Gulls doing the same.  You can just make out the fuzzy, well camouflaged young of both species in the pictures.  I'm not sure what the Tern in the middle was doing. It had caught a nice little fish, but was just standing in the same spot for quite a while.  I'm surprised it was not attacked by the other birds around it and either forced to down it quickly, fly away to protect his catch, or drop it and flee. But none of those things happened and I'm not sure what it was waiting for.

nesting Caspian Terns and Ring-billed Gulls

Sharing the same island, but perched on the trees that are barely surviving the acidic anointing they are receiving are the Double-crested Cormorants also attending to young.

nesting Double-crested Cormorant
I was standing on a narrow beach that was just beside a flight path where, over and over again, Cormorants were swooping down from just crossing the QEW bridge for a short, low approach over the water to the island. Many were still bringing nesting material and after many pictures I finally got a half decent one.

Double-crested Cormorant with nesting material

Until next time...
Keep enjoying HIS handiwork!


  1. Wow! Great photos! I especially love the Cormorants nesting in the trees, it just looks so funny! So many huge birds weighting down fairly small trees, great picture!

    1. Thanks for the nice words. I agree Josiah.... even after seeing this a few times now, it still seems comical. It looks even stranger to see them fly and then land in the tree, being a water bird and all!

  2. Wonderful pictures again, Bri! I just love seeing all the varieties of God's birds that you are able to photograph - keep it up! And 204 birds! Wow!!


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