An Early October Ramble Through the Rattray

The Rattray Marsh in Mississauga, Ontario is not the best place to bird along the shores of Lake Ontario in early autumn but it does offer the opportunity to spot many migrants if you have some patience. The number of runners, Nordic walkers, dog walkers, strolling couples, boisterous students on expeditions from the nearby school, and even business people chatting aloud to unseen colleagues can make birding a bit of a challenge. They tend to flush anything that has flitted close to the boardwalks and their decibels can drown out bird song. However, they also make the park a welcoming safe place to explore and almost everyone shares a cordial greeting. So I’ve been out a few times during the first few days of October checking out which migrants are moving through the Rattray.

Nature Photography in the Rattray Marsh

Photography can be a challenge in a park where you’re constrained, by good manners, to stay on the well-established trails.

Photo of Blue Headed Vireo Peek on NaturalCrooksDotCom

This Blue Headed Vireo was an unexpected surprise. It was mingling with a flock of Ruby Crowned Kinglets and until I focused on him, I didn’t know he was there!

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This Winter Wren is actually more out in the open than most!

Photo of American Redstart Male Hiding On NaturalCrooksDotCom

This male American Redstart never did cooperate and move forward out of the bushes.

The light can be wrong or your feathered friend may be wary of the other park users and fly off out of range. It some ways, though, it makes it even more rewarding when you can snap a quick, if imperfect photo.

WinterWrenPeekonNaturalCrooksDotCom

Who’s watching whom, exactly?

Photo of White Throated Sparrow blur on NaturalCrooksDotCom

White Throated Sparrows are everywhere.

It’s also rather amazing how many of the resident birds and mammals of the Rattray are utterly indifferent to the steady stream of traffic. I’ve seen cottontails and muskrats continue their business while dogs and people march past only a few yards away.

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This first winter male Common Yellowthroat warbler briefly perched on the railing of the board walk just after two chatting women passed by and just before a grandmother pushing a toddler in a stroller rolled past. (And yes, I said good morning to all 4.)

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If you’re expecting people to show any consideration for your hobby and your subject, you’d better not even try to shoot in the Rattray.

Photo of Magnolia Warbler Small On NaturalCrooksDotCom

This young Magnolia Warbler was also hiding amidst a flock of Kinglets.

But if you accept that a jogger, or an entire class of 25 Nordic walkers may burst out of nowhere right in front of you at any time, then you can still enjoy yourself and even find a few good shots.

Photo of Winter Wren Upright On NaturalCrooksDotCom

I still haven’t got the photo I want of a Winter Wren but it’s fun to keep trying!

Photo of Winter Wren Branch on NaturalCrooksDotCom

See? Close but not sharp. Sigh.

Photo of Brown Creeper Trunk on NaturalCrooksDotCom

The little Brown Creepers are back inspecting the tree trunks.

Photo of Ruby Crowned Kinglet Yellow Tail on NaturalCrooksDotCom

I didn’t realize Ruby Crowned Kinglet’s have yellow on their tails till I looked at this shot.

CommonYellowthroatFlowersOnNaturalCrooksDotCom

This Yellowthroat wants to remind you to always stop to look at the flowers while you ramble: after all, their might be an insect on them that would make a tasty snack!

So there’s lots to see at the Rattray in early October. Just take your patience and an upbeat attitude with you. And share your sightings: everyone is pleased to see the Rattray offering a temporary home to such attractive guests.


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Have you explored the Rattray Marsh? Or does your local park sometimes seem over run with humans? Please share your (preferably good) experiences with a comment.