While running errands near mid-February, I managed to sneak in a couple of visits to shore line parks. While I should be meticulously sorting through the hundreds of Canada Geese and dozens of Trumpeter Swans looking for oddities I usually get overwhelmed and just admire anything that catches my eye. Recently, it was the icicles on the shrubs and trees formed either by flying spray off the lake or by the freezing rain we suffered through a few days previously.
Icicles Chime and Jingle in the Winter Breeze
Unlike roof-edge icicles that seldom move other than to crash down on the unsuspecting, the icicles on the branches and twigs swayed and bobbed in the afternoon breeze.
The chiming and jingling sound of ice touching ice was more musical than the hoarse honks from the beach-front Canada Geese disputing landing rights with a flock of new arrivals.
Still Hunting for the Elusive Shot of a Male Bufflehead
When I noticed a male Bufflehead was diving in the shallows, I started edging closer each time he submerged trying to get a photo. It worked to some extent–I managed to get a good 10 metres closer to him before he noticed and swam briskly 15 metres along the shore. (At which point, I left so that he could go back to his preferred hunting zone if he wished.) Unfortunately, since he was actively diving in rough water, I still didn’t get the crisp photo I hope to achieve some day. I like this one though.
House Sparrows Are on the Decline So Time to Photograph Some
I don’t particularly like House Sparrows. They seem to bicker all the time amongst themselves. And they are the Mute Swans of the perching bird community, aggressively driving off other smal birds and stealing Cliff Swallows nests. Still, it was a surprise to me to read in the Wood Duck that their numbers are in decline.
Further accidental reading on the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds website says that “Large declines of urban-suburban house sparrow populations have been recorded in many towns and cities across Europe.”
So when the resident flock of House Sparrows at LaSalle Marina came zipping over to see if I was distributing seeds, I took a few photos.
A few years ago, some one had the patience to sort through a large flock of House Sparrows and discovered a type of sparrow normally not found in eastern Canada. I often wonder how many times I have walked by another such rarity just because I have no patience to look for one?
Look Who’s Hoping for Handouts
Whenever I stopped to get a tissue or admire a snow-covered birch tree, cheeky birds would start moving towards me hoping for a snack. I found it particularly funny watching Mallards slip-sliding their way up the icy boat ramp to make sure they weren’t missing out on any grain.
This male Wood Duck was so sure I was going to eventually shell out that he followed me, with an entourage of Canada Geese and Mallards in his wake, for several metres along the trail at LaSalle. The nice thing was that he then drew the attention of an admiring passing stroller who was happy to get some closeup shots of his beautiful plumage. (He didn’t get any snacks, though!)
“Come on, how can you resist such cuteness?”
Black-capped Chickadees, Dark-eyed Juncos, House Sparrows, White-breasted Nuthatches, Northern Cardinals and even one Red-bellied Woodpecker all came close to see what I was offering whenever I paused. Luckily for them, another walker was scattering handfuls of seeds on the large limestone blocks beside the path so their effort was eventually rewarded.
Sightings Near the Steel Mills
I find it fascinating to see birds in close proximity to the raw industrial yards of Hamilton. They just seem so unlikely to see.
These yellow-tagged loafers are Trumpeter Swans. The darker ones are younger.
These three Bald Eagles were quite noticeable even from a great distance. There large size, dark colouring and upright posture made them unlike anything else in the area.
The young Eagle on the right took off shortly after this photo and kept circling over the forested path while I was exploring the park, defying me to get a decent photo of it through the tangle of branches over head. I got some great looks at it though, even if I didn’t capture its likeness for posterity.
I’m glad I had some chances to take a walk on the wilder side while zipping out to IKEA and other tamer destinations. It can really brighten up the winter gloom to see a Wood Duck up close and personal even if it only wants what you are handing out not your company.
Do you try to combine your errands with some time in the great outdoors? Please share your strategy, or sightings, with a comment.