Sometimes I want to see water birds but I’m not sure where to look on a wintery afternoon in January. The ice can pack in tightly along the Lake Ontario shore keeping ducks, swans and grebes too far off shore for me to recognize them.One place I’m almost guaranteed to get some close-up views is at the LaSalle Marina in Burlington. For one thing, a large flock of Trumpeter Swans winters here each year relying on the grain brought to them by supporters.
Snow Sparkles on Staghorn Sumac
It was a dazzlingly bright day in January and the fresh snow was still puffing off the branches and sumac landing with powdery explosions on the trail below. Despite the cold weather a few days earlier, there was enough open water that rafts of ducks were close to the wharf.
A mixed flock of Redhead and Scaup swam briskly by. This is a male Redhead but it looks like a female Scaup.
Male Wood Ducks Add Colour to a Drab Winter Wharf
I stayed near the boat launch for several minutes watching the swirl of Mallards and Mute Swans. The male Mallards were competing for the attention from the females who were totally disinterested. At one point the flock parted and I noticed one of these ducks was not like the others.
This male Wood Duck with his much more colourful plumage was finding bits of food alongside the boat launch. Wood Ducks are a bit smaller than over-fed Mallards and blend in surprisingly well despite their vivid eyes and white facial markings: while talking with another bird fan, it took a minute for him to find the Wood Duck I was trying to point out.
This is probably another Scaup female.
This Mute Swan is transitioning into adult plumage.
As usual the Male Bufflehead were staying well back from me. I keep trying to get a photo that shows their gasoline-slick head colouring and their black eye. I have trouble though because I don’t know how to compensate properly for their very bright white Buffle and chest. Some day I’ll figure it out.
LaSalle Marina Also Supports Some Lively Land Birds
Their seems to be a move to reduce feeding of the birds at LaSalle but a few people were still offering grain and seeds to the over-wintering flocks. This Dark-eyed Junco was checking along the edge of the retaining wall rocks for tidbits. (The odd shape of the bird is due to distortion from my telephoto lens.)
I heard one Carolina Wren calling near the trailer but then I saw another wren busily checking for food under some shrubs and dead logs. It was well back from the path and at first I couldn’t see if it was another Carolina or a Winter Wren. When it flew from one clump of bushes to another, I could see the cheerful buffy tummy and the strong eyestripe and knew it was a Carolina even though it wasn’t calling.
I read recently in the Wood Duck, the Hamilton Naturalists’ Club newsletter, about chickadees feeding on freeze-dried wasp larvae in an old wasp nest. I didn’t see any birds at this nest but you can see the cells of the nest interior through a hole in the side.
There were several White-breasted Nuthatches checking out scattered seeds too.
I was a bit surprised to see three large raptors chasing each other over the end of the park when I was standing on the pier. Eventually, I realized they were young Bald Eagles not strangely coloured and shaped Red-tails. Each year Bald Eagles seem to be getting more common along Lake Ontario which is a pleasant change.
The Bittersweet is likely the invasive unwanted kind but it does look pretty with little caps of snow.
What Water Birds Are Most Abundant at LaSalle Marina in Burlington?
When I arrived at walked along the pier looking out into the bay, I watched hundreds of Common Goldeneye moving rapidly away. Other times, I’ve seen huge flocks of Scaup and fairly large flocks of Canvasback. I’m never quite sure what will be the most abundant duck at LaSalle.
One thing I’m guaranteed to see, though, is a large flock of year-round resident Canada Geese. Many of the birds are quite small and I’m always trying to find a Cackling Goose among them but I never have…yet.
I like this shot because you can see the blue water right through the Goose’s nostril. For some reason photos like this amuse me and I have a collection of them showing various ducks nostril tunnels.I never said I was normal!
The only Trumpeter Swan photo I took that I like is this one of a young swan. It seems vaguely happy to me. And I was quite happy I had taken the time to visit LaSalle, so it seems a fitting photo for the end of my report.
- Why Do These Swans Have Big Yellow Wing Tags?
- Two Wrens Survive Winter at LaSalle
- A Carolina Wren Sings Nearby
Do you have a “sure bet” place to visit to see some creatures in winter? Please share your observations with a comment.