20160529 Birdies along Riverside Drive

Riverside Dr is a shoreline road on the north side of Byng Inlet (the Inlet, not the hamlet).  I often patrol it (after some sustenance and elder abuse at St Amants Waterfront Inn).  Yesterday I drove the 3 km from the Restaurant to the end of the public road and returned … with a camera full of images.  The trip took less than two hours and included a 30 minute conversation with amateur naturalist, Alex, about … you guessed it —- birdies.

This is a sample of what was seen during that 1.5 hour trek (south looking on the way out, north looking on the way back):

Singing Yellow Warbler in dead Tag Alder next to the late Mr LaChance’s sawmill.  Alex saw me and came out to tell me of a Yellow Warbler nesting site.


While we were chatting this Brown Thrasher visited on Alex’s driveway.   Alex is a very effective bird spotter.


Then a female Redwing Blackbird perched on a Tag Alder over the water, intent on catching a few morsels.


A little further on, in front of Shirley’s house I photographed some Canada Geese and this fellow:


Here is the morsel, complete with rictal hairs,  up close:


Further on, on the new curve just at the west end of “George’s Last Resort” I stopped to check on the milkweeds (up about a foot now, growing rapidly for the arrival of the Monarchs later in June) and saw the first Potentilla (Cinquefoil) of the season.


After turning around at the end of Riverside I saw this Northern Wild Raisin getting ready to bloom across the road from Dave and Maureen’s.  I also heard the Chestnut Sided Warbler singing but couldn’t spot it.



Then this yet-to-be-identified moth/butterfly.  Small, 2 cm tip to tip.  Just North of G Wright’s place.


Father was bringing goodies for his family, in an 8″ diameter Aspen, 20′ off of the ground, on the north side of the road, 100 feet east of Georges driveway.   Coincidentally this was in my mail inbox today.

I have yet to see either parent enter or exit the cavity nest.   Now I am thinking about the “big beak” in the earlier post on these folks.


Great display of wild columbines in the rocks across from “The Mushroom Lady”:


Wild rose in the rock at Doug and Doreen’s place.  Early because of the heat reflected off of the rocks:


Buttercup on the bank across the road from the main Marina parking lot/boatyard.


Lots to see in our back yards, eh?

20160528 Indigo Bunting and Meadowhawk?

We had a fleeting glimpse of an Indigo Bunting in the ash trees bordering the stream across Hwy 69 from my place.  It sang a few bars of its song and flew off.  Not the greatest photo, but I only see these beauties during this part of the year so I posted it for you.


The Black (Rum) Cherries are starting to bloom in protected areas, about a week later than Pincherries.


The Trilliums are starting to turn to pink/purple as they gradually fade from the understory:


Labrador Tea is starting to bloom.  Key identifier is the orange/rusty coloured hairs on the underside of their leaves.   The tea is very ordinary to my taste!   They will be in full bloom in the tamarack swamps on Hwy 529 next week, along the very attractive Sheep Laurel …


Here is some sort of Meadowhawk, I think.  A lot of them, dozens, were patrolling the wet roadside ditches along Hwy 529, flashing in the sun.  Occasionally they would alight, usually on a raspberry cane, to chew their food.  I don’t know how that works.  Do they carry a mouthfull of prey around or do they regurgitate?  It seems that the best strategy to photo them is to park in a likely spot, where you see some flitting about, feeding on flying insects and wait until they land.  Then it is sometimes possible to sneak up on a few.


Click on it for a close-up :


Common Grackle finding morsels at water’s edge.


This is a good reason for dragonflies to rest well above the water …



20160527 Foggy morning greets Hairys.

We were out and about early in the morning to greet a very soft day.  I always like to get the camera out on a foggy day to catch the soft light, the 3 dimensional effects, and the micro textures.   We were also blessed with our first observations of the new family of Hairy Woodpeckers.

First, some local scenery, taken with the FZ1000 camera:

Still River near the “Subdivision”.


Still River near the Legion ….


The “acid dock” taken from ET’s dock.


A barn swallow on the net thingamabob on ET’s shoal boat.  Not bad for the FZ1000 camera.


The rest of these were taken with the GH4 camera and the Panasonic-Leica 100-400 mm lens.

The most important realization is that 100% relative humidity, fog, causes very small water droplets to form on pretty well everything.  The size that the droplet eventually becomes seems to depend on wind, and the geometry of the surface, with hairs and sharp edges being the most interesting.

A vetch holding hands …


Tent caterpillars on a pin cherry showing droplets of water on their bristles …


And when you look closely you can see the huge amount of spider webbing on all of the plants in the forest.  This ant was walking gingerly, avoiding the inner parts of the bracken fern …


Pin cherry blossom enhanced by fine droplets of water …


Note the fine drops on the seed parachutes of this dandelion:


No, not a blueberry (Vaccinium Spp) but a huckleberry (Gaylussacia dumosa).    The famous Monsieur  Gay-Lussac certainly got around!


Here is the much more common blueberry:


The velvety, hairy leaf of a  Mullein holds  lots of water, leading to some speculation about the role of leaf hairs in holding water in arid regions.   Click on the photo to see the density of water droplets.


Sparkling wild strawberry leaf shortly after the fog had lifted.


I stopped to look for life in the Hairy Woodpecker nest hole that I wrote about a few weeks ago. Wonderful!   I could hear cheep cheep cheeps.   So I waited around for mom or dad to arrive with food.   I was rewarded a few times when both parents arrived and swiftly placed bugs and caterpillars directly into the mouths of the hatchlings.  That is a HUGE beak on that lil birdie!



Mom arriving with a caterpillar:


Dad has just delivered his morsel.


And finally, the petals of the Columbines seemed to be refreshed by the moisture.


Lessons learned:

  • In addition to listening for Warblers I will listen for the cheep cheep of youngsters.   I might be lucky enough to see a parent delivering food.  A very nice experience.
  • I will take advantage of fog not only to give soft light and 3-dimensionality but also to give increased texture to our micro-world.

Always something for an old doggie learning new tricks, eh?



20160526 New family of Canada Geese

On the way back from Parry Sound I detoured via Woods Road to check on a nesting pair of Canada Geese that I’ve been watching.  A new family!


See the two goslings and spent egg?  CG eggs take about 3-4 weeks to incubate, depending mainly upon temperature, I think.  During this time the parents molt their wing feathers and are “grounded” for a week or so.  Although I remained in the car, in the rain, a couple hundred feet away, Ma and Pa watched me intently the whole time.  That swamp is quite thick so I suspect that I’ll not see those goslings again.

On Shebeshekong Road  the cottongrass was in full bloom …. in the very welcome rain.  Since the plant is a sedge the alternate names cottonsedge or bog cotton are better.  “Sedges have edges. Grass has joints.”


The pin cherries are in full bloom now, about a week ahead of choke cherries and black cherries.


I can’t resist including this Pale Corydalis:


This morning (6:00 AM) the temperature is near the dewpoint ( 16ºC) so we have a nice frontal fog —- which will probably dissipate as the air warms up with midday heating.  I think that it will linger, though, as a stationery front    is stalled over the eastern part of Georgian Bay.

So I think that we’ll get out to enjoy the “soft” air/light.

20160525 A trip to Burwash — Mustard White

We decided to check out the progress of spring at the old Burwash Industrial Farm … a prison farm closed in the 1970s … now a source of interesting flora and fauna.

On the way we detoured to the Hwy 522 pond for some artsy photography…. stuff that caught my eye …


Log and lilies  à la  Claude Monet, one of  my favourite artists …


The wild mustard was blooming profusely at Burwash.   This bloom’s visitor looked ready to leap!


This visitor (with strange eyes) is having a drink  of nectar (from a mustard plant!)


withdrawing proboscis, lifting wings, lifting feet ….


In the air, with proboscis coiling and legs retracting.   I must pay more attention to what a butterfly does with its legs when flying or flitting.


Yes, the above butterfly  is called this descriptive name!

A week or so ago I misidentified a hawthorn blossom.  That was probably some sort of wild apple (Malus)  of the rose family.  This is the haw that we have around here.


This barn with pincherries in bloom is on Hartley Bay Road, west of Hwy 69, just north of the French River.



It has been about a year since I got serious about posting my little sights and insights on this blog.  So, just now, I just decided to spend 10 minutes enjoying Louie Schwartzberg: Nature.  Beauty.  Gratitude.     Best when full screen.

Nice, eh?   Highly recommended every once in a while.  (I think that Schwartzberg also liked Monet.)

20160519 Trip to Loring — Part II

I finally worked through all the photos I took on that trip last week and saved a few that you might find interesting:

Nice Hobblebush …


Dragonfly on a prickly raspberry cane.  Click for intimate details …


Grackle checking out the traffic on the underpass …


Another Grackle showing of … verbally and pictorially.


Turkey vulture taking off, showing its feathers….


North Road pond ..


Field of trilliums …


Hallie’s barn …


Lily pads on elevated pond on Forest Access Road…


The Hobblebush will have advanced in the last 4 days.  I’ll have to check!

20160523 Spring things

Checked out a local ditch and found this bird … for a few seconds.  It was working the bank moving a metre or two each time.  This fuzzy photo is sufficient to ID the bird as a Common  Yellowthroat Warbler.  First time seen this year.  I will keep my eyes pealed for them near stream banks with good cover.


This Trillium was blooming on the stream bank.


Although this birdie was behaving like a Blackpoll Warbler, it is a Black Capped Chickadee with well worn feathers.  Blackpolls have orange feet.


Here it is flitting to another branch…


The Pin Cherries are bursting now, attracting pollinators.


Nice Columbine


I suspect that hatching time is  approaching for this pair nesting on a beaver lodge in the pond across the road from Big (Gereaux) Lake.



Busy time of the year!

20160522 Blossoms, Bugs and Birdies

The warm sunshine is pushing the spring ephemerals right along so we spent some time enjoying some of our favourites yesterdays.  Along the way we saw a pair of Spring Azures and other pollinators.  We were lucky to see a singing American Redstart who did his stuff in front of us.  Rictal hairs, remember?

First, sans comment, the blossoms:







A Spring Azure was alit and then another kept circling until they both flew off … for a date? dance? dinner? honeymoon?  Ah, Nature in the spring!


This suitor came along demonstrating his aerobatic flying skills …






A little further on this beautiful, and much misunderstood yellow blossom, was pollinated by a couple of beasties …


So was this one …


Overhead this fellow was flitting, gleaning and serenading.  I think that he is fathering a nestfull of little ones for the trip to Central America starting in August.





A few days ago I posted a photo of a “Tennessee Warbler”  [20160518 More migrants arrive].

It wasn’t.  Click on the third photo in this Photo Gallery to see what it really was.  The photo of the “Tennessee Warbler”  was made about 50 metres away so I will keep my eyes peeled for further developments.

Today I am going to wander a little further afield in search of other migrants.



20160521 Gleaning

I did a little thinking today and recalled Lovelock’s  Gaia Hypothesis that was popular with young life scientists about 40 years ago.  Some parts of Gaia are still well regarded, except in the group that deny AGW.  Gleaning by birds is what stimulated my recall.  [Not the other form of gleaning.]

My strategy for finding and photographing Warblers is to:

Listen for them.  When I hear them, I ….

Stop and watch for them …


I saw a Chestnut-sided Warbler gleaning an Aspen tree, then move to an Alder Clump:


Where it was joined by a Black-capped chickadee, gleaning…

Notice the foot spreading the cluster of buds to reveal what is hidden there …


Inspecting another bud cluster …


The birdie quickly grabs morsel as it takes off … (which is a factor in making this type of photography difficult … (like picking fly specks out of ground black pepper)


Another spot, another inspection …


Aha!  A morsel!….



“Let’s see if there are any more in there.  I’ll just hold this leaf bud down with my foot.”


Breeding time requires lots of protein for birdies.  So springtime is a perfect time to glean trees, shrubs etc for newly hatched insects (from eggs that over-winter in bud clusters.)  Chickadees are omnivorous and stay around all winter, eating seeds (especially sunflower seeds at birdfeeders).  Warblers are primarily,  insectivores   giving them a good reason to migrate, annually removing “pests” from vegetation all the way from South and Central America to Northern Ontario.

I think that we can thank  Rachel Carson  for alerting us to the effects of DDT and other pesticides on these natural predators of insects.  Thank goodness we have alert scientists who think beyond the profits of their organizations and who take action.

Lots to be gleaned by watching birdies rid vegetation of pesky insects.

Insect pollination of spring ephemerals is another interesting story.