20160520 Three warblers and a haw (?)

We spent some time in the sun listening to, watching and photographing three species of warblers that frequent Britt.  They are all songbirds and it is worth the effort to click on the “Typical Voice” and/or the SOUND and/or VIDEO of the All About Birds links below:

American Redstart.  Please note those mouth hairs (Rictal Bristles).  This is the first time that I got a good photo of this birdie showing the mouth hairs characteristic of insectivores that catch their prey in flight.


Yellow Warbler:


Chestnut-sided Warbler:


While the main focus (!) of my attention was Warblers, I was distracted by this resplendent bloom.   I thought it was a hawthorn.   But when I wanted to know which one I learned that Hawthorns bloom along with their leaves.   I shall have to check this shrub for other characteristics to properly identify it.


If you are wandering around in a bookstore, have a look at Birds of Eastern Canada – A regional guide to over 350 species, edited by David M. Bird at McGill.  Excellent photography, drawings, descriptions and background.  My best birdbook.

PS:  Please be careful with your spelling and pronunciation to avoid strange looks.

20160519 Trip to Loring

We drove along Hwy 522 to Loring with Sudbury Photographer/Author Ray T  to see what we could photograph.  Ray opted not to try to “search for fly specks in a bowl of black pepper” so we didn’t look for migrant Warblers.  We took the easy way out and shot hundreds of flower, wildlife and landscape images.  I haven’t worked through all of them yet, but here are a few samples:

First, wildflowers along the Hwy 522 north roadside from the vehicle (since the blackflies were bad):

Some “weeds”:


Pale corydalis:


Mini garden:


Monet’s subjects:


Uncommon (around here) Barren strawberries at the Lost Channel turn-off and on Lost Channel Road.  Lost Channel Inn served us delicious pie with ice cream and coffee for morning sustenance.  Learned some local history etc from a couple of locals setting out on a canoe trip.


Wild columbine:


Now the wildlife:

Unknown beetle with orange thorax (Rhagonycha mollis ??) on one of my favorite ephemerals:


An unknown wasp on Ontario’s flower:


Broadwinged Hawk inspecting photographer before taking its leave:




First picture of the day:  Interesting light over creek flowing into Portage Lake from Grundy Lake PP.  Taken from snowmobile bridge:


First pond when heading north on North Road, Argyle TWP:


There are a few hundred more pix that I haven’t yet looked at … which will spare you.   I will have a look later to see if any are worth posting.

This morning Mary Holland talks about and illustrates Horsetails.

It is already 12ºC so it is time to look for some fly specks in black pepper!

20160518 More migrants arrive

We spent some time watching the Warblers gleaning the Aspens with great speed and alacrity … usually much faster than I can move the long camera lens to find them, focus on them and release the shutter.

I need more practice!

Here are some of the photos:

This Nashville Warbler sang the whole time it picked up morsels, flitting from branch to branch:


This Yellow Warbler preferred to glean in the tag alders and willows along the shores of Gereaux (Big) Lake:


Yellow Rumped Warbler resting in a black Ash tree before returning to gleaning an Aspen.


American Redstart gleaning in Tag Alders:


Female Red Winged Blackbird surveys the scene from her usual Cattail perch:


Along the way we stopped to enjoy some spring flowers:

Hobblebush  [good folklore but misleading drawing in the link] in dappled shade is progressing again after the frost we’ve been having.


And the Spring Beauties are still abundant:


In some of the Tamarack bogs the buds of the Sheep Sorrel are about to open amongst the  Cottongrass.


I am going to have to find a good resource to ID these dragonflies:


Oft-photographed swamp in springtime:


Some of the Warblers are passing through.  Others will remain here (to fledge a few youngsters) until August then begin their migration southward to Central and South America.  Being insectivores they have no choice but to migrate  back to a winter food supply.  In the meantime now is the best time to see them …. before the deciduous leaves come fully out.  Once that happens they are very very difficult to see (and photograph).

Obviously gleaning is Nature’s way to control woodland “pests”.  Better than neonicotinoids!  [The Link has a good synergy diagram.]

Although 30 months old, this article is a good reminder for all of us:  http://www.birdlife.org/americas/news/canadian-scientists-publish-human-related-bird-mortality-estimates

PS If you are clicking on the above links to the All about Birds website, try clicking on the “Typical voice” buttons for the Warblers.  Amazing songbirds!


20160517 The migrants are here!

Yesterday, after a heavy morning frost, it warmed up to about 12ºC in late afternoon.  I noticed that some bugs were flying and heard some different birdsongs.   So we set out on the pursuit of the elusive migrant (Central and South America) spring warblers that either nest here or stop over on their way up to the boreal forests.

This is what we photographed:

Yes!   A chestnut sided Warbler flitting from branch to branch, searching for bugs in the Aspens.


Then I briefly saw an American Redstart.   No snapshot though, just a blurry mess of branches locating where it had been!

Then this fellow landed briefly


Then along Riverside Drive I saw this bird.  I could hardly believe it!  First time in 20 years of retirement living in Britt!  It was flitting quickly from branch to branch, maybe gleaning bugs in the emerging buds of the Aspens.


black head and wing striping are give aways:


Although the white eyebrows are suppressed I think that this is a female version of the RBG seen in the same location a day earlier.


Tree swallow on a wire over Ken B’s lawn:


Remember that Hairy Woodpecker’s nest … a few weeks ago?   I saw the male flitting around it and then saw this female emerging to fly away.   I don’t know why the “moustache” is so orange coloured.


On our way home we saw this Brown Thrasher lounging around in this Aspen tree.  Click on the Typical Voice on the above link to hear the variety of voices that this bird has.


On a nearby lawn searching for morsels:


Earlier I had noticed that some of the Trout Lilies had well developed seed heads and wondered about pollination.  Yesterday we (finally) saw this bumblebee quickly visiting Trout Lilies in clumps.


And, speaking of trout lilies:


I am thinking of putting the red dot sight on the big lens to help find elusive birdies flitting in and out of sight  in the branches.  Worth a try.

I will have about a week to photograph warblers as they are almost impossible to find once the leaves are fully out.


Lotsa fun!

20160516 The water lilies are rising

We took a little detour on Hwy 522 to see the water lilies rising.    There were some distant birdies at the pond so I tried to photograph them too.

First the birdies (from a long ways away):

Red Winged Blackbird watches me warily in between (warning?) sounds:


Kingfisher from about 100 m.  Another wary bird!


Grackle is in a bit closer …



These are what I found very interesting.  I’m still wondering about the red chlorophyll as my previous comments seem to be consistent as the spring progresses.



There were some heavy tracks in the grasses along this stream, so I suspect the Marsh Marigolds are Moose food.


Spring Beauties are still abundant:


Very advanced stage of a hazelnut bud.   I think that, as those leaves emerge, the pistils will disappear leaving the fuzzy husk behind.


Colleen told me about this wonderful film today.  Here is the link to the trailer. Mandatory viewing by gardeners and children.

And Ray McN. sent this link to a portion of another beautiful film by Louie Schwartzberg.  Awesome stuff!

20160515 Trip along Jamot Lumber Road

A Sunday afternoon detour after breakfast with the “Britt Teletubbies” at French River Restaurant yielded some photos:

I knew it!  Evidence of the effect of Pileated Woodpecking leading to the fall of this dead Elm Tree:


This brand of willow makes pussywillows a month later than its cousins:


There are lots of these at some of the rich forest soil locations just past the Red Pine plantation along that road.


Here in harmony with Blue Coshosh:


I was a bit too late for the blossom of this Bloodroot, which  often grows in association with the above and with Dutchman’s Breeches.


Leatherleaf are in full bloom.


On the way back the pond between Pakesley and Grundy Lake PP yielded a good look at this Double Crested Cormorant  who posed patiently for the photographer:


But then jumped down into the water and took off, catching the photographer by surprise:


Very heavy frost this morning.  I hope that not many blossoms got bitten.

Mary  Holland posted an interesting article and picture about the development of salamanders in vernal pools.



20160514 Rainy day close-ups

We didn’t go far today, preferring to look quite intently at spring’s emergence close to home.

First we heard “melodious Robins” and then saw a bedraggled Rose – Breasted Grosbeak  eating the seeds in Aspen catkins:


Red Maples in shade are forming leaves …


These incipient Pin Cherry blossoms seem to like the water:


As do these Black (Rum!) Cherries or maybe  Choke Cherries:  (Hard to tell the difference at this stage.)  Pin, Black, Choke and Sand Cherries are common in this part of the world.


The rain seemed to make this daffy just a bit more engaging:


First Aquilegia canadensis in full bloom that I’ve seen this year:


Streamside Marsh Marigold:


Side by side buddies in the rain …


Nice places for water drops to congregate …


And, when you look very closely, you can appreciate the effect of vegetation on the accumulation of water during a period of rain:


I just got this one before another raindroplet made this drop drop.


Getting a drink from a hazelnut bud …


Hazelnut pistils seem to get re-energized in the water:


I always like to get out in the rain as the water enhances the colours and visual textures of our environment.   Reminds me of licking rocks as a kid.

Alas, still no photos of Warblers, although I did hear them again today.  They seem to be in the evergreens.  Perhaps when the leaves start to form in the deciduous trees they will become more visible.  I hope so.

Perhaps I will get really lucky and see (an photograph) this attractive Ontario bird with strange habits!

But not tomorrow as these migrants are smart enough to avoid the forecast snow.  We non-migrants will scrape our windshields and spin our summer tires in the morning!

20160513 Friday, Thirteenth: Local Blossoms and Birdies

In spite of the portents we looked for some Warblers yesterday.   Heard some but saw none.  In spite of today’s rain we’ll  try again.  In the meantime here are some pics from yesterday’s local travels:

Trillium erectum after a rainshower  …


First wild columbine of the season (known locally as “hunneysuckle”)


One of 4 separate families being reared in the Britt area … so far.


I think that these pixie cups are growing larger…


A Blue Jay around the spot where I saw a pair carrying twigs the other day —  an area worth monitoring:


Black flies are out so the blueberries are in incipient bloom phase:


Wild strawberries are blooming profusely now …


ON flower:


First “Hunneysuckle” about to open:


One of a pair of Sandhill Cranes across the way …


I cannot resist photographing these beauties.  One of these days I’ll get a really good one!   Maybe.  …….


Same with these!


Couple of fiddleheads exchanging gossip?


Mom and Pop Horsetail in their leggings?


Emergent lily pad, still with its red pigment.  These seem to turn from red to green as they lift to the surface light.  I wonder why that is?  Why do they start off red?


Marsh Marigold in its favourite, waterside, habitat.


We are getting close ( two weeks) to the first anniversary of this blog.   What should change?   I do know that I am spending way too much time on it, to the detriment of other interests/projects and house/yardkeeping!

Should I cut down on the number of photos each post?

Should I cut down on the number/frequency of posts?

Should I quit?   (NO applause, please!)

It IS fun, though!

Advice:  Comment below or brtthome[at]gmail.com


20160512 Trip to the Cornball Store

This is a loop from Parry Sound to the town of Magnetwan via McDougall, Broadbent, Orange Valley and the Old Nippissing Road, returning on Hwy 124.  The wonderful Cornball Store owned by Andy and Andrea is a little grocery which features scooped ice cream, home made meat pies, vegetable lasagna and various European baked goods.  It is  on the Nippissing Rd, at the Anson Junction,  just south of Magnetawan.

I had noticed the Hobblebush starting to bloom near Parry Sound and decided to do a recce.  Here is a record of some of the sights:

First a Carolina Spring Beauty on the way to Parry Sound.  Its leaves are wider than the Claytonia virginica.


Also on Hwy 529, Canada Goose is still incubating on the distant beaver lodge.


Trillium grandiflorum


Aha!   Hobblebush.   The sterile showy signal flowers on the perimeter attract Spring Azure butterflies.   Although I had photographed Spring Azures last year, I didn’t know the relationship with Hobblebush:


Trillium erectum


Still standing, but the roof is sagging a bit more this year.


And it looks like this former school/residence is not going to be with us much longer.


Spring Freshet has subsided enabling a view of the greenery on the distant side of the creek.


One of the few swamps that remains full to the brim.   The beavers have been busy, the highway crews not so busy!


Mary Holland posted this information about Spring Azures this morning.

I recently came across the work of  Stephen Hood ( of Markham ON) who recently posted some very impressive pix of warblers.   So they are arriving!!!  (Stephen’s My Flickr Birds is brilliant!)

And we got a message about the “bee-looking fly” that was included in the report of the trip to Port Loring.  Bill (out in California) left a comment at the end of that post, identifying it.  NICE!

20160511 A trip to Port Loring for lunch

Today we had a luncheon date in Port Loring, usually an hour on a sparsely travelled highway.  Since we headed east shooting out of the vehicle  on the left hand shoulder meant that we were shooting down-sun, much easier than shooting up-sun with all of the back-lighting exposure issues.  We ambled along to take these pix in about 100 minutes.  All were shot with the Leica 100-400 mm lens hand held from the car —- much more comfortable than fighting off the black flies which are now abundant.

Here is a sample of what we saw:

A pair of Ring Necked ducks probably nesting in the pond between Grundy Lake and the Pakesley Crossing:


Pale Corydalis approaching full bloom:   (Same family as the Bleeding Heart)

(Did you notice the green aphids there?)


A more dramatic view of moss spore capsules … against the sky, at the top of a rock cut.


Red Maple leaves a week ahead of the neighbouring branches because of its location, tight against a south facing rock face.


Common Yarrow …


This bee-looking fly stayed hovering the whole time it gathered pollen/nectar.


Orange Belted Bumblebee worked hard on these dandelions:



The Fuzzy Wuzzy clan gathered for a family conference.   Perhaps P.S. will write a children’s story about them.


American Painted Lady?


This ant also delved deeply into the interior of the bloom.


A different Bombus:


This lily pad will be floating on the surface in a few hours after this pic was taken …


Trillium erectum or  Wake Robin:


And, finally, Ontario’s wildflower, Trillium grandiflorum …


No sight of Morels.  They usually fruit at the same time as we harvest some fiddleheads and some wild leeks (Ramp), usually when the black flies are buzzing out of every footfall in the forest floor — to visit eyes, behind the ears and the collar line.   I will be looking for Morels over the next week or so and grab a sample of other edibles.   I have tried Marsh Marigolds but I don’t recommend them to anyone who is not starving.  Wild or escaped or tame asparagus is much better!!!

My luncheon date was with a retired radar expert who installed and maintained the early and current (Doppler) weather radars across Canada.  He last assignment was Britt Weather Radar.  In addition to installing and maintain “our” radar his other claim to fame was being a military brat at 2 (Fighter) Wing, France in 1962 when a young RCAF pilot crashed a CF-100 jet, destroying it.  Fortunately the pilot (and his back seater) survived, and the pilot eventually retired in the hamlet of Britt.   So when we met at St Amants restaurant about 15 years ago we learned of the event we shared about 40 years prior.

Six degrees of separation?