• rouge national urban park header
    Birds,  Flowers,  mammals,  Nature Trips,  Toronto

    Rouge National Urban Park Aug 13 2020

    After we had both finished work, Sara and I paid a visit to Rouge Park that was quite fleeting due to the late hour and the fact that the sun is already setting almost an hour earlier than it was back in late June. We parked on Zoo Road and walked the Vista trail only as far as where the evergreen lined ridge begins shortly after the viewing platform.

    After emigrating to Canada, Rouge Park was one of the first places that I ever saw Eastern Bluebirds and I have since looked out for them ever since. I was pleased to see them on this visit, with a new youngster in tow – which is the main reason I’m even posting what is otherwise a quite short blog post! The photo below shows the male from the pair. His colours are a little bolder than the female’s.

    Eastern Bluebird (male)

    Purple Loosestrife is flowering throughout Southern Ontario now, and there is lots of it lining the meadow areas of Rouge Park. The plant has been introduced to North America and can crowd out other species, which can have a knock-on effect on waterways and the waterfowl and other creatures that live there. It is, however, popular among some pollinators. It was late in the day for butterflies, but we saw plenty of bees and other insects making use of the flowers.

    Purple Loosestrife

    We turned around to leave – it was just after 8pm and the light is already fading by this time, especially on overcast days. We must have done something to upset a nearby Gray Catbird. They are often quite shy, hiding amongst the brush making a “mewing” cat sound as their call, from which they are named. Their song is a mixture of scratchy, warbling sounds with the occasional attempt to mock the song of other birds. On this occasion, the Catbird was sticking to the mewing sound and appeared to be aiming his or her annoyance in our direction! They are grey in colour with a black cap and tail feathers. They have a tendency to excitedly flick their tail feathers, often revealing rufous or chestnut coloured under-feathers just visible in the photo below.

    Gray Catbird

    On our way back to the car, we had a quick look around the Visitor Centre (which remains closed, currently). Roll on the end of “these uncertain times” where talking in places and viewing “Sightings Reports” etc.. will be possible again. In the dusk light, a Groundhog emerged from under a shed in order to eat some greens.

    Groundhog

    Coming Up!

    As I write this, I have just returned from a quick trip to the Windsor-Essex region and will blog about that soon.


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  • toronto parks june 2020 header
    Birds,  butterflies,  Nature Trips,  Toronto

    Toronto Area Trips June 2020

    I’ve been out and about most evenings for the past few weeks and haven’t always kept up with posting about it – so thought I would do a catch-up on some various sightings and trips.

    Hawk Attacks!

    I’ve been fortunate enough to watch a Red-tailed Hawk catch a squirrel on a couple of separate occasions in the last two weeks. If you are of a squeamish disposition, you might wish to squint past the photos and continue on to the next section!

    I’ve complained before about the scarcity of birding action during the summer months in Toronto, and while visiting Rosetta McClain Gardens one evening, this was the case again. However, just as my wife and I were about to leave, we spied a Red-tailed Hawk in a nearby tree and decided to stay and watch. It was obvious that the hawk was keeping a close eye on the various squirrels. The squirrels are relatively tame and perhaps a little unassuming in this park, often receiving handouts from humans.

    Red-tailed Hawk

    A Red-tailed Hawk can be identified by the rufous colour of its tail and by the way the speckled feathers on the breast centre into a belt across the middle, the affectionately named “belly belt”.

    Shortly after this shot, the hawk flew out of sight. We followed in the direction it flew, but moments later it came straight back again carrying a squirrel in its talons. It was shortly followed by a group of four-or-five girls in their late teens screaming and dumb-struck by witnessing the carnage. “We were just feeding that squirrel!”, they cried.

    Red-tailed Hawk with American Grey Squirrel (melanistic)
    Cranberry Marsh

    I’ve made a couple of trips to this marsh just inland from Lake Ontario. At the very least you can get to see a few ducks and swans, including some newborns. There are Virginia Rails here, too. You can hear them calling from all over the place, but they tend to stick amongst the reeds and I haven’t seen any recently.

    There has been a Common Gallinule on the marsh for a while, which is attracting some attention with birders and photographers. It was far away, so here is a small blurry photo of the moorhen/coot type bird.

    Common Gallinule

    There were Wood Duck ducklings in attendance, several Mute Swans and their cygnets, a plethora of Canada Geese and their goslings, and while we investigated, we saw small mammal prints in the mud that Sara thought were those of a Red Fox. At another point in the marsh, we watched a Great Blue Heron fly through, persued and harassed by territorial Red-winged Blackbirds.

    Red-winged Blackbirds “bombing” Great Blue Heron

    We hung around until dusk, where the sun began setting across the marsh, casting an orange hue over the water.

    Sunset over Cranberry Marsh
    Rouge National Urban Park

    I did a loop along The Orchard Trail, back down The Vista Trail twice in the last little while – once with my wife Sara, and once with my friend Gabriel and enjoyed a few nice sightings of butterflies, moths, and birds. I enjoyed seeing a small number of White Admiral butterflies around the wooded areas.

    White Admiral

    The stretch of The Vista Trail running between the visitor centre and the look-out tower is usually good for birding and I was able to see Yellow Warblers, Song Sparrows, lots of Tree Swallows, and a couple of other treats. I heard a call that I suspected was a Rose-breasted Grosbeak. After some looking around, a male bird peaked out of a tree.

    Rose-breasted Grosbeak

    Over the years of visiting this park, I have occasionally been greeted by a pair of Eastern Bluebirds and I was pleased to see them both times I visited recently.

    Eastern Bluebird pair

    The male Bluebird has the bolder colours on the left, with the female following him. Other non-bird species seen on these two visits include a lot of butterflies: A Crescent, a type of Comma whose wings were a little too worn to identify, Hobomok Skipper, Silver-Spotted Skipper, Red Admiral, Dreamy Duskywing, and a Little Wood Satyr butterfly. Turtles breed and are researched at Rouge and I saw Midland Painted Turtles and a Red-eared Slider and her young. This is an invasive species, usually the result of a released pet, that can out-compete native species.

    Thompson Memorial Park

    One last trip to write about was a quick walk through Thompson Memorial Park with Sara one evening, a manicured park with a small wood that connects to “The Great Trail” (a cross-Canada trail) and features a ravine. We saw a couple of Eastern Wood Pewees and a whole lot of Ebony Jewelwings – a type of damselfly commonly seen in summer alongside rivers and creeks. We also saw a Northern Flicker in a distant tree and a Baltimore Oriole. My favourite sighting was a Nessus Sphinx moth, a slightly odd-looking thing that resembles a bee from behind, with two yellow stripes across its abdomen. They’re on the small side and fast-moving, but here is what I got.

    Nessus Sphinx Moth (top/rear)
    Nessus Sphinx Moth (side)
    Coming Up!

    I’m looking at a morning out to Colonel Samuel Smith Park in the West end of Toronto, I plan on returning to Lynde Shores and Cranberry Marsh again with a friend from work who said “I wish I could go there with someone that knows what they are talking about” (hopefully she doesn’t regret saying that!) and I’m looking into where to go on Canada Day away from the city if anyone has any suggestions?

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