• tommy thompson park header
    Birds,  butterflies,  Nature Trips,  Toronto

    Tommy Thompson Park

    My wife suggested we visit The Leslie Street Spit, a.k.a Tommy Thompson Park, which is highly productive with migrating warblers during the spring as it is the first green piece of land that birds will come across after an exhausting flight across Lake Ontario. During the summer it can sometimes throw up some less common wading bird sightings in some of the “cells” or marsh areas.

    As usual for this park, Red-winged Blackbirds and Song Sparrows were frequently seen. American Goldfinch are also common here, but I would say they were a little more abundant thanks to the presence of thistle seeds. The park is also a great place for Tree Swallows and Barn Swallows. The latter have many nests built on a couple of the concrete buildings within the park. We saw Yellow Warblers and maybe 15 or 20 Eastern Kingbirds.

    Eastern Kingbird

    A little way past the eastern most harbour, there is a marshy bay that hosts a man-made floating “island” that is home to Common Terns. On this island, we could make out some eggs, and even more exciting, two fluffy little Tern chicks.

    Common Terns

    Out on the Lilypads were four Spotted Sandpipers and then something happened to put a smile on Sara’s face. Regular readers will remember that she had been eager to see a Black-crowned Night Heron. We saw something fly past of an unusual shape. Sure enough, it was Sara’s target bird. I had seen them standing before, but this was also my first time seeing one in flight.

    Black-crowned Night Heron

    Behind us was a copse of trees between two parts of the trail, and a Warbling Vireo….. well…. warbled… for much of the time we spent looking out over the marsh. As we left, the bird kindly presented itself for a photo.

    Warbling Vireo

    There are three “cells” along the peninsula, man-made wetland areas. In my experience, Cell One tends to be most active. Today we saw a bird being “bombed” by other smaller birds as it came in to land on a tree stump in the wetland. It was a Green Heron. I have only previously seen these north of the city.

    Green Heron

    There were quite a few Monarch Butterflies around, a few Cabbage Whites, a couple of Clouded Sulphur and I saw what I believe to be a Least Skipper, but we didn’t see much more in terms of moths/butterflies – though we were at the park quite early before the heat.

    Least Skipper

    We again visited my in-laws after this little nature trip, as we sometimes help them out with groceries and stuff during this time of Covid-19. As previously mentioned, my father-in-law has begun putting out seed at the bird feeders. A perfect excuse for me to sneak in another photo from the backyard. Below is a Red-breasted Nuthatch, a characterful bird that’s fun to see visiting.

    Red-breasted Nuthatch

    Coming Up!

    Looking forward to visiting the Windsor area in the next couple of weeks. And hopefully Northern Ontario in the fall?

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  • bowmanville header
    Birds,  butterflies,  Clarington,  Flowers,  Nature Trips

    Bowmanville Westside Conservation Area

    Another weekend, another early morning adventure as we set off for somewhere not-too-far from civilisation (my wife has a couple more weekends of needing to be reached by phone for work purposes). This small conservation area features meadows filled with milkweed and other plants attractive to pollinators, a large marsh, and a small woodland.

    From the parking, we followed Westside Marsh Trail through the meadow and heard many Yellow Warblers, Song Sparrows, and American Goldfinch. The trail follows Westside Creek and enters woodland as the trail approaches the water. We saw a Belted Kingfisher on an overhanging branch. In the woods, Red Baneberry was fruiting. Into summer, the berries are bright red but begin green in colour. This is a very poisonous plant and a handful of berries could lead to death (though their foul taste makes consuming them unlikely).

    Red Baneberry

    I noticed a Geocache while checking out the Baneberry. Geocaching, where you search for hidden little containers usually housing a logbook and sometimes other items, is something I have done in the past, but I prefer to spend my time exploring nature these days! The cache contained the usual log book, a dice, a couple of kids playing cards and a small card explaining what geocaching is (I’m assuming my readers already know).

    A short branch off the trail leads to a nice lookout over Westside Marsh. We probably spent about half-an-hour watching the activity out on the water. A family of Mute Swans with seven cygnets swam along the shore. A few Ring-billed Gulls flew by. Just in front of us, a Swamp Sparrow would call out. He was quite territorial and chased away other birds, including an American Robin that was probably 5-times larger.

    Swamp Sparrow

    Last week, Sara and I had tried to find some Osprey. Perhaps we should have come here! A pair were active on the marsh, using a platform to scour the area. They stayed for some time before flying back up the creek one after the other. One of them carried prey in its talons.

    Osprey

    Now, I wish I could tell you I got some great photos of what happened next, but it was just way too far in the distance. I saw something black poke out of the water and move with some purpose in a straight line. After our success at seeing a beaver a week or so back, this was my first thought. It disappeared under the water and I only got a vague sense of whatever it was. My wife patiently trained binoculars in the area I described and her patience paid off. A North American River Otter surfaced and we were able to watch it frolicking around and playing with a crayfish it had caught – at one point it even began trying to antagonise the Ospreys.

    North American River Otter (eating Crayfish)

    We left the lookout and the trail took us through some more meadow. Milkweed plays host to a few common insect species, and they were abundant today. Common Red Soldier Beetle was the most frequently spotted. With its long antennae, a Common Milkweed Beetle gorged on a leaf and I couldn’t help but take a macro photo.

    Common Milkweed Beetle

    We saw a few Monarch Butterflies flitting around on the flowers of the Milkweed, but their populations will peak in around another month from now. We also saw a Red Admiral.

    Red Admiral

    Just before leaving the area, we briefly stopped at the beach at Port Darlington and looked out over Lake Ontario. A large ship, CSL Tadoussac, was docked beside the nearby quarry. Constructed in Collingwood, Ontario, she was launched in 1969 and measures 730ft in length and she is most often used to carry coal and iron ore.

    CSL Tadoussac

    As we left, a female Brown-headed Cowbird hopped around in the grass looking for grubs. Traditionally, these birds would follow herds of Bison who would kick up food from the soil as they travelled. Because the birds were forever following the herd, they were unable to nest and raise their own young. They are a brood parasite species – they will lay their eggs into the nests of other birds who will unknowingly raise the offspring. Although humans have vastly depleted the population of Bison, this bird of course continues the same behaviour.

    Brown-headed Cowbird (female)

    Sure enough Sara had to take a work related call, so I pulled over to the side of the road. While she finished up and before we reached the highway, I watched a pair of Eastern Kingbirds foraging for berries. An American Robin fledgeling tried but failed to scare them away.

    Eastern Kingbird
    American Robin
    Coming Up!

    Keeping it local for another week due to work commitments, but a trip to Rondeau Provincial Park is on the cards not too long after that?

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