22 November 2014

Photographic failure

So far this month, there's been a Merlin in a tree, Red-bellied Woodpecker, two, side-by-each, Red-tailed Hawks -- it's a very popular tree -- and, in a different tree, the winter's first Northern Shrike.  There's been some impressive leaves, too, back at the start of the month.  Swans have gone over, way high up; so have Sandhill cranes, not quite so far up.

Flying by there have been Red-Tails, including a kettle of five so pale the belly-band "Charlie Brown sweater" markings were almost invisible and the dark patagium didn't show, so only the black primary tips and the red rectrices showed as colour on the bird.  I sometimes joke that some of our passing red-tails are so pale you suspect there's some snowy owl ancestry somewhere, but this bunch looked absolutely spectral.

There have been Red-Shouldered Hawks, the occasional harrier, ghosting through with a flight style a bit like a gangly peregrine got drunk, the occasional eagle, these last few late-season days of bad wind rowing through like some disreputable god granted the essence of sulk feathers and hunger for a shape.  Most of the accipiters and falcons are gone; they eat birds, and most of the birds are gone.  Yesterday there were a surprising number -- seven! -- of Rough-Legged Hawks, which is a really good day for Toronto.

There was even a probable Swainson's Hawk, presumptively working its way back from where this relentless wind put it after having failed to blow it clean to Iceland.  (If one could somehow withstand the temperatures and avoid the polar bears, I suspect there are a lot of confused migrants to be seen along the coast of Labrador this week.)

I have, alas, failed to get decent pictures of anything; you can, for example, tell it's a shrike or a merlin or that, yeah, the red-tail on the left is the juvenile, but between holding up a wee pocket camera in cold hands, branches swaying in the wind, and the poor auto-focus' less than complete understanding of the bird, drat it, not the slightly nearer branch, has not been kind to the eventual results.

So no pictures, and few postings in consequence.

27 October 2014

"And Thick on Severn Snow the Leaves"

It's early fall.  There are still green leaves, but not very many, and people keep guessing wrong about how much jacket they need.

South towards Lake Ontario's condo tower fringe
There are ducks in this picture.  Only two, and mallards, so you're not missing much if you can't find them.  Neither the bufflehead nor the widgeon nor the shovellers turned out well, picture-wise, and all three are partially white things moving on a moving mirror so I suppose the camera can be forgiven.  Certainly the shovellers are a fall thing; they don't stop for long.  The bufflehead are a winter thing, when the lake doesn't freeze, and the widgeon were just a surprise.
Hawk Hill in High Park, looking north
We were totally skunked at the hawk watch Wednesday, despite some north-west winds and what should have been good conditions, which is why I took a walk and saw ducks.
Freshly moulted pair of wood ducks
Wood ducks just aren't chromatically plausible.  Lots, though, and a bunch in immature alternate plumage, though it's probably basic if the researchers ever stop tearing their hair and sort out which way around duck moults go, the implausible creatures.  The extra-shiny, we can fly, aren't we pretty? plumage, in any case.  So -- to undigress -- it looks like the High Park wood ducks had a good breeding year this year.

06 October 2014

A peregrine in a tree

The peregrine was on the Toronto Islands, and a surprise; one does not often see them perched in trees.  The angle of the light was nearly straight up-sun but you can at least identify the bird.


Adult Peregrine Falcon perched in a tree
And since peregrines were sometimes known as "duck hawks", have some ducks from the Toronto waterfront off Sir Casimir Gzowski park.
Pair of Gadwall preening

20 September 2014

Flocking might be too strong

Adult Great Blue Heron
There were five in the marsh at the mouth of the Rouge; two adults and three immature.  Definite sign that the summer is coming to an end, beyond silly things like the temperature shift and the earlier and earlier hours of evening as the equinox creeps up.

18 September 2014

The End of the Summer

Flowering purple plant along Chesterton Shores
There are maple trees starting to turn, sheltered ones down by the lake.  There's a lot of flowers flowering away, and a few bees, and a few more butterflies, and clouds of some kind of insect, but the mallards are practising having their wings working again and the Canada Geese do have their wings working again.  It's not actually even cool yet but we've hit that magical point where more than half the populace you see outside has a jacket, because it's going to be and who knows the day?

I don't know what the plant is; it's growing in a great deal of river-cobble dumped there are part of constructing the walkway and some artificial breakwaters as part of a really necessary conservation area and quite lovely walking path, because this pushes the lake a good fifty slow-eroding metres from some quite soft bluffs that were getting disturbingly close to the rail line.  Most of the colonists of the cobbles are goldenrod, but some of it's this quite lovely purple stuff.

14 September 2014

Accidental birds

Northern Shoveller drake in eclipse plumage
Not much along Chesterton Shores; gulls, Canada geese, turkey vulture.  The swallows are all flown, the blue jays ruckusing somewhere else, and the clouds were coming in.

The marsh attending on the mouth of the Rouge, though; Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Blue-winged Teal, the inevitable Mallards mallarding about, Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Northern Shoveller, late Double-crested Cormorant, Ring-billed and Herring Gulls, Gadwall, Wood Duck, at least one and maybe two duck species too far from the platform to identify with binoculars, and grumpy bittern noises like a large bullfrog expiring in wrath.

That's five minutes as a break on a bike ride; must get back there with a scope sometime soonish.

"Dull pink in all plummages"

Adult Herring Gull still in alternate plumage with two late cormorants
Dunno about you, but I'm having trouble with the "dull" modifying the "pink" when it comes to those feet.

Also, that's a pretty good illustration that Herring Gulls are honking big; it looks larger than the double-crested cormorant.  (They're not; Herring Gulls mass 800-1200 grammes, where Double-crested Cormorant masses 1200-2500 grammes.  Posture and glowing white plumage affect perception.)