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.)

11 September 2014

Anybody recognize this bird?

The Windermere Basin in Hamilton is not a place I usually get.  But I am extremely fortunate in my birding friends.
I was not fortunate in the weather; the wind was blowing straight at us above 50 kph, so using a scope without one's eyes watering unto uselessness was challenging.  So was attempting to digiscope by holding a camera up to the eyepiece, but I almost managed.
100 percent crop of the next image
70x scope view via baffled camera autofocus
camera still baffled, perhaps better profile on bird
So, what is it?

My notes say:

  • lighter brown head
  • brown shoulders, mantle
  • darkens caudally
  • black chin patch
  • yellow strong bill as long as head and hooked
  • dark legs (could be black)
  • gull-shaped; heavy herringish
I was not at the time sure that the eye was yellow, or if the thing showing yellow was a nictitating membrane of some kind, but every single photo where the eye is visible has the yellow eye.  So probably.

It's a large bird; there's a photo (not shown) with a Greater Yellowlegs for scale, and this bird is much, much larger, roughly mallard-sized.  (Larger than the Caspian Terns on the other end of the little island.)

"Some sort of jaeger" is the obvious conclusion, but dark morph jaegers are supposed to have black bills.  And while I have some good gull references, jaegers are not gulls and not in them.

Anybody recognize this bird?

31 August 2014

Complicated Sky

Horizontal rainbows
It's not often I see these, but the 24th was a very complicated sky.

Nighthawks

So I've been going out to the Bird Studies Canada High Park Nighthawk count (18h00 - 20h30, nightly, until 6 September 2014 on Hawk Hill in High Park in Toronto).  Nighthawk numbers have been variable, but one gets reliable as distinguishing the distant nighthawk from the distant chimney swift and the sneaking ring-billed gull.

I have neither the skill nor the equipment to get good pictures of flying nighthawks; if there's light, they're high, and if they're low it's nearly dark, and they're always moving fast.

Nighthawk kettle.  All those dots
Centre of the nighthawk kettle
Single nighthawk in silhouette 
It wasn't that dark, quite, for that last shot but I have a weakness for those shades of blue.  It's difficult to make myself give them up when that's what the processor gives me by default.