14 February 2010

Valentine's Day Bird Walk

Having no other plans for the day, I went down to the western section of the Toronto lake front, starting at the mouth of the Humber and proceeding generally eastwards, and looked at birds.  I saw 18 species in two hours, before I decided I was cold enough (major drawback of aluminium tripods, or at least carrying same, in the winter: one gets a very cold hand) to call it a day.

American crow
black duck
bufflehead duck
Canada goose
common goldeneye
common merganser
European starling
greater scaup
herring gull
hooded merganser
lesser black-backed gull
long-tailed duck
mallard duck
mute swan
red-breasted merganser
ringbilled gull
rock dove

This is a fairly dull list, but being able to proceed at a measured pace and really look at things was good practice.  (I found the first bunch of gadwall that way; what's that one non-mallard?  Then it turned out there were four lurking under the shore edge and another dozen down the beach a ways.)  I have also found out that contact lenses make my spotting scope work a whole lot better; it doesn't really have, especially at greater factors of magnification, enough eye relief for glasses wearers.

The crows—five in a bunch, which would have been nothing before West Nile came through—were courtesy of a dead ground hog on the CN tracks just west of Parkside Drive.  There was a juvenile herring gull using the same "shake the claws off before swallowing" technique on a crayfish that this month's TOC meeting's speaker showed video of whimbrel using on fiddler crabs.  No trumpeters, but more than 20 mute swans.  I was especially pleased at getting examples of all three mergansers, including juveniles; I'm getting better at telling the females apart but benefit from practice.

The steady onshore wind was generating respectable swell, and the broken ice was chiming together like dull distant bells.  A much more spring-like sound than I would normally associate with the middle of February, but it goes well with flocks of swans.

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