04 April 2010

Bird walk: Toronto Lakeshore between Roncesvalles and Ellis Ave

Sunday, 4 April 2010; starting 07h00 (right around true dawn; late for the dawn chorus) at Queen and Roncesvalles, crossing via the pedestrian bridge to the beach.  Still air, about 8 C, and light scattered cloud; mostly sunny.

Ended getting on the Lakeshore streetcar at Ellis Avenue at 08h30.

In between, I was walking mostly west, with some north to head up Colborne Lodge drive to walk along the park edge of Grenadier Pond.

The rock dove (the standard city pigeon) and mourning dove (the darker, slimmer, smaller, pigeon-type birds with the large wedge-shaped, white edged tails in flight) were not surprising.  Neither were the starlings.

That the red-winged blackbirds were everywhere and twitter-pated out of their tiny maniraptoranan minds is a spring thing; not quite what I expect for the first week of April, but is is a very early spring.  (The willows around Grenadier pond are in actual leaf.  They weren't two days ago.)  The presence of Canada geese is similarly unsurprising, though the pair that came in for landing around either side of my head, close enough that I could feel the displaced air and the honking Dopplered, that was a bit of a surprise.

Mallards and ring-billed gull are completely unsurprising.  The song sparrows (at least two pair, the males singing away) were surprising for location (but the lake shore area is empty and quite lovely around dawn, rather than full of people trotting along) and season (I would think about a month early, though my grasp of expected migration times is shaky.)

Long-tailed duck are unsurprising in Lake Ontario in winter, and last year I was still seeing them in June, so the group of three wasn't surprising.  They were in almost complete summer plumage, and looking very shiny.

Hooded merganser are not what I expect to see with long-tailed duck, even inshore inside the breakwater; they tend to be a shallow-water species, and that water isn't all that shallow, but presumably both fish and shellfish are suitable there.  There may have been some male hooded merganser as well as the two females I'm sure of; there were also at least six pair of bufflehead, and it's easy to miss male hoodies in with bufflehead.

The pair of gadwall, hugging the breakwater and being remarkably hard to see against the shadowy side of the concrete (gadwall are a grey duck; very pretty in good light but not detailed at a distance) were not so much a surprise (I think at least one pair tries to nest somewhere along there) as a pleasure, since I managed to pick them out of the shadow and get a good look through the scope.

Mute swan certainly live along that stretch of lake shore, so their presence was no surprise whatsoever.  Seeing one out past the breakwater was something of a surprise, since they're usually inshore, but the water is quite calm today despite last night's wind storm. Watching a pair launching gave me the first good side look at launching swan feet I've ever had, and it looks like they kick both feet together, rather than running on the water, in at least the later stages of the launch.

House sparrow, rooting through the wood chips around the base of the equipment at the base of one of the exercise stations, wasn't surprising, though it always takes me a second to identify the females.  Common grackle isn't surprising, either, though I think also somewhat early.

The first robin of the day was along the lake shore path; the next three were by the overflow pond south of the Gardiner.  I counted six displaying males and was able to see one female red-winged black bird among the reeds.  (I am quite sure there are more females in there; they just tend to hide in the reeds to a degree that makes seeing one surprising, in the traditional "is that some sort of large sparrow?" way.)  There were an awful lot of red-winged blackbirds just everywhere along the path; not necessarily even close to the water.  Perching on the wires over the railway tracks is not a habitat I normally associated with this species.

Grenadier pond itself had a snoozing mallard, a cob mute swan, and more bufflehead, being very very shiny.  It also had a pair of American Tree Swallow at the big birdhouse near the south-west corner of the park, being unmistakably shiny white and iridescent green.  I'm pretty darn sure they're early, and I hope they find enough bugs to eat.

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