02 April 2010

First Bike Ride of the Season

It wasn't as sunny as predicted, but it was 23℃ and otherwise quite lovely.  If things had leafed out, I should have found it impossible to convince my brain it wasn't June.  (And I don't think I entirely succeeded; it kept seeming later than it was.)

I am most pleased with the current bike setup (I am now convinced that the persistent and troubling squeak that I'd blamed on the front disk brake had in fact been the front hub; wheel replacement has solved that problem, huzzah!), and even more pleased to discover I live quite close to one entrance to the West Toronto Rail Path which is new (so the pavement is excellent) and interesting; I need to go back there with a camera.  It's also oriented the right way, so that the generally downhill direction is the direction that gets me closer to home.

Along the West Toronto Rail Path, I saw four northern mockingbirds; two singing vigorously at one another at the start of the rail path, one very visible on a power line along the rail path (spotted after I did a mental double take at why there would be a killdeer calling there, at that time), and one moving quickly through truncated scrub at the edge of the active rail right-of-way.  There were also a number of sparrows, robins, and red-winged blackbirds singing; I was surprised to hear the red-winged black birds but the path does pass some marshy areas of the long-established ditch variety.

Proceeding west, over and down through various streets to High Park, and then through High Park, I saw little—the park was very busy and full of traffic, and I wanted to live—but heading along the Martin Goodman trail to the west I saw a variety of gulls (I'm still very solidly in the "gulls take a scope and time and references" category; from a  moving bicycle, "most of them were ring bills" is the best I can do), some mute swans, and overhead three (presumptively double-crested) cormorants.  (Canada geese and rock doves should be considered a given, but I did also see a mourning dove, and hear a goodly deal of what I took to be small passerine singing going through the park.)

Stopping at the gazebo north of Humber Bay Park East to actually look at birds, I saw a small group of six or seven bufflehead; about 20 moulting long tailed ducks with their backs in close to summer plumage but their heads remained solid white, and this in combination with clear shallow water allowed them to be seen while diving and swimming under water; various gulls; two Canada geese coming over for bread; and one duck I could not identify.

This duck was swimming and possessed an intensely and uniformly iridescent green head, save  yellow-green spots on each side of the head in similar positions to the white spots on female harlequin ducks; a dark, very mallard-y stern with somewhat longer tail feathers and no curled centre tail feathers,  and very blue bill perhaps smaller and narrower than the typical mallard bill with the effect of dark edging due to black bill edges and laminae.  (This is what I get from not having either notebook or camera with me; I have to try to remember these details precisely.)  The duck had a light chestnut front and pale flanks feeding into the dark stern.  My best guess is that it's a mallard-pintail hybrid; the duck I saw was very similar to the one pictured but had a bluer bill and a uniformly bright green head.

Coming back there were still four gadwall in the corner pond at the south-east corner of High Park, along with a pair of nesting mute swans and some hopeful photographers.

As a bike ride it's a nice loop and I look forward to repeating it.

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