Monday, May 30, 2011

It's a buggy world out there

Continuing with the insect theme, after 'shooting' the damselfly (see next), I happened to see one of the black & white insects floating through the air that I have recently been seeing, and took a stab at trying to get a shot of it. I have seen them in recent years, but hadn't identified them. Doing a bit of research, I discovered they are Phantom Crane Flies, commonly found around marshy areas. They have six legs, and two wings which aren't evident in this shot. They seem to drift in the breeze, and are certainly an unusual insect. The 'phantom' name comes from the fact that when they are appear against a dark background, all that shows are disconnected white patches.

Going macro

Things are fairly quiet at the marsh these days - as far as the waterfowl goes, anyway. But it won't be long before we'll be seeing new families appear. However, the insect population is very much in evidence, what with all the damp weather we've been having. Disturbing the vegetation releases clouds of tiny midges and other winged insect life. Yesterday I noticed that the damselflies have hatched, including the bluet shown here. They are a challenge to photograph without a macro lens, since they don't possess much mass to focus on.

Cold-blooded sun-bather

The painted turtle population at the marsh is certainly very healthy. Sometimes as many as a dozen turtles can be seen basking in the warmth of the sun (when it decides to shine!) on grassy clumps at the marsh edges. This little fellow was really soaking it up yesterday morning.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

New nestlings

I couldn't wait to check the grebe nest this morning, and I was rewarded - with two little fluffy bodies with their heavily striped heads showing in the nest. It was difficult getting close enough for a shot, but I was determined.

Biding in blossoms

On this morning's walk, when I neared the tree swallow nesting box that stands in the midst of a small apple tree - now in full bloom - I noticed it was occupied, and this swallow was peering out. She chose one of the prettiest nesting sites in the neighborhood!

Stopped for a scratch

The female Yellow Warblers have arrived at the marsh (apparently they arrive a little later than the males). The yellows are difficult to 'shoot', as they are very small, and are constantly moving from one branch to another, or one tree to another. This female happened to have an itch, so held still long enough for me to get this sweet shot.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

What's going on here??

I like to check the sewage lagoon most days on my marsh walks, as it seems to be a popular gathering spot. Yesterday morning I was pleasantly surprised to see this black duck family. Mom was leading the procession - with a male wood duck bringing up the rear! I think it was just coincidental, as there was a whole group of male wood ducks at the far end of the lagoon. I had seen 20 of them there the previous day. And, a fellow marsh walker tells me there was a new wood duck family at the marsh today, with about 15 chicks.

Oh yes, I almost forgot to mention that there is a new Canada goose family at the marsh - with two young.

Chicks are busting out all over

Yesterday, thanks to the spot focusing feature on my camera, I was able to get a shot of the grebe sitting on the nest I have been watching. I didn't get to the marsh today, and a fellow marsh walker informs me that this afternoon he saw a grebe with 8 to 10 chicks, possibly the same bird! That's a good-sized brood. Generally their clutch numbers 5 to 7. The parents will be busy with this family, as the young are very insistent when they want to be fed.

Music to my ears

Two days ago I heard the most melodious birdsong as I was walking the trail, and finally spotted the birds it was coming from. I wasn't able to get very close, but took a shot anyway so I could identify what I was hearing/seeing. It turned out to be two male bobolinks. I couldn't recall seeing them at the marsh previously, but on checking my notes I found I had seen them here back in 2005. One source defines the male bobolink as "the most melodious songster of the eastern grasslands." It's nickname is the "skunk blackbird" because of its black and white patterns.

Friday, May 20, 2011

A rare sighting

This is one of the reasons I hate to miss my daily walk at the marsh. I never know what I might see. Although I have heard loons calling out on the French Basin several times while walking the trail, I have never seen one at the marsh before. This one wasn't actually in the marsh proper, but rather in the cove at the sail school which borders the marsh property. I heard splashing as I walked the path that separates the two properties, and what I heard was this loon diving for fish. These two shots show the fish it caught. I couldn't identify the broad, flat fish, but perhaps someone out there can??

Hiding in plain sight

I almost missed this green frog this morning. He was sitting on a clump of vegetation, not moving a muscle. With his coloration, he blended right in with the background. We're all familiar with the call of a green frog - it sounds like a banjo string being plucked.

Soaking up the sun

There's certainly an abundance of painted turtles at the marsh this year. The recent warmer weather has brought them out to bask in the sun on grassy clumps and the muskrat lodges. I've seen a number of very small turtles, probably from last year's crop. This pair includes one of the smaller ones. Note its hind legs stretched out.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Watery nest

I finally located the nest of the pair of pied-billed grebes I have been seeing at the marsh. This morning I happened to see one sitting on the nest, but when I moved closer to get a shot, it moved off. Although I stood quietly for about ten minutes to see if she would return to the nest, both of the parents sat in the water about 20 feet away, waiting for me to leave. Somewhere in this mass of vegetation are the eggs, which should be hatching in a couple of weeks.

Post Script, May 20th: As I walked past this morning, a grebe was on the nest, but as I watched, it rose, pulled some of the vegetation over the eggs, and left the nest, which apparently is common behavior.

Youthful curiosity

I met the geese in their usual spot again this morning (unfortunately they have lost one gosling) - and I met the three deer again just before entering the woods. This young two-point buck stood facing me for a moment, then he and his buddies moved on past the sewage lagoon.

Doesn't miss a thing

When I entered the marsh this morning, I was greeted by many bird songs, including the pik...pik...pik call of a downy woodpecker. I finally located it foraging for insects up the trunk of a sapling.

Bee heaven

Yesterday afternoon, when it finally dried off and the air warmed, the dandelions that line the trail edges at the marsh opened wide. Bees of all sizes were drawn to the pollen-filled blossoms, including the large bumble bee, bottom photo.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The mating game

This morning I noticed a muskrat standing outside one of the muskrat lodges at the marsh. After I took this shot, it slipped into the water behind the lodge, and then emerged chasing a second muskrat. At first I couldn't figure out what he was up to, but it wasn't long before I was enlightened. He was after a she, and you might say 'mission accomplished'. Perhaps in the first shot he was inviting her to come out and play??

Late nester??

I checked the sewage lagoon again this morning to see what ducks might be hanging out there. To my surprise, there were a pair of the wood ducks, plus a single male. I expected the female would be nesting by now, unless she is a yearling. Apparently the yearlings nest later than the adult females.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Time to change coats

I was thinking as I walked the trail this morning that it had been a while since I had seen any of the deer that frequent the marsh. Lo and behold, when I emerged from the wooded section of the trail, I spied one feeding on some new tree leaves along the railbed. As I slowly moved closer, I noticed there were three deer. They appear to be yearlings. This young buck is in the process of shedding his now scruffy winter coat. You can see a patch on its neck where the old fur has worn off.

Exploring their world

I didn't see the new Canada goose family yesterday, but this morning they were in their usual spot alongside the trail. The top shot shows six of the seven goslings (the seventh was on the other side of the clump of trees with its mother). In the bottom shot, one of the goslings was stretching for a drink of water. They are about a week old at this point.

Another spot of yellow

The yellow warblers have returned to the marsh. It's a delight to hear their cheerful sweet, sweet, sweet song as they flit among the trees, or Cyd, Cyd, Cyd Charisse, as I liken it to. This male was singing his heart out yesterday, as he moved from one branch to another. Apparently the males precede the females by a week or two, and immediately begin their territorial singing. So I guess this fellow was doing what comes naturally.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Pre-departure behavior??

I finally got back to the marsh today, the first time since Sunday there's been a break in the weather. I was a little surprised to see the buffleheads still in residence. I expected them to be off to their nesting grounds by now (our population probably nests in northern Ontario). This flock was taking short circling flights and then returning to the water this morning, perhaps getting ready to depart.

The fishing was good

On Sunday, May 8th, not too much in evidence at the marsh - saw three pairs of Canada geese, but not the pair with young, darn - but did get several shots of this greater yellowlegs busily feeding in the shallows off one of the points. It caught at least two minnows while I was watching.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

New marsh babies

I didn't get to the marsh today (I was digging in compost, etc. in my new veggie garden before the rain), but my son Chris did, and got this shot of the first new Canada geese family of the season. I thought the way the pair had been acting the last few days it wouldn't be long. 'Can't wait to see them for myself.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Aptly named

This pair of greater yellowlegs which I caught this morning is newly arrived at the marsh, on the way to their nesting grounds farther north. They may spend days or a few weeks here before moving on, and then may stop here in the late summer for several weeks before heading south. When flushed, they emit a distinctive, ringing tew, tew, tew call.

Underground nester

Even the muskrats are in nesting mode, as seen by this shot I got this morning at the marsh. The muskrat was heading right for the bank where it disappeared, likely into a burrow inside the bank. Beside the trail above the spot where it disappeared is a fresh hole, perhaps the back entrance to the burrow.

Dashed hopes

Well, I was one excited person yesterday morning when I discovered the shape I could see sitting on the osprey platform at the marsh - was an osprey! In the years I have been walking this trail, I have never seen it used as a nesting site. Three sticks can be seen under the bird, and I thought - we just might have an osprey nesting at the marsh this year. However, I think my hopes were dashed, as this morning, the platform was as empty as ever...

A touch of yellow

I caught this Savannah sparrow at the marsh yesterday morning. A common sparrow, it can be easily overlooked. But this time of the year, in the breeding season, the yellow stripe over its eye is especially bright, helping it stand out.

Wood duck quandary

I'm a little confused with what's going on with the wood ducks at the marsh. I keep seeing two pairs, including this pair who were resting on one of the berms in the marsh yesterday. About two weeks ago, I found a whole group of them, mostly males, swimming around a couple of females, but no sign of that group since. Apparently the two resident pair aren't in nesting mode as of yet...

Fussy nest-builder

The marsh is a busy - and noisy - place these days, with birdsong sounding from every corner and nesting activity on the upswing. This female red-winged blackbird was scouting for nesting material in the smaller marshy area alongside the railbed yesterday morning. She would pick up pieces like the one here, then discard them and go looking for another.