Thursday, September 29, 2011

Tightrope walking

I finally got to see the great blue heron that my son has been seeing at the marsh most mornings (he's out earlier than I). It was standing on the trunk of an old fallen tree at first, then moved over to one of its branches. Some of the foam often seen on the river around the tidal power plant had been blown into the cove at the sailing school.

Pest control

The yellow garden spider was wrapping a grasshopper that had gotten caught in her web when I stopped to check on her this morning. Apparently the spiders inject their prey with venom to kill them, then wrap them in silk for later consumption. I have seen grasshoppers stuck there a number of times.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Fall harvest

These colourful New England asters are in bloom in many places now, including the marsh. This cluster had four bumblebees busily collecting nectar from the blossoms yesterday, two of which are shown here. Apparently bumble bees are attracted to blue and purple flowers like these asters.

Caught in the act

On Monday morning there were a number of juvenile cedar waxwings feeding on berries in the glossy buckthorns. It was amusing to watch them plucking the berries and gulping them down. With luck I was able to catch this one with its berry-stuffed beak.

Eggs a-plenty

I've been checking the yellow garden spider every day since I first spotted her. She's still at the same location, but when I looked on Monday she wasn't in the centre of her web as usual, but was off to one side guarding her egg sac as seen here. Apparently the spider will be killed by a hard frost, but her egg sac will remain until spring when the eggs will hatch, releasing up to 1,000 baby spiders, each the size of a dust mite. (Image Photoshopped)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sprucing its feathers

It was my son who spotted this male yellow-shafted northern flicker high in a poplar tree as we were leaving the marsh this morning. As we watched, it began to preen, and it certainly did a thorough job of it. It's easy to see why it's called a yellow-shafted flicker.

Hiding in the reeds

There were a number of common yellowthroats foraging in the large phragmites patch alongside the railbed this morning. It was difficult to get a shot, as they are constantly in motion, but I did manage to get this female.


There were a number of these yellow-rumped warblers flitting about this morning. They'll be here for awhile yet, as they are one of the last of the warblers to migrate. This one is a first winter female.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Pint-sized predator

Today being the last day of summer, I was hoping to find something special at the marsh to post to the blog. I wasn't disappointed. Although I've seen these little falcons at the marsh on the odd occasion, I've never been close enough to get a shot of one. Previously known as the pigeon hawk, it is now called a merlin. Apparently they are most frequently seen in September and October, probably as they gather to fly to their winter quarters in the south. These two shots are of the same bird, but there were at least two, being harassed by a small group of blue jays.

Another sparrow puzzle

Here's another shot of a sparrow that was moving about in the low brush near the water's edge this morning. I think this one might be a juvenile tan-striped white-throated sparrow, but again, I'm not absolutely sure, and am hoping someone out there can tell me if I'm right - or not.

Natural art

I noticed a number of unnatural additions to the marsh landscape on this morning's walk, including this charming woodland scene hanging from a Scots pine tree. I'm pretty sure they are the work of an art class at the Academy, as they have done similar things before. The pieces are all created out of natural materials, and are placed in various locations around the trail. I especially liked the little figure in this creation. (Image Photoshopped)

Wary duck

This young male American black duck happened to be feeding close to the water's edge this morning, so I got off a few quick shots before he swam away.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Pretty, if you like spiders

I met a new creature at the marsh yesterday. One of its common names is Yellow Garden Spider, or technically Argiope aurantia. Doing a little research on the arachnid, I discovered that it is a very common spider, found throughout most of the U.S. and in southern Canada. It usually stays in the same spot all season long. It consumes the central part of its web every day, then spins a new centre. Yesterday there was a partially eaten grasshopper in its web. Today the spider was in the same spot, and the grasshopper was gone. The tiny green midge in the lower shot got caught in its web while I was watching.

Young family

Several people have spotted this doe with her young pair at different places around town, but today was the first time I got to see them. They were browsing at the edge of the trail on the back side of the marsh this morning. The fawns must have been born late, as they are still only about half grown. They moved off into the trees when I approached them.

Just checking

I heard this woodpecker when I went to check on the wood ducks this morning. It's a downy woodpecker (black marks on white outer tail feathers), and since it has no red patch on the back of its head, must be a female. It was inspecting the large fresh hole in this dead snag, which I assume was made by a flicker.

Sparrow of the wetlands

Well, finally a day when there was something worth posting to the blog. Things have been rather quiet around the marsh. It was a calm day for a change, which might have had something to do with it.

I caught this swamp sparrow (at least I'm fairly certain that's what it is!) low in the trees at the edge of the marsh this morning.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Changing into fall colours

I had to check out the wood ducks on Saturday, and sure enough, there were a number of them roosting in the dead trees and swimming about among them. The male in the tree is molting out of his eclipse plumage into his full colours. The bird at the bottom is a female wood duck, who is also molting, but the change isn't as noticeable.

Common warbler

This female common yellowthroat was busily moving about a downed gray birch tree at the marsh on Saturday. I heard its chep call before I saw it. Checking last year's photo catalog, I found that the latest shot I had of one of these birds was on November 4th. Although September is their usual departure time, apparently it is not uncommon for some to remain on their breeding range through winter.

Teal green teal

This fellow, a male green-winged teal, was all by his lonesome Saturday at the marsh. His green wing feathers (speculum) are easily seen here, and his head is beginning to take on its breeding plumage colours.

Stopping for a visit

When I walked the trail on Saturday the 10th, I was happy to see some of the Canada geese back on the marsh. Of course they may have been making occasional visits to the marsh, but this is only the second time I've seen them here since the young ones began to fly. This is three of the seven that I saw.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Just passing through

I need to confess a faux pas I've been making regarding this bird, which I earlier took to be a lesser yellowlegs. It's not. A gentleman I met on the trail the other day who is a long time birder set me straight. It is a solitary sandpiper, a shorebird like the yellowlegs, and is on its migration route, stopping here for awhile to feed. It was in the same place today that it has been for the past week now.

Accomodating model

This little fellow was just sitting in the middle of the path around noon today. It was probably soaking in the warmth of the sun. It didn't blink an eye when I got down to ground level to 'shoot' it face on. It's a green frog, one of our most common frogs.

Busy bumble bees

The fall dandelions are in full bloom now along the sides of the trail around the marsh, and the bees are having a field day. This bumble bee was moving from blossom to blossom when I spotted it this morning.

Hanging tight

I was trying to get close to a small flock of red-winged blackbirds this morning when I heard the tell-tale rapping of a woodpecker. This hairy was exploring the end of a large branch which had broken off and lodged in another tree. It had found a tiny grub which it is holding in its beak.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Great feathered hunter

It was the squawking blue jay that was the clue. Yesterday, except for the same lesser yellowlegs foraging in the duckweed and the ducks feeding out in the marsh, there didn't seem to be much of photographic value until I moved into the woods to check out the wood ducks. This blue jay was making quite the commotion, but I didn't think much of it as that's what blue jays do, until I noticed a large feathery body perched atop one of the snags. It had to be one of the two resident juvenile great horned owls that have been seen at different locations in town, including the marsh, since they hatched early this year. I looked around for its sibling but didn't see it.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Delicate strutter

For the second day in a row, there was a lesser yellowlegs foraging in the duckweed at the upper end of the marsh this morning, presumably the same bird. If I got too close, it would fly up, emitting its high-pitched tiw, tiw, tiw cry, and land farther along. These birds return from their breeding grounds farther north about this time of the year, spend a short while here, then continue south on their migration journey.

Bad feather day??

I saw several yellow warblers again today. They are usually early migrants, so I expect it won't be long before they'll be departing. This young one was obviously doing some grooming when I caught it.

Feeling their oats

There were a number of chickadees in the area just as you enter the wooded section of the trail today, chasing each other around. They are never still, so catching them 'on film' is a chore. It took me several tries to get these two.

A lucky shot

I couldn't believe my luck with this shot. I was in the woods near the water's edge taking some shots of a common yellowthroat, when I happened to hear the sound of a humming bird just above my head. I turned slowly to find it, and it flew to this limb to perch for a moment. It's either a female or a juvenile male. I have seen hummers at the marsh on several occasions, but this is the first time I was able to get a shot of one in the wild. (Poster edges filter applied.)

Not camera shy

This female mallard was feeding in the duckweed along the edge of the marsh on Friday. It didn't swim away when I approached like most ducks do, enabling me to get a decent shot. It could be a juvenile, as they seem to be less wary.

It's a guess

I need some help with this one. It was fairly low in the brush of the wooded area at the marsh on Friday. I think it may be a tan-striped white-throated sparrow, but I'm far from certain. Not seeing its wings doesn't help.