Thursday, June 28, 2012

Youthful antics

When I entered the wooded section of the trail this morning I spied a pair of young woodpeckers exploring the tree branches and chasing each other about.  They were juvenile Downy Woodpeckers.  The black bars on their white tail feathers identified them as downies (the black bars are absent on the hairys).  The red patch on the top of the head identified them as juveniles; the red patch is at the back of the head on adults.

Butterball baby

I met this little fellow on the path this morning, just past the little pond.  He (or she) was busily munching away on a dandelion clump, and not at all intimidated by my presence.  Here he's just poised to take another bite of a dandelion stem.  He has a small growth of some kind above his right eye, that gives him a strange appearance.  When I got too close for comfort, he crept across the path and disappeared down a hole in the grass and into the water.

New Life

I discovered two relatively new duck families on the marsh this morning.  First was what I'm quite sure is a family of gadwalls; this female has eleven offspring.  The bottom shot shows a mallard family, this one with five young.  (Please excuse the poor quality of the shots; both groups were far out on the water.)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Hanging in there

The wind was quite blustery when I walked the trail this morning.  When I spotted a yellow warbler land in a small gray birch sapling, I knew I'd have difficulty getting a decent shot of the bird, due to the wind.  Nevertheless, I kind of liked the result (top shot) -- the warbler, with an insect in its beak, held on while the wind blew the sapling almost sideways.  Then, the bird flew into a hawthorn tree, where I was able to get a better shot, with a clearer view of the insect in its beak.  It is a male yellow warbler, as told by the distinct orange streaks on its breast.  Both parents feed their offspring.

Swallow update

I'm very happy to report that this morning I saw three tree swallows swooping over the sewage lagoon and out over the marsh.  After the destruction of the seven nesting boxes last Saturday night -- plus the predation of some of the nesting boxes on the back side of the marsh by a short-tailed weasel last week -- I wasn't sure I would be seeing any tree swallows around the marsh.  

Storm-worn beauty

This is a first sighting for me - and you'll never believe the name of this butterfly I saw on this morning's walk.  It's called a Question Mark butterfly (Polygonia interrogationis).  Apparently it has a silver question mark on the under side of its hindwing.  Obviously this one has undergone some serious wear and tear.

Empty nest

It's hard to miss all the aborted attempts by the painted turtles to dig nests, as evidenced by the holes along the trail edges.  Perhaps they found the slate too hard to dig into.   I came across this ransacked nest in the softer gravel of the railbed this morning.  The leathery white shells can be seen in the lower portion of the shot.  Last year I found ten nests destroyed, but it certainly didn't put any appreciable dent in the painted turtle population.

Nesting grebe

I was happily surprised to spot this pied-billed grebe on its nest from the viewing platform just off the railbed this morning.  I have been hearing their calls at this location for weeks now, but this is the first time I've noticed one of the nests.  Their nests are simple structures, just pond weeds attached to a few sticks poking out of the water.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A Sad Day at the Marsh

It is probably evident by now that the marsh and its inhabitants are very close to my heart.  My heart received a hard blow this morning when I learned of the senseless destruction that occurred there, presumably sometime last night.  Seven of the interpretive panels just installed this past week were torn out, bases & all, and thrown into the water; six of the tree-swallow nesting boxes were smashed and lying on the ground, two of which held nesting birds; all but one of the benches had been tossed into the marsh.  As I write this, the benches have been reset and three of the panels retrieved from the water, but four of them have not been located as of yet.  Nothing, of course, can be done to replace the nestlings.  

It's difficult to understand why people choose to damage & destroy public property of any kind, but I find it particularly heinous when it involves harm to wildlife.  Here's hoping that those responsible are found and brought to justice. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Nice surprise

On yesterday's walk I was startled by a loud series of bird calls when I neared a large mass of multiflora rose bushes.  Since I had earlier discovered a nesting pair who exhibited much the same behaviour (see next post), I presumed I had disturbed another duo.  The bushes were so thick it was difficult to see what birds I had disturbed, but I was finally rewarded - it was a pair of Northern Cardinals!  However, I think they were both males.  It could have been one male trying to chase another out of its territory.  Apparently they like to nest in multiflora rose bushes, as well as hawthorns and lilacs - they certainly have ample numbers of those to choose from in the area.

Chasing elusive warblers

Boy, you can certainly tell this is nesting season among the bird world.  I hadn't gotten far along the trail yesterday morning when I heard two slightly different, repeating chedp calls coming from a clump of gray birches.  I eventually got glimpses of the birds as they fluttered from branch to branch, and discovered it was a pair of Common Yellowthroats, secretive members of the warbler clan.  The female clutched an insect in her beak.  They didn't go far, just constantly moved back and forth from branch to branch, so I knew there had to be a nest close by.  I thought they'd never hold still long enough for me to focus and take a shot, but eventually ended up with these two passable ones.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Good signs

It's finally happening!  The interpretive panels which were created last year are being installed at the marsh.  I've been anxiously waiting to see how these looked in place, as I was privileged to be asked to provide the photos for the panels.  (At least some of the thousands of photos I have taken of the wildlife at the marsh were put to good use.)  My friend Ian Lawrence wrote the descriptive text, Jim Todd of Todd Graphics put it all together, and the good fellows at Public Works built the bases and are doing the installation.  'Should be a nice addition to the marsh visiting experience.

Wisdom while you walk

Something rather unusual cropped up at the marsh today - and rather neat, too, I thought.  As I walked I began to see small rocks placed alongside the trail with writing on them, and upon closer inspection noticed that they bore quotes from an electic range of people, from Bob Dylan to Pythagorus to Tallulah Bankhead.  Above are just three of a dozen or more at different locations.  I can imagine someone - or more likely someones - had a fun time searching the internet for pearls of wisdom to pass along to passers-by.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Disabled mom?

I could hear the offspring of this female red-winged blackbird this morning, but I couldn't get close enough to get a glimpse of them without getting my feet wet.  She and her mate were trying to dissuade me from getting any closer anyhow.  I noticed that she had something in her beak when I snapped the picture, but I wasn't aware until I cropped the shot that she appears to have only one leg.

Birds of a feather . . .

I was fortunate to encounter a small flock of pine siskins this morning.  These goldfinch-sized birds almost always move about in flocks, constantly sounding their wheezy calls.  They are primarily seed eaters, often coming to feeders in winter, but insects also make up a significant portion of their diet.  You can just make out the touches of yellow on the edges of the wing feathers of this bird.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Bringing home the bacon

Things have been rather quiet around the tree swallow nesting boxes for the last couple of weeks, as incubation has been taking place.  The eggs in this nesting box must have hatched, as this morning I watched the parents take turns bringing insects to the box.  Here one of them has arrived with a nice juicy damselfly.  It'll be around three weeks before the young will fledge, but the parents will continue to feed them for a few days after that, before they can manage on their own.

Native wild iris

There are a number of patches of these blue flag irises (Iris versicolor) in bloom now at the marsh.  They are native to North America.

Another dabbler

I've seen this pair of gadwalls a number of times.  I don't think that they nested, as the female has always been with the male.  They are dabblers like the mallards, which they resemble, and the black ducks.  This male seemed to have a decided itch.  In the background you can see patches of green algae which has formed all over the marsh in the past week or so.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Fresh fish

I heard these two before I saw them, and figured there had to be a youngster involved because of the racket.  What I didn't expect was that it was common grackles I was hearing.  I was in the right place at the right time to get this shot of junior begging for the juicy minnow in its parent's beak.  (After noting the brown coloration of this juvenile grackle, I think I may have identified the mystery bird I posted on May 27th.)

Feeling its oats

The Canada geese were feeding alongside the trail when I met them this morning.  The juvenile on the right is the single offspring of one of the pair, and the first to hatch.  As you can see, its wing feathers are beginning to grow in, as are its tail feathers.  It's amazing how quickly the young grow into gangly adolescents.

Bad hair day

This shot was also from a few days ago.  The male wood ducks have been perching fairly close to the water's edge next to the wooded section of the trail recently.  This one obviously knew I was present.  Wood ducks have the largest eyes of any waterfowl, and it's almost impossible to sneak up on them.  It was a breezy day, playing havoc with this adult male's usually sleek crown.

Masked marvel

Here's a shot from a few days ago when I encountered a small flock of cedar waxwings in a clump of old black cherry trees.  I've seen them several times since, usually being reminded of their presence by their high, thin sreee sounds.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Baby watching

I got a good look and some good shots of this black duck and her family this morning.  I was amused to see the ducklings displaying the tipping behaviour of their parents when feeding (top shot).  In the bottom shot, you can plainly see the purple speculum feather of the female's wing.  You can also see a couple of white feathers floating in the water in the top photo - signs of the molting that's beginning among the ducks.

Heard but not seen

I heard this female wood duck this morning long before I could see her.  She was keeping well hidden among the dead wood, but giving away her presence with her constant chatter to her brood.

Buckthorn attack

Those of you who have been following this blog for a while, have heard me bemoan the invasive presence of glossy buckthorn at the marsh.  I've been noticing recently that the buckthorn has become infected with an orange-colored fungus of some sort, and after some internet searching, believe it to be the crown rust fungus.  Apparently it is a disease of oats, and buckthorn is its alternate host.  I don't know whether it does the buckthorn in, but some of the smaller-sized shrubs certainly look in bad shape.  Apparently the disease is favored by warm and humid weather and mild winters.  Well, last winter certainly qualified as mild.

Row by row

The painted turtles were out in full force this morning at the marsh, with the return of the sun.  I got a kick out of the four here all lined up in a row.