I go walking almost every day. Sometimes just around the block or through the neighbouring park - mostly soccer fields and playgrounds. But when I have the time, my walks take me further afield to some of Toronto's loveliest public gardens and wild places. I've started taking my camera with me because you never know what you'll encounter.
This little family of robins was sheltered in a big Norfolk pine at Centennial Park Conservatory in Etobicoke. I might have passed by without seeing them if not for the pleas of three very hungry nestlings. When mama spotted me watching, she froze. Right on cue, the little ones froze, too, mouths open, mid-peep. I backed away and mealtime resumed with a raucous chorus of "feed-me, feed-me, feed-me".
Here's another handsome robin, singing his "cheerily-cheer-up-cheer-up" song. His tree is in a woodland in Colonel Samuel Smith Park on the shore of Lake Ontario in Etobicoke. American Robins are a common sight in the city but, even so, they're among my favourite birds. Maybe it's because seeing the first robin of the year is a sure sign that winter is finally over. (If you've ever experienced a Toronto winter, you understand why that's so very important.)
On another day in the same woodland, I heard a peculiar song - a kind of burbling, high-pitched, happy trill. I'd heard the song before but was never lucky enough to spot the bird, so I was pretty pleased with this photo. Back home, I consulted my go-to bird ID web site, All About Birds (Cornell Lab of Ornithology), and identified this handsome fellow as a Brown-headed Cowbird. Interesting factoid: the female cowbird lays her eggs (many, many eggs) in the nests of other birds, then mama and papa go their merry ways, leaving their babies to be fostered by others. No wonder this guy's song sounds so carefree!
This next fellow has a call that reminds me of finger nails on a blackboard, followed by a scolding "chuk-chuk". In the shade, the Brewer's Blackbird may look a bit plain but caught in the sunshine, his glossy feathers gleam iridescent blue and green.
Whenever I'm in Sam Smith Park, I make sure to visit the lake shore to see the Red-necked grebes. A local bird lover has made a series of floating platforms near the marina, each one the perfect size for a nesting grebe. This one has been in use for many years. I'm hoping to see little ones swimming nearby with mom and pop in the coming weeks.
A bit farther out in the harbour, this cormorant put on a show, dancing a two-step as he dried out his wings. A gusty wind was buffeting both of us, so not the best focus for this shot, but I love the menacing look of him.
A short walk inland brings us to a lush wetland and pond, teeming with fish, turtles, snakes, and myriad birds both large and small. This beautiful Mute Swan has no trouble ignoring the humans ooh-ing and aah-ing just a few feet from her nest.
When mama swan needs a break, papa takes over nest-sitting duties. I believe this is the second clutch of the year for this pair and was happy to see three eggs in the nest. Conservation officers oiled eggs earlier in the year as part of a program to manage over-population, so the first clutch was lost. I understand why it's necessary - Mute Swans aren't native here and because they're so aggressive, they may drive off native Trumpeter Swans as well as other native wetland species. Sad, though. They are beautiful birds. I can't help but hope to see three little cygnets here in a few weeks.
Not far from the nesting swans, this handsome Great Blue Heron was stalking his fishy prey. Slow and steady ... dive, dive, dive! Drat. Missed it.
The crane just couldn't catch a break. This Red-winged Blackbird and his friends seemed determined to drive him away.
I would have happily spent all day watching the soap opera life of the marsh unfold, but the sun was high and I was feeling the first tingle of sunburn on my nose. It was time to get my ducks in a row...
A brief rant before I sign off. Please don't feed the ducks! (Or the swans, or the geese.) They may share the city with us but they're wild creatures. Bread is nothing like their natural diet (seeds, aquatic vegetation, insect larvae, earthworms, snails, freshwater shrimp). Bread is actually bad for them. But don't take my word for it...
"Ducks that are regularly fed bread can become malnourished, aggressive towards one another, may lose their foraging instincts and can lose their natural fear of people. Also, bread that isn't eaten can result in nutrient build-up and increased algae growth. Feeding wild ducks is a practice CWF does not encourage." - Canadian Wildlife Federation
Rant over. And Mr. Mallard has an itch. Quacks me up every time. ;- )
Are you a bird watcher? Bird lover? What's the most unusual bird you've encountered?
is the blog of Canadian author Cheryl Cooke Harrington
Labels: birds, blackbirds, Centennial Greenhouse, Cheryl Cooke Harrington, Colonel Samuel Smith Park, ducks, Etobicoke, grebes, heron, photography, robins, swans, Toronto