Great Egret

Great Egret

Friday, 15 May 2015

The leafs are falling!

And with all due respect and condolences to my fellow Toronto Maple Leafs fans, this is not intended to be yet another reminder of a season to forget.....we know all too well that that hockey club's season seemed to finish sometime back in January, even though I am reminded when I turn on the tube some evenings that some teams are still playing now. But I digress.....

To be grammatically correct, I should have had the title to read "The leaves are falling" but it didn't have quite the same effect.

The leaves I am referring to, strange as it may seem, are those of some of the American Beech trees. As we know, the leaves of most trees turn colour and fall in the autumn. However for young American Beech trees, and even the lower and inside leaves of more mature beech trees, many of the leaves turn their pale brownish colour, but neglect to drop off.

They stay on all winter, and it isn't until the new leaf buds are beginning to expand right now that the old leaves fall off. That is why on a breezy day in the woods right now, you can see pale brownish leaves drifting across your view.
Most of them are gone, or will be gone shortly, and the forest is really greening up. In fact with the recent arrival of many song birds, the forest is becoming quite colourful due to these feathered critters. Some are just passing through, such as the species featured in these next two images.
Blackburnian Warbler
Philadelphia Vireo
The Philadelphia Vireo image is the first time I've got a decent shot of one. This species passes through southern Ontario in small numbers, and are usually much too high for a good photo op. So I was pleasantly surprised the other day to have this one foraging close by and at eye level. I managed to get several shots of it through the branches. The cold day kept it and many other birds low.

This next species doesn't nest at Rondeau often, but it has nested on occasion. Normally they are farther north in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence forest zone, which is the next forest zone north of the Carolinian/Deciduous Forest Zone.
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Rose-breasted Grosbeaks were plentiful in the park. This one was busily picking off leaf parts and bugs from this spider web. A few of this species nest at Rondeau annually. When the leaves are out more fully, obscuring the view, they can be detected by their robin-like call, which is discernible by being a little longer and more melodious than a robin.

Scarlet Tanagers were not abundant, but widely scattered, and their brilliant plumage brightened up some of the drearier days. They too nest at Rondeau, and are often detected by their harsher 'robin with a cold' type call.

And forest bird nesting has begun. Blue-gray Gnatcatchers have been around for a couple of weeks or more, and this pair is not wasting any time getting on with the process. They were right along the South Point Trail, not too high up in a Sassafrass tree. They were busy putting on the finishing touches to their nest.....bits of lichen on the outside to make it blend in a bit more with the adjacent tree branch.
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
One of the highlights of any birder's day is to see one of the very few Endangered Prothonotary Warblers occurring in Canada. Rondeau was the first location for them to be confirmed as breeding in Canada, way back in the early 1930s, and has been known as the Canadian stronghold for them ever since. They have declined in numbers, and in any given year, it seems that there are no more than 10-15 breeding pairs in the entire country. Fortunately for so many birders, a pair is often found along the Tuliptree Trail, and is there again in 2015. The male was not seen very close-up when I was there yesterday, but the female was very active and at close range, entertaining a number of birders/photographers. This first photo might suggest that she was more interested in her reflection than she was with the many pairs of binoculars and camera lenses pointed her way.

The chipping of Eastern Chipmunks hidden in the vegetation on the forest floor sometimes gets ones attention when you are listening for bird songs and calls. On occasion they will pause out in the open for a moment before dashing for cover.

Nesting has been underway for birds associated with wetlands, too. Unfortunately this non-native Mute Swan, below, is one of several pairs nesting in the Rondeau Bay area. Fortunately for Rondeau, they are not as abundant here as they are in some of the wetlands associated with Lake St. Clair. It is not uncommon to see a couple of dozen scattered about the north part of that lake at this time of year. On the St. Clair NWA Christmas Bird Count in early January, which includes the north end of Mitchell's Bay, we have counted as many as 227!

Mute Swan on a nest
The Yellow-headed Blackbirds that have often been associated with the Angler Line wetland just south of Mitchell's Bay seem to have moved again this year. A couple of days ago I was out looking for the reported Wood Storks that were seen out in the lake from the extreme west end of Angler Line. I noticed that the Yellow-headeds previously noted from the Angler Line wetland had moved to a marshy spot out in the lake just off the west end of Angler Line. They are much more challenging to photograph from this vantage point.

And fyi, the Wood Storks turned out to be American White Pelicans, and as many as 18 were observed, but were too far out for a decent photo attempt, especially given the 40-50 km/h wind. Still a good bird, and this formerly Endangered Species (now merely Threatened) is expanding its range and numbers in Ontario, so they are seen a little more regularly on water bodies of the lower Great Lakes. This next photo was taken at Erieau in late April, 2013.

Yes I know that Red-winged Blackbirds are abundant, and even a nuisance at times. Nevertheless they are actually beneficial in some ways, as they feed on enormous numbers of insect pests that might otherwise damage crops. And they are impressive in their own right; this one posed for me nicely on this Phragmites stem. I actually think he was more interested in displaying for a nearby female than he was for me, however.


  1. Great shot of the Prothonotary peering at the water, always nice to see one especially in a pensive moment like this.

    1. Thanks, Patrick......I've photographed this species many, many times since the 1970s, and I never get tired of shooting them again.

  2. The leafs have been falling since I was in high school!
    Good capture of the Philadelphia Vireo. It is my favourite vireo.

    1. Yes, I can remember when the Leafs were in their hey day.....winning cup after cup but since 1967, it has been the same old story......

      I was quite pleased to get such a cooperative PHVI.

  3. I really enjoy seeing at your Prothonatory Warbler images, some of them look very familiar!

    1. Thanks, never gets tired of seeing and photographing these golden swamp warblers! Come on back, and we will do it again!