May 25, 2009
Rattray Marsh, Mississauga Ontario
Recently Angie and I made a visit to Rattray Marsh in Mississauga, Ontario. A new nature spot for us to explore and enjoy.
I have to say this is one I will want to visit again and again. A few weeks earlier would have been great, just before the leaves exploded in the trees. That is one thing we have learned about going out and looking for birds, as soon as the leaves pop out, your chances decrease incredibly. Down there, you just know you are surrounded by so many species of birds by all the calls, but few can be seen. Mind you, coming a few weeks earlier may not have had as many migrants either.
For starts, pretty much anywhere you go, you will come across Red Winged Blackbirds in the area. A marsh is the natural nesting grounds for RWBBs.
This is a close up of a Red Winged Blackbird nest with the female sitting on top. The nests are well hidden within the marsh. We only spotted this one as we watched the female swoop down into the brush.
The trails are mostly man made boardwalks. So, while it takes away from the natural appeal of the area; it also keeps humans from trampling over the vegetation, disrupting the wildlife, etc. They also deter cyclists from the area. A lot of the old trails are blocked off with wooden blockades and forest growth. Police frequent the area on mountain bikes themselves looking for cyclists. There are signs at all entrances informing the public of no cycling in most parts of this area.
Another section of walkway up around the bend someways...
In our travels along the paths and walkways we were occasionally graced with the presence of a species of wildlife such as this Song Sparrow. A Sparrow is a Sparrow, right? Think again. There is good reason why these guys are called Song Sparrows. This little fellow perched himself in front of us and let out his beautiful song... like right out of a Disney Fairy Tale.
We happened to notice a mid-sized blackbird way up in the trees, moving about, going back and forth to one spot on a tree. Upon further notice we realized it was a European Starling feeding it's young in that tree hole. The photo below shows the beak of one baby sticking out waiting for mommy to return with some food. Click on the picture for a blow up of it and get a really good look at that bright yellow beak.
Looking way up into the trees, trying to follow songs and calls, we happened to notice 3 of these birds which I am certain are Cedar Waxwings. This was the best shot of many I took; not bad from over 100ft below.
Another bird that we are about 95% certain to see and identify is this silohuete of an Eastern Meadowlark. Our memory still gives us a clearer picture than what this photo shows.
Other bird sightings included Baltimore Orioles, Northern Cardinals, Common Grackles, Canadian Geese, Swans, Robins, Hairy Woodpeckers and Black Capped Chickadees. Through discussion with some others down there with binoculars and bigger cameras, we learned of numerous Red Eyed Vireos and Indigo Bunting sightings. They also pointed us to an area known for Warblers but we didn't make it over there. Below is a photo of an Indigo Bunting that I borrowed from Google Images (I did not take this shot). I just wanted to show others what a Bunting looks like and why it would be so cool to see this bird buzzing around a forest in the greater Toronto area...
A few dirt trails lead down to the lake which is nice for a few reasons... one being to cool off with the breeze off the water, another is see all the water fowl. We watched Common Terns (look like Seagulls with a black mask) fishing, which is diving head first into the water and flying back up in the air with a fish. They are not easy to photograph and sometimes it is nice to just put the camera down and watch what is going on around us. Here is a shot from the beach looking over to the downtown of Toronto.
So as I said, we plan to visit this marsh area again and probably many times after at different times of the year too. If you are ever in the area of Mississauga Rd and Lakeshore Rd West and wish to check this place out, continue west to Jack Darling Park on the south side of Lakeshore, park the car and walk the path going west till you see the sign "Rattray Marsh".
Lastly, here's my nature/bird adventurer counter-part Angie. She's great to have along because when I can't see something, chances are she is going to spot it or keep trying with me. She knows it pays to be quiet and still at times to better your chances in a nature trek.