Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

January 24, 2010

Bronte Creek in Burlington winter 2010

Another mild January weekend has us out and about, taking in all Mother Nature has to offer.

Ang and I were thinking High Park but I was there just a couple weeks ago and we plan on going there with a friend of our's very soon. So, we chose Bronte Creek in Burlington, Ontario. We had only been there once before, last winter. What a difference weather-wise though... last year there was so much snow and here within a couple weeks of being one full year later there is no snow. I'm not exactly complaining because it's much easier to walk the woods without all the snow.

Bronte Creek is a conservation area. There is camping on one end of the grounds (north east section). We enter the other area off of Burloak Drive. The entrance is about 1.5 kms north of the QEW. It costs $15 for the day pass per vehicle. The conservation area is vast with various types of landscapes from forests, to valleys, to open fields. One section has a leash free zone for dogs. The far east end of the park has Bronte Creek/12 Mile Creek running on the edge. In our walk along this section, you could see Hawks soaring overhead and you could hear their screeches.

With the lack of snow, we got a lot of ground covered. We did three trails... The Trillium Trail (1km) and then the Half Moon Valley Trail (2km)... the third I will mention shortly. Both Trillium and Half Moon are off parking area F, near the Spruce Lane Farmhouse. There is a Peacock Pen here and a lot of Black-Capped Chickadees, White Breasted Nuthatches and House Sparrows buzz around. The Chickadees will easily land in your hand here if you have food they like (no-salt shelled peanuts or black oil sunflower seed).

Pictured here is a White Breasted Nuthatch running down the side of the Peacock Pen.

A Black Capped Chickadee feeding off the rails of the Pen.

Our walks along the trails had us seeing nothing in way of birds or other wildlife. We think the steady flow of Hawk activity had something to do with it. So often you would see them soaring overhead, hunting.

A few times we'd even see one sitting in a tree or on a light standard, keeping watch. I see them all the time as I travel the Hwy 401 and I just want to stop, look at them, try and get a picture... but that's not the safest thing to do on a highway where the speed limit is 100 km/h but we know few travel that slow. I probably took 20 shots of this Red Tailed Hawk before he got tired of me and flew off.

One of my last shots of this Hawk before it disappeared beyond the trees.

Probably the most bizarre thing I have ever seen was this photo'd below. It's an animal fur/skin hung from a tree branch. I went in for a close look and I think it's Raccoon. The tail was gone but the color scheme about the body sure reminded me of a Raccoon. How did it get up there? My cousin in B.C. said her dogs find such things from time to time and bring them to her. She bribes them with a dog cookie to release the carcass, which she then places up on a branch out of reach of the dogs. Maybe someone did that here? Maybe the animal died in the tree? Maybe a predator ate this animal up there? Such a mystery for sure...

We headed back to the car and decided to hit another part of the grounds. We drove over to parking C. There is a Children's Play Barn and a small farm here. A nature centre which was closed for the season. And beyond this all another trail called "Maiden's Blush" which we walked the length of at 1.1km. It's near 1km just to get to this trail. Once again, we saw very little in our travels until we found a pond deep in the woods. A flock of Robins were spotted along with a Northern Cardinal, Blue Jay, Downy Woodpecker and Hairy Woodpecker. There is a lot of brush here so the birds were safe from the Hawks.

The farm was interesting to see as well... a wide variety of animals are kept here in large pens with lots of room to roam, to be inside or travel outside at their own will to even more area for them.

The Goats are in pairs in the pens. One couple recently had a baby. There are machines filled treats and you can get a handful for $0.25 to hand feed these guys. As you can see below, they eagerly wait for a treat. If you visit, please bring some quarters to make them happy. Also the money collected is used for the animals. Sure you get slobbered on the palms but it's fun. They have wash stations outside the barns when you are done.

A Rabbit pen was found in another building. Four of them in a pen that is probably 15ft X 40ft.

Then, another Peacock pen was located here. You want to see color?!?! Holy! I forgot how brilliant the males are.

This male Peacock was out to impress the ladies of the pen. Once I got closer, he brought the mass of feathers in... probably didn't want me to get the wrong idea. :)

This male Rooster was quite protective over his group of girls. Ten girls for one boy!

One of his ladies keeping her eggs warm.

They have a Cow pen as well. This photo was taken from last winter... but this guy is still at the farm. He was along the fence and we got to pat his head, touch his nose and he licked Ang's fingers.

So, while it wasn't the best day for bird watching... it was a great day to be out and about outdoors. A little more sun would have been nice but I will take a mild dry January day anytime.

Bronte Creek seems to be a great place for all seasons. A number of old buildings are on the property. Old farm equipment too!

Also there is camping. There are 3 baseball diamonds. There are many picnic areas with firepits. As I mentioned the leash free zone. They even have an open area for those to play with their remote airplanes and helicopters.

It's worth the trip to Bronte Creek in Burlington!

January 13, 2010

Mr. Half-Tail

So, winter is in full swing now. My "Dirty Dozen" as I like to refer to them... is now down to about half. Hibernation? My change in work hours giving me much less day time in the yard to see them? They just don't stray far from their homes? Whatever the case may be... here is one I do miss the last number of weeks since the cold weather set in... meet "Mr. Half-Tail"

We had a "Stumpy" a few years ago... so "Mr. Half-Tail" popped out and has stuck with me although Ang prefers "Pom Pom". As you might notice from his photo, he does have half a tail.

Most of the Squirrels rather blend in together... just a bunch of trouble-making yet comical misfits with no names. A few do get a name for physical appearance or characteristic reasons as you may recall with Smokey and Jigger.

There is more to "Mr. Half Tail" than just the half tail. He is the blackest, shiniest and fastest of the bunch. The back door opens and Squirrels come running from all directions and he passes them all with ease like a champion Stallion in a rush to get a peanut. He works harder than the others when searching them in the grass... you can just see it in him... quickly moving about, back and forth, left to right.

He follows me like a faithful puppy the full length of the yard for that peanut.

It's nearing the middle of January, so I like to think that in about 8 weeks, things will start to go back to normal for yard critter visitors. I do hope he is one of the returning Squirrels (not all have come back) and wonder if "Mr. Half-Tail" will still have just a half tail?

January 4, 2010

Two Areas, One Day... Lots Seen and Photo'd

I was lucky enough to have today off from work in lieu of working New Year's Eve Day... at least I think that is why we had today off (Jan 4th).

I debated on going out since it was to be -20c with the wind chill factor. After getting a few chores done, I said "go for it!"

I even surprised myself as I went out twice today, both places approximately 90 minutes each.

First off was High Park and Grenadier Pond. The water is freezing up nicely with the deep freeze... but that meant no water fowl, who are probably down along the shores of Lake Ontario, where it's not frozen.

I then went further along to some old fave spots... and I don't think what I saw, I will ever get used to seeing... American Robins still here through the winter. As I said in the past, "they aren't the sign of Spring anymore". There was a massive amount in this one area, and more flying in. A number of Juniper trees are here, still full of Juniper berries, which they were all feasting upon. I do hope there is enough berries to carry them through the next couple months.

A large Hawk flew overhead and everybody scattered. Unfortunately I could not identify the predator.

I headed back to the area near where I parked the car. There was a lot of bird noises from the bush along the walkway. I had heard Chickadees, Cardinals, Downy Woodpeckers, Hairy Woodpeckers, Dark Eyed Juncos, White Breasted Nuthatches and Red Breasted Nuthatches, American Gold Finches along with some Sparrow species. This is just me hearing them... birds I am very familiar with since I see them daily in my backyard. So my hearing and memory served me well as I saw all species listed.

This stretch of walk is a great place for those who admire our furry and feathered friends. People often place seed along the fence posts and the birds come regularly to feed... or check if food has been placed. What's really cool is when you may see post after post after post with birds and Squirrels on them at the same time!

It's nice to see everyone get along during these brutally cold days... one more shot of proof to this.

Chickadees are in large numbers at High Park and I was able to have one land into my hand for seed.

I also spotted 3 pairs of Cardinals. The females were difficult to find within the branches on this grey morning with snow flurries. I managed to photograph this one sitting quite close to where I was...

Almost an hour and a half in the park and I saw so many birds... not bad for a -20c day in January.

I hit home for lunch and then off I went again... this time to Lambton Woods which is minutes from home. Another hour went by, many birds seen and a rare one (for me anyways). Oh, also, part of this visit I made it a must to get one really great shot of a male Northern Cardinal for our 2011 calendar. That red bird, with the snow... great winter month photo. Success!

Through my trek in the woods such species were spotted... Chickadees, Cardinals, Blue Jays, Juncos, House Finches and American Gold Finches, White and Red Breasted Nuthatches, Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers too. Much like my visit to High Park earlier in the day.

A male Hairy Woodpecker...

A male Downy Woodpecker. Not much different than the Hairy, eh... judging from the photos. The Hairy Woodpecker is almost double the size of the Downy Woodpecker. The Hairy's call is a lot louder and higher as well. You might notice the difference in the beaks as well. The birds are eating lard that someone has smeared about the tree trunks in the woods.

A male White Breasted Nuthatch that got very close to me as I remained quiet and still.

In my journey through Lambton Woods, I crossed paths with a few others enjoying the crisp day that turned sunny in the afternoon. Lucky for me they were nature lovers as well and enjoying the birds around us. One man told me of a few interesting sightings and also the fact he had been coming to Lambton for three days now in search of a Pileated Woodpecker. He hears it in the forest but has yet to spot it. I've only seen a Pileated once, and that was 2 or 3 years ago, in these same woods. I wished him luck and I kept my eyes open. Once you see a Pileated, you never forget it... they are a massive species of Woodpecker for sure.

He also told me there is a Red Bellied Woodpecker within the forest as well. He saw it earlier in the day. I've only seen this species once, and that was down in Niagara on the Lake, back in early November. So, wouldn't you know it, about 20 minutes later, who do I see? The Red Bellied Woodpecker!

How odd of a name for a Woodpecker with such a red head. There is a Red Headed Woodpecker already out there, though not common for this area (especially in the winter), and it's much different looking than the Red Bellied.

So, all in all, it was a great couple of hours out and about on this frosty day. I even helped another identify the same Woodpecker. We chatted for a short bit on my way out regarding the woods, she mentioned this odd Woodpecker and I knew from that she was talking about the Red Bellied. I was happy to pass the info on to her and show her my pics.

Please note all shots were taken by me today EXCEPT the Pileated and Red-Headed Woodpecker photos which I borrowed from Google images.

January 2, 2010

New Years Day Tradition... this year rocked!

A new year has arrived. Welcome 2010. Welcome a new decade!

Here we are with our new year's day tradition; providing health and weather co-operate with us.

We like to spend part of new year's day out and about some place, hanging with nature and enjoying the creatures about... offering them a hearty feast on another winter's day. We try to go to a different location every year (maybe some place new, maybe an old fave).

This year we opted for Lynde Shores in Whitby... also known as Cranberry Marsh.

You want friendly bird action? This is the place to be! We weren't even out of the parking lot yet and the Chickadees were in full force, greeting us at the pay meter ($2 for 2 hours or $4 for all day). I saw a photo from this area a couple days before where someone put seed on top of their hat... hence me trying it with immediate success.

Now, it's not just about the birds there... but they are the ultimate experience. A number of attitude bearing Red Squirrels scamper about... cursing each other with their chatter.

As we fed the Chickadees and Nuthatches in one spot for a lengthy amount of time... I happened to notice movement about my feet. A tiny Meadow Vole was coming in and out of the grass, gathering seeds/nuts for his stash. I couldn't get a decent picture of him so I borrowed this through a Google image search. As always with nature hikes, it's good to watch where you step.

Deer are often sighted in the area; but we didn't see any, nor were we really looking. I find with them, it's just chance to come across them. Normally they are long gone before you can see them.

So, back to the bird feeding... the White Breasted Nuthatches are also quite eager to snatch the seed from the palm of a person's hand. A few years ago I didn't even know what a Nuthatch was.

This shot gives you a pretty good idea on how crazy and how frequent the birds will come to you.

A new record for both of us... two at once!

The landscape is quite beautiful as well. A lot of pine trees, which I think are Tamaracs, and they stay so green through the season... mix that in with the abundance of Dogwood and it's red bark, along with some snow... and WOW!

Rumor has it that there are some Blue Jays who will also come to people, taking peanuts from their fingers. I have seen the photos but we weren't so fortunate. I did have this one get very close, watching from the branches above me, he at one point swooped down, flying right over my palm, but missed the peanut. I threw ample amounts on the ground which he came and got. Maybe next time?

After some 100 shots of Chickadees and Nuthatches in our hands; I wanted to get a nice clean shot of one for our 2011 calendar. Some time, some patience, some 30 shots later, I got this one.

Other birds in the area, but not nearly as social include Northern Cardinals, Dark Eyed Juncos, American Goldfinches, Mourning Doves, Brown Creepers and a few species of Sparrows. I believe this is an American Tree Sparrow.

As you can see, Angie had a blast too!

So, if you want an ultimate nature experience... check it out yourself!

Take Highway 401 to Whitby, exit at Brock Street (not to be mistaken with Brock Road in Pickering). Then go south to the first street... Victoria Street and turn right (west) and follow the road for approximately 2.5kms and you will see the parking lot on the south side.

My only suggestion, or rather request/plea, is this... please bring good food for them. I am saddened to see how many people bring loaves of white bread, stale buns and the cheapest junkiest bird seed that can be bought at many stores (which is full of crap that most birds don't care for). Shelled UN-salted peanuts are an excellent choice. We found the Chickadees picked through our black oil sunflower to get at them. Black Oil Sunflower Seed is another great choice... even if the birds wanted the peanuts. These are the two main seeds I use in my backyard for the greatest number of birds.

Why is white bread so bad? There are no nutrients in it for them; it's just filler, like popcorn really.