Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

March 21, 2010

The Brickworks in Toronto...

Today, Sunday March 21, 2010... we went birding to a location that is very new to us but is one of the oldest spots in Toronto. It is called "The Brickworks". I am just learning about the property now but I do remember it vividly from my days as a kid in the '70s and passing it often to and from my Grandparents' home in Riverdale or Cabbagetown (depending who you talk to of the area). It was a very large dusty site full of such old buildings and so much machinery, trucks, etc.

The Brickworks was a brick making factory. It first opened in 1889. The factory closed back in 1984 but those buildings still stand today. It is located at 550 Bayview Ave.

Now, as you look at the photo below, you would not think this would be much of anything. Old crumbling buildings... "woo hoo!" says the history buff. Behind those buildings is 16 hectares of land containing forests, trails, marshlands and a number of small ponds.

The main reason we went to The Brickworks is for this bird pictured below. I borrowed the shot from Google images as my shots were nowhere near as good, clear or close. This is a Belted Kingfisher. It kinda looks like a cross between a Blue Jay and a Woodpecker. We had heard about this location and some of these birds on a Toronto Birding message board we learned about from a friendly blog reader who we hope to meet up with this Spring... her name is Jo-Anne... everyone say "Hi Jo-Anne!"

Anyways, here is a couple shots of one of the Kingfishers we saw. Apparently this is the female... ID'd by the brown streaks on her chest. We watched her fly about the grounds, dive into the ponds for food, sit here and there around the ponds, chatter away and then zip off to the cliffs at the back of the area where it seemed her and the male were going into some holes (nest?) on the cliff. This bird is very new to me, as is the area, so there is much to learn.

Not sure which shot is the better. If you click on the image, it will enlarge for a better but grainy view. The cloudy skies and snow flurries didn't help the photos nor the 200 ft between us... good thing for binoculars!

We saw/heard quite a few other species of birds including Northern Cardinals, Black-Capped Chickadees, White Breasted Nuthatches, Blue Jays, Song Sparrows, American Gold Finches, Mallard Ducks, Common Grackles and lots of these guys pictured below, the Red Winged Blackbird. I wanted to try and get shots of the males while bellowing out their Spring calls. I thought with puffed feathers, mouth and wings open, it would look cool... better than a pose. I am happy with the few clear shots I got but I will try again on sunnier days wherever I see them.

Here is one of the half dozen or so ponds at the back of the grounds. You can see another Red Wing in the tree and the cliffs in the distance where the Kingfishers might actually nest.

Here is the back of the buildings, another pond to the left. A lot of money is going to be spent on the restoration of these buildings. I will post a link at the end of this blog for you to check out more on the restructuring of The Brickworks. It's all very exciting. Apparently they have a farmers' market here in the summer months!

This is the first pond you'd see upon entering the grounds.

This sign is posted for all to see right before entering the grounds... unfortunately very few dog owners follow the by-law. I've thought about blogging about why dogs should be on leash, and probably will at some point, but it you read the smaller print, you'll get the jist of the importance to control dogs out and about.

There is a leash free zone at The Brickworks. We only saw one woman and her dog in this area. The sign below I saw just before we went back to the car. This sign made me very sad. I just cannot go there in my head, thinking how people can do this... just go to parks and woods and toss their pets out, to fend for themselves and think nothing of it.

So, The Brickworks is full of history and it's full of nature. It holds a very promising *Green* future for all the city. Please copy/paste the link below to learn more about it and if you ever are feeling adventurous... go visit!

March 17, 2010

The Northern Mockingbird... my neighbour!

Who all knows about Mockingbirds? Who all has ever seen a Mockingbird? I never did until last year, and it's the only one I have seen. Funny enough is this one is right around the corner from me.

He lives in the area of Scarlett Rd and St. Clair. He can often be seen sitting on the traffic lights or light standards at the intersection watching the world go by while he sings his song... which is confusing, because as his name goes, he mocks other birds. The day I got these shots (March 16, 2010) he was chattering away like a Starling. A Mockingbird may also pick up other interesting noises (and repeat) in his territory such as car alarms, dog barks, creaky gates, etc.

He seems to be a very content bird. He travels back and forth from the east side to the west side of the street. There are a few coniferous trees about both sides that he flies in and out of. Good thing he wasn't in one when I went to take these photos or I'd probably have none to share. I assume he is so used to people passing him by that he had no issues about giving himself a good cleaning in the late afternoon sun.

When Ang and I first noticed him last year, we were in awe, as we never saw one before. So, on our trips to the grocery store or anywhere having us go through that intersection, we'd look out for him. I'm convinced he has made a couple visits to the backyard, as I know I've seen a Mockingbird here twice. Unfortunately I don't offer much in the way of fruits for the critters and most seeds are not his taste. I guess with all the chatter here it got his curiosity. I have planted some Holly bushes so perhaps he may become more of a regular as the berries grow?

Here's some cool facts about Northern Mockingbirds from

* It’s not just other mockingbirds that appreciate a good song. In the nineteenth century, people kept so many mockingbirds as cage birds that the birds nearly vanished from parts of the East Coast. People took nestlings out of nests or trapped adults and sold them in cities such as Philadelphia, St. Louis, and New York, where, in 1828, extraordinary singers could fetch as much as $50.

* Northern Mockingbirds continue to add new sounds to their repertoires throughout their lives. A male may learn around 200 songs throughout its life.

* The Northern Mockingbird frequently gives a "wing flash" display, where it half or fully opens its wings in jerky intermediate steps, showing off the big white patches. No one knows why it does this, but it may startle insects, making them easier to catch. On the other hand, it doesn’t often seem to be successful, and different mockingbird species do this same display even though they don’t have white wing patches.

* Northern Mockingbirds sing all through the day, and often into the night. Most nocturnal singers are unmated males, which sing more than mated males during the day, too. Nighttime singing is more common during the full moon.

* Northern Mockingbirds typically sing from February through August, and again from September to early November. A male may have two distinct repertoires of songs: one for spring and another for fall.

* The female Northern Mockingbird sings too, although usually more quietly than the male does. She rarely sings in the summer, and usually only when the male is away from the territory. She sings more in the fall, perhaps to establish a winter territory.

* The oldest Northern Mockingbird on record was 14 years and 10 months old.

March 14, 2010

Had Enough of a Rainy Weekend or Spring is Springing!

So, here it is the second weekend in March. We were spoiled greatly last weekend and much of the work week with sun and some double digit temperatures. I pretty much forgot that it is still winter here in Toronto. Along comes this weekend, and it rained and rained and rained some more... much more.

I guess it was one part "cabin fever" and another part of just a need to get out there and see what's going on in the woods near us, especially with migration starting up. I've seen the return of Red Winged Blackbirds a couple times the last week but Ang has not. So off we went! And with this rainy weather there was lots of birds and critters about and very few people. Sweet!

So, enjoy the photos and bits below. We had a few nice surprises in our trek!

First off being more Red Winged Blackbird sightings. We heard them well before we saw them. This guy gave us a backside view of him before finally turning around. As you can see he is a little full looking... he was in midst of making one of their very familiar calls.

He finally turned around to show us his beautiful markings.

Another usual suspect is one of many Northern Cardinals in the woods. The males are all very vocal right now as it's mating season!

This female Cardinal is playing a bit of a game of peek-a-boo with us and maybe with one of the boys trying to woo her.

We heard some really strange bird calls and looked for about 20 minutes before discovering the vocalist way up this tree. It's a Red Bellied Woodpecker! I still find it odd they have given him this name, what with that color on his head.

We went further along, figuring we were already rather wet, and thought we'd try to locate this Owl reported of living in the woods. We never did see the Owl but did spot this guy sleeping way up in the tree... it's a Raccoon. The rain was pouring down and he slept through it. I felt sorry for him but he didn't seem to care. One thing I will give our animal friends is that they certainly endure all seasons and weather better than humans. They just deal with it, the good, the bad and the ugly days.

On our way back to the car we spotted our first Chipmunk of the year. He didn't stay still for very long what with the rain coming down. He was a joy to see! Another sign of winter ending with the hibernation coming to a close as well.

Finally having enough of the rain, we head for home. Wouldn't you know it... within the hour of being home again, the rain stopped. I spent some time out back despite the gloomy skies and was treated to another sign of the changing of the seasons... a branch of Pussy Willows I planted 3 years ago, which now stands about 6 feet in height is blooming!

So, who needs more signs of Spring? The birds are returning. The clocks moved ahead this weekend. Buds are starting to sprout. Do we really need the news people to say so along with the calendar on the 21st?

March 10, 2010

Spring is here... even if the calendar says otherwise

Good news friends... Spring is here! Sure the calendar says it arrives on March 21st; but I say it's here now.

On Sunday March 7, 2010 I saw my first returning Red Winged Blackbirds at the Humber Arboretum. I was thrilled at the sounds of two males when I got out of the car.

A short bit later I spotted one to my delight.

On Tuesday March 9, 2010 I saw my first returning Common Grackles at Lambton Woods which is minutes from my home. A lot of people aren't keen on these birds but I enjoy them. I guess since I don't get masses of them until fall migration, I don't mind. I love their piercing yellow eyes, the blue/green colors of their heads and the jet black bodies.

If there is one bird in the area that I can see a resemblance to the dinosaur, it is the Grackle.

Anyways, sorry for the short bit... but I did need to share this bit of great news for those tired of the winter season (even though it wasn't a bad winter).

March 1, 2010

E76 Gets Around...

So, some of you might remember a blog from a couple weeks back regarding Port Credit and our Valentine tradition. In it, a photo, exactly as above was posted and a friend contacted me regarding the tagged Trumpeter Swan and how I should report it's sighting.

Well, I did just that about 2 weeks ago. I got a phone call last night from someone who received my report and was quite happy to hear from me. I did not speak with the man but do plan on calling him back this evening to confirm some of the information. In his voice mail, he did leave me reports from others on this exact Swan (E76). They are as follows...

- E76... is a male Trumpeter Swan
- On February 7, 2009, he was caught and tagged in Lasalle Park in Burlington, Ont.
- On August 23, 2009, he was sighted/reported at Macy's Bay which is 4km south of Honey Harbour up in the Midland, Ont. area.
- On February 13, 2010, I reported E76 in the mouth of the Credit River between Saddington Park and Snug Harbour in Port Credit.

So, from one sighting to the next is in the range of a 200 km distance; and from that sighting to my sighting is another 171 km. As I said, "E76 sure gets around".

I've never really given much notice to tagged wildlife before. After this experience, I certainly will. I don't exactly know where to report things but with the help of some friends and google, I will succeed. I ask that perhaps anyone reading this out there might consider it as well... and feel free to ask me for any help.

Lastly, this goes for the chance anyone comes across a deceased one as well. Those reports are just as important.