When I first saw the European Starling, I thought it was a female Common Grackle. The two species were often seen together in the backyard, with the Starling being only slightly smaller. The iridescence of its feathers is not unlike that of the Common Grackle.
A small bird, the Chipping Sparrow will feed on the ground and on the bird feeder. Often mistaken for the American Tree Sparrow, the Chipping Sparrow has a distinct black eye line. The crown of the Chipping Sparrow is also much more vibrant.
The Common Grackle is a noisy bird and they often gathered on the lawn and under the bird feeder. They are common throughout North America, often posing a threat to corn crops as a primary food source (Common Grackle Overview, 2019).
The Shade’s Mills Conservation Area is located in Cambridge, Ontario. With several kilometres of hiking trails through forests, this is a great urban forest to escape and engage in some forest bathing. Many of the trails are narrow, with thick undergrowth on both sides and branches overhead.
One of the most recognizable birds in North America, the Goldfinch is a frequent visitor to our backyard. The softer yellow of the female Goldfinch still stands out.
The bright plumage of the male is likely what most people recognize as a Goldfinch. Whether in flight or perched in a tree, he’s hard to miss. Unfortunately, he doesn’t sit around in one spot for long, making him difficult to photograph.
While the Dark-eyed Junco has a year-round range in southern Ontario, I haven’t seen one since April. This slate-coloured variation has breeding grounds further north that stretch to the northern Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Alaska (iBird Pro)
This bird preferred to scrounge beneath the bird feeder rather than on the feeder itself.
Often seen as the first sign of spring, the American Robin is easily recognized throughout North America. My first siting this year was in February, as we walked through the Laurel Creek Conservation Area. As winters are getting warmer, the year-round range of this bird seems to be expanding further north. The first Robin in my backyard was sometime in April and seemed particularly interested in the new vegetable garden I was working on.
A second Robin opted to hang out under the bird feeder as the Sparrows and Chickadees dropped seeds on the ground below.
These Robins appeared to be a mated pair as they both flew to a neighbours’ Spruce tree and disappeared from view.
We do a lot of gardening at home and removed the grass from our entire front yard to put in a garden of perennials and annuals. We have a hook that hangs from the front porch and decided to hang a very nice basket of Impatiens. Shortly after, a pair of Robins took up residence and built a nest. They really couldn’t find a better spot away from predators, with the bonus of always being dry. Given the angle, my Canon 80D was too awkward to use for pictures, so I relied on my iPhone XR. I was lucky enough to be able to see the nest from the front door and get pictures when the parents were away. The female laid four perfect blue eggs.
The baby Robins hatched after about 10 days, with four very pink fuzzy creatures eventually filling the nest.
The Robins grew quickly and their dark feathers started to appear soon after they hatched. Their eyes remained covered for the first week, giving them an eerie, alien-like look.
Eventually, all four baby Robins left home, leaving behind a heart-shaped nest.
After a full week of being away from the forest, we finally got a chance this past Sunday to drive out to a local Environmentally Sensitive Policy Area (ESPA). The Forested Hills ESPA covers more than 130 hectares, with rolling hardwood hills to the north and trails that seem to have no order to them.
To the south is the Waterloo GeoTime Trail; the trail is an interpretive walk through the City of Waterloo’s geological past.
We spent our time in the north end, wandering aimlessly and just enjoying the first day back into the forest. Signs of spring were starting to show up, including a single robin.
The highlight of the walk was a family of deer, likely a doe with two of last years’ fawns. It made me very glad to have a good telephoto lens, or else I never would have gotten these shots.
The ESPA is mostly public land, but there are private land parcels as well, including a sizeable one that has high wire fences and signs warning of trespasser prosecution. The fence has been forcibly removed in some areas, so hopefully the deer aren’t confined to the area.
One sign warns that a future development will take place on the property. In a time when there are already so few urban forests, I hope this will never happen for this tract of old growth.