Our resident bird-watcher, Ken Morin, has been in the ravine three times lately. On his first trip, he observed a Cooper’s Hawk at close quarters:
All photos: The Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Here is his report for Thursday 22nd February 2018
Today while attempting a stroll in the ravine I was stopped by the icy way below the Glen Cedar footbridge. Up to that point I had seen only a few House Sparrows and a Cardinal but heard plenty of hammering, generators and nail guns firing. As I turned back from the workers’ sheds I ducked in behind to the small nook along the fence. This spot has been fortuitous in the spring and fall and today was no exception. As I stood I noticed some movement; peering between the limbs I found a Cooper’s Hawk, an adult, at eye level. It hopped over to a larger limb and observed me for several minutes before lifting off and away. Now, I realize that this is not an uncommon sighting in the ravine. I only wish to draw attention to the fact that one never knows what is about and it is good to stop and look and listen sometimes.
The real news of the day came on my return home and at a visit to the off leash. A Snowy Owl was reported perching atop an antenna along St Clair near Christie. All white, a male no less. A magnificent bird that inspires people. This species has been seen in Toronto and area along the waterfront mainly. This far uptown is quite remarkable! They will sit atop hydro poles for prolonged periods so keep your eyes peeled.
Friday 23rd February
Today I brought the crampons/icers so I could walk the length of the ravine. Nothing to report at the top end and very little until I sidelined by the end of the marsh. Between lamp posts 7 and 8 there is a path that leads up the slope beside the apartment block. Ventured along about 30 paces and heard some drumming and squeaking. A couple of Downy Woodpeckers were at work hammering away at a fallen log. I stood and watched at close range as they were unbothered by my presence. A Brown Creeper flew into an adjacent tree and started its upward spiral around the trunk. Then a gang of birds flew into another nearby tree and pecked at berries. Hard to define due to dull light, but I felt they weren’t sparrows. Eventually, as they moved into different positions the colouring became more visible. A dozen Goldfinches. Not quite in their beautiful breeding plumage, but starting to colour. Then, a White breasted Nuthatch landed and began its upside down bug hunt. The tree foragers were hard at it seeking insects. Finally, the Northern Cardinal which had been singing crossed over the trail path and the woodpeckers came along and continued their labours close to the walkway. What was lovely about this expedition was the complete lack of joggers, dog walkers and groups of whatnots. Just me and the birds.
On Monday 26th February, Ken observed a species that so far has not been recorded by us in the park: the Merlin:
This is his report: Today there was a species that has never been observed previously, a Merlin. This is an uber predator; for its size it punches well above its weight. Can’t imagine the ravine becoming a feeding pit for raptors. The hawks no doubt will have something to say about this.
The boys are back in town! While sitting on a fallen tree I could hear a soft trilling in the marsh up ahead. As I ventured along the path there it was – a Red Winged Blackbird in full mating plumage. The song was gentler than the usual concaree they belt out and it chatted softly after making its song. This caused other red-winged blackbirds to respond and I counted a half dozen in trees and flying about. The males arrive prior to the females (which are not to be heard or seen) and scout out territory. The marsh has become home to a small colony and needs to be protected from dog incursion. I informed several dog owners about this situation and most agreed that protection is in order. While many canines stick to the path with their owners while off leash, the individuals that let the dogs run wildly and freely are a concern. Not just the birds need protection; there could be turtles, snakes, salamanders, butterflies, etc. that don’t need the added incursion and stress. Not to mention the foxes, coyotes and coywolves.
Here is the tally for the morning: Chickadee, Robin, Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers, Cardinal, Red tailed Hawk, Junco, Goldfinch, Crow, House Finch and House Sparrow. Good birding to all.
Thanks to Ken for these reports of resident and returning bird-life in the ravine.