27 April 2014

Slow spring

It's been a slow spring; below normal temperatures, later than recently usual snow, and a slow migration.  So a TOC walk that's usually about early warblers turned into late waterfowl instead; not anything in large numbers, except red-necked grebes, but a respectable variety.  (Only two passerine species; Yellow-rumped Warbler and Blue-headed Vireo.)

The oddest thing to me was canvasback ducks in tiny ponds.  We don't usually get a lot of canvasbacks, and we certainly don't usually get them going all mallard and claiming ponds.  But there they were, as well as rather larger numbers -- tens, not hundreds -- in the big open cells.
Canvasback ducks
The lack of leaves and generally slow migration does rather give me hope for Leamington next week, though it may well be a bring-a-scope-to-Hillman sort of time more than an interesting warblers sort of time.

12 April 2014

There were birds

Eastern Phoebe
Downy Woodpecker
I do not possess a camera with the awesome reach of the Swarovski ATX 95 spotting scope, so instead of grebes (so many grebes) and White-winged Scoter and terns you're getting realistic views of small birds in trees.  Or at least vegetation.

11 April 2014

Truss Issues

There's a new pedestrian and cycle overpass for the GO transit rail corridor.  (The freights mostly go through rather north of the waterfront these days, what with the de-industrialization of the harbour and the extension of the land into the lake.)
Never seen this kind of bridge truss before.  Looks economical of material.

Three-quarters of the way across, looking straight back.
Does a really good job of making the point that the barrier to waterfront access isn't the Gardiner, particularly, but the rail corridor. (The Gardiner Expressway, an elevated roadway built in the 50s, for those not familiar with Toronto, is merely south of the rail corridor, falling down, and threatening to suck up the entire public works budget for the next decade to maintain an inadequate status quo.)

It's quite handy for purposes of getting across the train tracks, too.  I can think of places to put five or six more.

06 April 2014

To see again the northland spring

Northland spring, all right.
You can tell it's spring by the texture of the snow
Male Evening Grossbeak and a lifer
Just because there are lots doesn't mean they're not pretty
Grey Jay; for photography purposes a large and even more active chickadee
 I am fortunate in my friends and got up to Algonquin for some birding today.  Not an especially impressive list but Evening Grossbeak is a lifer and I hadn't seen a Grey Jay in thirty years.

Also, it was a really nice day for a walk in the woods, sudden path collapse to knee or hip deep snow notwithstanding.

04 April 2014

Ambiguous Swans

Heavily processed swan photo to bring out feather detail
I was originally pleased to see these swans while tramping about the Toronto Islands last Sunday; Trumpeters, I thought.  Nice to see some when the place is overrun with mute swans.

Then I got a better look; what you see through the viewfinder, even with the roughly binocular-equivalent magnification of a 250mm lens, isn't as much as one sees with the picture tossed over the width of the monitor.  (Not unless you've got a really teeny monitor.)

The swan on the right has a yellow loral patch; that would, if I were feeling very, very rash, mean "Tundra Swan!" but I know that in Ontario, there are some Trumpeters with yellow lores.  It's big and it's really yellow, though, which is not how Trumpeters tend to go; trumpeters with yellow loral spots tend to have faint, vaguely round spots, not the largish bright patch seen here. Neither swan has yellow feet, so I know they're not leucistic.  (The feet being about the only reliable way to tell with swans, since their plumage is already white.)

The swan on the left has, in another photo,
Over-exposed, but see that bit of red in the gape?
Has a little bit of red in the gape, but that goes with Tundra; it's only the red line of the closed bill that says "Trumpeter".

Some field guides will suggest Tundras have lighter, more delicate feet than Trumpeters; neither set of feet looks especially delicate, and neither looks banded, which argues against Ontario Trumpeters, most of which get banded.  Size is generally a useless character without another swan for reference, and both of them are way fluffed up, which will make them look big, and convolved for preening in the bargain, so neck posture characters are no help.  I have no ability to tell if they look proportionately long-legged, which goes with Tundra.  The Goldeneye duck surfaced in the open water between the swans in one photo (not shown!) isn't much help, either, since it's in view from its own port quarter and preparing to dive, not ideal conditions for being used as a ruler.

So I'm down to "Not all tundras have yellow loral spots", "the upper margin of the beak is a smooth curve, rather than showing the widow's-peak style point typical of Trumpeters", and "eyes notably distinct from the beak, as per Tundra, rather than subsumed in the rear margin, as per Trumpeter".

So if I had to say something, I'd say Tundra.  But I'd much rather get a swan expert to do it.

[I originally wanted to do single-exposure-HDR to bring up the feather detail in that first photo, but would need to know what I was doing rather than pushing "next" buttons to handle the "white bird on ice on a sunny sunny day" case, so the photo provided has had the exposure dialled way down as though it were not a sunny day at all.]

02 April 2014

Semi-decent longtail

It's a help that they're blasé about the ferry.
It's not a help that they're stocky little bundles of contrast.