Category Archives: birding

Seaton Hiking Trail

My British blood means that there is a very specific range of temperatures between which I am comfortable and willing to leave the house. That range falls between one-degree with several jumpers and about room temperature with slightly less jumpers. Anything outside of this range and I would rather be hibernating like an angry bear. However, autumn is soon upon us, and so revives my hiking.

ASeaton Trail Maplthough I would like to get back to my self-imposed springtime challenge of walking the length of The Don (read about that here), over the last couple of days, I have been walking The Seaton Trail.

The trail is located north-west of Toronto. It is about 13km (8 miles) long. There is a logistical issue with this trail that will make it more difficult than The Don.  There is no public transport. I will have to park my car, walk some trail, but then walk back to my car, thus doubling the length of the trail. At the time of writing, I have walked about half of the trail in two short days.

Day One

The Northern end of the trail begins just off Highway 7, east of York Durham Line (for Brits, this is the road that splits York “county” and Durham “county”). It’s about 30 minutes drive from where I live and there is a small parking area which was about three-quarters full when I arrived around 2pm.

jewelweedAs I began making my through the dirt trail, I rounded a marshy area with a small creek which was lined with Spotted Jewelweed, a yellow./orange flower speckled with darker spots. I was thinking to myself that they reminded me somewhat of the Snapdragon plant that is familiar to me from England, when I spotted a Ruby-Throated Hummingbird drink from one of the conical flowers, as silent and elusive as a wisp. It quickly zipped away, followed by a second hummingbird.

stairsI marched onwards. The terrain is easy, but there are occasional wooden steps to navigate as the trail rises up the valley walls, carved by the West Duffins Creek and the retreat of the Glacial Lake Iroquois which formed the water systems throughout Ontario around 13,000 years ago.

whitevalewaterfallThe weather was a little damp with occasional spitting rain, and so animal life was sparse, beyond a few brave Chickadees and an obstinate Crow. The trail ended at Whitevale Road due to bridge construction, but my GPS unit, with the trail marked on my map, showed that the trail had a loop. I took the other loop back to the start of the trail and eventually came to Whitevale Pond and a waterfall. A re-visit to this area during the spring of 2016 is called for, as I have since heard that Salmon make their return journey along this waterway, attempting to jump the waterfall. I disturbed a beautiful, prehistoric looking Great Blue Heron as I made my way around the pond. He flapped lackadaisically away towards some distant perch.


Day Two

I returned from where I had left off, near to Whitevale Road, about a week later. I was apprehensive at first. It was a whopping 26 degrees out, way above my usual threshold, but the day turned out to be a perfect for a walk in the woods.

I walked through the dew covered grass of Whitevale Park towards the trail, which was beautifully sun-dappled, thanks to the Maple and Fir. Each time a range of denser Fir began, the sound of scalding chickadees fluttered through the forest and the squealing, squeaking alarm of chipmunks as they would dash impulsively to the nearest tree. From their vantage point on the offside of a tree trunk, they would freeze, staring at you, almost certain that they were invisible to your threat.


Into the denser woodland, the floor coated in pine needles and fern, a distant, gentle “queedle” of two Blue Jays, a bird now considering its southward migration before the arrival of the unrelenting snow. Off the trail, the trees mostly left to their devices, some felled birch trees, their silver bark like wallpaper for the ground. Somewhere close by, a nuthatch, his unmistakable nasal report.

Several American Red Squirrels were fighting over the right to acorns and territories, all the better to store their horde for the harsher times ahead. No time to waste. As the trees thinned out, banks coated with Bur-Marigold were enjoyed by the community of bees, a species we now love but maligned for so long. And then, on top of a ridge, a vista of the creek.


The trail turned towards some open fields. Lined to the right by expired maize, to the left, apple trees whose deposited fruit sweetly perfumed the air. The trickling sound of the river, like a babbling brook, its sound emanating from the shallow riverbed of stones, rounded from decades of erosion.

daisyBeside the trail, some areas overtaken by white, yellow and purple weeds, Daisy Fleabane, Aster and Goldenrod, beloved by the insects that made this their home. Cabbage White Butterflies flew excitedly around, battling gentle breezes. A pale-yellow bodied dragonfly with neon blue wings.

I turned back once I reached Whites Road. There is parking here, so I will continue on at a later date. On my way back along the trail, back up in to the open fields, a pair of Turkey Vultures soared the hillside thermals in search of, perhaps, an unlucky squealing chipmunk. Some time later, back towards my car, a flash of yellow and a streak of black. A warbler, but my binoculars were in the car. A Blackburnian Warbler, I fancied. One of my favourites.

Parts 3 and 4? to follow.

Day One GPS Tracks:
Day Two GPS Tracks:

Bluffer’s Park

Bluffer’s Park is on the coastline of Lake Ontario. The Scarborough Bluffs (cliffs – kinda) are named after those in Scarborough, Yorkshire by Elizabeth Simcoe.Bluffer's park

I took a quick walk along the trail that heads east from the main ‘beach’ parking lot/car park, onto the beach. The trail continues west from the same parking area, but I was performing a flying visit to try out my new GPS unit I recently splurged on. You can see a 3D video of my walk using the data from my GPS unit.

I’ve been to Bluffer’s Park dozens of times, as it’s just down the road from where I live, and the erosion is pretty startling. I’m sure in the 7 years I have lived here, there is a visible difference. The houses built on top appear increasingly precarious. Some of the erosion is from rainwater, running down towards the lake (and causing a few muddy areas).

April is fairly early in the year, so the park was quiet when I visited. There were a few of the usual boy-racers who seem to think that this is an appropriate place to share their music with the people least interested in hearing it (which is the point and source of their pleasure – that and the in-car sex that happens in the evenings). I imagine that coming here earlier in the day avoids these people who are unable to prise themselves out of bed.

In grassy areas at this time of year, you’ll see dozens of robins. Near the parking area, the bluffs are covered in little pock-marks, but on closer inspection, these are actually the nests of a migrating colony of cliff swallows that can be seen closer to summer. The beach is usually covered in ring-billed gulls, and you can sometimes see ducks like mallards, buffleheads etc… and double-crested Cormorant regularly pass The Bluffs on their way to a huge colony, nearby. Other backyard/garden birds are common. From late spring to early fall, warblers can be seen. Also, many raptors pass by. Especially during migration.

My walk was soured slightly by an incident with a middle-aged pair of women who could not control their dogs. Dogs are not allowed off-leash (off the lead? off-collar?) on city property, except in designated areas, and it is exactly because of people like this that everyone else has to leash/collar their dogs. I was walking along the beach near to the cliffs, when I heard rustling. I thought it was running water, but then I saw movement coming from overgrown bushes with a gap under them that looked like some kind of den. A dog came running out and for a second, I honestly thought it was a coyote (jackal-like), until another fat black dog came trundling from behind. The dogs bothered a few people while their owners yelled at the unconvincingly. At one point, they bounded up to me. The smaller coyote looking dog bit me on the back of the leg. The owners were too far away, too disengaged. There’s no point complaining. The dogs will be put down instead of the owners 😉

Couple of older pictures from Bluffer’s Park:

Marina 2008

Bluffer’s Park marina, 2008

White-tailed Deer 2012

White-tailed Deer 2012

Lower Don Mills

Lower Don mapThe Don River empties into Lake Ontario where The Don Valley Parkway joins The Gardiner Expressway and Lakeshore Boulevard. Or if you’re from England – a few miles east of downtown/the city centre. Around 9km (5.6 miles) upstream, The Taylor-Massey Creek joins The Don River. I walked much of the Taylor-Massey Creek a couple of weeks ago, and you can read about that here. North of confluence, The Don River splits into East and West branches. Those branches eventually lead to The Oak Ridges Moraine (a system formed during the previous ice age that I’ll maybe write about another time). This particular hike covers the area where I last finished off – where The Taylor-Massey Creek joins The Don, heading south to Lake Ontario. The blue dotted line in the map opposite.

Don River 1I decided to make the trek along the Don River on April 1st, which may indeed have been foolish, as according to the forecast the previous day, rain showers were forecast for around 2pm. I figured I could manage it by setting off at 8am, but the day turned grey pretty quickly.

The weather is my excuse for all the photos turning out kinda grey and miserable looking, but honestly, the Lower Don Trail is nothing like as nice as the one running through Taylor Creek Park. It is more urban and the trees seem to have sustained more damage from the Toronto Ice Storm of 2013. You’re also never too far from The Don Valley Parkway on this trail.

The Don River was named by Lt. Gov. Simcoe because it reminded him of The River Don in Yorkshire (he also named Scarborough under the same reasoning). In the late 19th Century, the river was heavily polluted by the industry that had built up along its banks, including a paper mill at Todmordon Mills and The Don Valley Brickworks, at one time both operated by the Taylor Family mentioned in my earlier post. The mill at Todmordon Mills was restored into a museum and arts centre and The Don Valley Brickworks is a park and community and cultural centre.

Lower Don River 2

Many trees remain damaged from The 2014 Ice Storm

There have been efforts to restore the quality of The Don River, and in areas where wetland habitat has been created, there were signs of life. A few Red-winged Blackbirds cheeped their territorial calls, and a couple of pairs of Northern Cardinals were engaged in a quarrel. I also heard the verse of several Song Sparrow. Although I didn’t have time to explore Crothers Woods, it is a designated sensitive natural area.

20150325_092508North Toronto Wastewater Treatment Plant (i.e. Sewarage works) releases water into The Don River as shown opposite. They must be doing a good job of filtering the water. A group of Mallards and a lonely Bufflehead seemed to enjoy swimming through it.

I began to speed up my walk as I passed the halfway mark and the time was approaching noon. A more recent weather prediction was calling for rain… anytime now. I didn’t really have a plan to escape the trail in the event of a downpour, and I didn’t really want to quit now.

Lover Don River 4The Prince Edward Viaduct System (a.k.a The Bloor Viaduct) is named after King Edward VIII (Price Edward at the time of naming). It carries traffic on top and the Bloor-Danforth subway line below that. It was another messy construction area as I passed, but just beyond it was a grass pasture filled with dozens of American Robins, scuttling around like children playing Grandmother’s Footsteps/Red Light, Green Light, (What Time is it Mr Wolf/What’s the Time, Mr Wolf). I then immediately entered a dank tunnel plastered in graffiti.

Lower Don River 5Progressing, as the rain began to spit down, the trail became increasingly urban. Foot and road bridges began spanning the river, including the arteries of Gerrard, Dundas and Queen, followed by Eastern Avenue. Due to the tidal effect on Lake Ontario, The Don appeared to be running in the opposite direction at this point. A pair of Mute Swans took advantage, ambling upstream. The CN Tower was never too far out of sight, now. I crossed some freight rail tracks/train tracks in increasingly heavy rain before the trail detoured due to, you guessed it, more construction.

Mouth of The Don River

For the last few hundred yards, I was forced on to the sidewalk/pavement and under the crumbling Gardiner Express, the rusty iron that once lived inside the concrete structure ominously visible. Finding my way back to the river, I saw (as Wikipedia aptly describes the scene) The Don River unceremoniously dumping itself into Lake Ontario, still a little frozen in places.

I took the TTC/bus back to the car… Looking for a brighter adventure next time!

Taylor-Massey Creek Trail

Spring is here and so my hiking escapades have begun. Last Wednesday, I took a walk along part of The Taylor Massey Creek. I used to live beside this creek when I first moved to Canada and lived with my Grandmother-in-law. The creek (stream) runs behind her house (and was excellent at helping to attract birds to the garden).

Taylor Massey MapThe Taylor-Massey Creek starts at Pharmacy, just south of the 401 where storm water run-off enters a couple of ponds. While still narrow, it runs mostly south along a hydro-corridor (government land that over-ground power-lines run through) before, unfortunately, disappearing through private land and then underground until it reappears around Eglinton Avenue, through Pine Hills Cemetery (good birding!) and then through Warden Woods Park. It becomes inaccessible for a stretch through a golf course, before entering Taylor-Massey Park. Eventually it joins The Don River.

The Creek is named after the Taylor family, who emigrated to Upper Canada from Uttoxeter, Staffordshire. Originally living in Vaughan, they moved to what is now Toronto in 1834, ran a paper mill on the Don River and helped pioneer the use of wood pulp, instead of rags, as a paper source.

Daniel Massey, whose parents were from Cheshire before they emigrated to Massachusetts and later Upper Canada, was a blacksmith in Newcastle, Ontario. He founded the Newcastle Foundry and Machine Manufactory company in 1847. His son, Hart Massey, moved the annamassey_davidjasoncompany to Toronto. It has merged or been bought several times, but farming equipment bearing the name Ferguson-Massey is still made today by AGCO. Hart Massey was a philanthropist whose will helped to create the Massey Foundation in 1918. The Ferguson-Massey company funded the building of Massey Hall, which was later renovated using Massey Foundation funds. Hart’s grandson, Vincent Massey, was Governor General of Canada between 1952-1959. He founded Massey College and The Massey Lectures. Some of the descendants for the family have been actors in The UK (Anna Massey – Darling Buds of May, Daniel Massey – The Devil’s Advocate) and Canada (Walter Massey).

I have walked most of the length of the Taylor-Massey Creek before, where possible.,This time I walked from the golf course to where the creek enters the Don River. It was pretty quiet with just a few dog walkers and not much bird activity. Male Red-winged Blackbirds have begun to appear (they claim territory early in the mating season before the females also return from their southern migration). There were lots of active Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers, a few nuthatches and a plethora of Black-Capped Chickadees.

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My next plan is to walk the length of the Don River to where it enters Lake Ontario. Stay tuned….!

Bestview Park

leafpathTook a ride/trip over to Bestview Park after hearing reports of a Pileated Woodpecker in the area. The park is located at the northern edge of The Greater Toronto Area at Bayview Drive, south of Steeles. I walked south through the park, through woodland, along a trail that follows The Don River. I spotted a couple more salmon, though they were about as active as a pair of bricks. Probably a good spot for next year, as there was a dam that would require jumping.

No joy finding the Pileated Woodpecker, but did see a few Downy Woodpeckers and possibly a Hairy Woodpecker – couldn’t be sure. Although the end of Fall/Autumn is in sight, the colours are still beautiful.

At one point, a hawk (a red-tailed hawk, I believe) swooped overhead.




Salmon Hunting

I’m a little late, but I decided to try to spot me some salmon heading up-stream before Toronto descends into her winter slumber. Next year, I’ll go a little earlier, to try to catch them jumping. As it is, I spotted a few Chinook Salmon lazily circling near Bluffer’s Park, Scarborough.This ugly fellow, black because it’s male and in his up-stream hopped out the water a bit to get a better look at me.


trumpeterswanThere was also a bevy of Trumpeter Swans (what a great collective noun), which aren’t found in The UK. (Note the black bill, with no knob on the bill like the Mute Swan). I’ve seen these before, they’re not particularly rare, but hadn’t seen them in a while. These ones were tagged in the area and the same female has also been spotted in the Toronto Islands area in the past.


England Trip 2014

I just enjoyed 10 days in England and, while there, I was told a few times that I need to post more pictures of my day-to-day shenanigans. In turn, I began to think that I really ought to blog a little more. This is about the 5th reprise of this site. Hello, again.

Last time I visited my home-country was in 2012 and that was for my brother’s wedding. This time I was going to visit my new-born niece, Aliya, but there would also be a little more time to be a tourist. And I do feel like a bit of a tourist in England now. I’ve been in Canada for seven years. Time flies.

Landing in Birmingham was a little hairier than I was previously used to, as Hurricane Gonzalo was dissipating, but still making its presence felt. The plane was banking from side-to-side in gusting winds just feet from the runway. I’m usually pretty comfortable flying, but I did grip the arm rest a little extra hard. The touchdown ended up being incredibly gentle, and there was a little muted applause from other passengers.

My first day back in England was mostly relaxed. I popped into my old home-town of Kidderminster to buy a UK simcard for my phone, mostly so that I had data without paying through the nose for roaming. I got a simcard for about half the price I pay in Canada and got more features – just sayin’. Later that day, I got to meet my new niece, Aliya. She is tiny, at 6 weeks premature, and looks startlingly like by brother.

Day two was a visit to Merry Hill. Shopping in England is generally done on the high street, but there are shopping malls and Merry Hill is one of them – though it is affectionately known as Merry Hell to many. My Mum was terrified of buying any clothes for my upcoming birthday, so she patiently followed me around dozens of shops, many revisited, while we searched high and low for the perfect jacket. I didn’t even know what I wanted. I think I drove her and my wife completely nuts by the time we were done. We stopped off at an ASDA Cafe (Walmart type store which often includes a cafe) and had some pretty dire food. I had a burger for £4.50 ($8) which is cheap, but the patty was so dry, I think it may have been found on the floor. But then, ASDA Cafes aren’t aimed at me. They are aimed at old people who have lost their sense of taste and like to sit together at table and reminisce about the good old days of rationing.

imageDay three consisted of a long walk from my Mum’s house, along the River Severn, to my step-grand parents and then back again, via Stourport town centre. The River Severn is the longest river in England and it’s a great place to spot birds… though maybe less so at this time of year. We did see a Kingfisher, though. The River Stour and The Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal also both run through Stourport, so there are lots of canal boats/narrow boats. Interconnected canals and rivers mean you can get pretty much anywhere in the country in one of these, and some people even live in them.

imageDay four was spent with my Dad in Worcester, the county town of Worcestershire, as you may well intuit. It is home to an impressive cathedral (which we didn’t visit this time) and Worcester Guildhall, the local government building (which we popped into). The walls are lined with paintings of Worcester’s past mayors. The weather wasn’t so kind, so after grabbing a few bits and pieces, we were on our way.


imageOn day five, we attempted to go for a quick walk behind my Dad’s house. He has long garden that stretches back, descends several levels and eventually comes out, via a wire gate, into some woods. It reminds me of The Secret Garden by Frances Burnett. There are fresh water springs in the woods, wooded areas, ponds and openfields – but it had been raining and has become a little overgrown, so we didn’t have much look. Later, we went in to Birmingham City Centre, had a greasy breakfast, did some shopping, visited the new Birmingham Library and stood around like tourists taking pictures of Birmingham City Hall.

On day seven, we took a trip from Kidderminster to Bridgnorth on the Severn Valley Railway, a heritage steam railway line still decorated in a Victorian style. We enjoyed a market in Bridgnorth, but the point is the train experience which is, of course, a peculiarly British thing to enjoy.

Day eight was my birthday. It began with another walk along the river and then another through Wyre Forest, one of the largest ancient woodlands in Britain. Not the best time of year for animal/bird spotting, be mostly saw a variety of tits (relatives of the chickadee and titmouse). We went to a local pub for my birthday.

Day nine, we travelled into Wales to go Red Kite spotting. We took a scenic route that would take us through the Clee Hills in Shropshire, near the Worcestershire border. Sheep roam freely and there are good views of patchwork green, even in the drizzly rain we had.


Red Kites almost became extinct in The UK because of poisoning, nest destruction and egg theft, but have made a comeback thanks to conservation efforts. We went to a farm where these birds have been fed meat for a number of years. It was pretty startling to see so many, though we missed the bulk of the action due to a cock-up based on daylight savings time changing a couple of days earlier!  Note: not my photo.

Our remaining full day in England was spent re-visiting Kidderminster and Worcester to try to pick up a few bargains on clothes, which are generally cheaper in England… at least at value end of the market 😉
I spent a bit too much, I expect… based on having to mess around with my case at the airport, to get it down to the correct weight.


I Got 75 Birds and a Finch Ain’t One (Part 2/4)

Let’s continue blasting through the birds I have seen this year. Part One is: here

House Finch16) House Finch

To contradict the name of this series of articles, here is the second finch so far. There are probably half a dozen House Finch that visit my birdfeeder. They have a nice song, and are quite common. I often see them on the way to work.


Canada Goose17) Canada Goose

As if there aren’t enough of these! But it’s fun to see goslings in spring. Near where I live, they march across the road, indifferent to the traffic chaos they cause. I enjoy seeing drivers chewing their steering wheels in rage. Many are now non-migratory (due to human feeding), but some still fly south for winter in V-formations.

Mallard18) Mallard

Very common, although I did enjoy the occasion where a male and female mallard decided to start nonchalantly sunbathing in the backyard beside the garden pond. Also saw some duckings earlier in the year, chillaxing in a large puddle, trying to keep cool.


Common Tern19) Common Tern

Looking like a gull at first glance, they have an amusing call. They sound a bit like Killdeer (coming up). You can see a lot of these down on the Leslie Street Spit. I also see a small number of Common Terns flapping around, calling like their excited about something, around where I live.

Killdeer20) Killdeer

Amusing bird named after the sound of its call. Couple of these were nesting near to where I live, and had a couple of chicks in early June. When a Killdeer’s nest is threatened, the bird pretends to fall and flaps as if its wing is broken so that you might be distracted.

Northern Cardinal21) Northern Cardinal

Shy at first, I now get a pair of these birds regularly visiting my feeder in the backyard. A male, which is bright red, and a brown female. I’m fairly sure that they have had at least one chick because I’m now seeing another that is either a young male or a female. Cardinals have a very distinct 2 or 3 tone call and they stick around the area all year.


Gray Catbird22) Gray Catbird

I learn more about birds all the time… and this was one bird that I encountered before I knew about it. It is named after its call (it sounds like a mewing cat) but I actually thought I had heard a child crying, the first time I heard it. It is a mimic (and is a kind of mockingbird) and, although common, they are good at hiding. There’s one living nearby, but he hasn’t used my feeders.

Song Sparrow23) Song Sparrow

There are many different species of sparrow. This one drove me bloody nuts for weeks because I kept hearing its consistent song in the backyard, on the way to work and generally walking around, but I could never see it. Listened to loads of recordings, but eventually saw one singing at the Leslie Street Spit.

White-crowned Sparrow24) White-crowned Sparrow

These sparrows are tough to identify, so luckily, I had some help from a seasoned birder at the Leslie Street Spit. It is made difficult because they are really similar to the next bird. It takes some patience, and they have to be “showing” quite well, to be sure.


White-throated Sparrow25) White-throated Sparrow

Another sparrow, this one is identified by the yellow “eyebrow” and the striped head (similar to the above sparrow). Saw a few of these at Pine Hills Cemetery and a field full of them near to the Leslie Street Spit.


Blue Jay26) Blue Jay

Quite keen on these birds! There’s a huge male (I assume) who visits the backyard, but only rarely. I’ve only managed to photograph him twice. Last year, I had a nice encounter with one at Warden Woods where he had found an ants nest and was feasting on them. I made a quick post last year about it.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak27) Rose-breasted Grosbeak

I don’t know whether I adore or detest these birds. The very first day I put out bird food in the backyard, three of these birds arrived! But I haven’t seen a single one since then. Around the same time, I saw two at Pine Hills Cemetery… but again, I haven’t seen one there since then.

Downy Woodpecker28) Downy Woodpecker

I like these. They are small, an occasionally a bit silly. I’ve seen them trying to peck holes into telegraph poles in the street. There is a female who visits my feeder, on-and-off. She has had at least one chick, as I have seen her take peanuts from the feeder into a tree where she has fed the young bird.


Northern Mockingbird29) Northern Mockingbird

There’s a family of mockingbirds (Male, female, juvenile) near where I live on some scrub land. I see them regularly. There’s also an impressive mockingbird near the entrance to The Spit. He’s an excellent mimic. He is able to copy the sound of gulls, robins and electronic car alarm sounds.


Red-eyed Vireo30) Red-eyed Vireo

I’ve only seen one of these, by chance, in a tree-line while walking the dog. Couldn’t figure out what it was while it had its back to me, but once it turned around, I saw the tell-tale red eye that it is named for.


Brown-headed Cowbird31) Brown-headed Cowbird

During spring, I had a couple of these feeding in the backyard. They seem to have moved on along with the grackles I used to get. They are normally ground feeders and they are “brood parasitic” – they will lay their eggs in the nests of other birds, like cuckoos do.

Turkey Vulture32) Turkey Vulture

Ugly! Once you get out the city, these can often be seen flying beside the highway looking for eats. I’ve seen them driving beside lakeside roads just outside of the city, too.They will sometimes roost on top of man made posts or telegraph poles.


American Kestrel33) American Kestrel

Seen one of these. I was initially puzzled as to what it was. I thought, at first, that it was a Peregrine Falcon, but a fellow-bird (and nature) lover on facebook told me it was an American Kestrel. The one I saw was a juvenile and was at rest near some train tracks near to where I live.


Double-crested Cormorant34) Double-crested Cormorant

Living near Lake Ontario means seeing quite a few of these sea birds. There is a colony living at The Spit and there are plenty to see near the Scarborough Bluffs. They are named after the white “crests” that they display during breeding season.


Rock Pigeon35) Rock Pigeon

Well, it’s just a pigeon, isn’t it? Sometimes known as a Rock Dove, I’ve counted this. They can be both wild and domesticated. You’d have to be blind not to have seen one of these. Anyway… next bird, please!


Mourning Dove36) Mourning Dove

These are all over the place, too. I’ve started getting them on my biggest feeder in the backyard. They’re a pain, because they eat too much. I started off getting one bird. Then another came along. Now I get about five of the damn things. My usual tactic is to spray them with the water hose.


Chimney Swift37) Chimney Swift

Another quite common bird, often spotted at a medium-altitude chippering away with each other as they eat while flying, feeding on flying insects. They migrate a long distance and are mostly around Ontario during the summer.


Thus ends part two of this series. Part three will be an awfully exciting “British Special”, covering the birds I saw while in England at the end of June.

I Got 75 Birds and a Finch Ain’t One (Part 1/4)

During the depressing winter months, I set myself a task. A task that would help me to make the most of spring, when it eventually arrived. My mission would be to spot 75 different bird species. With a trip to England taken into account, I felt as though it was a sufficiently challenging target, but achievable.

The only rules are:
*It has to be wild. Domestic birds, like chickens, don’t count. Nor do confined birds, like those at a zoo or sanctuary.
*I have to be 100% sure of which bird it is (or someone with me that I trust has to be sure).

Incidentally, despite the title of this blog, I have seen several finches 🙂

Black-capped Chickadee

1) Black-capped Chickadee

I’m very fond of these birds. They are backyard visitors, but more during fall and winter. I’ve seen and heard them during walks at one of my favourite local spots. They are easy to “phish” (attract by making bird sounds). They’re related to the Tits found in Europe.


American Robin 2) American Robin

Very common throughout North America, these thrush related birds can be spotted singing from trees and posts, fighting other Robins or Starlings and munching down on nice fat worms. They’re named after, but unrelated to, the European/British Robin


American Goldfinch3) American Goldfinch

These small birds are bright yellow in Spring & Summer, but then fade. Their “per-tee-tee-tee” call sounds like giggling (to me, anyway). There are lots of them where I live, but they can be too shy to use my feeder with so many sparrows around.


Ring Billed Gull

4) Ring-billed Gull

Very common gull in the area. Named after the obvious black ring around the yellow bill. See dozens of these every day, either flying over the house or out-and-about terrorising people for food.


Great Blue Heron

5) Great Blue Heron

Since I live near Lake Ontario, these large birds occasionally fly over the house. Seeing them fly past makes me do a double take. They are prehistoric looking. Is it a heron or a pterodactyl?!


European Starling6) European Starling

Introduced to North America, this common bird is all over Toronto. And pretty much everywhere else in the world. Don’t see them in the garden too much, as they tend to feed from the ground competing against American Robins.


Red Tailed Hawk

7) Red Tailed Hawk

These birds of prey are similar to Buzzards in The UK. They can often be seen circling in the sky, and have adapted fairly well to urban living. Many nest in parks, but some are at home on high-rise buildings.


Black-and-white Warbler8) Black-and-white Warbler

This is one of my favourite birds, certainly my favourite warbler. I love the pattern. They are migratory. I’ve only seen one this year, around May at The Leslie Street Spit birding spot. I had some help from a birder, in spotting this elusive bird.

Yellow Rumped Warbler9) Yellow Rumped Warbler

Another warbler, but this one is a little more common. Spotted this one, again with help. Warblers migrate north during spring and, after crossing Lake Ontario, will often feed and rest at The Leslie Street Spit.


Yellow Warbler

10) Yellow Warbler

Seen in May and needed help identifying them, initially. But since then, I’ve seen a fair few of them. They remain in wooded areas of the Toronto area during summer, to breed, before heading south to the southern USA.

Cape May Warbler11) Cape May Warbler

Yet another warbler, mainly because I went on a birding walk during their migratory period. The guy that was leading the walk LOVED this bird. The bird that got him into birding. He got very nostalgic. Almost teary-eyed! Tough to spot, as it only passes through the area, so I’m lucky.

Palm Warbler12) Palm Warbler

Last warbler, I promise! Can be tough to identify, until you spot the cap on his head. Not as common as the Yellow Warbler, but I saw a few of these passing through on their northerly migration.



Grackle13) Common Grackle

Here for most of the year, but particularly during early summer. Bit of a pain in the backside. They are aggressive and were overwhelming my feeders for a while. Got to the point where I had to provide safflower seed (which they avoid) and scare them away. Easy to spot by their long tail, bright yellow-green eyes and their robotic sounding call.


Red-winged Blackbird14) Red-winged Blackbird

Very common during spring, into summer. Males migrate and claim territory in order to woo the female as she arrives later. Very territorial. Will even dive-bomb humans in some more rural spots. Had three separate males using my feeder during spring. Have a shrill gurgling kind-of call.


Baltimore Oriole15) Baltimore Oriole

This bird sums up the success (and luck) I’ve had this year. Originally, I had hoped to see at least one Oriole in 2012… But I’ve seen about two dozen of them. Saw 3 at Leslie St. Spit and there are lots of them at Warden Woods Park.


Part two to follow…