Category Archives: chickadee

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….!

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…

 

 

Introducting… Birdcam

I haven’t posted for over a month. The reason for that is: it is spring. My bird related activities are taking up more of my time as it’s a peak time for birds to migrate, flirt and find a mate. I’ve been doing a lot of birding, which I will write about another time. Another preoccupation is what I am ridiculously calling Birdcam.

Intel WebcamI have been trying to attract birds to the backyard. My enjoyment of birds is matched by my enjoyment of photography, and as such, I have put together a rudimentary webcam/bird feeder setup. Aka Birdcam.

It started off pretty terrible. You could make out vague shapes and only just. Not to mention that the feeder was new and birds were scarce. This was birdcam v0.1b. It consisted of a 10 year old Intel webcam plonked on the ground and a 6ft usb cable poked through the gap in a window, connected to a laptop. The camera was about 10 feet away and was only capable of something like 340px by 140px.

Logitech WebcamI visited a dollar store and picked up 3 USB cables of 6ft each, though this pushed the boundaries of the USB 16ft limit… and when I tried tethering the cables together? the webcam died. Birdcam v0.2b was a slight improvement.

A visit to Bestbuy resulted in a bit of a bargain on an HD webcam I liked the look of. I set it up and the picture was decent. It was now possible to ID birds with obvious shapes or colours (eg. Cardinal, grackle). I also got a slight bonus with this webcam…

I went back to my three USB extension cables, just to see if it would work.. and it did. I was now able to get 6ft closer, and had a better camera. This, together with making a temporary platform for the camera to sit on led to what I am calling Birdcam v1.0 and it has taken some reasonable images.

Squirrels have now been dissuaded from gorging on the food by the application of grease on the pole. This seems to suffice, but if they return, I will add a baffle made from the top portion of a large pop bottle.

American Goldfinch

Female Northern Cardinal in mid-flight

I have continued to work on improvements. The camera is now enclosed in plastic to protect it from moisture. It is now on a sturdy tripod. I also cut off the side of a square flower pot and then laid it sideways, ontop of the camera to offer some housing against wind and heavy rain.

Birdcam v1.0

Birdcam in yard

I have an idea of where I want to go with this, but have spent enough on feeders, a webcam and seed in the last week that I’m taking a break first. Somewhere buried away, I have a DV camera which should offer better picture quality and colour reproduction. On the downside, it would need external power and much better moisture protection. I may experiment.

As for the feeding area, I would like to expand the offerings by providing a feeding table (for birds that do not use hanging feeders) and a water supply to attract more visitors. One of the friendliest birds in North America is the Black-Capped Chickadee. I would love to see more of them, but they seem a little scarce in this neighbourhood. They are some of the easiest birds to condition to hand-feed.

hand feeding chickadee