16 July 2014 Hamilton, ON. The house is a riotous place these days; our daughter and her boys (a five-year old and two-year old twins) are staying with us while their kitchen is being renovated; dad is at home with the dog. This state of affairs will continue until the reno’ is complete; in other words, it’s indeterminate. I mention this because meal times, a frantic scramble to fill hungry mouths with something nourishing that will bring peace upon the house, are not unlike the struggles going on in the bird world. Fledglings are out of the nest and parent couples are trying to keep up with the endless calls for more attention. Feed me – feed me – feed me.
After a morning spent in volunteer weeding and planting, I took a long walk though woodlands and along lakeside trails and, as is so often the case, when you take the time to watch quietly, all sorts of mini-dramas unfold.
I watched the mealtime of a handful of young Barn Swallows lined up on a fence. One of the parent birds took a few quiet minutes to attend to its summer moult. I took some quick photos and you’ll see in one of them (the ones with outstretched wings – and note the claws holding on tight), that it’s missing a couple of flight feathers. (Visible only on the website, not if you’re reading this as an email) There are a couple of loose feathers in the under-wing lining and its body contour plumage is looking a little ragged too.
Later, I sat for a long while at the end of a marsh boardwalk just watching over a wide shallow lake. A couple of Great Blue Herons paced around watching each other carefully, a White-tailed Deer waded to the grass growing greener on the other side and, way off in the distance, one of our young Bald Eagles sat on a partially submerged log begging for food. Its parent attended solicitously helping to shred a fish and, when it looked as though the youngster had had enough, flapped away, pestered by a band of Common Terns following like the flies that might surround you on a country walk. When the time was right, the adult scooped another fish and delivered it. This is the second year that our local Bald Eagles have raised a brood, they’ve become minor celebrities and today these two, adult and child, were my Birds of the Day.
As mid-day wore on, it became wearying trudging those trails, but I was rewarded by the sight of a Scarlet Tanager, still blazing like a red-hot coal and singing endlessly from the top of a Red Ash tree. A singing Scarlet Tanagers sounds almost bored with its see-sawing rhythm, I wrote it down as “S’there ya are – Now t’ meetcha”..
Another good sightings was a Wood Thrush eyeing me nervously from the forest floor and heard, but not seen, were: A Black-billed Cuckoo, Red-eyed and Warbling Vireos and Swamp Sparrows.