October 21st . 2017. RBG Hendrie Valley, Burlington, ON. With two companions I walked the transect route around this lovely valley. It was eight o-clock when we started and unusually warm for this time of year but it became dank and chilly as we headed down to where the cold airs of night had settled. This uncharacteristically warm fall has confused the natural world, daylight length tells you it’s late October but it still feels like mid-September. Trees and herbaceous plants know it’s time to close down for the winter but without frost and other low-temperature cues their leaves are reluctant to let go.
At a time of year when bird sounds are mostly chip notes, chatters and sibilant whispers, very few songs emerge; the likeliest to be heard are American Robins, Carolina Wrens and faint traces of White-throated Sparrows. Today as we followed the edge of the small creek I heard (or did I imagine?) the simple element parts of a vireo, the three-eight of maybe a Red-eyed Vireo. The idea, just the barest possibility floated around the recesses of my mind but was generally disregarded as impossible; until right in front of us a Blue-headed Vireo hopped into view. I ignored everything else and became quite vireo-absorbed in admiration and trying to get a photo lest anyone accuse me of distorting the truth. Here it is, Bird of the Day without equal.
A couple more surprises (to me anyway) came a little later as we made our way around a woodland-edged pond where I can reliably expect some loafing Mallards, Wood Ducks and a Great Blue Heron; they were there alright but so too were three each of Gadwall and Northern Shovelers. These must be newly arrived migrants and may not stay for long. I don’t expect to see shovelers until it’s a lot colder, usually mid-November. They’re all handsome birds: Mallard, Wood Duck, Gadwall and Shoveler and on a small woodland pond made a beautiful mental picture to go home with.