April 5 2018 Hendrie Valley, RBG, Burlington, ON. The solitary Tree Swallow of a few days ago has company. On the Longwatch transect today we watched a flock of thirty or forty swallows coursing the length of the pond looking for food. At times like this, while the air is still cold and few insects are flying they depend heavily on emerging insects and larvae at the surface of lakes and ponds. It was cold, barely above freezing, and the Tree Swallows must be hungry. This photo includes thirty-two of the flock resting between end-to-end sorties over the pond.
My Bird of the Day was the first bird of the transect, a Red–breasted Nuthatch. Some may protest, What’s special about a Red-breasted Nuthatch? Well, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I like them, I like the blush of chestnut on the breast and their relative daintiness as compared to the more pedestrian White-breasted Nuthatch; and perhaps I’ve seen enough of the latter to last a lifetime. Red-breasted Nuthatches are not particularly uncommon it’s true, it’s all about where you are, they favour coniferous forests over deciduous, while I favour them in the reverse order.
Our efforts turned up a few nice first-of-the-year early arrivals: twos of Belted Kingfishers and Great Blue Herons, a Brown–headed Cowbird (there will be plenty of them to follow), and a Pied–billed Grebe. Among all the male Red–winged Blackbirds clamouring for attention we saw just one female, they always lag behind the males by a couple of weeks perhaps hoping to find they have secured a suitable breeding territory. And while the male red-wing is striking in black and scarlet, the female is quite different, she is more sparrow-like in browns and cream, streaked and mottled, but, and here is the beauty in this bird, she has a glorious peach-coloured wash on her face.
Speaking of sexual dimorphism, as we compared a pair of Wood Ducks at fairly close quarters, admiring the flamboyant plumage of the male in particular, my companion noted that the fashion world often finds inspiration in the world of bird plumages. Makes sense, although apparently we’ve applied the lessons in reverse with women’s clothing taking on colour and dazzling display while menswear stays with restraint and earth colours.