3 August 2015. Windemere Basin, Hamilton, ON. Last night, as we drove to meet with family members for an early restaurant dinner, I looked up at an ill-coloured bank of rolling clouds hanging like the rim of a fat saucer and stretching across the sky from west to east. And while storm fronts like that are interesting and beg further investigation, it was of little consequence to us as it was apparently passing us by and besides, hungry people were waiting for us. Later I learned that it was a mere fraction of what was probably a circular thundercloud of some thirty of forty miles in circumference. Evidently it held a thunderstorm of satanic malevolence, which excited much media comment and attention. But we knew nothing of that and were peacefully ordering our dinner as it did its work; our town felt not a drop of rain. However three or four hours later another towering wall of inky doom came upon us and this time it made sure to startle and drench us.
This morning I looked out at a wet and flattened world and wondered whether any interesting birds had been blown in; it happens sometimes. Skipping breakfast I headed to the often-productive wetlands and settling ponds of our industrial periphery. There wasn’t anything new to see, at least not that I could make out within the reach of my binoculars or telescope; but I think things had been stirred up a bit. I could hear and just make out a few Lesser Yellowlegs picking away in the farthest shallows and I’d like to think I was seeing some Blue-winged Teal too, but between intervening reeds and distance I couldn’t be sure.
The waters of the river below me were laced with swooping, feeding Tree and Barn Swallows and to my surprise a Lesser Yellowlegs sometimes joined them, weaving and swerving quite swallow-like to pick food from the surface. I’ve never before seen such behaviour from a yellowlegs, or any shorebird for that matter.
In front of me, across the water about twenty metres distant, was the bank of an impoundment and I think that on the other side of the bank (out of my sight and reach) the feeding must have been good. A culvert pierces the bank on top of which there must be a path, in any event there’s a handrail of sorts above the culvert and it was popular with herons. In the half an hour or so I was there, some adults and a juvenile Black- crowned Night-heron, a Green Heron and a Great Blue Heron all lighted upon the handrail to watch over the waters below. I was captivated by them, partly because there was a compositionally pleasing picture to be had, the bird, the riot of wild flowers and the geometry of the handrail all seemed worth framing and giving up my scan for distant celebrities. Good enough to make them collectively my birds of the day. (Click on any of these photos to enlarge it.)