What marvellous weather we were treated to around Canada Day!! You just had to get outside and experience it head on. So I did a lot of cycling and a good paddle. There is a new gravelled rail trail that runs from Regional Road 9 just outside York across to McClung Road on the outskirts of Caledonia. It’s a great trail that backs up sloughs and forests and fields. On one jaunt I took it and then jumped onto the Chippewa Trail to get to the Mountain Brow in Hamilton. I couldn’t get over the large number of American Robins along the way, many of them young. It seems to have been a good year for them. Also, I counted at least 7 adult Brown Thrashers. The scrubby habitat along these trails would seem to be ideal for them. Let’s hope some unscrupulous agriculturalist doesn’t clear them to provide more acreage for soya beans or corn. On a second jaunt I took the new trail across to McClung Road and then followed it south to hook up with the Rotary Riverside Trail back to York thus completing a 19-km loop. I was pleased to find a group of Bobolinks close to McClung Road and within about a quarter of a kilometer of the huge new housing development that is going in. I’m not sure how far into the future these Bobolinks will have a home. I also noticed some young Tree Swallows beginning to congregate (if you can call 3 a congregation) on some wires. A sure sign that we’re well into Summer. [In rural western Kenya, where you can see 100’s, sometimes 1,000’s on the wires it is a sign to start planting, the rains are nigh.]
We paddled downriver from York to just several km’s beyond Cayuga. It’s a run I’ve made many, many times – I used to train vigorously for wilderness canoe trips. The river was fairly high from all the rain we’ve been getting and (most unusual) the wind was behind us. What a treat! But there was real cause for concern. When making this run you go under 3 bridges: an unused train bridge just downstream from Ruthven, another on the upstream edge of Cayuga (which has been incorporated into a lovely 3-km walking loop), and the new car bridge taking Highway 3 across the river. In years past these bridges have been alive with nesting swallows – Barn and Cliff. The 1st bridge had NONE; I saw 4 swallows around the 2nd; and no more than 10 around the car bridge. What’s going on?! In the evening I took a look at the bridge in York. Last year I counted at least 21 active Cliff Swallow nests. Birds were buzzing over and under it all day. But this year I had a hard time finding just 6 Cliff Swallows and these were up high feeding (except for one that finally dropped down and swooped under it). This is very concerning.
Yesterday we opened a few nets before checking the Purple Martin colony. We caught a few very young birds, not long out of the nest – Downy Woodpecker, Northern Cardinal, Yellow Warbler, Song Sparrow. Soon they’ll be all over the place. In the martin boxes there was a broad range in terms of timing: some nests still had eggs; others had very young newly hatched birds; and 2 had birds old enough to band (we figured they were about 12 days old) – these latter we banded.
1 Downy Woodpecker
6 Purple Martins
1 Blue Jay
1 Blue-winged Warbler
3 Yellow Warblers
1 Northern Cardinal
3 Song Sparrows
ET’s: 47 spp.
We have a “new” natural history pastime at Ruthven. There is a tunnel between the washrooms and the new Welcome Centre. At night it is lit. These lights have been attracting a wide variety of insects but especially moths. And for our new Education Co-ordinator, Michael Berry – a well-rounded naturalist – they are a burning interest (there’s no accounting for taste, eh?). He’s even been getting me excited about them! Awakening a latent interest. So if you show up early Michael will be happy to show them to you and identify most of them.
But here’s a date to mark down in your calendars: on Wednesday, August 28th, Michael will be running a program called Insects of the Night in which he will show you the many types of insects that are around at night and, because of this, largely unknown to most of us. It should be really interesting. The program will run from 8-9:30 at night. He would appreciate it if you’d register ahead of time and notes that, like most Ruthven natural history events, admission is by donation.