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Showing posts with label Tommy Thompson Park. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tommy Thompson Park. Show all posts

Tuesday 30 April 2019

Courtship Display of the American Woodcock

Sun Setting At The Leslie Spit Toronto

Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Address: 1 Lesle Street
Date: April 2019
Website:  www.torontobirding.ca

   Spring is in the air.  As the sun is setting, the courtship dance of the American woodcock is about to begin.  We joined an enthusiastic group of birders on Toronto's Leslie Spit to see this strange little bird in action.

A Taxidermied American Woodcock

   The American woodcock is a weird looking creature that has a round body, short legs, and a long bill.  Woodcocks also have their eyes up high on the sides of their head.  This lets them see 360 degrees.  They use their long bills to pull worms from the soil.  They can actually open and close just the tip of their beak to grab a worm underground as if using a small set of tweezers.  In Ontario, breeding woodcocks arrive in mid-April and courtships can last until the end of May.

Power Plant On Unwin Avenue Toronto

  Our group had come to the Spit just before sunset specifically to view the courtship display.  After some discussion from our group leader explaining what we would be seeing, we drove to a bend in Unwin Avenue and pulled over to the edge of the road.  Woodcocks like to breed in pastures, small forest openings or along a roadside.  A male will mate with as many females as it can and has no involvement in the nesting or caring for the chicks.  It is however, up to the females to decide if they are impressed with a male woodcock's performance and agree to mate.

Let the dance begin!

  It wasn't long after we parked that the woodcocks began to perform.  There were about three males competing in the area surrounding us.  Tonight they would have to attract a female by making their presence known over the occasional traffic noise and a group of about 15 noisy humans.  You can hear the sounds the woodcocks make if you listen carefully to the video below.

   First the woodcock makes what is called a "Peent" sound.  It will do this several times as it turns in place.  Next it will suddenly fly up into the air and do several large circular passes.  Its primary wing feathers create a twittering sound as the wings flap through the air.  After making the larger circles it heads back down to the ground much like a stunt plane at an air show.  It returns in small tight spirals to land almost exactly where it started from.  If no female approaches then it starts the whole process over again.  A male woodcock will do this courtship display every night during the breeding season.

CN Tower As Viewed From Leslie Spit

    As darkness took over, the performances continued.  We decided that standing on a poorly lit street staring up at the sky while traffic came around a sharp bend in the road behind us was not where we wanted to be.  We wished the woodcocks the best of luck and headed home.  Once again, the beauty and complexity of nature had amazed us.

Map of Our World
Tommy Thompson Park (Baselands)

Post # 249

Monday 30 April 2018

Snowy Day At The Leslie Spit

Who You Looking At?

Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Address:  1 Leslie Street
Date: April 2018
Website: www.tommythompsonpark.ca

  Snowy Owls are large white owls that spend most of their lives up in the Arctic.  They are usually found in Alaska and the territories of Canada.  We traveled to Churchill, Manitoba which is almost as far north as Nunavut and hoped that we might see one there.  We were not so lucky.  They breed even further north still, even as far as the top of Greenland.  In the winter they do come south and this is when you might see them in southern Ontario.  We had heard that some owls were out on the Leslie Spit in Tommy Thompson Park so we went to try and spot one.

Just A Tree Stump.

  It gets very cold out on the spit which juts out into Lake Ontario so most people don't get too far in the winter.  Snowy owls like the terrain out there as it reminds them of the Arctic tundra they usually call home.  Since snowy owls are almost completely white it is very hard to spot them in the snow.  It is still a difficult task even when the snow has gone.  This photo could have contained an owl but it is just a tree stump.

A White Bird On A Pole.

  Owls do like to perch on something where they can survey their territory.  In the photo above a seagull is doing the exact same thing an owl might do.  Sorry seagulls, but we already see you everywhere we go by the lake.

Dead Duck.

  On our first very cold outing we didn't see any owls.  We did see a poor duck who had possibly fallen prey to an owl, or one of the other raptors like a hawk or falcon that frequent the spit.

Ice Lines The Spit.

  On our second attempt we came across a photographer who had seen an owl up near the end of the spit.  We decided it was worth braving the cold to catch a glimpse of these beautiful birds.  It takes up to an hour to walk to the end of the spit and then the same time to get back again.  We made it all the way to the end but we didn't see any owls.  We suspect that the owls saw us.

Toronto Hides Behind The Islands..

  While we didn't get to see owls we did get a different view of Toronto.  At this point we were further into Lake Ontario than the Toronto Islands.   In this photo above you can see the Toronto skyline behind the Island trees.

Floating Bridge.

  The third time is the charm.  Once again we saw a photographer with a large, zoom camera.  We asked if they had seen anything exciting.  "There was a snowy owl" they said.   They kindly told us that they had seen it just beyond the floating bridge.  The floating bridge is usually a good spot to see swans, geese and ducks.

Swans, Geese and Ducks Are Not Snowy Owls.

Sorry swans, geese and ducks but today it is all about the owls.

A Female Snowy Owl.

  Luck was with us as not too far past the bridge on a long, curved branch sat a female snowy owl.  Adult females have the dark barred pattern, while the adult males are almost completely white.

Snowy Owl On Its Perch.
 Snowy Owl Gives Us A Look.

  We spent a good deal of time watching the owl watching out across the spit.  Unfortunately, we are not designed to sit happily in the cold winds that blow across the lake and decided we must head back.

Owl In The Distance.

  We took one more look back at the owl.  You might be able to spot it in the two curved branches on the left of the tree above.

Toronto Is Spitting Distance Away.  Okay, Maybe A Bit Further.

  We were headed back to the warmth of the city.  Soon spring will be here and the owls will leave and head back to the cold of the Arctic.  Thanks for spending some time down here with us.

Map of Our World
Leslie Spit

Post # 213