After several days of gray, oppressive skies, Monday turned out to be beautiful and sunny. I decided to take my camera with me to work so I could go to Hurdman at lunch; however, even before I got to the bus stop that morning I found something interesting to photograph. A few thin, gauzy white clouds were spread across the sky, and in one of these I noticed the rainbow colours of a sun dog! Sun dogs are very common, but are seldom noticed. They appear twice a week in North America, on average, no matter what time of year it is, but are best seen when the sun is low in the sky. Sometimes they are so bright it appears as if there are three suns in the sky; at other times, only a smudge of colour is visible.
Sun dogs, also known as parhelia, are one of the most frequent ice halos. They are formed by sunlight refracting through hexagonal-shaped ice crystals high in the cirrus clouds. Each ‘dog’ is reddish towards the sun and sometimes has greens and blues beyond.
By lunch time the sun dogs were no longer visible. I arrived at Hurdman hoping to find a few migrants still around, but it was incredibly quiet. One feeder was still up along the feeder path, and in that area I encountered a handful of chickadees, a couple of Downy Woodpeckers, and a large flock of starlings. I noticed a single Cedar Waxwing among the 50+ starlings, and was happy to add this yellow-breasted summer bird to my November list. Still, there were no cardinals or sparrows or juncos or finches around, so I headed over to the river next.
There wasn’t a lot of variety on the river either. The only ducks I saw were a single Common Merganser and the usual mallards. Low water levels had exposed a number of rocks, and on these were perched several Ring-billed Gulls and a single Herring Gull.
On my way back to the bus station I followed a side trail to the river. I could hear several robins chirping and calling, and saw several among the trees and on the ground. I checked a small inlet to see if any mammals were around; I’d found both muskrats and mink in this area, but none were present today. Instead, three or four robins were bathing in the shallow water; there must have been about 20 in the area surrounding the inlet. It was fantastic to see them in the river, and the lighting made for some great photos.
I saw a smaller bird fly out from the water’s edge, and when it landed on a tree branch I recognized it as a White-throated Sparrow. It has been a while since I’ve seen one of these birds, and I wondered if it would attempt to over-winter here.
Even though there were few species around, it was great to be out in the sunshine on such a mild day. I could have spent a lot more time watching the robins bathing at the water’s edge, but all too soon my lunch hour ended and I had to go back to work.