I started Saturday morning with a walk at Sarsaparilla Trail. It was cold but sunny, with the temperature only about 2°C when I left; I wore my winter jacket and brought a hat and gloves with me just in case. I was glad to have them, for the woods were dark and sunless early in the morning, and the air was cold.
As soon as I got out of the car I was greeted by the pleasant trill of a Yellow-rumped Warbler singing in the conifers just beyond the parking lot. I tracked him down and found a stunning male flitting among the branches. The males in their crisp breeding plumage are one of my favorite springtime warblers.
There were a few other birds foraging with the warbler; most of these turned out to be Ruby-crowned Kinglets with a few chickadees keeping them company. A couple of kinglets were foraging really low in the trees and I managed to get a photo of one showing his red crown.
I didn’t see a lot of birds in the woods at first. I caught a glimpse of a medium-sized bird as it flew off and thought it was a robin. Later, as I walked around a bend in the trail I saw an accipiter sitting on the ground! It flew off as soon as it saw me, but its presence explained the lack of birds. The only birds of note were a few White-throated Sparrows foraging among the branches of a fallen tree. On the pond, a couple of Ring-necked Ducks still remained, and had been joined by at least three Pied-billed Grebes.
I headed over to Mud Lake next to see if any more migrants had shown up. This was the first thing I saw when I reached the top of the ridge. Immediately my brain said “BIRD!!!” but then a split second later I realized it wasn’t a real bird. Someone clearly had a sense of humour!
A second bird – also not native to the area – was in the shrubs about halfway down the ridge.
I was hoping to find some migrants on the ridge, but the only birds present in any numbers were Yellow-rumped Warblers and Ruby-crowned Kinglets. I met Pat Blake and his wife Melanie on my walk and they said the same thing; the only other warbler species they had seen was a Pine Warbler in the woods. A single Red Admiral flew by while we were talking so I stopped to take the obligatory photo:
It was getting close to lunch time so we walked back toward the Cassels Street entrance where Pat had parked. I noticed a pair of Wood Ducks in the small bay close to the road and entered the woods for a better look. I’d read about a pair of tame Wood Ducks hanging out by the path and was thrilled to see them so close, especially the male:
I checked my bag and had only a small handful of seed left from feeding the chickadees; when I threw it onto the ground near the edge of the water both the male and female Wood Duck and two mallards came to get some! While I had seen female Wood Ducks feeding on land with the mallards at Billings Bridge one winter, I had never seen a male Wood Duck do this. Nor have I ever been so close to one!
These ducks are noticeably smaller than mallards. Indeed, the two mallards kept chasing the Wood Ducks away so they could hog the food.
Two more males were swimming in the water close to shore but didn’t come up onto the land.
Most people consider the male Wood Duck the most beautiful duck in North America, if not the world. It’s easy to see why it was given the Latin name Aix sponsa, which means ‘in wedding raiment’!
The female Wood Duck has a much more subtle beauty….until she displays the iridescent blue patches in her wings. While most other female ducks are plain, the female Wood Duck’s subdued tones of bronze and green, as well as her white eye-ring, speckled brown and beige body, and shaggy crest make her one of the most beautiful female ducks.
I had a lot of fun watching the ducks feed. It was a new experience for me, one that I hope to repeat!