Monday, March 05, 2007

Winter Walk in the Don

Went on a ramble in the Don this weekend and came across a few interesting things which warranted a picture or two...

Strange tracks in the snow

We walked through the back area of Todmorden Mills to see if the Skunk Cabbage were blooming yet. We could just barely see them sprouting so they didn't seem worthy of a photograph. However we did come across some strange tracks in the snow (see picture). They are quite large at least 8 cm long and 6 cm wide. At first I thought it was some humongous animal like a heffalump, but my companion informed me that no, it was not a heffalump. More likely it is a snowshoe hare. Apparently as it hops through the snow its four paws come together in this pattern as it prepares to hop to the next position. It move this way, especially in deep snow.

Ducks in the river

Further north we spotted some ducks swimming in the Don River. I'm a bit of a novice when it comes to birds and didn't know what they were so I took a picture anyways. I looked them up later and my bird book informs me that the first three are likely Common Goldeneye. The last two I am not sure, maybe White-winged Scoters, although they could be immature Goldeneyes. We also spotted a Belted Kingfisher with its distinctive chittering call as it skimmed across the water surface. If these birds were foraging here it must mean that they hoped to catch something, a small fish or maybe a crayfish.

Winter at Beechwood Wetland

We passed by the Beechwood Wetland and wandered over to the ice-covered pond. I took this shot of one of the trees. I particularly liked the diffused sunlight as it peeked out from behind the clouds.

Small bird nest

In a field near Beechwood I noticed this bird nest hanging from a broken branch in the middle of a rose bramble. I extricated it for a closer look. It is about 4 cm in diameter so fairly small. The twigs appear to held together with dried saliva which I've heard is not uncommon for nest building. I have no idea what kind of bird builds this type of nest so if anybody knows something post a comment!

Ice formation at the Brick Works

On the wet west wall at the back of the Don Valley Brick Works a wall of shale always has some ground water seepage. In winter it freezes making these unusual ice formations. It's a great place to visit. When you stop to listen you can here the trickle of water beneath the ice.


Anonymous said...

Best place to see ducks in the Don is down by the Redway Road sewage treatment plant (in CW). There's an effluent pipe near the parking lot by the trails, and with the constant outflow of warmer water, the ducks hangout there year round. Sometimes in quite sizeable groups too.

Anonymous said...

Also... that first strange track in the snow is a rabbit of some kind, if memory serves me correctly.

With the huge rabbit population explosion last year, I'm not surprised there's more coyotes... more big birds too, plenty of tasty little bunnies for both.

Might have seen real hares too, but then again, maybe I just saw full sized rabbits sitting alert.

Marnie said...

I've consulted my favourite expert (hi Dad!) and he says that's a sparrow's nest -- perhaps a white-throated sparrow.

Anonymous said...

If the nest is 4cm in diameter and not 4inches, it's far too small for a sparrow...perhpas a hummingbird.

Anonymous said...

A couple of comments: A few weeks back I saw similar rabbit tracks around Beechwood, and followed them... all the way to a quite startled cottontail rabbit. The tracks also led to some very well chewed young sumac.

On March 18 I saw what I later tentatively identified as common goldeneye ducks in the Don, both males and females. I remember seeing them last spring as well, but never during the summer. Perhaps they're just passing through town.