Thursday December 28, 2017, marked the first in my series of photo walks taking place at several of my favourite birding locations. During these two hours walks, participants are guided through the area while I offer birding and photography tips as we stop along the way to photograph birds and wildlife in their natural environment. To make sure everyone receives personal attention and instruction, group size is limited to six participants.
The inaugural photo walk took place in London’s Spingbank Park. This location was chosen due to the abundance of birds and wildlife found here throughout the winter months and the close proximity at which these species can be observed and photographed. The walk began at 10 a.m. as by this time the sun is high enough in the sky to clear the treetops providing excellent light on our subjects. Between 10 a.m. and noon also happens to be a time of day that I find birds quite active, often feeding, which makes for more successful birding and photography.
This past week we experienced the first real cold snap of winter with wind chills between -20 and -30 Celsius every day. Fortunately on this day winds were quite light, and we were treated to the warmest day of the week so far.
Heading west, we observed a variety of waterfowl on the Thames River including Common Goldeneye, Common Mergansers, and Hooded Mergansers. These three species regularly overwinter on the river each year and with more cold weather in the forecast expect their numbers to increase as the Thames will be the only open water available in the area.
Making our way through a stand of cedar trees, Black-capped Chickadees were the first songbird to be observed. Hearing the high pitched calls of the Golden-crowned Kinglet we looked up and saw several of these birds feeding on the seeds high up in the cedars. Even higher up, among the tops of the cedars, a flock of Pine Siskins were observed feeding.
As we continued west past the defunct Springbank Dam, Blue Jays, Northern Cardinals and American Goldfinches were seen and heard. Out on the river, hundreds of Canada Geese and Mallards were observed. This particular section of the park is typically best for waterfowl, so our observations were quite typical.
In my last blog post, A Proven Hot Spot For Winter Waterfowl, I mentioned the small pond adjacent to Storybook Gardens and the wide variety of waterfowl I have observed here over the years during winter. This was our next stop to see if any unusual ducks were present. As we combed through all the Mallards a few American Black Ducks were observed.
As I scanned the far bank, a patch of white caught my eye. This easily could have been dismissed as snow on a fallen log, but as I looked closer I could see that this was in fact the breast and neck of a male Northern Pintail. This duck was sleeping comfortably with its head under its wing not presenting well for photos. We decided to leave this bird and look again on our way back in hopes that it may be awake and more acitve. Fortunately, we did later relocate the male Northern Pintail as it provided better views and images of its beautiful plumage.
Northern Cardinals were a favourite bird of the group and several pairs were located on this day. At various locations, the light through the clouds illuminated these birds beautifully as we made our way through the park. Several questions were asked regarding proper exposure and I was happy to provide advice on this with participants quite satisfied with the images they were able to capture.
Continuing along, a juvenile Bald Eagle made a close pass providing great views. Later in the walk, this bird was observed again soaring high overhead. A lone Belted Kingfisher was located perched high above the river on a wire and observed trying to capture food as it dove repeatedly into the water.
As we made our way back through the park in the direction of our vehicles, more songbirds were encountered. Dark-eyed Juncos were observed low to the ground feeding on the various seeds from this year’s wildflowers. White and Red-breasted Nuthatches were seen foraging along tree trunks while the calls of two Brown Creepers alerted us to their location.
All in all it was a great day birding with several species observed, many of which presented great opportunities for photographs. Participants were happy with the birds encountered and the images they captured, while I was grateful to share my passion for birding and photography with the group. If you would like to be among the first to register for upcoming photo walks, please contact me and I will notify you once they have been scheduled.
I would like to express my appreciation for those who braved the cold weather and made this day such a success. With another photo walk scheduled next week at another location, I look forward to seeing more familiar faces while meeting a few new ones. London, Ontario truly has some excellent birding opportunities and sharing my knowledge of local areas is something I am really looking forward to in the new year.