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A great day for birds at High Park

Today’s nature walk with Miles Hearn took place at High Park, on a windy and cool morning. This is a great time to visit this Toronto treasure – before the cherry blossoms pull in crowds of people. They already have big signs up – don’t climb the trees – and they have staged dozens of port-a-potties for the occasion. As well, once the cherry blossoms get underway, all the roads in the park will be closed.

Before the cherry blossoms

We saw or heard 35 species of birds. By far the highlight was a great horned owl. This bird was way high up in a tree. To see some better photos of it, check out Miles Hearn’s site. He got some exceptional (and better focused photos).

We heard a number of red-bellied woodpeckers, and saw this one on the trail ahead of us.

There were also plenty of Downy Woodpeckers around this morning.

Male Wood Ducks seem like space alien ducks to me. They have incredible markings.

Aren’t they just fantastic?

Of course there were plenty of the usual suspects around the park, such as the friendly chickadees.

The ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglets were both flitting about in the trees. As usual, they were not so interested in staying still long enough to pose for me.

Across the pond we could see a couple Black-crowned Night Herons sitting on some logs, on the lookout for lunch.

As we walked along the Grenadier Pond, a Double-crested Cormorant swam along not far from shore, occasionally diving underwater for several seconds.

There were a few other ducks around, scaups, and buffleheads and of course mallards, and the ubiquitous mute swan.

There is one area of the park in which you can often see house finches and today was no exception.

There were some birds identifiable by their calls, which are hard to see in the woods. For instance we heard Black-throated Green Warblers today. They sound just like this (YouTube is very handy for bird calls!)

We also heard pine warblers in the woods. These are one of the only warblers to nest here.

And the blue-grey gnat-catcher…

Miles listed 35 species of birds identified today. Although I’m getting better at spotting and hearing different birds, I think without Miles there I would miss quite a few of these birds. I’m going to work on learning more of the calls, which seems to be key to success. Here’s the list as Miles posted on his site: double-crested cormorant, black-crowned night heron, mute swan, Canada goose, mallard, wood duck, lesser scaup. bufflehead, red-tailed hawk, ring-billed gull, mourning dove, great horned owl, belted kingfisher, northern flicker, red-bellied woodpecker, hairy woodpecker, downy woodpecker, black-capped chickadee, red-breasted nuthatch, white-breasted nuthatch, brown creeper, American robin, ruby-crowned kinglet, blue-gray gnatcatcher, pine warbler, black-throated green warbler, house sparrow, red-winged blackbird, common grackle, brown-headed cowbird, northern cardinal, house finch, American goldfinch, chipping sparrow, song sparrow.

I always enjoy seeing the Dawn Redwoods in High Park. They are deciduous conifers native to China.

There is a species of viburnum we see on many of our walks called a Wayfaring Tree. It is quite distinctive as you can see from my photo.

In some areas of the park, there were plenty of Russian snowdrops in bloom. Lovely!

There were still some Silver Maples in bloom…

And also some Elms…

One final highlight from today’s wonderful nature walk, were the turtles…

Next week we’ll be up at Sunnybrook Park.

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