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15 April 2010 @ 07:13 pm
Early Spring at Mud Lake  

On Sunday I had more time to go exploring, and started the day at Mud Lake. It looked quite different from the last time I was there, in February when I saw the robins and Cedar Waxwings over-wintering at the conservation area. Although the morning was chilly (the sky was almost completely covered with clouds and the temperature was only 4°C) I was happy to see that the lake was completely ice-free, the snow was all gone, and almost all of the deciduous trees and shrubs were covered in small green buds. Even nicer to see was the carpet of small blue flowers along the trails on the west side of the conservation area. Even though these vibrant blue flowers are not native to Ontario, they were beautiful to see and I spent some time photographing them.


Scilla siberica

As I noticed last year, some of the flowers were white instead of blue. I am not sure whether this is the same species or a hybrid.

Scilla siberica

The birds were singing and calling from all over the conservation area, too, including Red-winged Blackbirds, cardinals, Canada Geese honking on the lake, chickadees, goldfinches, juncos and crows. The chickadees seemed less interested in coming to my hand for sunflower seeds, and I'm guessing they are all busy nesting.

I also saw three rabbits along the trails. Although they are quite common at Mud Lake, these were the first ones I had seen this year. I didn't even see a Snowshoe Hare all winter.

Eastern Cottontail

On the south side of the lake, I was suddenly beseiged by several friendly chickadees, so I stopped to feed them. A Red-winged Blackbird and two cardinals, a male and female, were foraging in the brush between the lake and the path. The two cardinals took an immediate interest in the food, and to my surprise, the male actually flew closer to me (and the seeds) before landing on the ground to snatch some up. In my experience, cardinals prefer to fly away from humans even if they are handing out free food. This was a first, even though he was still quite skittish and flew off immediately after picking up some seeds. He did come back, though - twice!

Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal

I circled the lake without seeing much of interest. It was too cold for the turtles to bask near the bridge, and the woods on the east side of the lake were very quiet. I did see some Buffleheads on the river just east of the filtration plant, and high overhead several swallows were circling. A male Wood Duck was in the channel between the shore and the island, looking resplendent in his jewel-like colours, until he saw me and flew off toward the Quebec shore.

After finding only a few juncos on the Ridge, I walked back through the woods toward where I had parked. I found more scilla (also know as Siberian Squill) at the west end of the Ridge and stopped to take some more photos.

Scilla siberica

I had better luck with the birds on my second walk on the west side of the lake. A beautiful male Yellow-rumped Warbler in breeding plumage was foraging in the shrubs, but flew off before I could raise my camera. I also as a pair of Cooper's Hawks mating in the woods near the observation dock. These species were the first ones I'd seen this spring, and definitely made going out in the chilly early spring morning worth the visit.

Finally, on my way out to Howe Street, I spent some time looking for the patch of Glory-of-the-Snow that I had discovered there last spring. It is a member of the lily (Liliaceae) family and is closely related to scilla. Also like scilla, it is not native to Canada, but has found its way into gardens because of its hardiness, early bloom, and low maintenance. I think this flower is even more beautiful than scilla, for its flowers face heavenward, exposing creamy yellow centers.


I left Mud Lake and headed to Andrew Haydon Park next. The sun was out, and the temperature had risen, but the cold wind was still blowing off the river. I was hoping to find some groundhogs in the eastern half of the park, but they were probably holed up in their dens, avoiding the brisk wind. I did find two muskrats near the eastern pond, however, which made the stop worthwhile, especially as one was contently feeding on the grass. While I was photographing him, a second muskrat swam by in front of me. Then, when two people came looked up to assess the level of threat. He splashed back into the water when they came over to see what I was photographing, and swam away into a den at the edge of the bank.


As the temperature was rising, I thought it would be worthwhile to look for butterflies later that afternoon. I went to Jack Pine Trail after lunch, but one look at the sky told me I wouldn't be able to stay out for very long. A dark bank of clouds was moving in from the west, and in the distance I could see a few rainshowers. I quickly walked the middle loop, finding a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, some Golden-crowned Kinglets, and a White-tailed Deer on the path, but no butterflies. A couple of Leopard Frogs were calling in the marsh, and I managed to see one in the water. Unlike the Chorus frogs, this guy seemed to be puffing out a flap of skin beneath its armpits. I watched him for a while, until this Red-winged Blackbird landed on the boardwalk rail and started calling. I took his picture, then continued on my way.

Red-winged Blackbird

The clouds came in, ominously gray, so I quickly walked the rest of the trail and made it back to the car before it started raining. I was disappointed that there were no butterflies about, so my search for Spring Azures, tortoiseshells, and elfins will have to wait another week.

Xray Is As Xray Doesxraytheenforcer on April 21st, 2010 01:27 am (UTC)
it might just be the angle, which would affect the perceived color on the wing, but that almost looks like a tricolored blackbird.