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  • Sydney Daniels

spring in focus

With another mild winter comes early signs of spring. This time of year also means finals season, which is why a lot of my photoshoots were very localized so I could try my best to be an academic weapon. Here's to another spring in Waterloo, enjoy!

Campus Creatures - Columbia Lake

As a brief study break, my partner and I decided to join a short birding trip hosted by UW's Zoology club with Liam McGuire and Ryan Leys. They were very knowledgable about the birds around Columbia Lake, and helped us spot a variety of songbirds, waterfowl, and birds of prey.

After a few short hours we managed to see 39 different species, two of which were new to my life list: an eastern towhee and a yellow-bellied sapsucker (one of the funniest bird names out there). My favourites of the day were probably the juvenile red-tailed hawk that supplied a number of different poses for us, as well as the osprey carrying a ridiculously big stick through the air.

After the group session was over, my partner and I continued to adventure through the rest of the property and found even more creatures. One of my favourite signs of spring in Waterloo is the geese, specifically the goslings. The first time I saw them last year was around mid-May. This time, we got surprised by then in early April. The parent geese were very protective of their babies so we didn't stay long, but I can't wait to see more goslings walking around in the near future.

Even though this was a birding trip, we also managed to find several non-bird species around Columbia Lake. In the water, we found a few frogs enjoying the lake, as well as a very mossy snapping turtle lurking in the shallow waters. After leaving the group and walking around the other side of the park, we came across a couple garter snakes basking in the sunlight.

Rainy-day Birding - F.W.R. Dickson

If you've had the chance to meet my lovely partner, you would know he is very determined when it comes to birding, and will go out any chance he gets. Before he packed up to go home for a few weeks, we got up early to visit F.W.R. Dickson Wilderness area for a last minute birding session.

The weather was not ideal sadly, it was cold, windy, and very grey, but we were still able to find some cool creatures. While the birds were relatively quiet in the park, the greenery was a highlight for me. The ground was covered in pitcher plants sprouting up, which I have been wanting to find forever but never have until now. The trees and fallen logs were also covered in thick mosses and funky fungi growths. It felt very mystical walking through here on a gloomy day.

Of the few birds we saw, most of them were classic songbirds like chickadees, cardinals, red-winged blackbirds, and downy woodpeckers. That said, we did manage to find a new species for me in the strangest spot.

Have you ever seen a duck perched in a tree? Did you know that's a common practice for wood ducks? I thought I was losing my mind trying to identify this pair that landed in the trees. They were very high up in the canopy and our view was obscured by numerous branches, so the pictures didn't turn out great, but they are good enough for people to believe me when I say I found a duck in a tree.

One of the main features of F.W.R. is their boardwalk across the wetland, where visitors often leaves seeds on the railing for birds to snack on. Some birds did in fact take some of the seeds, but the mammals were definitely hogging the food supply when we visited. We saw a few grey squirrels and one red squirrel, but this chipmunk could not leave the pile along, which left me with tons of adorable portraits of the little guy.

Even with less-than ideal weather, we still managed to get a good turnout.

Another new Park - Ignatius Jesuit Centre

Located just outside of the main city of Guelph, this spot has amazing lookout areas and scenic landscapes. My partner took me for a tour around their property since he's come birding here a number of times, and the creatures we saw definitely made the trip worth the distance.

In the early part of our walk we stayed close to the water to watch numerous mallards swim by. This seemed to be the boys hangout since we only saw one female the whole time. Along the bank we also saw a couple of solitary sandpipers, which was a new add to my life list. They blend in really well and move sneakily, almost as sneaky as the muskrat that tried to swim past us without us noticing.

Moving away from the water, we made our way into the grassy-parts of the property where we ran into a huge variety of species. They have a small farm property nearby where a red-tailed hawk sat perched overlooking the chicken coops. Along the path they had huge lilac bushes that were just about to bloom, as well as tons of swallow houses that had the cutest habitants.

Tree swallows were everywhere at IJC, their tiny beaks poking out of the house openings were possibly the cutest thing I had seen all day. I was taking photos of an eastern cottontail for a while, which looked hilarious since it seemed like it had an angry look on its face with an eyebrow-looking mark. This rabbit was angrily eating dandelions for a good five minutes. It's a toss-up between that and the swallows on cutest find of the day.

Happy spring to all who celebrate, I'm looking forward to what this summer has to offer!

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