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  • Sydney Daniels

winter one day, spring the next

After a warm El Nino winter, there was very little snow and ice to photograph the past few months. That said, there were still plenty of creatures out and about that I visited, and they provided me with some solid portraits. I've added a few new species to my life list recently, some that I've been trying to find for a while. Enjoy my photos from some of my go-to spots and some new locations that I ventured to this "winter".

Birthday Birding

While some say February is the worst month, I strongly disagree for several reasons, but I may be biased since my birthday is in February (shoutout to my fellow Pisces). For my birthday I wanted only a few things: my lovely friends, good food, and birds. We checked off the 'birds' wish off at Lynde Shores on my way back to Waterloo after reading week.

Stopping in Ajax was a fun treat to visit the birds, there were tons of songbirds and waterfowl there to greet us. I've been to Lynde Shores a number of times but I noticed something odd this time around. Did you know that geese like coffee? Throughout my time walking around the conservation area, the geese would not leave me alone and kept eyeing down the coffee I was holding. Strange little coffee fiends.

With the birds there were also some furry critters who came out to say hi. The squirrels were serving (dare I say slaying) that day and gave me some quality portraits. I had the attention of a lot of the animals that day, and the front-facing portraits of the sparrows and swans did not disappoint. This was my first time seeing trumpeter swans and I was able to piece together why they're given such a name.

Even though there was only two swimming with one mute swan, it sounded like a full brass section from an orchestra. I could not get over how much they sounded like trumpets, my giggling scared them off. Love adding new species to my life list from a park I've visited countless times.

City Folk with Feathers

Because I had a break between due dates during reading week, I had a recent birthday and an upcoming anniversary, my partner and I decided to play tourists in Toronto for a day. We hit the classic stops like the ROM and Ripley's Aquarium, but we had to incorporate birds into our visit somehow.

Around dusk when the busy day had started catching up to us, we took a walking break to sit at the harbour front. We didn't find anything new in terms of waterfowl, but the birds were up close and personal to the point were we could get some solid photos.

We saw roughly 20 long-tailed ducks, some closer than others, but all swimming in pairs. I love seeing ducks on dates with their partners while I am also on a date. There were also a few red-breasted mergansers and gulls who stopped by. With the sunlight just before golden hour and the birds comfortability with people, I managed to get my best shots of these creatures.

Waterfowl are easier to shoot since they don't move as much as other types of birds, but they are often very far away, sometimes too far for my camera to pick them up without showing up blurry. These guys were close enough that I could snap some great portraits of them to add to the collection. It was nice to see these species in the heart of Toronto, they gave me a sense of familiarity in a busy city, a great way to end our visit.

Seasonal Extras

The life list this year has been growing steadily. As much as I love being a homebody and staying inside, it is rewarding to get a picture of a new species - it feels refreshing. I will give credit where credit is due, my partner is the one that drags me out of the house to find these birds, and I am very grateful that he does. We ventured to various parts of Waterloo Region this past winter to find certain species that are only here at this time of the year, and overall we were relatively successful.

Of the species we looked for, we found new swans, crane, duck, and our first owl! We visited Mill Pond in Hespeler where I saw all three merganser species in our area, but most were far away so their photos did not turn out great. Next, we trekked to Bannister Lake to find more trumpeter swans - we were hoping to see possible tundra swans but they were either hiding or not there at all.

After our Cambridge stops we went south close to Ayr, but what felt like the middle of nowhere on the hunt for sandhill cranes. My partner checks eBird almost everyday and has been seeing promising signs that the cranes would be visible. We took the gamble and drove down farm roads, close to sunset, after a long day of birding, and found nothing for a while. Right as we were about to call it for the day, he found five sandhill cranes grazing in a swampy field and he was ecstatic.

One of the top species on our wish list this winter was a snowy owl, which was the one we did not find. While that was disappointing, we did manage to check off our first owl on our life lists much closer to home. All the credit goes to my partner (again) who discovered this eastern screech owl after learning where it lived from another birding prof. This owl lives right on the side of the one our our environment buildings, and now that I've spotted it once, I check in every time I walk to class to see if its coming out to say hi or hiding in it's home.

Cannot wait for spring to actually show up to see Waterloo back in bloom again!

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