Tag Archives: Black crowned night heron

Drought leaves Southern Ontario Thirsty

Cootes paradise our filter “Aquifer” almost dries-up
Friday September 14 2012
Dry Cootes Paradise
Thirsty for clean water
Thirsty for images
Seasons dictate life and beauty
We are heading into Autumn……………………………NOW
Another day
I hope we have not sealed our fate regarding pollution, degradation and population.  In my opinion, awareness and education do not seem to be working.  High school grads are now overweight and hooked to their cell phones, and are mostly still ignorant about their environment after years of education.  Immigrants seem to be unable to read signs that are not in their language.
As above so is below
Our water has to deal with so much.  How long can we sustain what sustains us?  If we are “what we eat,” we are full of crap ;).
Juvenile Black crowned night heron
Black crowned night heron
This year the images were hard to come by due to the lack of visible wildlife along many of our regional hiking/biking trails and conservation areas.  The City of Hamilton has outdone themselves by oiling mute swan eggs to the point that only one signet was born in Hamilton Harbour.  Still, this year was worse than all other years for e-coli bacteria.  So why do they blame the swans?  It is unwarranted and heavy handed management.  At least the RBG does not oil the eggs of mute swans.
Broad-winged Hawk
Southern Ontario Lacking Water
Continuing poor seasons threatens our way of life.
Southern Ontario’s severe weather leaves farmers with crop losses.
Water quality suffers, and all that feeds or lives from the water, which includes humans, suffer also.  Coulson said the warm spate of weather has been caused by warm fronts moving in from the southern states, which is not unusual but, because of the lack of snow, the air is not being cooled by the time it reaches Ontario.
Busy Canadian Beaver
Normally we still have snow cover over winter.  The warmer air masses, when they encounter snowpack, it modifies them and cools them off.  They would have travelled hundreds of kilometers over snow.
Monarch Butterfly

Big rain was too little, too late

Last Year -much needed water this year

Farmer Jim Vuckovic has been wishing for rain for weeks. But the way it came pouring down Sunday in a torrential storm wasn’t what he had in mind.

Great Egret with Fish

Rather than helping his dried out crops, the winds and heavy water further damaged some of his distressed corn.

Great Blue Heron

And now the 35-year-old corn, wheat and soy farmer in Beamsville finds himself contemplating one of his worst growing seasons in memory — at least with his corn fields, which are about half as high as they should be for this time of year.

Hide and seek

“I don’t ever recall it being this dry. A lot of the crops are damaged beyond saving,” says Vuckovic. “A lot of the damage is irrevocable … It’s been a bad year. Obviously, yields will be nowhere near what we’re use to.”

In Flight

Vuckovic’s farm was toured by provincial Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Minister Ted McMeekin on Tuesday.

“I saw a field of corn (Tuesday) that was clearly distressed,” McMeekin said. “The soy beans were doing OK. More importantly, the farmer was pretty distressed with the situation.”

Greater Yellowlegs

Gross Goo! Antibiotic Resistance Flourishes In Freshwater Systems

Green Antibiotic resistant -Goo
McMaster University researchers have now discovered that floc – “goo-like” substances that occur suspended in water and that host large communities of bacteria – also contain high levels of antibiotic resistance.
“This has important public health implications because the more antibiotic resistance there is, the less effective our antibiotic arsenal is against infectious diseases,” said Lesley Warren, the principal investigator for the study that looked at floc in different freshwater systems.The research was led by Warren, professor of earth sciences and Gerry Wright, scientific director of the Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research, both of McMaster, along with Ian Droppo, a research scientist at Environment Canada.

Morning flights

They examined floc collected from Hamilton Harbour, which is impacted by sewer overflow; Sunnyside Beach in Toronto, which is impacted by wastewater; a rural stream near Guelph, impacted by light agricultural activities; and a remote lake in a natural preserve area in Algonquin Park, accessible only by float plane.

One fine morning

Researchers analyzed the water and floc samples for trace element concentrations and the presence of 54 antibiotic resistant genes.

Sixteen egrets

They were surprised to discover that genes encoding resistance to clinically relevant antibiotics were present in floc bacteria at all four sites, although resistance varied in intensity based on human influence. That is, there was less antibiotic resistance detectable from Algonquin Lake compared to Hamilton Harbour, which harbored the highest concentration of floc trace elements.

“What this tells us is that antibiotic resistance is widespread in aquatic environments ranging from heavily impacted urban sites to remote areas,” said Warren. “Yet, it also demonstrates that areas with greater human impact are important reservoirs for clinically important antibiotic resistance.Floc are vibrant microbial communities that attract contaminants such as trace metals that are markers of resistance, Wright said.
Warren added the study of antibiotic resistance in floc has never been done, “and we are only scratching the surface. The presence of environmental bacterial communities in aquatic environments represents a significant, largely unknown source of antibiotic resistance,” she said. “The better we understand what is out there, the better we can develop policies to safeguard human health as best we can.”The research has been published in the science journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology. Funding for the study was received from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and Environment Canada.

Wild Orchid

Contacts and sources:
Veronica Mcguire

McMaster University

Environment Canada.
Wikipedia
Photography
Doug Worrall
Lois Mcnaught

The Black-Crowned Night Heron

 The Black-Crowned Night Heron Hamilton

July 27 2011

Early Morning just arrived at fishway

Scientific name: Nycticorax nycticoras  
Family:
 Ardeidae
Order: Ciconiformes  
Class:
 Aves

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS:

Black crowned heron

The Black-crowned Night Heron (Aukuu in Hawaiian) is an attractive bird to watch. They look like dark silhouettes as they fly with steady beats of their broad wings.

In Flight

As nocturnal feeders, night herons are not be seen often by people. This heron has a stocky, chunky body with short, strong legs and neck, and large red eyes. The body of the black-crowned night heron looks as if it is hunched over, or squat shaped with its head usually tucked down into its shoulder. When in flight, the heron tucks its neck in close to the body and rarely extends it. They have a short thick sharp pointed black bill. The body of an adult Heron is 58 72 cm (20 28 inches) long.

Young black-crowned night herons are brown and streaked with white. The eye of the juvenile black-crowned night heron is yellowish or amber and their legs are a dull gray.

juvenile heron

The sexes are alike except the females are on average slightly smaller. The plumage is gray with a distinctive black cap with a fallen crest of two to three narrow white plumes at the back of the head. The heron has a black back and the face, throat, fore neck and belly are white. During the breeding season, the black feathers from the head and back emit a bluish-green gloss and the legs become red. Wings and tails are blue-gray and legs and feet are usually yellow. . Night herons receive full adult plumage in the third year. Members of the heron family are structurally characterized by having four toes. There are three toes facing forward and one facing to the back.

Black crowned night heron
Night Heron

 

DISTRIBUTION and HABITAT:

Black Crowned Night Heron Hamilton

Black-crowned night herons are found by marshes at night and by day they roost communally. Besides marshes, they inhabit wetlands, like ponds, swamps, tropical mangroves, streams, rivers, mud flats, and edges of lakes. They have even been found in rice fields and other agricultural habitats near water. Larger wetlands will have substantial colonies of black-crown night herons, whereas, they may be seen alone or in small groups by less significant bodies of fresh or salt water.

Night herons are distributed almost worldwide including North America,Southern Ontario,  South America, South Europe, Africa, South Asia, Falkland Islands, and Hawaii. The Black-crowned night heron is a rare visitor to Micronesia. In the Hawaiian Islands, the Aukuu can be found in all coastal wetlands. Black-crowned Night Herons are common winter breeding residents of the United States Gulf Coast.

 

BEHAVIOR:

Black-crowned night herons associate with other species of herons frequently and are socially active all year. These herons have a deep croaking call sounding like quark. Adult herons will defend their feeding and nesting area.

Adult Night Crowned Heron

Young Herons have an aggressive, regurgitating reaction to discourage intruders. The black-crowned night heron is usually a nocturnal feeder but it will feed during the daytime during the breeding season or when there is a food shortage. The black-crowned night heron is an expert at still fishing”. It can stand motionless for long periods in shallow water, on pilings, or on floating docks watching and waiting for its prey. A thrust of its bill into the water catches small fish. These herons can also swim when searching for food.

 

DIET:

Night heron finishing breakfast

The diet of the Black-crowned Night Heron depends on what is available, and may include algae, fishes, leeches, earthworms, insects, crayfish, mussels, squid, amphibians, small rodents, plant materials, garbage and organic refuse at landfills. They have been seen taking baby ducklings and other baby water birds. The night heron prefers shallow water when fishing and catches its prey within its bill instead of stabbing it. Herons will sometimes attract prey by the rapidly opening and closing the beak in the water to create a disturbance that attracts its prey. This technique is known as bill vibrating.

BREEDING:

Night heron slips

The Black-crowned Night Heron nests in colonies and produce one brood per season. During the mating season the male become aggressive and perform a mating display to attract the female. This consists of the male doing a snap display followed by an advertisement display called the stretch, or snap-hiss. During the snap display the male walks around in a crouched position, head lowered, snapping his jaws together or grasping a twig. Then the male stretches his neck out and bobs his head and makes a snap-hiss vocalization. Twig shaking and showing off may occur between songs. This show motivates other males to show off and display also. The displaying is successful if the male attracts a female to his nest site. At the time of pair formation, their legs turn from red to pinkish color.

NESTING:

Night heron slips

Mating takes place near the nest, shortly after pairing. The male begins the twig ceremony by presenting the female with twigs, which she works into a platform nest. The nests usually rest on a fork of a branch, in the trunk of a tree, in deep foliage, or in low bushes, and reed beds. The herons make a flimsy, haphazard, stick platform nest or they just rebuild an old nest. The nest is lined with grass and roots.

After four or five days a clutch of three to five eggs are laid. Both parents share in incubation, which lasts 24-26 days. The eggs are green the first day and become pale blue or greenish days later. On hot days the parents may wet their feathers to cool off the eggs.

Both parents feed the young by regurgitation of food. After two weeks the young leave the nest. They dont go far and for about three weeks can be found clustered at the top of the trees. By week six or seven they can fly well and follow the parents to the feeding grounds. Adults do not recognize their own young and will accept other young if placed in the nest.

CONSERVATION STATUS:

Not a good day to fish

In the 1960’s there was a decline in black-crowned night heron populations due to the use of DDT. The status of the heron population is indicative of environmental conditions, due to their high ranking within the food chain. Many herons are killed each year at fish hatcheries because the birds are considered a pest that prey on the hatchery fish.

 

Sources: honoluluzoo, Birds of America, Wikipedia

 

Doug Worrall Photographer

Endangered Spring Migration It’s All About Timing

Endangered Spring Migration It’s All About Timing

Monday March 14 2011

Red-Breasted Merganser

 

Just as scientists are beginning to answer basic questions about migration, many migratory birds and other animals are in trouble

Are you starting to see some of your favorite birds come back from their wintering grounds? As the seasons change, many bird species come and go in the natural phenomenon of migration. Today, scientists are just beginning to answer some of the most basic questions about migration. But a shadow hangs over their research: Many migratory birds—and other migratory animals–are in trouble.

MIGRATION BASICS

Waterfowl in danger

Spring Migration begins

Migration all year

What is migration? Many creatures wander, but only some are true migrants. Most biologists define migration as repeated seasonal movement between breeding and non-breeding grounds by the same individuals.

How far do birds migrate? Thanks to tracking devices, we now know the astounding distances that some migrating species travel. For sheer distance, nothing beats migrating birds. Sooty shearwaters astonished scientists by flying more than 40,000 miles in a loop from New Zealand to Chile, Japan, Alaska and California before a trans-Pacific trip back to New Zealand. The birds averaged more than 200 miles per day for 200 days.

Longest Known Non-stop Bird Flight: The real migration champ was a bar-tailed godwit that flew 6,340 miles nonstop between New Zealand and North Korea, where it rested briefly before continuing nearly a thousand additional miles to its breeding grounds in Alaska.

HOW DO BIRDS FIND THEIR WAY?

Migratory Birds

There are a range of techniques migrating birds use to navigate:

* Earth’s magnetic field: This was discovered by a series of experiments in the mid-1970s which reversed magnetic fields around songbirds, triggering them to fly the wrong direction. It is now known that some 50 species including birds follow magnetic pathways.
*Circadian clocks: innate temporal rhythms in the biochemical, physiological or behavioral processes of all living things, from plants to birds
*Internal compasses: Using the sun or stars as a compass to determine direction
*Smells: Some birds, including pigeons, use olfactory clues to find their way.
*Geographical features such as mountain ranges and coastlines. Most migrants seem to rely on a combination of these techniques depending on conditions.

Migratory bird
Some stay all year
First signs in north america

WHY SCIENTISTS NEED TO UNDERSTAND MIGRATION
“The nonbreeding season drives a lot of what happens during rest of the annual cycle,” says Peter Marra, a research scientist at the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center at the National Zoo. That cycle’s middle stages—the actual travel—remain terra incognita to scientists. The sheer number of habitats used at different points during migration presents a formidable challenge to conserving migratory birds.

NEW TECHNOLOGIES TO STUDY MIGRATION
The recently announced ICARUS Initiative will launch a satellite devoted to migratory animals and develop tiny, powerful transmitters that will allow researchers to follow creatures as small as insects across broad stretches of time and space.

WHAT ARE THE THREATS TO MIGRATORY BIRDS?

The sights and sounds

*Habitat loss and degradation. The habitats of migratory species nearly everywhere are under pressure from deforestation, farming and expanding human populations. Human-made obstacles also hinder travel. In many cities, skyscrapers, for example, kill migratory songbirds.
* Global warming. Researchers are reporting new behaviors among migratory animals worldwide that may stem from changing climate—shifts in breeding ranges, mistiming of cues and departures, for example. “Since the wintering habitats are changing at different rates than more northerly habitats, things can get really of out sync,” says the Smithsonian’s Marra.

Out of whack: In the Netherlands, some populations of pied flycatcher have crashed because the birds are arriving from African wintering grounds too late to feast on a once predictable bounty of caterpillars. Higher springtime temperatures in Europe are causing the insects to hatch earlier than they once did.

CAN MIGRANTS ADAPT?

Trumpeter and Tundra swan native species
Mute Swans adapt well

No one knows. Recently, some birds have shown flexibility by changing routes or timing or breeding sites in response to new environmental conditions. In the Midwest, for instance, ducks are arriving later in the fall and resting longer before continuing south, perhaps in response to higher temperatures.

Along the east coast of Massachusetts, where temperatures are rising and the insects on which birds feed on hatching sooner, 8 of 32 migratory songbirds looked at have begun arriving earlier from their wintering grounds—primarily species that winter in the southern United States as opposed to farther away in the Tropics.

“But I think it would be dangerous to assume that all species can adapt,” says Princeton University ecologist David Wilcove. As Wilcove writes in his book No Way Home: The Decline of the World’s Great Animal Migrations, “The irony is that just as the phenomenon of migration is slipping away, we are entering a golden age for studying it.”

Spring Migration: It’s All About Timing

Timing and luck

From January to June, each migratory species has its own special time to return to summer breeding grounds
Somewhere in North America, there is probably some kind of migratory movement of birds every day. But spring migration—the mass movement of birds toward their breeding grounds—happens with predictable timing each year. The precise local timing varies, of course, with latitude and elevation. “Early spring” might mean early February in the southernmost states, late March or early April in the north, or even May in the far north and high mountains.

Mass Migrations

Among the first groups of birds to move north are waterfowl: ducks, geese, and swans may begin migrating as soon as frozen lakes and marshes start to thaw. Even in the northern Provinces, flocks of waterfowl may arrive in late February. Also on the move this early are some species that migrate mostly within North America, spending the winter as far north as they can. They include killdeer and red-winged blackbirds.

Some birds of prey also start to migrate in early spring. Bald eagles, rough-legged hawks and red-shouldered hawks are actively moving north even while wintry conditions still prevail.

Other surprisingly early migrants include purple martins, returning from South America and reaching Florida and Texas by late January and making it to northern states by the end of March.

Blue heron nesting zone

Many native sparrows tend to be early migrants, with large numbers moving in southern states in March and in northern states by early April. Kinglets and sapsuckers are in this moderately early wave as well. And most blackbirds move north during the first half of the spring.

 

Shorebirds (sandpipers, plovers and their relatives) have a protracted migration, with some species represented among the earliest and latest migrants. Pectoral sandpipers and American golden-plovers, wintering in South America, come back to southern provinces by the end of February and reach northern provinces by March. Many other species migrate later, with peak passage in most areas during April and May. Long-distance migrants that winter in southern South America, white-rumped sandpipers peak in  central Canada and  United States in late May or early June.

Southern Ontario

 

The great northward flood of songbirds that have wintered in the tropics—including warblers, tanagers, buntings, grosbeaks, orioles, vireos and thrushes—occurs primarily during April and May, filling North American woodlands with color, song and activity. For many birders, warblers are particular favorites; there are several places in the country where you can see more than 30 species of these tiny, colorful gems during the course of the season.

Deer Migration Huge

By early June, aside from a few shorebirds and straggling songbirds, spring migration is over across most of North America. This is when birders turn their attention to local nesting species—and get ready to watch for the first of the fall migrants, which in some areas start showing up by early July.

New Born signet
Mute swan
Refections of spring

Sources: National Wildlife Foundation, Wikipedia

 

Doug Worrall Photography