Tag Archives: Canadian Geese

Our Wetlands Cootes Paradise Hamilton

Our Wetlands Cootes Paradise Hamilton

Sunday May 22 2011

Blue Heron Cootes Paradise May 20

I welcome you to join me on a journey to the hidden gems in Hamilton, Tobermory, Niagara Falls, and many other places. My hope is that together we enjoy an enlightening experience, to gaze through the camera lens together, to see the power, beauty, and wisdom of Mother Nature’s gift.There is much history Living in Hamilton we are very lucky to have Cootes Paradise , Hamilton Harbour and Lake Ontario. Exploring your environment helps you to understand what we can do to help conserve this natural Beauty.While hiking in Cootes Paradise yesterday I noticed Algae that looked like raw sewage. If you look at the ducks Bill “picture below” it is oily and on the feathers there is a brown slime.Otherwise every hike, bike ride into cootes paradise is very interesting.Enjoy the Images

Site Coordinator

Doug Worrall

Sunrise on the docks


In the Hamilton area are fortunate to have many local wetlands. Wetlands were thought to be dirty places and had a reputation for being dangerous. Movies like “The Swamp Thing” came from the imagination of people who were raised in a time when wetlands were considered of little value or even frightening. We now know that they are important habitats that provide homes for many endangered species and that they help to control floods and filter some pollutants. It is hard to imagine thinking of them as undesirable today, which is good because 33% of Ontario’s and 14% of Canada’s land mass is covered by wetlands. . Unfortunately, up to 90% of southern Ontario’s wetlands have been lost to urbanization and agriculture.

After long rain Clay rich soil
As you walk along the shoreline of Cootes Paradise and Hamilton Harbour you will notice plants and their herbivores seldom occur in isolation, The red-wing black bird flies to the top of the Cattails (Thypha).  These plants have eleven species in the flowering plant family Typhacease.  What is interesting is how the name of this plant varies across the world, for example, Bulrush or Reedmace (England, UK ), Punks or CornDog Grass (America), Cumbungi (Australia), and Raupo (New Zealand).

Cootes Paradise cattails

In the past week Cootes Paradise and Hamilton Harbour  have  been inundated with water.

May 7 cootes paradise

It has also attracted the Great Blue Heron in search of fish in the water.  The painted turtle has popped up to bask in the warm sun today.  And the Canada Goose has lots of goslings.  These are the signs of Spring has really arrived.  The Dundas Marsh (Cootes Paradise) located at the western end of Hamilton Harbour which is a shallow flooded basin of open water and marsh joined to Hamilton Harbour by the Desjardins canal.  Here the shallow open water is dominated by  emergent plants you can see, such as,  the Cattails and Great Manna Grass (Glyceria maxima)  a common emergent exotic marsh plant.  Also there  are the submergent Sage Pondweed (Potamogeton pecitinatus) and the floating leaves of Water Lilies (Nymphuea odorata). With advances in the Fishway Carp that disrupt the plants are controlled to allow for restoration of native vegetation.


Mute swans, more than trumpeters



Wetland Types

Wetlands vary in appearance and habitat function depending upon where they are located and what conditions they exist in. Some are very open with large areas of water while others have almost no open water at all. What they have in common is the presence of shallow water that may be invisible because of the density of plant growth. The three types of wetlands found in our area are marshes, swamps and peatlands.

Canadian Beaver


The kind of wetland that most people picture is a marsh. This is the most common type of wetland in southern Ontario and in the Hamilton area. Marshes have soils that are less organic than other wetlands and they are characterised by emergent vegetation.Marshes usually have an equal area of open water and vegetation. Marshes are prime duck habitat and also excellent muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus) territory.These habitats can be found along the shores of the Great Lakes and in sheltered bays such as Cootes Paradise and also along rivers or in other depressions across the broader landscape. They have fluctuating water levels, particularly when they are isolated from large water bodies.

Algae or Untreated waste visible cootes paradise
Unusual lump on neck while swimming in the Algae


Swamps are often associated with the deep southern United States, like the Okefonokee Swamp in Georgia, but we have our own swamps right here in our area. Swamps are forested wetlands and the Hamilton area is one of the best places in Canada to see them. Most of our swamps are dominated by hardwood tree species, in particular Red Maple (Acer rubrum) and Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum). These wetlands can form along lakeshores but are more often found along shallow rivers or in low-lying areas where the soil is not flooded all year long. By combining the properties of forest and wetland together, they make very good habitat for birds in particular. Beverly Swamp and the Valens Conservation Area are excellent places to see these ecosystems.

Proud mother


The rarest wetlands in southern Ontario, peatlands are wetlands where the soil is highly organic because is it formed mostly from incompletely decomposed plants. This soil is called peat and its presence is what defines peatlands. Plant material does not break down very easily in waterlogged conditions and the plants that dominate peatlands, such as Sphagnum mosses (Sphagnum spp.) or sedges (Carex sp.), are especially slow to decompose. In addition, many peatland plants produce chemical compounds that slow decomposition further, particularly the Sphagnum mosses. These non-vascular plants are also known as ‘peat mosses’ because they form peat soils.

The slow decomposition found in peatlands results in soils that are very old. It can take as much as 1,000 years for a peatland to produce as little as 15 centimetres of peat soil. Incredible! This is why peat is not a renewable resource; it is formed over very long periods of time. One nearby peatland, the Summit Bog at Copetown, is 12,000 years old and has peat soil that is 8 metres deep. This means that, on average, this peat soil has taken 1,000 years to deepen by 65 centimetres. There are two main types of peatlands in southern Ontario, bogs and fens. Both form peat but bogs have no significant inflows or outflows of water while fens receive water from surrounding mineral soil, sometimes resulting in a mix of peatland and marsh vegetation.

Wetland Animals

Twist and Shout
testing wings

Of the three types of wetlands,marshes seem to have more animal life. It is easy to find muskrats (Ondatra zibethicus), Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias) and Painted Turtles (Chrysemys picta) in these very productive habitats.Marshes are particularly important habitats for amphibians and water-dwelling reptiles because they contain both open water and vegetated areas. The Blue-spotted Salamander (Ambystoma laterale), Mudpuppy (Necturus maculosus), Northern Leopard Frog (Rana pipiens), Map Turtle (Graptemys geographica) and Northern Watersnake (Nerodia sipedon sipedon) all benefit from marsh homes.Aquatic insects also thrive in this habitat, including the Giant Water Bug, also known as the Toe-biter (Lethocerus americanus), the Brown Water Scorpion (Ranatra fusca), mosquitoes (Aedes spp.), dragonflies and damselflies (Order Odonata) and midges (Family Chironomidae, which look a bit like mosquitoes but do not bite).This abundance of insects, amphibians and plants is like a meal waiting to happen for birds, which is one reason why birds are so populous in marshes.

Turtle day before algae
Turtle muddy not algae

There are the herons, such as the Blue Heron above (Butorides virescens) and their relatives the American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus) and the rare Least Bittern (Ixobrychus exilis). Rails (e.g. Virginia Rail, Rallus limicola), and coots (e.g. American Coot, Fulica Americana) are on the rise in places like Cootes Paradise in Hamilton.Smaller birds are there too, like the Marsh Wren (Cistothorus palustris) and the rare Blue-grey Gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea).Fish are also an important part of the marsh fauna. Northern Pike (Esox lucius), Yellow Perch (Perca flavescens), Largemouth Bass (Micropterus salmoides), Pumpkinseeds (Lepomis gibbosus) and many minnow species are found in Cootes Paradise, with help from the fish barrier that keeps out invasive species like Carp and allows these native fish to survive and reproduce. During the open water seasons, you can watch the barrier in action as RBG staff remove the undesirable fish from the trap in the barrier.



Information:Jacqueline, Hamilton Nature and Wikipedia

6AM 21 May 2011
Harbourfront Trail

Doug Worrall Photographer




Waterfowl Conservation is Ecologically Invaluable

Waterfowl Conservation is Ecologically Invaluable

Monday April 4 2011

Goose feeding on vegitation


The importance of Birds is not just contained in their visible and valuable components of biodiversity ! Their importance lies in the fact that they are representatives of Ecological Health. And, Birds inspire an Ecological Approach to Conservation. The operative word here it “TO.” Bird Conservation is a field in the Science of Conservation in Biology related to threatened birds. From a socio-economic perspective, birds and their migrations have motivated incredible international co-operation, which for waterfowl has translated into millions of $ in wetland habitat conservation efforts across the continent. Birds link us to the natural world every day – even in the most urban settings. Birds keep our ecosystems running smoothly by controlling rodents and insect pests, scavenging wastes and pollinating plants. The truth is that healthy bird populations suggest healthy habitats for all species. Of the 431 species of Canadian Breeding Birds, 9% are Waterfowl, 18% are Waterbirds, and 10% are Shorebirds. Currently one in eight of the world’s birds are threatened with global extinction, and of the 431 bird species that regularly breed in Canada, 60 are classified as at risk. In waterfowl, there are 35 species of ducks, geese and swans that spend at least part of each year in Canada.

Mallard duck


The recruitment and morality rates of waterfowl vary in response to weather, climate, habitat loss, competition for resources, environmental contamination and other factors, and these factors also pertain to other species. However, waterfowl differ from most other bird populations in being subject to mortality from hunting. The Institute for Wetland and Waterfowl Research (WWR) is the scientific research arm of Ducks Unlimited Canada. Some species of sea-ducks, continue to experience long-term declines. But, in contrast, Snow Geese have become so abundant that they may endanger other wild life through their effects on habitat. April is a great time to look for migrating shorebirds, which can be seen on shallow wetlands, like Cootes Paradise Wetland (formerly Dundas Marsh). Given that Waterfowl cover only 9% of Canada’s 431 Breeding Birds, efforts for waterfowl conservation are expanding to include all birds. The North American Bird conservation Initiative is about this expansion.

Ducks heading north
Ducks in Cootes Paradise

In the early 1900s, North American birds were at risk from unregulated hunting pressures and marketing. The response to this was the 1916 Migratory Bird Treaties between Canada and U.S., and in 1936 between U.S. and Mexico. In the 1980s (30 years ago) Waterfowl populations declined so drastically due to habitat loss (drought) in Western Canada, that an international response was initiated to protect wetland and upland habitats – critical for Waterfowl populations and survival. This resulted in the North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP). The present status of many Waterfowl species is very good, with populations at or near the international goals agreed to under the North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP). Part of the success of (NAWMP) continues to be facilitated by legislation in the U.S. that enables millions of U.S. $ into Canada (to be matched) for wetland associated upland conservation.

Soon to fly north


Based on the history of co-operation, conservationists from Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, along with the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation worked together to develop the response – the North American Bird Conservation Initiative (NABCI). the (NABCI) vision is populations and habitats of North America’s birds protected, restored and enhanced through co-ordinated efforts at international, national, regional and local levels, guided by sound science and effective management. The (NABCI) goal is to deliver the full spectrum of Bird Conservation through regionally based, biologically driven, landscape-oriented partnerships. The Canadian (NABCI) Model includes: NAWMP (Wetlands, Waterfowl), Partners In Flight (Uplands, Landbirds), Shorebird Plan (WHSRN sites, Shorebirds), Wings over Water (Waterbirds) for an integrated action plan and joint venture delivery system in a co-ordinated approach to Bird Conservation. This developed formed 67 Bird Conservation Regions (BCR) across the continent. Canada’s BCRs tend to be larger than the others, and orient themselves on an east-west basis, crossing many jurisdictions. For example, Ontario’s Boreal Forest BCR 8 has the highest breeding landbirds at one billion; and the Non-Boreal Forest BCR 12 has 40 million breeding birds using this landscape.

Canadian geese in flight
Canadian geese


So how does NABCI work at BCR level ? Basically, it determines biological and strategic priorities and population goals for species – waterfowl, landbirds, shorebirds, waterbirds. Bill Lamond said abut the Hamilton Fall Bird Count taken on the last day in the count window (Nov. 7th, 2,010) that “it produced at total of 126 species the lowest total since 2,00 when 125 species were recorded…I was expecting a fairly high species total in the range of 140+ species as there had not been any intense cold weather to push lingering birds out.” Although the results were disappointing, but there were great highlights, like the Purple Sandpiper spotted on the rocks at Fifty Point, Grimsby on Lake Ontario. And, the Semipalmated Sandpiper was documented in 2,010 at Dundas Marsh (Cootes Paradise), Windermere Basin in Hamilton Harbourfront, the Red Hill Expressway and QEW Stormwater Pond, and Campbellville Road. and Millboroug Line. The Common Loon, one was spotted off LaSalle Marina, seven off Sioux Lookout Park, six at Shoracres, 5 at Burloak Park, and one at Bronte Harbour. There were two nests of Red-necked Grebes at Bronte Harbour with eggs, and 13 Red-necked Grebes at Spencer Smith Park in Burlington. The Green Heron was spotted at the Windermere Basin in Hamilton Harbour and a pair were at a nest at the Millgrove Loam Pits.

Mute swan hamilton

“You have to believe in happiness, Or happiness never comes…, Ah, that’s the reason a bird can sing – On his darkest day he believes in Spring.” by Douglas Mallock

Waterfowl conservation

Source: North American Bird Conservation Initiative by Brigitte Collins, Eastern Habitat Joint venture Canadian Wildlife Service Ontario Region; April Birding; Nature Canada; Environment Canada; the Wood Duck

Woodland duck



By Jacqueline


Doug Worrall Photography

Mysteries like Cootes Paradise Marsh

Wetlands like Cootes Paradise Marsh

Friday March 4 2011

Anatidae Bird Mysteries

Hamilton Harbour


The complex between man and bird is each depends on the other ! Getting close to a wild goose, part of the fascination is photographing it, studying it, because the wild goose is excessively wary and difficult to get near. As Sir Peter Scott stated: “My delight and admiration for wild geese was based as much upon their supreme capacity to remain watchful and to look after themselves as it was upon their beauty and grace. The pursuit of ducks and geese with immediate enthusiasm is an essential ingredient in my painting and in my special study of the Anatidae.” Anatidae birds include ducks, geese and swans. Within the species and sub-species of Anatidae there are 147 species and 247 forms, including both sexes, where they differ noticeably, as well as major colour phases of the polymorphic forms [different forms, stages, types, of individual organisms].

Just born
Canadian Goose

In the birding community two of the longest names ae (a) Grisectyrannus aurantiant rocristatus – Crowned Slaty Flycatcher, and, (b) Tawny-Crowned Pygmy Tyrant. People have been named after Anatidae birds, such as: (1) Havelle, a Norwegian girls name that is based on the musical call of the Long-Tailed Duck; (2) Kazarka – a Russian name for the Red-Breasted Goose; and, (3) Dafila, the old scientific name for Pintail Ducks. There is remarkable intrageneric plumage diversity (Anas, Mergus) to be encountered in the family Anatidae.. One mystery is about small night migrating birds – Blackcap and Garden Warbler. They can orientate themselves in relation to star pattern in the night sky; and this they can do without any kind of training or learning. Young birds reared in captivity without their parents, took up a direction under the dome of a planetarium which could be altered by swinging round the pattern of the stars. Conversely, Wild Geese have surprisingly poor vision when they are flying in the half light. The weight is one of the most sensitive barometers of a bird’s well-being. It is dawn, cold, gey, cheerless with a south wind promising rain that a single Goose called out of the darkness and then passed low overhead, only just visable against the sky, he was mysterious. The Nightingale, Blackcap and Curlew are “Nature’s Soloists”, but the Geese are her “Chorus !”

Canadian goose

Imagine yourself buying an eighteenth-century Wooden Lighthouse right in a wetland, like Cootes Paradise Marsh. The walls would have to be lined inside to make it reasonably dry. But it looks more like a windmill without sails than a conventional Wooden Lighthouse of four storeys, where the largest room is sixteen feet and the upper rooms are smaller. But the top storey you encase with glass and make it your studio. Here, geese of the world flock to this Wooden Lighthouse and you photograph, paint, sketch to your heart’s delight. Some geese you view come globally for your creative artistic photographic work. The Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) has been claimed to belong to the Labrador Form, in which the base of the neck below the black ‘stocking’ is almost white, front and back. The Cackling Geese are a sub-series of the Canada Goose. Looking against the sunset there is a continuous coming and going of birds. A family of Barheaded Geese spread their great wings across the evening sky as they bank steeply to land on the grass. Mallards cross and re-cross the sky in pairs and little teams, splashing down at Cootes Paradise Wetland from time to time in a glitter of ripples. The Whitefronted Geese, at dawn they stream over Cootes Paradise on their morning flight, and under the full moon the night echoes with their wild cry. ” The Blue Geese rise like smoke from the marshes and I crept to within 10 years of one to get the best flight photograph of geese I have ever taken “, said Sir Peter Scott. There are the Ne-ne Geese of Hawaii, that in the 1950s were almost extinct. The Spur-Winged Goose, and Ross’s Snow Goose that flies with much faster wingbeats; the short neck and short bill make them look quite different. There is the Lesser Whitefronted Geese, perhaps the most beautiful of all the world’s Grey Geese. The Lesser Whitefronts which breed in Lapland, fly south-east on their winter migration, through Hungary to Macedonia and the Mediterranean. The Lesser Whitefront has distinctive features, such as, eyelids that are golden yellow, a small and extra-pink beak, and the white forehead patch rises high onto the crown of the head. This White-Front Goose has that smooth, dark, perfect look, almost as if there was a bloom on the feathers, which is so characteristic of Lesser Whitefronts. So, on a cruise in the Mediterranean you may have spotted Lesser Whitefront Geese. In Hungary is the Red-breasted Geese and they are also in Persia. There are two more species of Grey Geese – the Bean Goose, and the common or Russian Whitefront, and the largest flock of Russian Whitefronts tend to winter in England. There is the Barnacle Geese, Brent Geese, and the Graylag Geese, and the Pinkfoot Geese. These Geese you view daily and get a real sense of their beauty and grace. And, in your travels on your “wild goose chase” around the globe obtaining Geese for your Wooden Lighthouse you are enriching nature by placing many of your photographs of the geese up the walls of the old Wooden Lighthouse.

Cootes paradise

Who is Sir Peter Scott ? He was a naturalist, conservationist, artist, author illustrator and pilot. His passion was wildlife specializing in the Anatidae. The World Wildlife Fund described him as “father of conservation.” as he led a campaign for endangered wildlife that captured the imagination of a generation and inspired many to care about the environment before it was fashionable to do so. He gave the scientific name of Nessiteias rhombopteryx to the Loch Ness Monster of Scotland (in Greek it means – the wonder of Ness with the diamond shaped fin), so it could be registered as an endangered species. He was the founder of World Wildlife Fund. He was the founder of several Wetland Bird Sanctuaries in England. The London Wetland centre opened in 2,000 and was the first global project of its kind of 40 hectares created wetlands within the city of London , England. His pioneering work in conservation also contributed greatly to the shift in policy of the International Whaling Commission and signing of the Antarctic Treaty. In 2,009 at his centennial, an ironic twist occurred at his statue as “Mute Swans nest at bottom of Sir Peter Scott’s Statute.” How did this illustrious nature career occur ? His explorer father from the Antarctic wrote in a letter to his sculptress mother ” Make the boy be interested in ‘Natural History.’ It is better than games. They encourage it in some schools.”

Fall Colours

Mute swans nest at bottom of Sir Peter Scott’s statue

In a fitting gesture to celebrate Sir Peter Scott’s centenary year, a mute swan has laid a clutch of eggs at the foot of Scott’s commemorative statue at WWT London Wetland Centre. The statue is on a small island in the middle of the entrance lake and visitors can see the nest as they enter the centre.

The pair started building the nest around three weeks ago, after fending off two Canada geese that wanted to nest on the same island. Swans usually sit on their eggs for 35-41 days and will then carry the cygnets on their back to protect them from predators for the first ten days. The swans will feed their young underwater vegetation and small animals including tadpoles and worms.

‘We are delighted that the mute swans have nested onsite. There are at least six eggs in the nest and we expect them to all hatch because the swans are very protective of the eggs.’ says Adam Salmon, Reserve Manager. ‘Mute swans typically build their nests on water banks, mostly with mounds of rushes, reeds and other vegetation.’

Sir Peter Scott’s statue recognizes him as the founder of the Wildfowl & Wetland’s Trust and marks his significant contribution to wildlife conservation. Long before it became widely acknowledged, Sir Peter Scott recognised the threat that human activity posed to the environment. He foresaw that the conservation of wildlife depended on safeguarding habitats and crucially, on involving and inspiring people. He remained at the forefront of conservation throughout his life.WWT London Wetland Centre was Scott’s vision in his last years and was opened in 2000, just 11 years after his death.

Mute swans

Source: The EYE of the WIND , An Autobiography by Peter Scott

By Jacqueline


Photos by  Jacqueline and   Doug Worrall Photographer

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