Not that long ago, it was our nephew's birthday and we had asked him what he would like to do when we took him out for the day.
"What I would like to do is go on a birding trip."
We had plans to take him to a comic book store in the Falls but upon hearing his request, birding at Dufferin Islands was added to the day's itinerary.
We took our nephew for lunch to the Flying Saucer and he used the back of the place mat to create this drawing of him birding with his Auntie Jean and Uncle Bob. If this was not an indication we had a budding birder in our midst, the next hint certainly confirmed it.
When our nephew finished his grilled cheese and fries, we asked him what he would like to do first.
Yes, my avian-chasing friends. Our nephew chose to go birding. The likes of Spiderman, Batman and The Transformers would have to wait until our nephew scored another lifer.
It was during a family vacation in 2008 when I first suspected our nephew may enjoy birding more than the next kid. We were on a organized hike with a naturalist from Algonquin Provincial Park. When our nephew was looking at Cedar Waxwing through a scope, the naturalist asked him if he could see the red tip of the wing feathers. He replied, "Yes and I see yellow on the tail too." Whoa! Our nephew identified a field marking without any coaching from the adults in the group. Four years and a few introductory birding trips later, my brother-in-law's eldest still shows a keen interest to look for birds with his aunt and uncle.
Dufferin Islands is an ideal place for a beginning birder. At 16 hectares, it's not a large area but a number of species can be found while exploring the small ponds and forest. A perfect break for a birder visiting the Falls.
Upon crossing a foot-bridge, we spotted a Downy Woodpecker at a feeder. Though it was not a lifer for our nephew, he had some great views of the male woodpecker as it moved up the branches of a tree.
We headed towards the pond to look for waterfowl.
At first, all we found were the usual gaggle of Canada Geese and dabbling Mallards but as the three of us rounded the corner of the gravel path, we came across a different species of waterfowl. One that I was certain would be a lifer for our nephew. Floating close to the edge of the pond was a pair of Gadwalls. I pointed out the gray and brown body with a hint of white as well as the black tail. Identifying features with words like coverts, scapulars and speculum can wait for now.
Mission accomplished. A new species for our nephew's list. Though it was more about spending the day with him.
After hand-feeding some chickadees, we continued our walk along a forested path.
Another lifer was moving through the branches of a conifer. Tick, Golden-crowned Kinglet. A tiny bird that is constantly on the move but luckily it was slow enough for our nephew to see the brightly-coloured crown.
And after some birding on a beautiful Spring day,
picking out some comics and having your picture taken with Han Solo has you declare to your dad, "Best day ever!"
Not sure how Jean and I can top this day but we just might have something up our sleeves.