Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Canada Lily

A True North American

Canada Lily
The Canada Lily Lilium canadense is a true North American.  It is New World all the way with no hint of exotic.  How nice to have such a beautiful flower and know that it is truly 'ours'.  

Canada Lily
The Canada Lily is in bloom now, blooming in July and August here in New Brunswick.  It grows over much of North America, ranging from Ontario, Pennsylvania and Indiana eastward to the Maritimes, and south to New England and in the mountains further south.  Its colour ranges from yellow to orange to red.  Here it is mainly yellowish to deep orange.  The reddish form is common in Pennsylvania and Indiana.  The petals are often brown spotted.

Canada Lily
The Canada Lily plant ranges from 0.5 to 1.5 metres high (2 - 5 feet).  The flowers are usually artistic-looking bells which hang down, each on its own stem.  The plant often has many bells nodding a welcome to your visit to wet meadows or swamps where it grows.  The flowers are found at the top of the plant and the main stem bears whorled leaves below.  The flowers are 5 to 7.5 cm (2-3") across.  There are 3 petals and 3 petal-like sepals arching outward, making the pretty bell shape.  The six stamens are tipped with bold orange-to-brown anthers.  

Canada Lily
I have found Canada Lilies many times in my rambles along the St. John River and am always delighted.  I am often amazed that we have such beauty out there in the wilds, just waiting for me to appreciate it.  Let's keep on protecting them so our grandchildren can enjoy them, too!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Swainson's Thrush

One of our Outstanding Songsters

Swainson's Thrush [Internet Photo]
The Swainson's Thrush is one of our common summer resident.  It breeds here in mixed or coniferous woods near water.  Its breeding range covers Atlantic Canada and Maine westward to British Columbia and southern Alaska.  It arrives here in May and usually leaves in September.  In the interim we are blessed with its wonderful flute-like song.  

The Swainson's Thrush is an inconspicuous bird.  It is about 17 cm (7 in) long and is an overall gray-brown colour.  It is identified by its buffy eyering and lores (area from the eye to the beak).  It is gray-brown on its head, back and tail (although western races show some reddish brown).  There is buff on the side of the head below the eye, the bill is buff at the base and black at the tip, the buff colour is on the throat and extends down into the breast, the numerous breast spots are round and the flanks are olive-gray.  There is a dark side throat stripe and the legs are pinkish gray.  

On a recent trip the to the headwaters of the Nepisiguit River a Swainson's Thrush nest was found.  See the photos below.  The nest was made of twigs, moss, lichens, leaves and bark.  It was built near the ground in an area sheltered by bunchberry and other low bushes and forbs.  The nest contained 3 medium-blue eggs lightly speckled with brown.  We flushed the thrush off the nest so were able to identify it.  We moved away quickly in order to not disturb the sitting bird.  

Swainson's Thrush Nest
The Swainson's Thrush is a trans-gulf flyer.  The eastern race migrates to South America by flying directly over the Gulf of Mexico.  The western race migrates down the Pacific coast and winters in Mexico.  This species was named after William Swainson, an English ornithologist.  It was formerly known as the Olive-backed Thrush.  

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Least Sandpiper

Shorebird Migration Has Started  

Shorebirds are beginning to migrate south.  Nesting is completed and it is time for our summer visitors to begin their long trek to wintering grounds.

Least Sandpiper
 Our smallest 'peep' (small North American sandpiper) is the Least Sandpiper Calidris minutilla.  It is seen now in flocks of migrating shorebirds along our beeches and muddy estuaries.  It is usually with flocks of Semipalmated Sandpipers and Semipalmated Plovers.  It is smaller than the Semipalmated Sandpiper from which it needs to be distinguished.  It is also browner, darker in colour, its bill is shorter and it has dull, yellow legs compared to the black legs of the Semipalmated Sandpiper.  In the photo below note the rufous brown coloration and the yellow legs.

Least Sandpiper
The Least Sandpiper breeds in the far north, Alaska eastward to northern Labrador and Newfoundland.  It winters in the southern USA and Central America.  Many birds spend time in our province on their way south to feed on aquatic and marine insects, seeds and invertebrates.

Least Sandpiper
The Least Sandpiper prefers muddy habitats more than sandy beaches.  It is often found on higher ground or in estuaries and rivulets.  It feeds randomly by probing mud for its preferred foods.  It needs to feed heavily while here in order to build up body fat reserves in order to have enough energy to fly thousands of kilometres south.  While feeding and flying it often emits its characteristic 'preep' sound.

Least Sandpiper
Migrating shorebirds are amassing on beaches in the Bay of Fundy now.  A good place to observe them is at Johnson's Mills.  There is an Interpretive Centre there and staff anxious to show you this natural wonder.  It is awe-inspiring to witness the flocks of hundreds of thousands of shorebirds and watch their movements.  They are there feeding and stocking up on energy before moving further south.  We are proud to have unpolluted muddy estuaries and marine mudflats from which they can glean their preferred foods.  It is a valuable resource for them and us!

Least Sandpiper

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Common Tern

Unusual Breeding Bird in Fredericton Area

Common Tern

The Fredericton area did not have breeding terns until the creation of the Mactaquac Headpond.  The former Mactaquac River emptied into the St. John River above the location where the Mactaquac Dam was being built.  The flooded Mactaquac River basin became the Mactaquac Arm or Mactaquac Lake.  As it filled up in 1968 a new ecosystem was created. This resulted in ample aquatic, marsh, and riparian habitat which was available for new and existing species.  One of those species was the Common Tern.  Birds of New Brunswick:  An Annotated List states that the Common Tern nests sparingly along the St. John River.  The largest colony in the province is at Kouchibouguac Park with 4000 to 8000 nesting pairs.  A small colony has been struggling in recent years to continue to nest on Machias Seal Island where lack of food for offspring is limiting nesting success.




The Common Tern is about the size of a small gull, 29-32 cm (12 in) long.  Its shape and wing beat are distinctive.  It arrives here in May and departs in August or September.  It is interesting to watch it dive for small fish to feed its very vocal young.  The adult makes a keeeyurr sound.

The Common Tern might be mistaken for the Arctic Tern which also nests off New Brunswick's east coast.  However, the Common Tern has a black tip to its bill and longer legs than the Arctic Tern.  There is a slight difference in the wing pattern, the Common showing a dark wedge in the outer primaries and the Arctic showing just dark wing tips.


The Common Tern is a long-distance migrant.  It breeds along the eastern US coast, through the Maritime Provinces, Labrador and across Canada to Alberta.  It winters along the coast from Middle America to South America.  It is thought that the colony at Kouchibouguac may be the largest known breeding colony.  Another one of our natural wonders!