Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura, Vulture

Turkey Vulture Preening

The Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) is a frequent sight over Ontario in the warmer months; soaring with their characteristic tipping motion as they look for lunch.

Whilst not exactly beautiful birds, in a conventional sense, they are still impressive: their olfactory sense especially, which is primarily how they find food. According to my bird book, gas companies take advantage of this, by putting attractive-(to vultures)-smelling chemicals in the gas and detecting leaks by looking where the vultures gather.

These are New World vultures (Cathartidae) and are not closely related to the Old World vultures that we all know from David Attenborough documentaries; the similarities are due to convergent evolution. Precisely where these things belong in taxonomic terms in relation to other birds is apparently still uncertain.

Toronto Skyline At Night

Toronto, Skyline, Night
Raccoon at night

Raccoon at night

This was taken from Hanlan’s Point on the Toronto Islands, utilising an ND filter to allow a longer exposure; Toronto at night is almost verging on pretty…

Unfortunately, I’d missed that last ferry back from this end of the islands and had to walk back to Centre Island to catch a later ferry, with a scavenging raccoon (who seemed especially keen on pizza) to keep me company whilst I waited.

Mink

Mink

The Toronto Islands are a short ferry ride from downtown Toronto and are usually a pleasure to visit – the little cafe at the eastern end of the islands is a fine spot for a bite to eat or a drink. On this occasion, I was on the islands with a view to getting some after dark shots of the Toronto skyline.

Arriving in the early evening, I had time to have a pleasant stroll around first and encountered this splendid little chap fishing: it’s an American Mink (Neovison vison) and it’s where it’s supposed to be – they’re not uncommon in the UK, but they’re introduced there and viewed as a damaging invasive species.

This one seemed to be having a splendid time splashing about in the lake and eventually managed to catch tea, apparently unconcerned by the small crowd of over-evolved simians that were watching.

Mink, American Mink

Mink with fish for tea

Toadlet

American Toad, Toadlet, Toad, Young

In the middle of summer, the Spring’s generation of baby toads start getting adventurous and venture forth from the ponds in which they were spawned. One has to be careful where one puts one’s feet whilst out walking, as the paths are often crawling (hopping?) with loads of these little chaps.

This makes me happy: in the UK, toads are struggling (the usual human ghastliness, plus fungus), so it’s nice to see them doing a little better here.

People: be nice to toads!

Hello, lady toads…

American Toad, Bufo americanus

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single toad in possession of a good pond, must be in want of a wife.

Despite having been interested in, and looking out for, frogs and toads since a young age, I’d never actually seen a male Anuran calling; whilst walking in a park in Oakville, I found this enthusiastic chap parked on the edge of a fountain and calling merrily away.

He was so engrossed in the business of attracting lady toads that I was able to get incredibly close with the macro lens and get this shot.

You don’t get this stuff at home

Black Bear, Bear, Ursus americanus

This sighting was one of the highlights of my time thus far in Canada; whilst exploring a path from a rather splendid B&B (Shambhala, in Buckhorn), I found this bear just strolling towards me. After contemplating me for a few moments (and kindly refraining from eating me), it wandered off into the bushes; just enough time to get a few photographs.

I love the fact that you have things like this wandering around the woods of Canada.

I rather identify with this bear: the poor thing is being roundly eaten by mosquitoes – the little b*ggers were being especially troublesome during our visit – the dragonflies etc that would normally thin the numbers out a bit had yet to hatch from their larval forms.

Rhamphorhyncus

Rhamphorhyncus

This is a close-up of a well-preserved Rhamphorhyncus from the Royal Ontario Museum; it’s from the Middle Jurassic, so it’s at least 161 million years old. Rhamphorhyncus was a pterosaur (so, not a dinosaur, as any fule kno) – apparently, the name means ‘beak snout’.

This particular fossil came from the Bavarian Solnhofen limestone (noted for its beautifully preserved fossils, including Archaeopteryx) and is interesting partly because it has the head of a small fish preserved in the creature’s throat area – presumably the creature’s final lunch.