Sunday, January 04, 2009

Winter Fun for Free

This past Saturday was one of the beautiful winter days that we often enjoy in January. The sun was bright in the cloudless sky and a light north wind kept the air dry and the temperatures to a cool high of -5c. With the sun stronger than the wind, it was most comfortable to loosen your scarf, remove your gloves and to be outdoors for an extended period of time.

Getting ready for "curling"

My husband and I drove to the Hamilton area which is about forty minutes from our home. Hamilton is built on the north shore of Lake Ontario and the Niagara Escarpment divides the city into upper and lower areas. There are many beautiful parks and green spaces in Hamilton and neighbouring Burlington. We went to the Royal Botanical Gardens' Laking Garden area where a large marsh is an important birding area especially during migration times. The shallow water has frozen into a smooth surface and several groups of people had come with shovels and gear to enjoy outdoor winter sports.

Pick up hockey

There were at least three pick up hockey games in progress, free of referees, fans or protective gear. The young men were practicing their stick handling and passing skills with none of the goon antics of the professional sport.

A group of middle aged men and women cleared a long rectangle on the ice and set up to play a modified game of curling. They had stones with extra long handles but no brooms were apparent. Young children skated around frozen reeds and chased a large exercise ball across the frozen surface. Grindstone Creek runs on one side of the marsh and the running water was open. While signs were up warning people to stay off the ice surface, the water here is barely more than ankle deep.

Overlooking Burlington Bay

A little further along the shore, we walked a short trail overlooking Burlington Bay. People were sitting out on the benches soaking in the sun's rays as if it were a midsummer day. The Chickadees here expect handouts and my husband was happy to indulge them. He spent his time breaking peanuts into Chickadee-sized handouts because they appeared to be their favourite treat.

Black-capped Chickadee

As for me, there were plenty of birds to see including the well cared for group of Trumpeter Swans who are fed through the winter by volunteers. The January bird list on my sidebar has grown to 35 birds. Many other birders and photographers were about with cameras and binoculars.

Two Trumpeter Swans do synchronized grooming

The steel town has done an excellent job of shoreline restoration and has largely reversed its reputation as a dirty, polluting industrial centre. I went to university here in the mid 1970s and it was never a place I would have wanted to live. We drove by a number of (expensive) homes for sale along the bay and passed a large hospital overlooking Lake Ontario where I could find work while my husband made a living by fishing. ;-)
...maybe not
In the meantime it is a lovely place to visit.

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  1. It looks like a wonderful place to hang out on a lovely winter day.Fascinating how the birds know just where to be o get the hand-outs.I am waiting for some milder weather,to be able to spend time outside with my camera

  2. Some quintessentially Canadiana pictures.

  3. Now that is a trip down memory lane for me...We had relatives in Hamilton that we visited when I was a child. We had such fun...I wonder if any more distant relatives still live there, I will have to ask my dad. The weather was super on Saturday..

  4. Looks like fun in the sun on ice. Love the Chickadee in hand, and the sychro swans. Great captures.

  5. 35 on your bird count. Hmpf ... we have chickadees, nuthatches and woodpeckers. That's it! Oh, the odd raven but not in our yard.

  6. Beautiful scenery and setting and they were arranged just right to feel like we were sharing the sunny winter day with you. We have friends who do Sr. curling on their pond every Sunday with a group of friends. It sounds like what you described.

  7. Your day looks like so much fun.

    Love the chickadee photo.

  8. What a beautiful winter day Ruth, and how lovely to see the chickadee in your husband's hand. :c)

  9. Anonymous7:35 am GMT-5

    Looks like you and hubby had a wonderful day in Steeltown. As well, there were many others out enjoying the lovely weather Saturday brought us.

    Dirty, polluted, smelly are agmost others words that come to mind when I think of Hamilton. But it certainly has changed over the past 10 years for the better. But I still prefer Kitchener over Hamilton, besides it's only a short drive down the road.

    I see your husband has taken a shine to birds lately and the birds seem to be liking him too. Maybe he will trade in his fishing gear for birding equipment? ;)

  10. Ruth- Even of the sun is shining, people in Manitoba will not be spending hours outside at -40C!

    AC- Classic Canadiana isn't seen every day. You have put one of our perfect winter days in a weekend.

    RW- As a child you may not have noticed how dirty Hamilton was, but it is really a nice place to visit/live now.

    Gaelyn- I was never a winter sports person, but watching the birds is just as much fun for me.

    CS- I had to go to Hamilton to increase my count and admit that was the main reason I went. We don't have all those water birds in our area. Last year my January count was very small.

    Beth- I knew it had to be a variation of curling, but couldn't find anything on Google. Thanks for identifying the activity.

    Kim, Jayne, Cheryl...
    My husband would rather fish and play/watch hockey than go birding. But he loved those chickadees. I walked on ahead to the end to the trail and on the way back found him in the same spot feeding them. I think he found it a very calming and gratifying activity.

  11. Looks like you had a good day Ruth. Isn't it amazing how warm the sun can be even in January?
    It looks like those swans had tags on their wings.
    A 40-minute drive would be worth it if I knew I could hand feed chickadees once I got there! :-)

  12. Ruth,

    I really must take the time to find this trail. I would love to feed the chickadees and see the swans.

    An excellent "My World" post. I enjoyed my visit, as always.


  13. Looks like a great place for young and old. Great photographs.

  14. What a lovely my world post! I have been enjoying your blog and your beautiful photos..

  15. I have had a siskin and a chaffinch on my hand but not a cutie like the chickadee. Wonderful post.

  16. Thank you for taking us on this trip in your surroundings. It was lovely and the birds were beautiful. Happy New Year!

  17. I drive past Hamilton several times a year. Hmmm. Maybe I should take a closer look!

  18. Ruth: Wonderful captures on a neat sunny day. Those were nice bird captures.

  19. Anonymous4:21 pm GMT-5

    A beautiful post about a beautiful winter day.

    See you next week.

  20. Ruth!

    I've not been by in so long.

    You've some of the loveliest pictures I've seen on the internet today and I've been surfing quite a bit.

    Your formatting is neat -but its the content that is stunning.

    The angry water pictures are pretty eerie.

    I've got my first red squirrels - ever.

    I know nothing about their care and feeding and hope they stick around:0)

  21. I would sit and watch and take photos ..Great shots and looks fun.

  22. Fantastic winter shots, it doesn't look nearly as cold as it is here in Western Canada. Thanks for sharing these.

    Cheers and Happy New Year!
    Regina In Pictures

  23. There's something wonderful about being able to get out in the cold and play...... and then, of course, to go back indoors for hot chocolate and warmth!

    I grew up with snow and free ice-skating. I'm in the South now, and if it DOES snow, everyone gets to play, because nobody can drive! It has been years and years since that's happened, though. Hmmmmm.... maybe this year?

  24. Ruth, it's fun going down memory lane with you. Thanks for sharing a part of your world.

  25. It's such a wonderful feeling having such a little bird trusting and loving you.

  26. Such fun pictures. I love the one with the Black-capped Chickadee

  27. Oh such fun you all must of had, and i really love that one with the bird in hand.

  28. Thanks for posting your beautiful winter wonderland. We still haven't had our first snow to cover the ground yet here in Northern Virginia. Watch it happen on Obama's big day to clog our world up.

  29. Anonymous6:35 am GMT-5

    Beautiful winter scenes! I like the one with a person on the bench and the small bird too! We are waiting for the Danube to freeze to and be opened for ice skating soon! :)

  30. Thank you for the lovely visit to Hamilton. It was really special as we have friends there.
    Love all your photos and the way you capture not only the birds, but the light.

  31. What an absolutely beautiful place to spend the day ~ it sounded like a very peaceful, relaxing afternoon.


  32. Beautiful moments in snow! Excellent post!

  33. I notice how we are all blogging about snow. At least most of ours out here on the coast is melting for awhile. I haven't seen many birds up at our cabin in the last month. They must all be up in the trees for protection of already down south. - Margy

  34. You live in a beautiful part of our world.


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