Autumn has arrived so we are now seeing the beautiful change in colours out there. It’s a beautiful time of year and a beautiful time to see wildlife.

I have been cycling along the Grand River between Cambridge and Paris, Ontario and occasionally hiking the same trail with my camera in hand keeping an eye out for wildlife.

On one of my rides I stopped to chat with, Murray,  a fellow who owns property in Glen Morris. The trail bisects his land. Murray told me he had seen a pileated woodpecker several times near the trail pecking on a dead tree. If you have ever seen one of these birds you will never forget it. They are enormous – up to 18 inches tall – and when they hammer a tree to get at the insects inside they leave extraordinarily large holes. Their tapping is slower and louder than that of other woodpeckers.

A few days later I went for hike along the trail and, lo and behold, there was this pileated woodpecker working its magic on a rotting tree trunk not a hundred metres from where Murray and I had chatted.

The red ‘moustache’ along the cheek revealed it was a male. He didn’t seem to mind me taking pictures. I sat down on the trail to get a better angle. He kept hammering away. When a couple of cyclists passed by he flew up to a nearby tree where he started climbing the trunk.

While that hike was about 9km it is not necessary to go as far to enjoy autumn nature. Just yesterday I decided to visit a popular birding site: the confluence of the Speed and Grand Rivers. I didn’t have to walk far from my car to find a good vantage point.

A few years ago at this very spot I watched a bald eagle being swarmed by gulls which have come to dominate this fishing spot. And, this is also where I have enjoyed watching Caspian terns fish. Yesterday I was quickly rewarded as a ring billed gull chased another up and down the river trying to get it to surrender a fish it had caught.

After snapping this picture and watching the pair disappear down river I thought I might have time to get over to Grass Lake in time to see the Sandhill cranes before they fly to their overnight sleeping site. It was a ten minute drive. Again, luck was on my side. Two adults were foraging – with their two colts –  in a farmer’s field. This field has a deep gulley in the middle offering them a little privacy. I waited until the male decided feeding time was over and began walking up the other side of the field followed by the others.

The four cranes stood together facing the wind. Then, without an audible sound, the adult male leaned forward signalling it was time to fly and started running forward. The rest followed. The sun had already gone down so there was precious little light. Nevertheless I was pleased with the pictures I got with my trusty Nikon D500.

And, in case any of you faithful readers are wondering how the red foxes – which I wrote about last time – are getting along, they pop by at least every other day. I just have to keep my eyes open which  is the point I have been trying to make in my presentations and on this website for some time. I took this photograph last week.

I do hope you are also finding time to enjoy nature. Here’s to good health!


  1. Ben Lanthier

    I first saw a pileated woodpecker near Sturgeon Falls a few years back. I was amazed at the size. The neighbours had left a large, dead tree trunk standing and it always attracted these guys. When he started hammering at this tree, that woke me up!

    Thanks for sharing your pics and stories. I love your sign-off – “I do hope you are also finding time to enjoy nature. Here’s to good health!” It’s a great message and your blog proves nature is all around us – we just need to make the time to enjoy it.

    1. Paul E Gains

      Hey Ben, many thanks for your note. Yes, these pileated woodpeckers are enormous. I saw another one while hiking near the Grand River the other day. But this one wasn’t as cooperative as the fellow I photographed near Glen Morris, Ontario. Cheers!

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