On a sunny Saturday afternoon my phone buzzed on the table. It was a notification telling me that a Green-winged Teal had just been spotted in a park not 10 minutes away from where I live. Not only that, but it was the Eurasian sub-species of Green-winged Teal, a rare visitor to North America. We didn’t have any family plans that evening, and my son Henry was watching a show on Netflix, so I suggested to my wife that I run and go see this bird and take Henry with me to get some fresh air. Of course he didn’t want to leave the couch, but the decision was made that he would either go birding with his father, or be forced into cleaning the entire house. It took him longer to decide than I expected, but he finally settled on birding.
We dashed off to the park in question and had to walk around in fresh snow for a while to figure out where to find the bird. Several times he announced “well I guess it’s not here… lets go home”, but my persistence paid off and I found a stream feeding into a large pond where the duck had been seen. By the time we snuck up to the riverbank, the bird was upstream and out of view. A good trick for photographing ducks is to just sit motionless for a few minutes, and eventually they get comfortable with your presence. I told Henry this is what we would be doing, and we both plopped down in the snow.
As I watched for the return of the duck, we discussed the pro’s and con’s of eating snow. I explained daylight savings time. We agreed that sunlight makes us happier. Then I heard a little crunch behind me and realized that two Canadian Geese had slowly snuck up right behind us. I alerted Henry to their presence and he was immediately nervous.
“Dad, would a goose attack us”?
“No you don’t have anything to worry about” I lied, knowing full well it wouldn’t be the first time a Canada Goose might get a little nasty.
“Are you sure? Do they have teeth?”
“Yeah I’m sure we’re fine. People probably just feed them in this park and so they want some food. I don’t know about the teeth… I’ll google it”. He wasn’t very reassured and got a little bit closer to me as the Goose had now crept up to about 5 feet away from where we were sitting.
Just then I saw a bit of commotion downstream as someone was walking down the river and 4 ducks took off and flew towards us. One of them was the Teal, and it landed just a short distance away. I wanted to adjust my position a little to capture my photo with the bird in the afternoon sun, so I told Henry to stay where he was and I would creep a bit further down the bank. “No way! I’m not staying alone with these Gooses!” he answered in a strained whisper, and so we moved together. I got in position, nice and low, and captured my photo. Henry used my binoculars to examine the beautiful Green-winged Teal himself.
“Ok Henry, we can go home now”.
“Aww do we have to Dad? I love it here”.
“OK we can stay a few minutes longer”, and we watched the sun set in a random Toronto park in early March instead of watching TV.
Happy Birding Everyone!
Urban Nature Store