Despite the winter storm today that has coated everything with a new layer of ice and snow, the past week has given me hope that we have finally turned the corner. American Robins, Red-winged Blackbirds and Common Grackles have been back in large numbers for a couple of weeks now, and I see many of each species on my 1.2 km walk to the bus stop each morning. Since April 4th I’ve managed to add five new species to my year list: Song Sparrow, Great Blue Heron, Wood Duck, Golden-crowned Kinglet and Fox Sparrow.
At Jack Pine Trail I added both nuthatches, a small flock of Common Redpolls, a couple of American Tree Sparrows and a Northern Cardinal to my brand-new year list, while the Harlequin Duck still present north of Bate Island and the Carolina Wren at Mud Lake provided two easy ticks for birds rarely seen in Ottawa. Two Canada Geese swimming in the channel behind the ridge were a good find, though I have heard that one has an injured wing. By the time I saw the Pine Grosbeaks along March Valley Road I was tired and ready to quit, even though I only tallied 23 species that day.
It’s that time of year again! The official winter listing period began on December 1st, and once again I am keeping a list of all of the birds I find in the Ottawa area during the months of December, January and February. While a winter list of 90 species or more in the Ottawa study area (a 50 kilometre radius centered on the Peace Tower downtown) is considered excellent, during the past five years I have only averaged 60 species per winter. My best season was last winter, when I tallied 70 species altogether!
Easter Sunday dawned bright and sunny, and I found it terribly amusing that the first mammal I saw (other than the usual squirrels sitting on my back deck waiting for me to feed them) was an Eastern Cottontail rabbit near the storm water management ponds in my subdivision. This is the first rabbit I’ve seen since early January when one spent a couple of weeks hanging around my street, so I got out of the car to take a few pictures. As it was Easter Sunday, I was briefly tempted to go up to him to see if he’d laid any Cadbury chocolate Easter eggs; then I decided that to do so would seriously damage any credibility I may have gained as an amateur naturalist!
April is finally here. This is the month when it truly begins to feel like spring, yet Mother Nature played a cruel April Fool’s trick on us by sending us a mix of snow and rain on Sunday morning. I managed to get in an hour’s worth of birding before the gray skies began spitting snow, starting first at Sarsaparilla Trail where I found a male Wood Duck, a pair of Hooded Mergansers, a male Bufflehead, and a pair of Ring-necked Ducks on the pond. This was the first Bufflehead I had seen here, bringing the total number of species observed to 75 – up 15 from the 60 I reported in my blog entry about Sarsaparilla Trail.
The warm weather continued all last week, so I visited Hurdman Park on three different days hoping to find more butterflies and migrants. On Monday I saw a butterfly right away, likely a Cabbage White, but instead of flying down the path it went into the woods where I couldn’t follow or photograph it. Cabbage Whites overwinter in the pupa stage, so when the warm weather arrives they emerge as adults rather quickly. I usually see them at Hurdman fairly early in the spring, but usually not this early!
I was happy to hear lots of goldfinches and Song Sparrows singing throughout the park. The Song Sparrows are back in large numbers now, and I estimate I saw (and heard) about 20 of them during my walk. I checked the river in a few different places to see if any Great Blue Herons had returned, but they were still absent from the riverbank. The water levels are still rather high, though, so while they may be around, they may not return to this spot until the water recedes.
Temperatures returned to seasonal during the week after my trip to Algonquin with Deb. I stopped by Hurdman twice during the week, and picked up two new year birds: a pair of Hooded Mergansers on Monday and a single Song Sparrow on Friday. On Saturday the warm weather returned. The temperature reached an unseasonal high of almost 20°C, and the days have gotten progressively warmer ever since.
I decided to visit Sarsaparilla Trail first thing Saturday morning, despite the gray fog that blanketed the area. Several new birds had arrived, including Red-winged Blackbirds, a single Song Sparrow, three Hooded Mergansers, Canada Geese, and Common Grackles. I could only see the edge of the pond closest to the boardwalk; I couldn’t tell if any Great Blue Herons were lurking around the edges of the marsh. At one point a male Purple Finch landed on a tree overlooking the marsh and began singing. This was one of the highlights of my trip, along with two Eastern Chipmunks scurrying about in the woods.