Andrew Haydon Park is located in the city’s west end on a wide section of the Ottawa River known as Lac Deschênes. It is accessed via two entrances on Carling Avenue. The western entrance leads to a heavily-used recreational park dominated by manicured lawns, a bandshell for outdoor concerts, a picnic area, and two artificial ponds. A man-made waterfall adds to its charm, and Stillwater Creek flows into a small marsh at its western boundary. The area accessed by the eastern entrance is smaller and more heavily treed. While there are some picnic tables and a playground close to the parking area, this half of the park is more secluded, more sheltered, and is much better for songbirds. An unofficial path leads to the mouth of Graham Creek and the area known to birders as Ottawa Beach.
If you are looking for water birds, Ottawa Beach – and the western half of Andrew Haydon Park, to a lesser extent – is THE place to go.
Unlike the trails of Stony Swamp which I’ve written about previously, Andrew Haydon Park is best visited when the water of the Ottawa River is free of ice. Indeed, the parking lots are closed off during the winter with barricades, preventing access to the park. While spring migration can be good for early waterfowl returning, late summer and fall provide the most spectacular birding. Not only do lower water levels attract shorebirds and other species which prefer mudflats and shallow marshes, a large number of waterfowl stage here in the fall, lingering for days or weeks while they fatten up for the journey south. However, once the cold weather arrives sometime in December and the river freezes over, the birds all depart – as do the birders.
The following day Deb and I spent the morning birding along the Ottawa River. There were only two weeks left until Christmas, and we wanted to make the most of our morning as we weren’t sure whether we’d be able to get out together again before the new year. We agreed to meet at 7:30, not realizing just how short the days had become; the sun had barely risen when I left, and a sun pillar was visible in the sky. The sunrise was gorgeous, but by the time I was able to pull over onto the shoulder in a safe place the sun pillar had become nearly invisible. One of the bonuses of winter birding is that the sun is so low in the sky in the morning, atmospheric phenomena such as sun dogs and other ice crystal halos are often visible. Continue reading
The winter listing period began on December 1st, but it sure didn’t feel like winter as temperatures were still mild with highs above or around 0°C, and Ottawa hadn’t yet received any significant snowfall. I spent my lunch hour at Hurdman, hoping to pick up a few birds for my list, but finding only the most common species – Mallards, Common Goldeneyes, Herring and Ring-billed Gulls, chickadees, starlings, a cardinal and a goldfinch. The rivers haven’t begun to freeze, which means I have a good chance of picking up a lot of waterfowl species early in the listing period.
Saturday started out chilly, but the temperatures rose to 2°C by the time I was done birding. I took a quick drive around the agricultural fields between Kanata and Richmond while waiting for it to warm up, and encountered about 200 Snow Buntings on Rushmore Road, 200 Snow Geese and a Pileated Woodpecker flying over Moodie Drive, a couple thousand Canada Geese, 3 Ring-necked Ducks and 5 Common Mergansers at the Moodie Drive quarry, and a Red-tailed Hawk and a few Great Black-backed Gulls near the dump along Trail Road. Continue reading
On Saturday, October 22nd, I stopped by Andrew Haydon Park to look for some of the waterfowl reported earlier in the week by Bruce DiLabio. All three scoters (Black, White-winged and Surf), Long-tailed Ducks, Red-breasted Mergansers, and Brant had been found along the river between Shirley’s Bay and Andrew Haydon Park on Thursday and Friday; I needed all of these birds for my year list.
I didn’t see any of these birds at Andrew Haydon, but I did run into a fellow birder looking for all the same birds I was. Paul Mirsky and I went over to Dick Bell Park next, where we had much better luck: three winter-plumage Common Loons were swimming out in the river towards Shirley’s Bay, while a single Red-necked Grebe was diving in the bay on the west side of Dick Bell. Best of all, four Surf Scoters flew in and landed on the river directly in front of us, and not all that far out, either. Continue reading
This morning I went for a walk at Sarsaparilla Trail even though it was quite windy and huge dark clouds were blowing across the sky. It was only 12°C when I left, and I took my winter jacket because I intended to visit Andrew Haydon Park when I finished my walk at Sarsaparilla and knew that the wind can be quite cold blowing off the river. The sun was shining through gaps in the clouds, however, and it was nice walking through the woods.
I heard a couple of Dark-eyed Juncos and Golden-crowned Kinglets in the parking lot when I got out of the car. A Common Raven flew by, croaking as he went, and a few robins were still eating the Buckthorn berries just inside the entrance. I was hoping to find a Fox Sparrow, but the woods were quiet as I made my way to the boardwalk at the back of the trail. I heard more kinglets and a couple of chickadees, and that was it. Continue reading
I had taken Monday off work for personal reasons, and after taking care of a few things at home that morning, I went to Ottawa Beach and Andrew Haydon Park to try and catch up with Ottawa’s latest rare bird: a juvenile Parasitic Jaeger. This bird had been discovered at Shirley’s Bay on September 7, 2011 but has been regularly seen on the Ottawa River between the Britannia Yacht Club and Dick Bell Park this past weekend. An approachable, long-staying Red-necked Phalarope and a small flock of Black-bellied Plovers at Ottawa Beach tempted me to brave the bus to see whether I could find any of these birds.
Because I walked from the Bayshore transit station along Holly Acres Road to the park, I started my visit at the east end of Andrew Haydon Park. I followed Graham Creek to its mouth, checking the shrubs for warblers and migrants, and finding very little. I went down to the sandy shoreline but saw no shorebirds on the west side of the creek; however, a couple of people with spotting scopes on Ottawa Beach sparked my curiosity, so I tried to see if I could find a way across the creek without having to walk all the way back to the bridge. Continue reading