On Saturday morning I headed out west to Dunrobin again, stopping in at Sarsaparilla Trail first, as usual. I tallied 18 species on my walk, more than I’ve seen there on a single visit so far this year; highlights include Ring-necked Ducks, a pair of Bufflehead, three female Hooded Mergansers, Golden-crowned Kinglets, one Common Grackle, four Purple Finches, four Tree Swallows, and one Eastern Phoebe. Both the Tree Swallows and the phoebe were new for Sarsparilla this year, and both were flycatching over the large pond. I first noticed the phoebe when it landed in the dead tree closest to the observation dock, although it quickly flew off to a more distant snag. Surprisingly, I didn’t see or hear a single sparrow at Sarsaparilla. The juncos seemed to have disappeared and the Swamp Sparrows and White-throated Sparrows haven’t arrived yet.
The following weekend I headed out to the west end. My goal was the Morris Island Conservation Area, but I decided to stop in at the Bill Mason Center first while I waited for it to warm up. Although the morning was sunny, it was cool enough to need a jacket. Few birds were singing as I entered the marsh. I heard no Swamp Sparrows, Common Yellowthroats, or Yellow Warblers, although I saw two Yellow Warblers on my walk. I also saw a Rose-breasted Grosbeak and a couple of robins in the marsh, but no rails or grackles or Red-winged Blackbirds. The blackbirds have left their nesting territories and can be found in large flocks in cornfields and other agricultural areas, returning to roost in nearby wetlands at night.
I took the Monday following my Mom’s wedding off work to rest after the long drive home. However, “rest” to me means getting up early and going exploring! It was a bright, warm day, so I decided to look for dragonflies in the west end. A stop at the bridge on Huntmar Road produced one Northern Rough-winged Swallow and one American Redstart as well as the usual Common Yellowthroats, Swamp Sparrows and Red-winged Blackbirds in the marsh. I also heard one Veery and one Least Flycatcher singing in the woods. I didn’t walk as far as I would have liked, given the weekday traffic and narrow shoulders; instead I quickly returned to the car and drove over to Thomas Dolan. Along the way I came across one singing House Wren, a couple of Eastern Meadowlarks, and an Eastern Bluebird, making for a wonderful start to the day.
On Good Friday I visited the Bill Mason Center in Dunrobin west of Ottawa. It was a cool, sunny morning – still cool enough for my winter coat – and I was hoping to see some rails in the marsh as I had read they were back on territory. Before I even got to the parking lot, however, I heard the song of an Eastern Meadowlark drifting down from a tree bordering the large field next to the school grounds. I pulled over in time to see the singer fly away to the middle of the field where it landed and began singing again. A second meadowlark was foraging in the grass near a line of small shrubs. These beautiful members of the blackbird family are not as approachable as the more abundant Red-winged Blackbirds and Common Grackles, and the only photos I took were from a great distance. A few starlings, Canada Geese, robins and mallards were foraging in the field as well, and I heard a Killdeer flying over as I was walking back to the car.
The last weekend of February was a beautiful one for going out and looking for those last few species to add to my winter list. Although both Saturday and Sunday morning started out cloudy, the sun came out each day not long after I headed out. The temperature was decent, too, with the highs in the -7°C range.
On Saturday I drove out to the Richmond Nursery to look for seeds to start my spring garden. Since I had some time to kill before the nursery opened, I decided to spend some time at the Richmond Lagoons and driving the back roads around Richmond.