Saturday started off cloudy but cold as I headed to the Beaver Trail for an early-morning walk; I had to put gloves on to keep my hands warm until the sun came out. Juncos were singing in the woods, and I witnessed a couple of Hairy Woodpeckers chasing each other around a dead stump. I had just passed the Wild Bird Care Centre and was walking toward the marsh when I heard the distinct, wheezy song of an Eastern Phoebe. It kept singing long enough for me to catch up with the bird in the parking lot by the WBCC; this is not the first time I’d seen one here, as I’d come across one in the spring of 2007. They used to nest on the side of the building, although I don’t know whether they still do. The phoebe was sitting in a tree high above my head, flicking its tail as it sang. It seemed too cold for any insects to be flying yet, and I didn’t see the phoebe attempt any flycatching. The sun was supposed to come out later, however, and I’m sure both the phoebe and I would appreciate the warmth once it did!
I went to Hurdman Park twice in my first week back to work after my holiday; I hadn’t been there in a while and I was curious as to whether much had changed since I’d been away. During my visit it became clear that summer is definitely waning here in Ottawa – the birds are no longer spending energy on singing and defending territories. I heard a cardinal, a couple of Song Sparrows and a Red-eyed Vireo singing, but the Warbling Vireos, Yellow Warblers, American Redstarts, Least Flycatchers and Common Yellowthroats have already ceased. I noticed one redstart foraging in the woods along the feeder path, but saw none of the usual Eastern Kingbirds, Red-winged Blackbirds, Baltimore Orioles, woodpeckers, nuthatches or Yellow Warblers. I assume that the chicks have all fledged and the birds have left their nesting areas in search of more abundant food sources in order to prepare for the long journey south soon to come.
Although the temperature has cooled off and it feels more like November than late April, new birds are arriving in Ottawa every day, and more mammals, insects and reptiles have begun to emerge from hibernation. I took some personal time off last week and managed to get out and enjoy the outdoors a couple of times before traveling to Cambridge to visit my family. I spent some time at the Beaver and Jack Pine Trails in Stony Swamp and Mud Lake along the river, and found signs of spring at each stop.
When I arrived at the Beaver Trail early in the morning, the first bird I noticed was a mallard drake in the large puddle that forms in the grass in the middle of the parking lot every year. There was a lot of activity at the trail entrance, with several Red-winged Blackbirds, American Tree Sparrows, and Dark-eyed Juncos feeding on seeds left on the ground. Two surprises awaited me there: a male House Sparrow perching on the large sign and a male Brown-headed Cowbird picking at the seeds on the ground with the juncos. This was the first time I had seen either species here before.