As usual, I parked at the mall and crossed Riverside Drive to get to the park. The deep snow made walking difficult, and a quick scan revealed no mallards or mammals in the open water near the small parking lot. I walked along the river toward Bank Street, seeing one adult Herring Gull and five Great Black-backed Gulls standing on the ice, as well as two Common Mergansers, several Common Goldeneyes, and hundreds of mallards near the bridge.
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.
On Friday I awoke to a world that had turned entirely white overnight: white clouds roofed the sky, about an inch of white snow carpeted the ground, and white snowflakes filled the air in between. It was the last day of work before the Christmas holiday, and it had been nearly two weeks since I had last gone out birding. Because I was suffering from nature-withdrawal, because the clouds were supposed to clear by lunch-time, and because the fresh snow looked so terribly inviting, I decided I would go for a walk at Hurdman at lunch.
The following day I returned to Andrew Haydon Park with Deb to try and find the Sabine’s Gull for her. We began our search at Ottawa Beach where we found lots of puddle ducks swimming in the small “bay” along the edge of the mudflats: several mallards, one American Black Duck, one Green-winged Teal and five Blue-winged Teals. On the river we saw a female Common Merganser swim by, and in the trees we could hear Cedar Waxwings and a singing Warbling Vireo.
We didn’t see anyone with scopes so we walked over to the mouth of Graham Creek to see if any shorebirds or Rusty Blackbirds were present. Continue reading
On July 9th I visited the Burnt Lands alvar via Ramsay Concession 12 near Panmure. I hadn’t been here in a few years, and was mainly looking for butterflies. I made a few stops along the way, such as Huntmar Road where I saw a family of five Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, and Gourlay Lane where I found a Chestnut-sided Warbler and a pair of Indigo Buntings. I used to visit the ruins here in previous summers as it is a good spot to see Indigo Buntings, but at some point someone blocked off access to the field leading to ruins with “No Trespassing” signs and signs asking people to call a certain telephone number if they saw anyone trespassing. I was disappointed, and soon left. On the way to Panmure I saw a couple of Northern Harriers on March Road near Carp, and a pair of American Kestrels and Eastern Meadowlarks near the Upper Dwyer Hill Road.
The following Tuesday was a beautiful day, so I spent my lunch hour at Hurdman Park looking for something to interest me. I heard a Common Yellowthroat singing in the field, a species which I hadn’t observed yet this year in this location; other than that, only the regular breeding birds were around. Dragonflies seen include Common Green Darner and Common Whitetail, while the most common damselflies were Powdered Dancer and Eastern Forktail. I didn’t get any dragonfly photos that day. Butterflies, on the other hand, were more plentiful, and I found several species; I even managed to take a few photos.
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.