A Watery Waterfowl Weekend in Ottawa

Hooded Mergansers

Hooded Mergansers

Once again we had a cooler than normal weekend in Ottawa, and this time it was completely overcast with torrential downpours on Saturday. I only managed to get out for a few hours each morning, and didn’t see a single dragonfly. With the weather so uncooperative for dragon-hunting, I decided to spend my time birding instead – and what better weekend to look for water birds? I was especially hoping to see some herons, as I’ve noticed an unprecedented number of Black-crowned Night-herons flying around lately – a pair near the storm water pond at Mud Lake, one near the War Museum on Scott Street, one along Old Richmond Road in Stony Swamp, two from my back window (a new yard bird!) and one flying along the creek at Moodie and Highway 417 on two separate occasions.

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Among the Flowers

Acadian Hairstreak

Acadian Hairstreak

After getting lucky with the Banded Hairstreak on Friday I decided to try for another hairstreak butterfly in a different location nearby: the Acadian Hairstreak. In July 2014 I had found a small colony of these small, gray butterflies at the Bruce Pit and hoped to find them there again this year. It’s also a good spot for birds and dragonflies, so I decided to bring my net and spend some time there. As the “pit” itself has become overgrown with cattails, I decided not to walk down to the water, but to check the meadow above it instead. This turned out to be a wise decision as there were a number of tiny toads at the water’s edge and I didn’t want to accidentally step on any.

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Visiting the South March Highlands

I haven’t visited the South March Highlands in a long time – not since April 2015. However, the weather this morning was poor for dragon-hunting (only 13°C, with more clouds than blue sky showing above and a brisk wind blowing), and as a Blue-winged Warbler had been discovered breeding there with a Golden-winged Warbler last month, I thought it was long past time to pay a visit.

The woods were still fairly dark by the time I arrived at 6:45. One of the first birds I saw was a male Rose-breasted Grosbeak in the gloomy woods, and one of the first birds I heard was a Wilson’s Snipe keening in the marsh close to the Brady Avenue entrance. The Blue-winged Warbler nest was a good 2 or 3 kilometers along the bike trail, and as there wasn’t much to see in the dark forest, I covered the distance in good time. Birds of note included a Great Blue Heron and a Black-crowned Night-heron at Confederation Bridge, a Wood Thrush chasing a Blue Jay, a family of Baltimore Orioles, at least four different Scarlet Tanagers calling, and two Pine Warblers and three Black-throated Green Warblers singing. I wasn’t able to get photos of any of them.

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Canada Day Breeding Birds and Butterflies

Gray Comma

Gray Comma

July has arrived, and today’s weather was typical of summer – hot and sunny for most of the day with thundershowers rolling in later in the afternoon. Fortunately there was no humidity, which made my morning in Stony Swamp looking for breeding birds and bugs comfortable.

It was clear from my outing today that we are at the peak of the breeding season, one of my favourite times of year. Although some birders become afflicted by the “summer birding doldrums” in the period between when the birds stop singing and songbird migration starts in the fall, I was surprised to find that the doldrums have already been referenced in both eBird’s latest monthly challenge and in every OFNC bird sighting report since June 16th. There are too many birds around – including nestlings and the newly fledged young following their parents about – and still so many birds singing right now that I probably won’t become desperately bored until about mid-August when I start longing for the first wave of warblers and insectivores to arrive.

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European Skippers

Least Skipper

Least Skipper

Yesterday was a great day for seeing new things. I started the morning at Old Quarry Trail with no particular goals in mind; it’s been a few years now since I’ve been there at the height of breeding season, so I just thought I’d take a look around and see what I could find. This was a good decision as I ended up adding two new birds to the eBird hotspot list (one of which was also new for my Stony Swamp patch list!), and found a new lady beetle species.

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The “Wild Ode West” Dragon-hunting Adventure

Widow Skimmer

Widow Skimmer

Chris Lewis and I had such a great time dragon-hunting in Gatineau last weekend that on June 25th we decided to hit several spots west of Ottawa to search for several local and unique species. On our list of locations were the Quyon Ferry Dock near Fitzroy to look for big river species, Morris Island for clubtails and skimmers, and Pakenham, Blakeney and Almonte for Rapids Clubtail. Before heading out to the Quyon Ferry Dock we stopped in at the fields near Constance Bay to look for Upland Sandpipers. We got lucky and found four. Not only did we see a couple of them flying over the fields, giving their distinctive call, we found one standing right on the shoulder of the road! Unfortunately we caused it to flush before I could get a photo of this bird; I still have yet to photograph this speices. Indeed, this was the closest I’ve ever come to one of an Upland Sandpiper, which are difficult to find as they breed and feed in dry grasslands rather than muddy shorelines.

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Jack Pine Specialties

Wood Frog

Wood Frog

The day after the excellent snaketail adventure in Gatineau Park, I headed over to Jack Pine Trail to see if any of its unique dragonflies were on the wing. Two years ago I found a healthy population of Brush-tipped and Williamson’s Emeralds, and Arrowhead Spiketails are regularly seen along the stream at the back. Although I’d heard that it takes four years for Williamson’s Emerald larvae to mature, I had hopes of at least finding the Brush-tipped Emerald; I still think it’s amazing that all these wonderful dragonflies live and breed so close to home. I was also hoping to find some spreadwings, as I’ve seen both Northern and Emerald Spreadwings along the trails here in the past – though none in the past couple of years.

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