Archive | January 2011

Northern Hawk Owl

A Northern Hawk Owl has been spending the last month or so near Low, Quebec right in the exact same location where one had been seen in the winter of 2006-07. Speculation is that it is the same individual, but since the owl is not banded I suppose we’ll never know.

Deb and I made the trip across the border on a bitterly cold morning last weekend. We didn’t see much on the drive up other than a few Blue Jays, crows and ravens, and at first we didn’t see a single bird after we’d left the highway. There was no sign of any Purple Finches picking grit up off the road this time.

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A Search for Gulls

This winter has been quiet for gulls. I am still missing Glaucous and Iceland Gull for my winter list, so I decided to go to Billings Bridge yesterday at lunch to see if I could find them – or any gulls – there. I started my walk in the park across from Billings Bridge mall where I found only a pair of mallards. Although there was a fair amount of open water, there was a distinct lack of birds. I walked along Riverside Drive, and once I passed the end of the island I saw a few Common Mergansers – including one male! – and Common Goldeneyes. There were no gulls loafing on the ice.
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More Redpolls

I returned to Hurdman on the following Tuesday. I didn’t see the Barrow’s Goldeneye that has been frequenting this section of the river, but I did see one Common Merganser and several Common Goldeneyes.

In the woods, a flock of about 150 starlings feeding on the buckthorn berries was an unexpected sight. Maybe one of these days the Bohemian Waxwings will find these berries as well! The usual birds were present at the feeders, including lots of House Finches and goldfinches and about half a dozen Common Redpolls. I was happy to find these endearing finches so accessible, and spent most of my lunch hour photographing them. Here are a few images of the redpolls feeding.

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Hurdman in January

After the holidays ended I was eager to visit Hurdman Park and add a few more birds to my year list. January 5th turned out to be a cold, sunny day, and I realized then how little sun we’ve seen in the past month. Normally November is the cloudiest month of the year here in Ottawa, but we saw a surprising amount of sun last November. It appears now that December (and perhaps January) will receive that dubious honour this winter, for I can’t recall two days in row with pure sunshine.

When I arrived at Hurdman, I noticed that the first feeder was quiet, with only a few chickadees in the area. I soon discovered that the feeder was completely empty, so I added a little of my peanut and sunflower seed mixture to the tray.
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New Year’s Day Birding

I couldn’t let New Year’s Day pass without going out and attempting to find some birds for my brand new year list. My plan was to head south along Eagleson and Moodie to look for hawks and gulls and Snow Buntings, but as the day was incredibly foggy I had to give up the idea of birding in any open areas. Instead, I stopped in at the Eagleson Ponds, where I found a couple of House Finches, about ten mallards, and one Canada Goose…an excellent start to the year.

Next I went to the Jack Pine Trail, figuring the fog wouldn’t be as bad in the woods. There I found a couple of Blue Jays feeding on some peanuts near the parking lot and a single Mourning Dove by the large OFNC feeder. I was very surprised not to see or hear a single chickadee or nuthatch along the way, and as I continued down the trail I soon discovered why. While walking toward the back of the trail a large, grayish hawk flew up off the ground almost right in front of me, landing on a fallen tree not too far away. Fortunately he was quite visible from where I stood on the trail, allowing me good look at his long tail, the dark cap on his head and bright white supercilium. There was no doubt in my mind that it was an adult Northern Goshawk. Not only was the goshawk only the eighth bird on my year list, it was my first life bird of the year!

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Favourite Moments of 2010

The year 2010 was proclaimed the International Year of Biodiversity, and, keeping in with this theme, it was a fantastic one for seeing a variety of wildlife. I added new amphibians, birds, butterflies, dragonflies and mammals to my life lists and encountered many other wonderful creatures in my travels.

I wasn’t able to get out as often as I had hoped, and fell short of my goal of reaching 200 bird species in the in the Ottawa area. When I did go out, I usually stayed pretty close to home, visiting favourite west end trails and parks such as Jack Pine Trail, Mud Lake, Andrew Haydon Park, Shirley’s Bay, and the Richmond Lagoons. I never made it to Petrie Island or the Baxter Conservation Area at all in the warmer months of the year, and visited the airport twice and the Cedar Grove Nature Trail in Marlborough Forest only once.

I tallied 191 bird species in total for 2010, and only 175 in the Ottawa area. A few notable misses include Snow Goose, Surf Scoter, Sharp-shinned Hawk (due to my inability to distinguish accipiters from a distance; I did see a number of these woodland hawks during the course of the year which I couldn’t identify), Northern Shrike, Tennessee Warbler, Northern Waterthrush and Rusty Blackbird. As well, the winter of 2009-2010 was not a good one for visiting winter species such as owls and finches. My attempts to keep year lists for other types of wildlife met with failure, and one of my goals for 2011 is to keep better lists of mammals, amphibians, insects, etc. that I see during the year.

Nevertheless, I had many amazing encounters in the past year. In fact, I couldn’t limit myself to my favourite ten or twelve moments of the year, so instead I am listing my top 20 favourite moments.

Here, then, are my top 20 favourite moments of 2010…
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