Archive | March 2011

A Muskrat at Billings Bridge

Muskrat Last Thursday I returned to Billings Bridge to check out the water level of the Rideau River and to see if any Wood Ducks or Groundhogs were around.  The water has indeed receded, and the small “lake” in the middle of the lawn has dried up. A large number of Canada Geese and Ring-billed Gulls were busy foraging in the grass, but the groundhogs were all still sleeping in their dens.  After last week’s mild weather, the temperature has dropped below seasonal for the last few days, reaching only 0°C most days.  A cold wind seemed to be blowing straight down from the Arctic, and I suspect the smarter mammals have decided to hibernate for another week.

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My Favourite Places: The Beaver Trail

The second trail I started visiting after moving to Kanata South was the Beaver Trail around the corner on Moodie Drive just south of West Hunt Club.  It, too, is part of the Stony Swamp Conservation Area, which consists of almost 2,000 hectares of woodland, wetland and regenerating old field within the National Capital Greenbelt. Although the Beaver Trail is only 2.6 km long, it features all three of these unique habitats within its boundaries. 

However, to describe it as just one trail is misleading; there are actually two trails here, with a few short interconnecting pathways.  The inner trail, called the Chipmunk Trail, passes through forest and a small wildflower meadow; the outer trail, called the Beaver Trail, passes through both as well, but also has two observation platforms overlooking the wetland, each of which features a beaver lodge. I always take the outer trail as it has a greater diversity of wildlife.  In addition, just inside the woods near the parking lot is a large building housing the Wild Bird Care Center.  There is an informal feeding station on the east side of the building, which attracts its share of chipmunks, squirrels and birds.

Raised boardwalk leading beyond the loop trail

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Mer Bleue on the First Day of Spring

Pileated Woodpecker Deb and I returned to the east end on Sunday.  Now that the Canada Geese have arrived in massive flocks, we wanted to check out the traditional spring flooding areas along Milton and Frank Kenny Roads to see if we could come up with a Snow Goose, Killdeer or some puddle ducks among the flocks.  We found the geese without any problem….there must have been over 5,000 at each spot along the Bear Brook floodplain!  Despite spending a great deal of time scanning the flocks, however, the only other species we could come up with was Ring-billed Gull.  We didn’t even see any mallards.

There were a few other birds of interest around, including a couple of flocks of Wild Turkeys, a single Horned Lark on Giroux Road, and a couple of Red-tailed Hawks at the same spot on Russell Road although on opposite sides of the road.  We also had our first muskrat of the year swimming in a water-filled ditch on Milton Road and three deer on Giroux Road.

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Spring Arrivals

Song Sparrow After a week of above-zero temperatures (at least by day), the snow has started to melt and migration has begun in earnest. I went out yesterday at lunch to see if I could find any new arrivals.  Rather than heading out to Hurdman Park, I decided to visit Billings Bridge Park a little further upriver to see if I could find a few Red-winged Blackbirds to photograph or the first Wood Ducks of the year.

As I had noted during my outing at Hurdman, the Rideau River is unusually high.  Once again it has spilled over its bank along a small section of Billings Bridge Park, and the low-lying lawn there is under water as well.

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A Haven for Redpolls

Hermit Thrush I went to Hurdman on Tuesday for the first time in over a week and was surprised by the number of Common Redpolls that had descended on the area during my absence.  I heard them as soon as I entered the small woodland path, and when I reached the feeders I observed at least fifty or sixty of them in the area, either sitting on the two feeders, feeding on the ground, or waiting their turn in the trees. They greatly outnumbered the chickadees and House Finches; I don’t think I saw or heard 20 individual House Finches, when normally there are at least 50 around the feeders at any given time.  There were fewer goldfinches around, too, although I’m not sure whether this is due to them spreading out now that spring is imminent, of if they have been pushed out by all the redpolls. In any event, it was fun to watch the small, energetic redpolls flitting about, and they certainly afforded me with plenty of opportunities to capture them with my camera!

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Searching for Spring

Mink (Mustela vison)

The weather has been terrible this month.  Until Saturday, I had only been able to get out birdwatching once so far, back on March 1st when I spent a short lunch hour at Hurdman.  Since then, two storms have dropped a combined total of about two and half feet of snow on Ottawa, and the most recent storm was followed by a day’s worth of rain which has left the city a soggy, sodden mess.  Then I was hit with a sinus cold which left me without the energy to go anywhere even on the rare few days when the sun came out.

When I woke up on Saturday, the sky was still gray and gloomy, but I was tired of being cooped up inside and wanted to get out and work on my March list, which stood at a paltry 19 species. Since I still wasn’t  completely over my cold, I figured I would stay out just long enough to add another 10 common species to my month list.  If I could find a few of the Red-winged Blackbirds that had been reported, so much the better, but I was sure I could come up with at least 10 birds in the agricultural area between Kanata and Richmond, with a stop at Jack Pine Trail as necessary.

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My Favourite Places: Sarsaparilla Trail

Sarsaparilla Trail, located on Richmond Road just north of West Hunt Club, is one of the first trails I visited after moving to Kanata South.  It features a small 0.8 km circular trail traversing through the woods and a picnic area in a more open setting.  The chickadees and nuthatches here are among the friendliest I have encountered, and the Red-breasted Nuthatches in particular are not afraid to steal morsels from an outstretched hand.  They especially love sunflower seeds and peanuts.

Sarsaparilla Trail lies within the Stony Swamp Conservation Area, which itself is part of the National Capital Greenbelt. In the woods, the trail diverges into two loops. The outer loop passes through an area of deciduous trees with very little understory, while the inner trail passes through a dense stand of conifers.  On the western side of the trail, a short boardwalk leads to a small observation platform which juts out over a large beaver pond.

Because of its proximity to water and mix of habitats, Sarsaparilla Trail is home to many different species of wildlife.  It has something to offer the nature lover in every season, from the mammals that live here year-round to the butterflies and amphibians which are present only in the warmer months, to the different bird species which come and go with the changing of the seasons.

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Animal Tracks and Signs

Bohemian Waxwing 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.

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