Archive | May 2011

Warblers and Wildflowers

I had a busy week at work, but I was able to visit Hurdman Park on the Friday before the Victoria Day long weekend. The day started out warm and sunny, but thickening clouds made photography difficult well before I was ready to head back to work.

I started my visit with a walk along the feeder path where I encountered a couple of different warblers foraging in the tree tops. A plain yellowish warbler with dark wings, white wingbars and gray feet was later identified as a female Bay-breasted Warbler; the warbler singing “Wheat-a, wheat-a, we-teach-you” turned out to be a Magnolia Warbler. Of course, the familiar songs of Yellow Warblers and American Redstarts seemed to follow me wherever I went!

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Wildflowers on a rainy day

It rained again the following day. I couldn’t stand to stay indoors for the full day so I took my umbrella and went to the Beaver Trail to look for wildflowers and more spring migrants.

There weren’t as many birds around as I had hoped. A couple of Common Yellowthroats and Swamp Sparrows were singing in the marsh, and I saw one White-throated Sparrow, perhaps five or six chickadees, one Red-breasted Nuthatch and one White-breasted Nuthatch on the trails.

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Rainy Day Birding

The following weekend it rained. Still, it was the second weekend in May and I only had one more weekend in Ottawa before my trip to the Bruce Peninsula, so I didn’t want to squander any free time on these last two weekends. I headed out to Mud Lake, still hoping to catch up with a number of migrants reported there. Fortunately only a light misty rain was falling, which was fine for me (no umbrella needed!) and the birds (which were quite active) but not so great for photography.

I walked along Cassels Street, hearing the loud, distinctive three-part song of a Tennessee Warbler. I couldn’t find the Tennessee among the quickly developing leaves, but came up with a Cape May Warbler and a couple of Baltimore Orioles instead! In the shrubs behind the parking area I found a number of White-crowned Sparrows, the first ones I had seen since the one in my neighbour’s backyard on May 8th. Warbling Vireos were singing from a number of trees, and Yellow Warblers had taken over the Ridge.

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New Arrivals at Hurdman

It is difficult for me to be cooped up indoors during the month of May, so I’ve been spending as many lunch hours at Hurdman as possible this month so as not to miss out on spring migration. It was gray and gloomy on Friday, May 6th, when I saw a couple of Warbling Vireos, Yellow Warblers and Gray Catbirds for the first time at Hurdman this season. All of these birds breed here, so I’ll be seeing a lot of them over the summer! At least one Eastern Kingbird had also arrived, and there were still a large number of Yellow-rumped Warblers moving through.

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Mud Lake Migrants

After a gorgeous, sunny Saturday the clouds and cool weather returned on Sunday. I decided to head out to Mud Lake anyway, as birders were reporting an increased number of warbler species and I was eager to see some new ones. I started the morning off with a walk at Sarsaparilla Trail where I found three Pied-billed Grebes and my first Great Crested Flycatchers (2) of the year. I also saw a couple of Yellow-rumped Warblers and heard a Common Yellowthroat, a Rose-breasted Grosbeak and a couple of White-throated Sparrows singing. It was an excellent start to the day.

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Saturday Morning at Bruce Pit

The sun was shining on Saturday when I woke up so I decided to head over to the Bruce Pit to look for shorebirds. Because the water levels are so high at Shirley’s Bay and along the Ottawa River there haven’t been many shorebird species reported this spring. I thought the Bruce Pit might be a good spot to check since there is usually good shorebird habitat all along the bottom of the “pit” and it is close to home.

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The first day of May

Trout Lily

Deb and I went to Mud Lake on May 1st with high hopes of seeing some warblers and other migrants.  After finding 5 species on Jeff Skevington’s Constance Bay outing (Yellow, Yellow-rumped, Palm, Pine and Black-and-white) I was hopeful that we might find some others in Ottawa’s most beloved birding hotspot. We were off to a promising start as soon as we got out of the car, for we heard a Warbling Vireo singing away in the tree tops. We managed to catch a glimpse of him foraging among the burgeoning leaves, and he became our first year bird of the day. These drab vireos breed here in Ottawa, and we’ll be hearing their song for weeks to come.

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OFNC Outing to Constance Bay – Part III

Before heading to the Bill Mason Center, we made a quick stop along Constance Bay Road near the intersection of Dunrobin Road. The grassy fields here are a good spot to find Eastern Meadowlarks, Upland Sandpipers, Savannah Sparrows, and Bobolinks. The Bobolinks weren’t back yet, but we could hear a couple of meadowlarks singing in the distant fields. We also saw a Northern Harrier gliding over the fields before it dropped to the ground to seize whatever prey it had been hunting. I was especially eager to see an Upland Sandpiper, a species I’ve only seen once before years ago in the east end. We found a shorebird sitting on a post at the very back of the field, and although the heat shimmer made identification tricky, it didn’t have the long neck of an Upland Sandpiper.

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OFNC Outing to Constance Bay – Part II

Olympia Marble

After another stop at Jeff’s house to use the facilities and retrieve our cars, we traveled to Bishop Davis Drive in a long procession that must have bewildered the locals. Bishop Davis becomes a dirt road once it leaves the village behind, and eventually comes to a large track entering Torbolton Forest. This is a prime spot to look for the regionally uncommon Olympia Marble, a beautiful butterfly related to the more familiar Mustard and Cabbage Whites.

The Olympia Marble prefers open sandy or barren areas where rock cress, its larval host plant, occurs. With the beautiful green veining on the underside of its wings, it is unmistakable and definitely worth searching for.
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OFNC Outing to Constance Bay – Part I

Rose-breasted Grosbeak Jeff Skevington led a full-day nature outing in the Constance Bay area on Saturday, April 30.  We began the day at his house at 8:00 a.m. where we spent an enjoyable 15 minutes in his backyard watching the birds.  He still has a good number of Common Redpolls visiting his feeders, and other yard birds included a pair of Eastern Phoebes, Dark-eyed Juncos, American Goldfinches and Chipping Sparrows.  Merlins nest in a tree close to his house (oh to have a yard like his!), but were absent while I was there.

Across the road we could hear Pine Warblers singing high up in the trees.  Jeff played a recording of their fast, musical trill, and immediately one Pine Warbler flew out of the trees toward us to investigate.  Jeff explained that the first warblers back are the older males staking out breeding sites, and they will readily respond if they hear another male singing within their territory.  The Pine Warbler landed in the tree closest to us, hopped down a couple of branches until he was directly overhead, then flew off once Jeff stopped playing the recording.

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