Sabine’s Gull, Part II

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.

Although there were no blackbirds or shorebirds, we were pleasantly surprised to see two female Hooded Mergansers swimming out of the mouth of the creek. The only other bird of interest was a Great Blue Heron flying off toward Andrew Haydon Park.

Hooded Merganser

Deb and I decided to take a walk along the mudflats toward Scrivens Street where I had seen the Sabine’s Gull the day before. The only shorebird we found was the long-lingering Red-necked Phalarope. It was feeding actively, scurrying this way and that, making it difficult to photograph.

Red-necked Phalarope

Despite the lack of shorebirds, there was still a lot to see along the beach. Of particular interest were the mammal tracks we found close to the water. While some undoubtedly belonged to dogs, we found some which we easily identified as raccoon tracks. These tracks show the typical walking gait with one of its front feet (the print on the left) paired with the opposite back foot (the print on the right). At the left edge of the photo is a set of mink tracks, walking in the opposite direction of the raccoon.

Raccoon and mink tracks

We saw a photographer at the edge of the beach a long ways off, and when I took a look through my scope I could see a small brownish bird walking along the sand. It was closer to Lakeside Gardens than to us, so we got back in the car and drove to the parking lot closest to the Britannia Pier. We walked along the beach until we found the Sabine’s Gull foraging in the water.

Sabine's Gull

Sabine’s Gull

Deb was thrilled to get a good look at him as this was the first one she’d ever seen. We walked to the edge of water so we could take some pictures of this handsome gull.

Sabine’s Gull

Once again I shot some video:

We spent a good half-hour watching and admiring the gull before heading to our next destination, Mud Lake. Water birds were plentiful, with Wood Ducks, two Hooded Mergansers, six Pied-billed Grebes, two Black-crowned Night-herons, three Great Blue Herons and one kingfisher still in residence. On the river behind the ridge Deb spotted this odd goose swimming with a couple of Canada Geese. The orange bill is a good indicator that this bird is a hybrid rather than a partially leucistic Canada Goose.

Hybrid goose

We heard a raven calling as it flew over the lake. Other songbirds included Warbling Vireo, a White-throated Sparrow, lots of Yellow-rumped and Black-throated Green Warblers, a couple Nashville and Magnolia Warblers, one Chestnut-sided Warbler and one Palm Warbler. Most of these were in the trees along the north edge of the lawn close to the river. Deb had never seen a Northern Parula before, so I spent some time examining the flock to try and find one for her. We found not one, but three, giving her two lifers in one day!

The only dragonflies I noticed were meadowhawks, although we did see a spreadwing damselfly along the north shore of Mud Lake. As it was a female, I was unable to confirm its identity though Spotted Spreadwing is the most likely at this time of year.

Spreadwing sp.

It was a real treat to see the Sabine’s Gull and Red-necked Phalarope again; Andrew Haydon Park is possibly the best birding spot in Ottawa in the fall, and with birds like these and the Parasitic Jaeger earlier this month, it’s a spot I’ll be returning to again and again in the weeks to come.


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