After hearing that the Hudsonian Godwits were dividing their time equally between Ottawa Beach and Shirley’s Bay, I headed out on Sunday morning to Andrew Haydon Park and Ottawa Beach to look for these and other fall migrants. I walked out to the mudflats on the Ottawa Beach side first, and almost immediately noticed a group of five godwits huddled together in the water only a dozen or so meters beyond the shore. They were much closer than the ones at Shirley’s Bay, but still a bit too far for the camera, so I set off down the beach to see if I could find any others.
About four Northern Pintails (all females) were swimming out in the deeper water, while closer to shore I encountered four Semipalmated Plovers foraging at the water’s edge. I noticed several Great Black-backed Gulls and Herring Gulls loafing along the shoreline as well, although only this Ring-billed Gull allowed me to photograph him. I am not sure what he is trying to eat, but he picked it up and dropped it several times.
I found two more groups of godwits, one consisting of four birds and the other consisting of seven. Like the first group, these birds were resting close together with their bills tucked into the feathers of their backs, trying to rest. All of them were too far out in the water to approach, and so I left without any decent photos.
As it was a new bird for me, and so tantalizingly close, I wasn’t ready to give up on getting a decent picture of the godwits. An idea came to me on the long walk back to Ottawa Beach. The morning was becoming quite warm, and the Ottawa River was neither deep nor cold yet; so why not take off my socks and wade out a little ways into the water to get just close enough for some better photos?
At the mouth of the creek
The five godwits were still resting in the water just beyond the mouth of the creek. I took my socks off, put my shoes back on, rolled up my pants, and removed my jacket. Slowly I walked out into the water, stopping every couple of feet to take a couple of pictures as my shoes filled with water. The birds occasionally opened their eyes to look at me, but otherwise ignored me.
I stopped when I got just close enough for some great, detailed shots, while still keeping a respectful distance from the birds. Then, while I was crouched down taking pictures, I almost lost my balance and fell into the water. The sudden movement startled the godwits, and they all looked up at the same time.
When I stood up again they all began moving away from me. I figured I had disturbed them enough and went back to the beach to retrieve the rest of my belongings. I then crossed the creek to the Andrew Haydon side of the park to see what else was around.
As I climbed up the rocks in my soaking wet shoes, I noticed a Dark-eyed Junco and a couple of Yellow-rumped Warblers foraging near the ground. A little further along, I counted seven Blue-winged Teals feeding in the river close to the rocks.
A couple of American Pipits flew over, and in the trees at the west end of the park I came across a group of songbirds including one Northern Parula, a couple of Ruby-crowned Kinglets, about half-a-dozen Golden-crowned Kinglets, a Brown Creeper and of course chickadees.
After I finished exploring the park, I debated whether or not to stop anywhere else. Because my shoes were still sopping wet, however, I decided to go straight home feeling extremely happy with the one stop I did make!