Another October Rarity

On Saturday, October 22nd, I stopped by Andrew Haydon Park to look for some of the waterfowl reported earlier in the week by Bruce DiLabio. All three scoters (Black, White-winged and Surf), Long-tailed Ducks, Red-breasted Mergansers, and Brant had been found along the river between Shirley’s Bay and Andrew Haydon Park on Thursday and Friday; I needed all of these birds for my year list.

I didn’t see any of these birds at Andrew Haydon, but I did run into a fellow birder looking for all the same birds I was. Paul Mirsky and I went over to Dick Bell Park next, where we had much better luck: three winter-plumage Common Loons were swimming out in the river towards Shirley’s Bay, while a single Red-necked Grebe was diving in the bay on the west side of Dick Bell. Best of all, four Surf Scoters flew in and landed on the river directly in front of us, and not all that far out, either.

After a quick stop at Shirley’s Bay I went home, not expecting to go out again. However, at 1:00 I received an email from Mike Tate advising that a probable Razorbill was being seen on the Ottawa River off Britannia Point. A second email an hour and a half later, dropping the “probable”, prompted me to go out and look for it. I found a number of birders at Britannia Point, who said I had just missed a Northern Gannet flying over. However, the Razorbill was still out in the middle of the river.

It was a stunningly white bird (that was the first thing I noticed), with a black back and a thick bill. Its face was white with a black cap, and a black “spur” hooked over the shoulder like a Sanderling’s toward the breast. Its tail also sticks up straight like a Ruddy Duck’s, and it appeared to have no neck.

This Razorbill represents the first record for the Ottawa-Gatineau district and one of a few records for eastern Ontario. A member of the alcid family, the Razorbill may be found year-round off the coasts of the Maritime provinces. It likely came from the Gulf of St. Lawrence and is probably one of the last birds anyone expected to see in Ottawa!


The next day I met Deb for our regular Sunday outing. After telling her about the Razorbill, the two of us headed over to the Deschenes Rapids lookout along the Ottawa Parkway. We found the Razorbill with the help of a few other birders, watched it for a while (it was a life bird for Deb, too) then headed west toward Andrew Haydon Park. While checking out three Red-necked Grebes, a single Common Loon, a Hooded Merganser, and a couple of Bufflehead on the river, a flock of about 50 Brant flew in. While most of them stayed offshore, we found one lone Brant walking along the shoreline.


We drove over to Shirley’s Bay next, encountering three hawks sitting in trees and on top of telephone poles along Carling Avenue. Two were definitely Red-tailed Hawks; a third was likely a Rough-legged Hawk.

Red-tailed Hawk

At Shirley’s Bay we found waterfowl a-plenty. Canada Geese, American Wigeon, Green-winged Teal, Hooded Mergansers and Red-breasted Mergansers were abundant. In the water beyond the point we found a couple of Bufflehead, two female Long-tailed Ducks and a Black Scoter. Two Bald Eagles were perching in the trees across the bay, and one flew out over the island giving us spectacular views. One the river we found five Surf Scoters, at least two White-winged Scoters and one Common Loon.

We saw six Greater Yellowlegs in the mudflats near the base of the dyke on our way out, and in the woods we came across a thrush taking a bath in a puddle. I took a couple of photos, but he flew off before we could get close enough to identify him.

Thrush sp.

Altogether I ended up with seven year birds this weekend: Surf Scoter, Red-breasted Merganser, Razorbill, Brant, White-winged Scoter, Black Scoter and – bird no. 200 for my Ottawa year list! – Long-tailed Duck. This is the first time I’ve reached 200 species in Ottawa in one year, and given that I work full-time I consider this quite the feat.

I wonder what no. 201 will be???

  • Lifer #276 Razorbill

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