On Boxing Day I got up early to check out a report of an American Coot at Billings Bridge along the Rideau River. This species has eluded me all year, and the idea of adding it to both my year and winter lists was just too tempting to resist. I parked in the large parking lot at Billings Bridge mall (despite my aversion to being anywhere near a shopping mall on Boxing Day), then crossed Riverside Drive to get to the park.
Although the water was still open along this section of the river, I saw no ducks along the shore. A couple of years ago it was not unusual to see about 100 mallards and American Black Ducks in this area during the winter, but I think people have stopped feeding them here and now feed them at Linda Thom Park on the other side of the bridge. I recall finding a Green-winged Teal and a couple of female Wood Ducks here a couple of times in winters past; today there were no ducks whatsoever. Continue reading →
I got up really early on Saturday morning to go shopping. If there’s one thing I hate more than grocery shopping, it’s having to do it when the store is jam-packed full of people right before a holiday. Fortunately the SuperStore a few blocks from my house is open around the clock this time of year; I arrived at 6:30 in the morning, when the store clerks restocking the shelves out-numbered the relatively few shoppers. I picked up what I needed and left just as the sun was coming up.
I couldn’t resist taking a drive down Rushmore Road on my way home to see if I could find some wildlife hunting for food out in the fields. I didn’t see anything other than crows, but the sunrise was beautiful.
There were no halos or sun pillars visible; I took a few pictures of the fields and then left. I liked how the morning sun is reflected in these three silos:
As it was Christmas Eve day, I had no time for anything more than just a quick drive-by; it was just enough to provide me with a sense of peace and serenity and to renew my appreciation for the wonderful palette of colours found in a winter sunrise.
On Friday I awoke to a world that had turned entirely white overnight: white clouds roofed the sky, about an inch of white snow carpeted the ground, and white snowflakes filled the air in between. It was the last day of work before the Christmas holiday, and it had been nearly two weeks since I had last gone out birding. Because I was suffering from nature-withdrawal, because the clouds were supposed to clear by lunch-time, and because the fresh snow looked so terribly inviting, I decided I would go for a walk at Hurdman at lunch.
The following day Deb and I spent the morning birding along the Ottawa River. There were only two weeks left until Christmas, and we wanted to make the most of our morning as we weren’t sure whether we’d be able to get out together again before the new year. We agreed to meet at 7:30, not realizing just how short the days had become; the sun had barely risen when I left, and a sun pillar was visible in the sky. The sunrise was gorgeous, but by the time I was able to pull over onto the shoulder in a safe place the sun pillar had become nearly invisible. One of the bonuses of winter birding is that the sun is so low in the sky in the morning, atmospheric phenomena such as sun dogs and other ice crystal halos are often visible. Continue reading →
The following weekend I stopped quickly in at Jack Pine Trail on Saturday morning before heading out to finish my Christmas shopping. It was quiet…there were few birds around, and fewer people. However, I did discover some unusual activity in a large tree with a couple of holes in the trunk. A Red Squirrel was squawking and chattering, and while I was watching the squirrel, a tiny mouse ran down the trunk and disappeared into one of the holes! I stood still and turned my camera on, hoping it would emerge and pause long enough for me to take a picture or two. Eventually, it did – in a hole higher up on the trunk – and ran up into the branches! Continue reading →
I had more time to go birding the following day, and headed out to the east end to follow up on a reported Canvasback near Petrie Island. This duck – a male in breeding plumage – had been there for a few days now, so I figured my chances of finding him were pretty good. I’ve only seen this species once before, at Presqu’ile Provincial Park on an OFNC trip in April, 2008, and was hoping to get a better view of this uncommon migrant.
Because I arrived in the east end early, I spent some time driving around the Wall Road/Frank Kenny area. The highlights were about 20 Snow Buntings and a single Northern Harrier on Regimbald Road; I saw no Snowy Owls, no Horned Larks, no buteos, no shrikes, and no Sandhill Cranes on Milton Road. I had better luck at Petrie Island; after parking on North Service Road, I walked down to the water where the male Canvasback was swimming in the middle of the bay. I had excellent views through the scope, and could clearly see his bright white back, reddish head, and unique profile created by the bill merging together with its sloping forehead. I also picked up a few more ducks for my winter list: one female Wood Duck, one male Hooded Merganser, and two Gadwall, a male and a female. Several mallards and American Black Ducks were swimming in the water with three Common Goldeneyes and several Common Mergansers; a Great Blue Heron was standing on the shore, while several gulls and a few Canada Geese were standing on the ice in the middle of the bay.
All the birds that I saw were too far away to photograph. This was a disappointment, as I really wanted a good photo of that Canvasback!
The winter listing period began on December 1st, but it sure didn’t feel like winter as temperatures were still mild with highs above or around 0°C, and Ottawa hadn’t yet received any significant snowfall. I spent my lunch hour at Hurdman, hoping to pick up a few birds for my list, but finding only the most common species – Mallards, Common Goldeneyes, Herring and Ring-billed Gulls, chickadees, starlings, a cardinal and a goldfinch. The rivers haven’t begun to freeze, which means I have a good chance of picking up a lot of waterfowl species early in the listing period.
Saturday started out chilly, but the temperatures rose to 2°C by the time I was done birding. I took a quick drive around the agricultural fields between Kanata and Richmond while waiting for it to warm up, and encountered about 200 Snow Buntings on Rushmore Road, 200 Snow Geese and a Pileated Woodpecker flying over Moodie Drive, a couple thousand Canada Geese, 3 Ring-necked Ducks and 5 Common Mergansers at the Moodie Drive quarry, and a Red-tailed Hawk and a few Great Black-backed Gulls near the dump along Trail Road. Continue reading →
As you can see, it’s looking a little bare right now. However, I have hosted a nature blog (Blossoms and Birdsong) on LiveJournal since 2006 which details the evolution of my interest in nature, describes my outings, and showcases my photos. I am in the process of migrating from LiveJournal to WordPress and will be cross-posting my newest posts here; however, it may take some time before I get older posts transferred over. So stay tuned as there is definitely more to come!