On Tuesday I decided to visit Hurdman Park for the first time in 2012, hoping to find some Common Mergansers and the male Barrow’s Goldeneye that have been spending the winter between Strathcona/Riverrain Parks and the 417 bridge. First, however, I checked out the path through the woods where several feeders used to hang from the trees. There were none left, so I wasn’t surprised when a couple of friendly chickadees landed on a branch next to me while I was checking out a couple of goldfinches in the trees. I put some sunflower seeds on a couple of stumps and watched as a dozen or more chickadees flew in to grab some food.
A pair of cardinals – both males – also flew in to see what was drawing all the chickadees. One of them decided that the food was his and chased the other one off whenever he landed close to the stump. In order to accommodate them both, I found another “stump” further away and put some seed out for the second cardinal. This time he was able to feed in peace.
Two White-breasted Nuthatches and a female cardinal were checking out the other impromptu feeders in the meantime. After watching them for a moment, I continued on my way up to the river.
Ice now covered most of the Rideau River south of the 417 bridge, though a long, narrow channel remained in the center. Four Common Goldeneyes were diving in the middle of the water, and I noticed a dark, round shape sitting on the edge of the ice. I thought it was a duck at first, but a look through the binoculars confirmed it was a muskrat…my first of 2012! He appeared to be eating something green on the ice, and I didn’t realize what it was until he dove into the water and brought some type of plant up from the bottom.
I walked beyond the bridge to see if either of the two ducks I was searching for were there, but all I found were a hundred mallards beneath the bridge and about a dozen Common Goldeneyes beyond it. It wasn’t until I was heading back to the bus station that I saw the female Common Merganser swimming right next to the shore with a couple mallards, becoming the 32nd species on my 2012 year list.
If I want to see the male Barrow’s Goldeneye, I think I’ll have to make a trip to Riverrain Park and see if I can find him there!