April is finally here. This is the month when it truly begins to feel like spring, yet Mother Nature played a cruel April Fool’s trick on us by sending us a mix of snow and rain on Sunday morning. I managed to get in an hour’s worth of birding before the gray skies began spitting snow, starting first at Sarsaparilla Trail where I found a male Wood Duck, a pair of Hooded Mergansers, a male Bufflehead, and a pair of Ring-necked Ducks on the pond. This was the first Bufflehead I had seen here, bringing the total number of species observed to 75 – up 15 from the 60 I reported in my blog entry about Sarsaparilla Trail.
Neither the Pied-billed Grebes nor the Great Blue Herons had arrived yet, and there were few birds in the woods other than a few chickadees, juncos and Golden-crowned Kinglets, so I headed over to Jack Pine Trail. I was surprised that there were no birds at the OFNC feeder given the activity I had witnessed yesterday. I heard a cardinal and a grackle singing nearby (if grackles could be said to sing), and as I approached the brush pile nearby I realized I could hear a Winter Wren singing from the depths of the woods as well! These tiny birds have remarkably large voices, and their long, tinkling, high-pitched song is unmistakable. I have heard Winter Wrens singing in this same spot in previous years; whether it is the same individual or a different one I’ll never know.
It started to rain shortly after I left the Winter Wren spot. I took the middle loop back the parking lot and was not surprised to see a thin skin of ice on one of the ponds. I didn’t see any Fox Sparrows today, but 20 Cedar Waxwings circling above the parking lot were a good find.
I decided to check the large quarry pond on Moodie Drive before heading home. A couple of American Tree Sparrows were singing in the large pine just beyond the gate, and a Song Sparrow was singing somewhere to my right. I couldn’t find any of the Ruddy Ducks I had noticed on my last visit, but counted about 10 Common Mergansers, 10 Ring-necked Ducks, a couple of Bufflehead, and 5 scaup near the gate. The overcast sky and the rain made it difficult to identify any of the ducks on the far side of the pond. Just before I left I noticed a male Red-breasted Merganser swim toward the point and disappear. The shaggy black crest, long thin bill, and black-and-white back were unmistakable. These birds are more difficult to find in Ottawa in the spring than the fall, especially males in breeding plumage, so I reported it to Ontbirds when I got home in case anyone else wanted to try for this bird.
The rain was coming down harder, with large snowflakes mixed in, so I got back in the car and drove home via Eagleson Road. On the way I noticed a single white morph Snow Goose resting in a field with several Canada Geese. The geese were right beside the fence so I stopped to take a couple of pictures.
They were clearly uncomfortable with my presence and began to walk away. This is the closest I’ve ever been to a Snow Goose, and I found this encounter even more thrilling than seeing the male Red-breasted Merganser.
As I drove home it occurred to me that Mother Nature was playing an April Fool’s joke of her own, not only by sending us rain/snow showers on the first day of April, but by presenting me with a Winter Wren and a Snow Goose on the same day!