The Day the Kinglet Stood Still

Deb and I returned to Mud Lake the following day.  It was a bit warmer, a bit windier, and despite the low number of species (we counted only 25) there was plenty of activity throughout the conservation area.  Yellow-rumped Warblers were plentiful; however, the only other warbler species we found were a couple of Pine Warblers in the woods.  We heard two of them, and I managed to bring one down into view by playing a recording of its call.  Although someone mentioned seeing a Palm Warbler, we weren’t able to locate it.  It was clear that warbler migration hadn’t truly begun yet.


Lots of Canada Geese were feeding on the lawns, Red-winged Blackbirds and Common Grackles were “singing”, and a couple of juncos were foraging in the trees at the edge of the lawn.

Dark-eyed Junco

On the ridge we found a couple of White-throated Sparrows lurking on the ground and a few Ruby-crowned Kinglets in the trees at the west end of the ridge. Kinglets are busy little birds, and just as difficult to photograph as the warblers due to their constant activity. Deb and I were shocked when one actually perched on a branch for a couple of minutes, sitting quite still as it looked around.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Deb and I were able to take several pictures, although the red crown is only visible in the last photo.

This was the species that sparked my obsession with birds six years ago when my parents and I noticed one following us along a boardwalk on the Rideau Trail in Stony Swamp, his red crown looking like a stripe of wax on his head. It was the first “non-urban” species I had seen, and I recognized it from perusing the field guide I had recently bought to aid me in the identification of the birds coming to my brand-new feeder. I recall thinking that the striking warblers, flycatchers, thrushes and kinglets I had seen in the field guide were all very rare and that I would never see any; I also thought back then that our encounter with the Ruby-crowned Kinglet back in 2006 was something special, and the kinglet very rare. That’s when I began exploring the trails and green spaces of Ottawa, looking for other “rare” and beautiful species and it’s been an obsession ever since!

Of course, I have since learned that most of the beautiful birds in my field guide are not actually all that rare, and that many are in fact quite common; it depends on visiting the right habitats during the right time of year! Still, I will always remember my first encounter with a Ruby-crowned Kinglet with fondness.

Deb and I saw the tame Wood Ducks at the trail entrance, although the male didn’t come out of the water to feed with the female when I threw some seed on the ground. The mallards were even pushier today, and the female mallard actually pulled out some of the Wood Duck’s feathers when she snapped at her.

Other birds of interest included a few Tree Swallows hawking for insects, an Osprey flying over the water on its way to the river, and a single Northern Flicker in the woods. In the scrubby southern part of the conservation area I noticed a bird dart from the ground onto a low branch among some bushes. I thought it was a sparrow at first, and was happily surprised when I realized it was a Hermit Thrush! We followed it through the brush trying to get a better look at it, but it eluded us. A couple of chickadees came up to me looking for food; I paid no attention to them until a male cardinal landed in a tree close by and looked at me as well!

Northern Cardinal

I tossed some seeds onto the ground and was amused to see both the cardinal and chickadees fly in to get some. Obviously the cardinal is used to being given handouts!

We saw another Hermit Thrush in the wet woods in the southeastern corner of the conservation area and two Black-crowned Night Herons in the swamps. A couple of Red Admirals flew by so I took the obligatory photos:

Deb and I stopped by Andrew Haydon Park after that, but the wind blowing off the river was quite strong. We spotted ten female Hooded Mergansers swimming in the eastern pond and that was it. We didn’t bother walking to the edge of the river due to the strong winds. Next we went to Dick Bell Park to look for the Purple Martins, but didn’t see any; I imagine they were all hunkered down out of the wind.

We called it a day after that, and went our separate ways. Although it was good to finally see a Hermit Thrush and a Black-crowned Night Heron again, I couldn’t wait until all the other warblers and vireos and Scarlet Tanagers and flycatchers and wrens returned!


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