The first spring babies

Canada Goose gosling

I took the day after returning from my trip to Nova Scotia off work to recover from the late night flight, but the weather was so gloomy that I figured it might be a great day to go see what was happening at Mud Lake. This turned out to be an awesome decision, as I saw 45 species, including 12 warblers, altogether. I met Bob Bracken and Chris Lewis on my way to the conservation area; they had their scopes pointed up into a tree on Britannia Street, so I stopped to see if maybe they had a Summer Tanager or an Orchard Oriole. It turned out they had seen a Merlin fly into the tree and were looking for a nest. We decided to meet at Britannia Point and bird the area together.

At the Point Bob spotted a distant Red-necked Grebe on the river with his scope. Three Hooded Mergansers flew over our heads toward the lake, and a Spotted Sandpiper flew by as well, landing on the rocky edge of the Point – my first of the year. We saw a baby mallard swim out into the river, peeping, with no sign of its parents. After that we drove to the parking lot to check out the Ridge. I was captivated by the sight of two Canada Geese with 18 babies swimming toward us.

Canada Geese with goslings

The goslings were ridiculously cute. I could have spent hours just watching them feed under the protective eye of the adults. We didn’t think that all 18 babies belonged to the same parents; most geese lay between two and eight eggs, so it seemed that at least three families were present.

Gosling with Mamma

After watching the geese we headed up to the ridge. An Eastern Cottontail rabbit was nibbling on the grass next to the parking area but quickly hopped away when it realized it was being watched.

Eastern Cottontail Rabbit

Someone had set up feeders all along Cassels Street and the Red-winged Blackbirds and grackles were quick to take advantage of them. Even though they are very common, I love seeing the Red-wings displaying the bright scarlet epaulets that give them their name.

Red-winged Blackbird

In the shallow pond at the base of the ridge we came across an incredible sight: two Snapping Turtles attempting to mate! They were both very big and very slow-moving as they grappled with each other before vanishing into the water.

The western end of the ridge was more productive for birds than the eastern end, but still we found Warbling Vireos, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Baltimore Orioles, one Rose-breasted Grosbeak, an American Redstart, one Chestnut-sided Warbler, one Blackburnian Warbler, one Magnolia Warbler, a couple of Northern Parulas, several Yellow and Yellow-rumped Warblers, one White-crowned Sparrow, and several White-throated Sparrows. I also found a relatively tame female Downy Woodpecker…she flew in to this tree right in front of me, then landed on my outstretched finger! I didn’t have any food with me, so she quickly flew away.

Downy Woodpecker

We walked through the woods next, encountering a Red-eyed Vireo, a Scarlet Tanager, a Black-and-white Warbler, a Black-throated Blue Warbler, a couple of Pine Warblers, an Ovenbird, a couple of Black-throated Green Warblers, and a Least Flycatcher. On Mud Lake a pair of Common Terns were hunting, and we saw two Black-crowned Night Herons fly over. When we returned to Cassels Street I couldn’t resist photographing this grackle:

Common Grackle

I also couldn’t resist photographing this groundhog in the same spot near the parking lot where the rabbit had been earlier:


After leaving Bob, Chris, and Mud Lake I decided to stop in at Sarsaparilla Trail on my way home. The White-crowned Sparrow was the newest arrival, with about five of them feeding on some seeds left on the bench along with the usual chickadees and White-throated Sparrows. One Chipping Sparrow and a couple of Yellow-rumped Warblers were flitting about the trees just beyond the parking lot. No Pied-billed Grebes were visible on the pond; I heard one Purple Finch singing near the water’s edge but couldn’t locate him.

In the grassy area near the picnic shelter I found a couple of Spring Azures and Red Admirals. A Common Green Darner was also patrolling the area. Just off the parking lot I found a single Mustard White feeding on some dandelions. This was the first one I’d seen in Ontario this year:

Mustard White

Several Spotted Lady Beetles were also feeding on the dandelions. I stopped to take a few pictures, wishing I had a way to transport them to my own backyard and the growing aphid infestation in my viburnum shrub.

Spotted Lady Beetle

While I was photographing the beetles, I heard a familiar, buzzy call issuing from the woods: “Beer, beer, beeeee?” Immediately I knew it was a Black-throated Blue Warbler, but despite several minutes of looking I never did manage to find it. I did, however, spot a Swainson’s Thrush lurking among the trees and got a good enough look at it to add it to my Sarsaparilla Trail list. It was a fine ending to a great day of birding; it was good to be birding in Ottawa again, and to see all the species that have arrived in my absence!


2 thoughts on “The first spring babies

    • Thanks Suzanne! I have been trying to take more photos of our common birds, which at least gives me something to post when the warblers aren’t cooperating!

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