The Victoria Birding Weekend Part II

Snapping Turtle

Snapping Turtle

The following day my mom and I headed west to Dunrobin. Our destination was the Bill Mason Center, where we hoped to find the Virginia Rails that inhabit the marsh; my mother has never seen one before and needed one for her life list. First, however, we stopped at the bridge on Huntmar to see if the Northern Rough-winged Swallows were there. We found two of them, although we only got a brief glimpse of them flying upstream. We also saw three Turkey Vultures and one Red-tailed Hawk soaring over the ridge, and one Eastern Phoebe wagging its tail near the bridge. Birds heard but not seen included Least Flycatcher, a Rose-breasted Grosbeak singing somewhere across the road, Red-eyed Vireo and Common Yellowthroat.

This is a view of the Carp River as seen from the Huntmar bridge:

Carp River

From there we drove over to Thomas Dolan Parkway and the trail at the end of Stonecrest Drive. There weren’t too many birds singing in the woods – we heard a Veery, an Ovenbird and a chickadee on the way in – but in the clearing at the end of the trail we found two Chestnut-sided Warblers and a Yellow Warbler. Two mallards and a cormorant flew over, a Swamp Sparrow was singing from the cattails, and in the woods beyond we heard a Ruffed Grouse drumming and a Scarlet Tanager singing. Lots of dragonflies were flying, too; I didn’t stop to identify or photograph any of them.

I noticed someone had built a new bridge over the swampy pond at the end of the clearing. We walked over it when we heard the Scarlet Tanager singing, but apparently it wasn’t finished so we weren’t able to reach the woods on the other side.

Stonecrest Trail – Carp Ridge

We left the trail and drove along the Thomas Dolan Parkway, listening for Eastern Towhees and Golden-winged Warblers. We didn’t hear either. We heard several Field Sparrows and White-throated Sparrows singing along the Carp Ridge, and saw a Great Blue Heron flying over the road. We also saw a male Rose-breasted Grosbeak singing at the top of a tree.

While driving along Thomas Dolan I spotted a tiny turtle sitting in the middle of the road and stopped to usher him off of the road and into the ditch. It turned out to be a baby Snapping Turtle, and I managed to take one photo before he disappeared. Further along the parkway we saw a small Painted Turtle basking in the middle of the road, so we stopped to shoo him off of the road as well.

Baby Snapping Turtle

We proceeded to the Bill Mason Center next. Mom pointed out two large birds sitting on the fence near at the end of the parking lot; these turned out to be Turkey Vultures! Along the boardwalk we found the usual Swamp Sparrows, grackles, and Red-winged Blackbirds and saw three more vultures soaring overhead. I heard one Virginia Rail calling in the marsh, but when I played my iPod he declined to respond. We walked through the woods to the large sandy pond, encountering a Ruffed Grouse, an Eastern Wood-Pewee, a couple of Red-eyed Vireos, and a couple of Veeries. I heard an Ovenbird, and played its song briefly on my iPod so that my mom could get a look at him. He became agitated when he heard a “rival” Ovenbird in his territory, zipping by us and chipping, so we stopped playing the recording and continued on to the pond. There we found some Canada Geese and two Killdeer and that was about it.

Further along the trail in the woods we saw a couple of wildflowers blooming. Starflower is a familiar plant of shady woodlands:


My attention was caught by these unusual greenish-yellow flowers growing close to the Starflower. Although this plant is described as common, I can’t recall ever seeing it before. A member of the lily flower, it occurs across many different forest habitats and soil/site conditions, especially in dry mixed-wood stands. As the name suggests, Clintonia borealis is native to Boreal regions of eastern North America, where it is a very common understory plant. Its common name, Blue Bead Lily, comes from the attractive blue berries that develop on the flower stalks late in the summer. (I will have to return in August to look for them!)

Blue Bead Lily (Clintonia borealis)

Blue Bead Lily (Clintonia borealis)

In the open meadow at the back of the trail we heard Field and White-throated Sparrows singing. I noticed this beautiful Canadian Tiger Swallowtail feeding on a Tartarian Honeysuckle shrub and went to take a picture of it; in doing so, I scared a rabbit or a hare sitting beneath a nearby shrub.

Canadian Tiger Swallowtail

This image shows the underside of the wing, which is required to distinguish the Canadian Tiger Swallowtail from the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. The yellow band at the outer edge of the forewing appears as a solid yellow column, whereas the yellow band in the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail is made up of discrete yellow spots.

Canadian Tiger Swallowtail

Just inside the woods we came across a pair of Nashville Warblers flitting about high in the trees. A little further along, near the porcupines’ winter shed, I heard a Scarlet Tanager singing. We were able to spot him high up in the canopy, a splash of bright red and black among the green leaves. Not long after that I heard another bird singing in the canopy, this one a Black-throated Blue Warbler. My mother spotted him before I did; however, just like the other birds he was content to stay high up in the trees, beyond the reach of my camera.

We returned to the marsh where I heard an Alder Flycatcher calling in the distance. I stopped to play a Virginia Rail recording right near the spot where Deb and I had encountered the porcupine on the boardwalk; to my surprise, two responded – one on each side of the boardwalk. One came out in the open, offering my mother great views of this common but secretive marsh bird. This was my mother’s first life bird of the day, and shortly after she saw her second. We were walking down the gravel road to the car when we noticed two people looking through a scope pointed at the grassy field east of the school. They told us there was an American Bittern in the middle of the field, and we both got good looks at him through their scope. This was probably the most unexpected bird of the day, as bitterns are even more difficult to see than rails – even when they aren’t hiding in such a bizarre place! However, I couldn’t decide if the Scarlet Tanager or the Black-throated Blue Warbler was my favourite bird of the day as I seldom see either of these beautiful birds. It was an enjoyable outing for both of us, and I was happy to show my mother one of my favourite birding spots in Ottawa.


One thought on “The Victoria Birding Weekend Part II

  1. Pingback: Highlights from 2012 | The Pathless Wood

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