I had a pretty good birding day on Wednesday. No, I did not take a day off work, and no, I didn’t see anything new or rare. It began when I stepped outside onto my back deck early Wednesday morning to throw some peanuts out for the Blue Jays. I was just about to toss them into the yard when I heard a rapid, high-pitched “see see see” call coming from my neighbour’s yard. The call was familiar and distinctive, but I had never heard it in my neighbourhood before; for a moment I wasn’t sure what I was hearing, other than a few chickadees in my neighbour’s pine tree. I stood still for a moment, listening, and when I heard it again, I knew I had a new bird for my yard list: Golden-crowned Kinglet!
I didn’t have my binoculars with me, so I went down onto the lawn for a better look. It was a gray day, but I could see several small birds moving within the branches of the medium-sized tree. Some were the aforementioned Black-capped Chickadees, but one small greenish-gray bird came out and posed at the end of a branch. Although I couldn’t see the colour of its crown, I was sure it was a Golden-crowned Kinglet based on its size and call.
Barely larger than a hummingbird, the Golden-crowned Kinglet may be found in the Ottawa region all year round where it breeds primarily in spruce and fir forests, as well as some mixed coniferous-deciduous forests. The birds that breed in the Boreal forest further north migrate south, spending the winter in southern Ontario and the continental United States. Golden-crowned Kinglets are typically woodland birds, though I suppose in migration they can turn up anywhere – including a suburban backyard and an open area full of low-growing plants and shrubs where I photographed this kinglet at Hurdman last spring.
I went to fetch my binoculars, but by the time I returned the birds had all cleared out of my neighbour’s pine tree and were in a shrub two yards over. In the meantime, six or seven Blue Jays had taken all of the peanuts and were back demanding more! (I think they are stashing them around the neighbourhood; they seem to return so quickly!)
At lunch time I went to Hurdman with the hope of finding a late Orange-crowned Warbler, Fox Sparrow, Winter Wren, or other late-fall migrants. Almost as soon as I arrived I heard several crows cawing noisily in the woods. I wasn’t sure if they had cornered a predator or if they were just being crows; but then I heard the lower, raspy calls and knew they had found an owl or a raptor. I was trying to figure out the best way to locate them when several crows flew in and landed in the trees close by; a browner bird landed on a tree branch above them. I hurried down the path for a look and found a Barred Owl – my first of the year!
This was also a new bird for my Hurdman list, and my second owl. Like the Great Horned Owl I had seen here almost two years ago, once the Barred Owl saw me watching him, he seemed much more focused on what I was doing rather than the crows screaming at him; as I moved further along the trail to get a better picture, he turned his head to watch me with those big dark eyes.
I think that I was the reason he flew off, though the crows continued to chase him; I tried to follow, but he went deep into the bush where there are no paths. A little later, the owl returned to the bike path, where a Blue Jay joined the growing mob. I tried to track him down, and once again he flew off as soon as he saw me, disappearing into the woods again. Eventually the crows gave up, and silence returned to the woods. I hoped the owl had found a nice roost where he could spend the day undisturbed.
I didn’t see anything else as interesting on my walk. A few White-throated Sparrows were still around, but the ducks had all vanished from the river; work is being done on the pedestrian bridge which may account for their disappearance. Besides, I think I used up all of my birding luck that day with the Golden-crowned Kinglets at home and the Barred Owl!