After my sojourn at Sarsaparilla Trail I went home for a quick lunch. Then, taking my friend Suzanne’s
advice, I went back out in the early afternoon to check some local crabapple trees for feeding flocks of northern birds. There are several in my neighbourhood, and although I’d seen several Pine Grosbeaks and Bohemian Waxwings over the past week and a half while waiting to catch the bus, the trees remained full of fruit and empty of birds. I decided to head over to the spot where Suzanne had seen her flock of Pine Grosbeaks earlier in the week and, quite by luck, discovered a huge tree full of berries on the way. Even better, the trees were full of birds!
I never tire of visiting Sarsaparilla Trail. It is a short trail, which means I can spend as little as half an hour there and still have a good look around; however, I usually spend at least an hour there, more if there are a lot of birds on the pond or chickadees to feed.
It is a peaceful place. Because it’s such a small trail, I usually don’t encounter many people there, especially very early in the morning at this time of year when the temperature is hovers around 0°C and there is still frost on the grass. The chickadees eagerly seek me out, often followed by the nuthatches, Blue Jays and squirrels, and I can talk to them without worrying about what anybody thinks.
Last weekend was a great one for seeing a variety of northern birds moving through – though, for various reasons, not for photography. Earlier in the week, a Northern Hawk Owl had been discovered near the Ottawa airport. This northern species only appears in southern Ontario during the winter when food becomes scarce in its normal range; I last saw this species in January 2011 when one set up a winter territory near Brennan’s Hill, Quebec. I drove out to Bowesville Road just south of the airport early Saturday morning but had no luck finding the Hawk Owl (apparently it waited until after I left to put in an appearance). I did, however, see a group of Common Redpolls, a Snowy Owl resting in the middle of a green field, and a Rough-legged Hawk in the same area. The Rough-legged Hawk appeared to be keeping an eye on a group of Wild Turkeys feeding right below the tree in which it was sitting; both the hawk and the Snowy Owl were season firsts for me.
Ottawa, January 2007
The weather last weekend was not conducive to spending a lot of time by the river. It was cold, for one thing; the temperature rose only a few degrees above zero each day. It was overcast, for another, which meant no there was no warming sunshine to ease the chill. Worst of all, it was windy – and out along the Ottawa River, the wind coming off the water just blasts the cold right into you. Still, I stopped by Andrew Haydon Park on Saturday in the hope of spotting some interesting birds around the man-made ponds. I still needed Cackling Goose for my year list, and Andrew Haydon is one of the best spots to find this species in the fall. I was also hoping there might be some unusual gulls and waterbirds around too, despite the heavy winds; it was worth a look!
Back in July, the day before my fiancé and I left for our trip to Alberta, a large fire broke out in Stony Swamp only a few kilometres from our house. The fire department estimates that between 40 and 50 hectares burned altogether; although it has been referred to as a “brush fire” rather than a forest fire, many trees were affected, some of which fell down completely, others of which were merely charred. Large, uncontrolled fires are rare in our area, but the drought had created exceptionally dry conditions this past summer so it isn’t surprising that this fire grew to such a large size or took a couple of days to bring completely under control.