Water birds at Andrew Haydon Park

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

On Labour Day Monday I visited one of my favourite spots along the river, Andrew Haydon Park. There weren’t many land birds around, but there were plenty of water birds to watch, including one Belted Kingfisher, an Osprey flying over, and four Least Sandpipers and three Greater Yellowlegs in the mudflats at the west end of the park. When I arrived I found two Double-crested Cormorants resting on the grass at the edge of the western pond. One flew off when a couple of other photographers noticed them and decided to get closer for a better look; the other stayed. Both were juveniles with brown bodies and pale throats.

Another flock of about 40 or 50 cormorants flew by on the river, and at first I thought they were Canada Geese flying in formation!

Double-crested Cormorant

Double-crested Cormorant

I walked over to the east pond where I discovered a juvenile Green Heron lurking at the edge. I managed to capture this image of him with his shaggy crest raised just before he flew beneath the footbridge.

Green Heron

Green Heron

Can you spot the heron in this photo?

Under the Bridge

Under the Bridge

Just then I noticed a Great Blue Heron fly in and land in the pond. It waded out into the middle of the pond, and then began to swim! I’ve never seen a Great Blue Heron swim before, and it looked like a swan with its body horizontal on the surface of the water and its neck standing straight up! I am not sure what his intention was, as he only swam a couple of feet before flying off again.

Great Blue Heron Swimming

Great Blue Heron Swimming

I continued my walk around the eastern pond, where I caught up with the Green Heron again. He was actively hunting and catching small minnows at the edge of the pond. You can see some white downy feathers on his head in this photo:

Green Heron (Juvenile)

Green Heron (Juvenile)

After watching the heron for a while, I took a walk up the creek bed on the eastern side, hoping to find some shorebirds; both Spotted and Solitary Sandpipers are often found hunting among the debris and downed branches in the middle of the creek. I didn’t see any shorebirds, although a robin and a Gray Catbird were feeding on some berries and another Green Heron was standing on a branch in the middle of the water. This Twelve-spotted Skimmer flew in and landed close by; I liked the red dogwood branch it was using for a perch, so I spent some time photographing it.

Twelve-spotted Skimmer

Twelve-spotted Skimmer

As I didn’t find anything else of interest along the creek, I returned to the park and walked over to the western pond. Along the way I encountered a bird sleeping in a tree. The cryptic brown plumage made me think it was a raptor at first.

Sleeping Bird

Sleeping Bird

Then it opened its eye and showed its bill….not a raptor, but a juvenile Black-crowned Night-heron! These small herons are most active at night, feeding from dusk to early morning. They often can be found resting in trees and bushes during the day. However, during the breeding season, when food is in high demand, they may forage during the daytime as well. Of the four heron species found in Ottawa, this is the species I see perching in trees most often.

Black-crowned Night-heron (Juvenile)

Black-crowned Night-heron (Juvenile)

I found the Great Blue Heron foraging near the bandshell, seemingly oblivious to all of the people passing by. Although there are usually a number of these large herons foraging along the river and various waterways at Andrew Haydon Park I only saw the one.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Another cormorant was standing on the bank behind the bandshell watching out for fish in between bouts of preening.

Double-crested Cormorant

Double-crested Cormorant

Double-crested Cormorant

Double-crested Cormorant

I was happy to find some shorebirds on the mudflats at the western end of the park. The Least Sandpipers were too far out to photograph, but the three Greater Yellowlegs flew in almost right where I was standing. With this bill length, it’s hard to confuse this individual with the look-alike Lesser Yellowlegs!

Greater Yellowlegs

Greater Yellowlegs

The Great Egret was in its usual spot in the marshy area at the west end of the park as well, bringing the total number of heron species up to four. It was fun to see them all on this cloudy, early September day; it always amazes me just how many species of birds can be found even in a landscaped, manicured park heavily used by humans, hunting and resting and going about their lives until it’s time to fly south.

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