A New Bird at Hurdman

Gray Catbird

Gray Catbird

On Monday I went to Hurdman hoping to find some flocks of warblers after seeing so many at Mud Lake on the weekend. I found two flocks of migrants, but didn’t get a good enough look at the birds in the first group before they flew deep into the vegetation. One might have been a Philadelphia Vireo; one might have been a ratty-looking Carolina Wren. I really wanted to get a good look at the wren, as I had never seen a Carolina Wren at Hurdman before and I never did get a good look at the one at Britannia this year. Unfortunately the wren (if that’s what it was) flew across that bike path and into the shrubs so quickly that all I got was the impression of a cinnamon-coloured throat, brown upper-parts, and a hint of a messy white supercilium.

A little later I came across a more obliging flock of birds, including three Yellow-rumped Warblers, a Northern Parula, and a Blackpoll Warbler with the tell-tale yellow feet. I also was delighted to find a fresh-looking Eastern Comma fluttering along the feeder path. It landed, and kept opening and closing its wings about half-way. I haven’t seen very many of these butterflies all year, and the ones I have seen appeared worn.

Eastern Comma

Eastern Comma

A few large hover flies were checking out the vegetation along the path. These fellows are particularly striking with their stripes running in different directions on the thorax and abdomen. Although they resemble wasps, they are completely harmless.

Hover fly (Helophilus obscurus)

I also saw a Cherry-faced Meadowhawk defending his territory along the path. I am not sure what the late date for this species is in Ottawa; according to the 2008 Ottawa Checklist, its season lasts from early July to late August. This fellow was photographed on September 9th:

Cherry-faced Meadowhawk

Cherry-faced Meadowhawk

I checked the field where I had seen the dragonfly swarm on Friday, and sure enough there were still a few Common Green Darners zipping around. I caught a glimpse of a yellow dragonfly through my binoculars that was likely a Wandering Glider, but it disappeared and I wasn’t able to relocate it.

Unsettled weather all last week meant I wasn’t able to return to Hurdman again until yesterday. It rained; it stormed; it grew beastly hot; it rained again; and then on Friday it cooled down to an unseasonable 12°C. It was overcast and windy, but I still went out as I thought I might find something good brought in by the strong north winds.

I had just crossed the transitway and was walking toward the woods when I noticed something small dart out of a triangular patch of grass at the junction of two bike paths. A couple of workers appeared to have just finished using a weed-whacker on the grass, and the noise and the activity had scared a tiny meadow vole onto the pavement! It darted back into the grass, and I managed to find it huddled next to a dandelion stem. I pulled back the grass to get a look at it; I was tempted to pick it up but was worried it might bite me. This reminded me that I had seen a vole scurry across the path on Monday as well, making me wonder if it was a good summer for them.

Meadow Vole

Meadow Vole

Off one of the main paths I heard a chipping sound that I didn’t quite recognize. When I tracked down the sound I found a female or a first-year male American Redstart, a common warbler found at Hurdman whose beauty I never really appreciated until I captured this image. It’s not a pose I see in redstart photographs very often:

American Redstart

American Redstart

Further along the path I noticed some bumblebees visiting a group of asters for pollen and stopped to take a look. I found a tiny metallic sweat bee on one of the flowers.

Sweat Bee

Sweat Bee

I heard a few birds in the thickets at the entrance to the woods, and when I started pishing three Gray Catbirds and a Common Grackle popped into view. Then I heard the “teakettle, teakettle, teakettle” song of a Carolina Wren! I followed the sound deeper into the woods and started pishing again. About a dozen American Robins all flew in to see what was happening, as well as two Gray Catbirds and a warbler that looked yellow enough to be a Tennessee. The Carolina Wren started singing again, and flew right in to the branch above me!

Carolina Wren

Carolina Wren

When he started singing I stopped taking picture and started shooting video instead. I love the way he jerks his body down then up, and points his bill toward the sky like a grackle performing a courtship display. He stops singing in order to clear something out of his mouth, then turns around and shows us a tail that looks like it has been damaged. Watch for the inquisitive warbler at the end!

This is the 98th species on my Hurdman list and one I wasn’t expecting. Interestingly, I don’t have Philadelphia Warbler or Tennessee Warbler on my list yet, either.

The Gray Catbirds stayed in the area long after I finished pishing, so I tried to take a few photos even though it was quite dark in the woods. I also had a Hairy Woodpecker and a Northern Flicker in the same area.

Gray Catbird

Gray Catbird

Reluctantly I left the area to see what else was around. Further along the trail I came across a nice pocket of warblers. At first I saw a Nashville Warbler darting along a branch, and when I started pishing a great assortment of birds popped into view, including a couple of Yellow-rumps, a Magnolia Warbler, a Northern Parula, a Red-eyed Vireo and a bird I wasn’t able to get a good enough look at before it disappeared, though I did manage to get one photo.

Nashville Warbler

Nashville Warbler

I’m guessing this is a Bay-breasted or a Blackpoll Warbler. I wish I’d gotten a better look at him before he flew!

Mystery Warbler

Mystery Warbler

Even though it was chilly and breezy, I enjoyed myself more than I had expected. In fact, I didn’t even get to the field where I had seen the Common Green Darners and Wandering Glider earlier in the week; I didn’t expect to find any dragonflies flying, but it would have been interesting to walk through the grass and see if any dragonflies were roosting there, waiting for it to warm up.

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2 thoughts on “A New Bird at Hurdman

  1. I can’t believe you’ve seen 98 species at Hurdman! Is that list published somewhere?

    That Carolina Wren sounds different than I’m used to. The ones down south usually have a slower, more distinct “teakettle” (southern drawl? :-), more like a Common Yellowthroat song.

    • Hi Suzanne,

      No, I haven’t published a list yet. One of the things I might do this winter is a post about Hurdman Park and include a list of everything I’ve seen there over the years.

      The Carolina Wren was singing the “teakettle”song when I first heard it (before he saw me). I’m wondering if this song is different because I was there and he was concerned about my presence? I went back today and didn’t hear or see him. However, I found a Swainson’s Thrush in the same place and a Black-throated Blue Warbler further along the path. There’s always something neat there!

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