Along the Rideau Canal

Eurasian Wigeon

Eurasian Wigeon

Today at lunch I finally had the chance to go look for the male Eurasian Wigeon that has been hanging out around the mouth of the Rideau Canal since the end of May. It is believed to be injured, and has been most frequently observed on the Ottawa River near the entrance to the locks or the grassy hill on the western bank near where the boats tie up. I had tried for it once, a few weeks ago, but didn’t see it; when I saw the weekly Ottawa report yesterday advising it was still there I decided to try again. It was a hot, sunny afternoon and for the first time in a week I didn’t have any obligations at lunch preventing me from going for a walk.

I didn’t see the wigeon on the grass or among the ducks swimming in the mouth of the canal, so I continued walking along the shore to see if I could spot any dragonflies. A large, dark dragonfly was zooming up and down the path above my head. When I tried to get closer it flew out over the water and disappeared. I didn’t have my binoculars and couldn’t see what it was…it was the right size for Swift River Cruiser, though I was unable to get close enough to see any yellow markings.

I saw the usual Powdered Dancers perching on the rocks by the water’s edge and then, further along, a medium-sized clubtail with a large, prominent club perching on the rocks.

Midland Clubtail

Midland Clubtail

My first guess was Black-shouldered Spinyleg, but when I got home and viewed the pictures on my computer screen, a couple of features ruled that out. First, the markings on top of the thorax were wrong. The spinyleg has a greenish capital “I” on top of the thorax with two elongated ovals next to the central line of the “I”. This fellow had a pair of mirrored “Zs” instead. Second, the Black-shouldered Spinyleg has yellow markings along each segment of the abdomen, including a yellow oval on top of segment 10. This fellow had a triangle at the base of segment 8 and no markings on the final two segments. Both of these field marks better fit the Midland Clubtail, my first of the year.

Midland Clubtail

Midland Clubtail

While I was photographing the clubtail I noticed a brilliant metallic green beetle sitting on the rocks. I usually think of the Six-spotted Tiger Beetle as a spring species; I hadn’t realized their season lasted till mid-July.

Six-spotted Tiger Beetle

Six-spotted Tiger Beetle

I checked the ducks and the lawn again on my way out, and to my surprise the Eurasian Wigeon was there.

Eurasian Wigeon

Eurasian Wigeon

The Eurasian Wigeon is similar in shape to the more familiar American Wigeon, and has a gray body (instead of brown) and a red head with a buffy crown stripe. This bird appears to be molting from his crisp gray breeding plumage into a drabber eclipse plumage.

Eurasian Wigeon

Eurasian Wigeon

While common and widespread in the Old World, it is a sporadic visitor to North America. Ottawa usually sees two or three each year in places like the Moodie Drive Quarry or Parc Plaisance on the Quebec side. I had already seen one this year in North Gower back in April, where one was hanging out with some ducks in a flooded field. The views of that bird weren’t great as it was quite far back from the road; in contrast, I was able to get close enough to this one for some decent photographs.

Eurasian Wigeon

Eurasian Wigeon

Of course, while I was taking pictures of the wigeon this Ring-billed Gull decided to walk in front of the duck! This is the first time I can recall that a bird has photo-bombed my pictures!

Photobombing Ring-billed Gull

Photobombing Ring-billed Gull

Eventually the gull wandered off, and the wigeon started walking closer to the water even though there was a line-up of people waiting to board a tour boat.

Eurasian Wigeon

Eurasian Wigeon

I was happy with both of my finds; although the Rideau Canal is a very picturesque place to spend a lunch hour, I don’t often see much of interest in terms of wildlife!

Rideau Canal Locks

Rideau Canal Locks

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