I started Good Friday with a walk at the Beaver Trail where I unknowingly flushed six ducks hidden in the marsh at the back, at least two of which were Wood Ducks. A few more Red-winged Blackbirds had arrived, and I heard a single Common Grackle call near the Wild Bird Care Centre. Blackbirds flew over several times while I was there, but the day was overcast and I didn’t get a good look at them. The best bird was a pair of Golden-crowned Kinglets in the woods near the meadow – this species was a year bird for me.
From there I stopped by the Trail Road Landfill. Three Great Blue Herons flew over, and there were still plenty of Herring Gulls among the numerous Ring-billed Gulls. I saw a Song Sparrow and both Red-winged Blackbirds and Common Grackles along the side of the road as well as two Red-tailed Hawks perching inside the dump.
The ponds at the Richmond Lagoons were still frozen, but I added another new year bird when a single Killdeer flew over. I decided to check the pond at Sarsaparilla Trail, and while it too, was almost completely frozen over, a small channel of water was open in the middle. The only birds of interest were a Pileated Woodpecker calling in the woods, a Common Grackle perching on a dead tree in the middle of the pond, and at least one junco near the boardwalk. This porcupine in a tree near the outhouse was much more interesting.
I went out later in the afternoon to look for butterflies – the temperature had reached 16°C by then, and the sun felt warm on my skin. I decided to visit the Rideau Trail, as this is where I had seen my first two butterflies last year (an Eastern Comma and a Mourning Cloak on the same day). I stopped by the same area where I had heard the Western Chorus Frogs last year, and although the frogs were absent, I saw a Mourning Cloak flying gracefully overhead after about 15 minutes of searching the area. It flew by quickly, at about 15 feet above the ground, so I wasn’t able to get any photos. There were no phoebes, kinglets, Northern Flickers or Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers this time; the only birds of interest were a Turkey Vulture soaring above the woods and a singing Brown Creeper.
After that I went to check the storm water ponds in Emerald Meadows. I was happily surprised to see two male Ring-necked Ducks and a pair of Hooded Mergansers in the largest pond, which was still half-frozen. Two Tree Swallows flying over were a bit of a surprise; I don’t know what they could have been feeding on, as there are still very few insects around. A large flock of blackbirds contained only grackles; I didn’t see or hear any Red-winged Blackbirds.
A few of the grackles were feeding on the ground, as was a single American Robin.
Two of the grackles were perching in a tree; I managed to get this one photo before they flew off. The sun really shows off its iridescent colours.
A little further along I came across an American Tree Sparrow sitting in a tree. These sparrows only spend the winter here, and will soon be heading north to their breeding grounds where the treeline gives way to the Arctic tundra. I had never realized just how long their tails were until I saw this photo.
I went back home after that, and didn’t plan on going out again. However, not long after I returned home I received an email stating that a Red-throated Loon and a Short-eared Owl were both visible from the Britannia Yacht Club. I had only seen one Red-throated Loon previously, in Nova Scotia in 2008, so I needed it for both my Ottawa and my Ontario lists. I have only seen Short-eared Owls on Amherst Island, and needed on for my Ottawa list. Fortunately they were both still there when I arrived, as were a Pied-billed Grebe, a few Ring-necked Ducks, one Hooded Merganser, a few Common Mergansers and a couple of Common Goldeneye. The owl was sitting by itself on the ice, although at one point a crow flew in, walked around it, and looked at it as though trying to determine whether the owl was worth pestering.
After such a gorgeous day on Good Friday, I was disappointed when winter returned on Saturday with snow and temperatures that barely rose above zero. I stayed home. It was still cold on Sunday, but I decided to go out anyway. I started the day off at Sarsaparilla Trail where I heard a single Golden-crowned Kinglet, a Pine Siskin, and a small flock of Common Redpolls. This chipmunk was busy eating food left on a rock near the bench:
From there I drove out to Dunrobin to check out the agricultural fields for raptors, meadowlarks, and Eastern Bluebirds. I found three American Kestrels, a couple of Turkey Vultures, and one Red-tailed Hawk. Although I was hoping to spot a Northern Harrier I didn’t find any, nor did I see any meadowlarks or bluebirds.
My last stop of the day was the South March Highlands. I thought I might find Ruffed Grouse here, and sure enough I heard one drumming in the woods. The marshes are still frozen, though a few Red-winged Blackbirds and a single Common Grackle were singing near the boardwalk.
Having a four-day weekend was wonderful. Although the weather wasn’t the greatest, I added ten birds to my year list and saw my first butterfly of the year. Spring is progressing nicely, and the birds are continuing to return!