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Why I still love the Beaver Trail after all these years

Gray Catbird

Gray Catbird

The Beaver Trail (now an ebird hotspot) is rarely mentioned in Ottawa’s birding circles or its birding literature, and never in the OFNC rare bird alerts. I started visiting it in June 2006 because I was tired of going to Sarsaparilla Trail and found it loaded with life birds – though to be fair, my life list was only at 37 species when I started visiting it! It was here that I got my lifer Common Yellowthroat, Eastern Kingbird, Swamp Sparrow, Wood Thrush, Scarlet Tanager and Northern Flicker. I wrote a post about it in March 2011 (“My Favourite Places: The Beaver Trail”), and now, eleven years after I first visited it and six years after writing that post it is still one of my favourite trails in the area. It is still home to a good number of woodland, marsh, and open-edge species during the warmer months, and can be fantastic during migration. According to eBird, I have observed a total of 103 species there in the past 11 years out of a total of 125 recorded. Yesterday morning’s outing was a perfect example of the diversity of breeding and migrating birds, with a total of 39 species observed in about 80 minutes, including three new species for the hotspot and my own personal total!

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A Lifer Dragonfly at Pinehurst Lake

Green-striped Darner

Green-striped Darner

During the third week of August I spent some time at my Dad’s trailer in the Pinehurst Lake Conservation Area near Glen Morris, Ontario. Although more of a campground/recreation area than a conservation area, it is nevertheless a great spot to spend a few days and see some “southern” wildlife. The last time I was here (August 2014) I was treated to the antics of a couple of juvenile Broad-winged Hawks, found a small pond where female Black-tipped Darners laid their eggs in the late afternoon, observed a Blue-winged Warbler on a morning walk, saw my first Red-spotted Purple butterfly, and even saw a bat near one of the washroom lights after dark. I didn’t see any Broad-winged Hawks or cool southern bird species this time, but I still ended up with 28 species over three days – the same number I saw in 2014. Here are some of the interesting creatures that I saw on my trip.

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Red-eared Sliders

Red-eared Slider

Red-eared Slider

I was happy to have the car during the last weekend of July, and I made the most of it. My first stop was the trail on West Hunt Club (P11) as I wanted to check out the pond there. Ottawa has been stuck in drought for a while now, and water levels have been dropping in all my favourite conservation areas. I thought the pond might be a good spot to look for shorebirds.

I had a really good walk there, seeing and hearing 28 species of birds. Highlights included a Double-crested Cormorant flying over (new for the trail) and two Broad-winged Hawks calling in the hydro cut area. Eventually I saw them both fly over and disappear into the woods on the north side of the clearing.

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A Kirtland’s Warbler at Point Pelee

Kirtland's Warbler

Kirtland’s Warbler

We got up early on Monday, May 11th for our day at Point Pelee. While we were paying at the kiosk we were told there were two good birds present: a Prothonotary Warbler and a Kirtland’s Warbler. I had seen the rare bird alert for the Kirtland’s Warbler the day before, and was happy to hear it was still around. I had never seen one before (unlike the Prothonotary Warbler) so it would be a lifer for me if I found it. Fortunately, this was easy to do. We took the tram to the Tip and after we had gotten off the shuttle, I came across a group of people who said it was being seen along the footpath that parallels the western beach. I told my mother and step-father and off we went. After about a 10 minute hike with numerous people coming the other way assuring us “it was still there – just look for the crowd of people”, we found a huge throng of people gathered in a tight group. At the center of all the attention, no more than six feet away from the edge of the path, was the female Kirtland’s Warbler.

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Fledglings and Nestlings

Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat

Although many birders consider the breeding season to be rather slow, I enjoy going out in June and July as many of our breeding birds are still singing, and there is always a chance of finding an active nest or some newly fledged birds being fed or taking their first flights under the watchful eyes of their parents. These months are also good for seeing butterflies and dragonflies, so even if I don’t find any baby birds, there is always something interesting to catch my attention!

I was still on vacation on Friday, July 25th and went to Mud Lake with the hope of seeing some interesting odonates. I came up with a good list, including Northern Spreadwing, Marsh Bluet, Hagen’s Bluet, Powdered Dancer, Eastern Forktail, Common Green Darner, Eastern Pondhawk, Dot-tailed Whiteface, White-faced Meadowhawk, Autumn Meadowhawk, Twelve-spotted Skimmer, Widow Skimmer, and Common Whitetail. I did not see any clubtails.

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Sedge Wrens and Catbirds

Gray Catbird (fledgling)

Gray Catbird (fledgling)

The marsh that runs west from Moodie Drive to the area behind the Nortel campus is usually productive for a variety of breeding birds in the warmer months of the year. I visited the area again on the morning of June 22nd, still hoping to see or hear the Sedge Wrens that had taken up residence there. Two Savannah Sparrows were singing in the field south of the parking area, and a number of Tree and Barn Swallows were flying overhead as I made my way down the path that skirts the edge of the marsh. I saw a Northern Flicker, two Purple Finches, an American Redstart, and heard several Warbling Vireos, Song Sparrows, and a single Willow Flycatcher.

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Migration at Mud Lake

Blackburnian Warbler

Blackburnian Warbler

There’s nowhere better in Ottawa to take in migration than Mud Lake. On May 11th I planned to meet up with some friends from the OFNC for a morning of birding; however, first I decided to stop in at the Beaver Trail to see if the beavers were still around. I didn’t see any, but I heard a couple of Black-throated Green Warblers, an Ovenbird, a Yellow-rumped Warbler, and a Yellow Warbler on my walk. A pair of Ruby-crowned Kinglets were still around, and a Great Crested Flycatcher had taken up residence along the trail. My best sighting was of four White-crowned Sparrows foraging along the edge of the parking lot just as I was leaving; I was about to drive off when I spotted them scurrying along the edge of the grass.

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