Although birders tend to refer to “spring” and “fall” migration, many birds begin heading south in mid- to late August, and a few (such as shorebirds which are unsuccessful in finding a mate) even begin migrating in July. In Ottawa, this southbound migration often overlaps with post-breeding dispersal, which means that even in July and August it is worth checking familiar places for birds that may be moving through. This year, southbound migration began for me on August 19th with a trip to the Rideau Trail off of Old Richmond Road. I usually start checking the boardwalk and hydro cut for migrants this time of year as the edge habitat and buckthorn bushes loaded with berries can be fantastic for warblers, flycatchers, thrushes and other migrants. Most of the birds I saw or heard were likely local residents, although the Black-and-white Warbler I heard singing here may have come from deep within the woods or elsewhere, and it was pretty neat to see an Ovenbird strolling along the boardwalk. A squeaky Rose-breasted Grosbeak and two Least Flycatchers calling made me think these birds were moving through, as this section of the trail is normally pretty quiet in the summer.
On August 8th Doran and I left Scot’s Bay and made our way to the cottage in Kingston. We returned to the old farmhouse called Crow’s Landing where we had stayed in November 2019; it sits on about 20 acres with its own nature trails, providing the perfect spot for me to enjoy a few quiet early morning walks before visiting friends and family. As it is situated far from the coast, and its only water is a small slow-running trickle too mucky to be called a creek at the back of the trails, the birding wasn’t spectacular; however, it was certainly better than the birding on the cottage property in Scot’s Bay or even my own house in Kanata. The large trees surrounding the house, the open meadow habitat at the back, and the conifers and thickets surrounding the creek area all provided different habitats attractive to different types of wildlife. During our week there I found 33 bird species and several different bugs, mostly butterflies and moths.
I have truly enjoyed these past few months working from home. Without the daily two-hour commute, I have been getting out as often as I can before work and at lunch to take advantage of the quiet weekday trails close to my house. With the arrival of September, however, I’ve been less focused on insects and more interested in birds. Migration has started, though so quietly it is hard to tell when post-breeding dispersal ended and true southward movement of the birds began. I’d already seen some good birds in the last few days of August, such as a juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk at Sarsaparilla Trail, a Red-necked Phalarope at the Moodie Drive quarry, and a Cape May Warbler in my own backyard, but I was eager to get out and see large numbers of songbirds flitting through the trees in various migrant traps, and start creating eBird lists with 40 or 50 different species.
My last day in Westport, May 16th, had arrived. I began my day with a 2-kilometer walk through town; it came as a surprise just how many birds the greenspace around town attracted: I heard a Common Yellowthroat, Warbling Vireo and a House Wren, and saw a White-crowned Sparrow and a Rose-breasted Grosbeak visiting a feeder. Other birds on my walk included Baltimore Oriole, Song Sparrow, Chipping Sparrows, Yellow Warblers, a Red-winged Blackbird and a Northern Flicker, plus the usual Mourning Doves, House Sparrows, starlings, chickadees, robins and grackles. The tall trees, wide yards, dense hedges and shrubs, as well as the water nearby, provided plenty of habitat for migrating birds.
After the worst two weeks of winter including frigid temperatures, enough snow to break the record for January (97 cm total as of January 29th) and enough OC Transpo delays and missing buses to induce a severe case of transit rage, my fiancé and I were lucky to have planned to spend the first week of February at an all-inclusive resort in Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic. Our plane was supposed to leave on Saturday at 2:35 pm direct to Punta Cana, but heavy snow that morning meant a delay of almost five hours. We didn’t arrive in Punta Cana until 12:30 Sunday morning, and it was almost another hour before our heads hit the pillow despite an easy time at Customs and no traffic to slow us down. There were, however, lots of speed bumps en route, making me wonder about the drivers in the city. Continue reading →
It’s been a lackluster start to the year. I haven’t felt at all motivated to work on my year list or keep a winter list; with winter arriving in November this season, it’s hard to maintain any enthusiasm for the least birdiest time of the year here in Ottawa by the time January 1st rolls around. Still, I dutifully started my year list on New Year’s Day, my first species being Northern Cardinal when my neighbourhood pair arrived at my feeder just before dawn. From there I headed over to the Eagleson storm water ponds to pick up some waterfowl – five Canada Geese and over 200 mallards were present, with a bonus of ten Common Redpolls flying over. After that I picked up a few forest birds at the feeder at Jack Pine Trial, a Red-tailed Hawk at the Trail Road Landfill, and three Snow Buntings on Twin Elm, and called it a day. I spent only 2.5 hours birding and ended up with 17 species. Part of the lack of motivation comes from the fact that these species will all still be around in March when the sun feels warmer and temperature is milder. I even started the eBird challenge of doing one checklist a day to help inspire me, but with no daylight for birding before or after work, I was reduced to birding downtown at lunch during the week. After checking Confederation Park for a couple of days (the closest green space to my work), and finding only a single chickadee on one of those days, I soon gave up on that idea. Continue reading →
After the boat tour we did some birding down a dirt road which was initially lined with trees on both sides before opening up onto a large field on the right-hand side. The mosquitoes in the treed area were terrible, and even though we sprayed up with Deep Woods Off! both Doran and I got bit – the nasty little creatures even bit me right through my clothes in several places.
Right near the beginning of our walk Ollie heard a Tropical Gnatcatcher and finally found it about 20 feet up in a tree. It was difficult to see in the branches, so I asked if pishing would bring it in. Ollie said that they were more responsive to the call of the Ferruginous Pygmy Owl – which sounds exactly like our Northern Saw-whet Owl. Ollie started whistling the owl’s call, but the gnatcatcher stayed up in the canopy. It appeared to be a cute little bird, just like the Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers of southern Ontario with a black cap, and just as active.
On Sunday of the Labour Day weekend Chris Lewis and I spent the morning and early afternoon looking for birds and bugs. We met at Mud Lake at 7:00 am to check out the warbler action, then headed over to Trail 10 once the day warmed up and the trails started becoming busy. Once we were finished there, we returned to Mud Lake to look for odes. It was a good morning with a lot of walking, and we saw a lot of different things.
Our first visit to Mud Lake lasted just over an hour. We started out at the ridge, where the sun was just hitting the highest branches of the trees. The warmth of the sun stirs the insects into activity, which then attracts all sorts of insectivores looking for food. We did see a good number of birds in the tree tops, including a couple of Nashville and Cape May Warblers, several Tennessee and Yellow-rumped Warblers, and at least three Eastern Phoebes. Warbling Vireos were still singing, and a couple of Red-eyed Vireos were foraging low enough in the trees to identify them without hearing their familiar song.
As I’ve mentioned in the past, the birding downtown can be very dull, especially in the concrete corridors away from the green space surrounding the Ottawa River and canal. Every now and then a Great Blue Heron, Common Raven or Turkey Vulture will fly past my window, but those are about the only interesting birds I’ve seen from my highrise office building on Elgin Street. I wasn’t expecting much yesterday morning, until one of the lawyers I work with who knows about my o̶b̶s̶e̶s̶s̶i̶o̶n̶ ̶w̶i̶t̶h̶ interest in birds sent me an email message to come look out her window. To my shock, there was a Peregrine Falcon perching on the balcony of one of the new condos across the street!
I didn’t get much birding in this past weekend as I had quite a few errands to run, so I spent much of my free time watching the birds in the backyard. The winter finch invasion has continued for the second week in a row, and it was a real treat hearing all the Pine Siskins in the neighbourhood during the week and watching them in the backyard this weekend. Purple Finches are moving through as well, for I found three of them in the park three days in a row last week, and had at least a male and female in the yard behind mine on Thursday and Saturday. The neighbours in the house in the yard behind mine have been keeping their feeder stocked, so there were plenty of finches around on the weekend. Even though it was cold all weekend – it barely reach 0°C on Saturday and 3°C yesterday – the birds spent a lot of time in the trees and shrubs in neighbouring yards, as well as at the feeder in my yard and in the yard behind mine.