Archives

Thirty Species at the Ponds

Downy Woodpecker

After returning from my vacation to southern Ontario I had two days off, but with no car I wasn’t able to go birdwatching anywhere exciting. On April 19th I headed out to the storm water ponds well before the rain was supposed to start around noon, but got caught in a light shower just as soon as I arrived. I decided to continue my walk anyway, as a few new species had been seen there while I was away: Sophie added Northern Harrier (!), Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, and Peregrine Falcon (!!) all on April 16th, and Peter Blancher added Fox Sparrow on April 17th. I wasn’t sure whether any of these birds would stick around for very long, but thought it would be great to see what was new.

I found a couple of White-throated Sparrows, two Barn Swallows, and two Tree Swallows almost right away. Ten Hooded Mergansers were still making use of the pond, though most of the geese had left. Only five Mallards were present.

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Other Creatures Along the River

Great Golden Digger Wasp

Great Golden Digger Wasp

Butterflies aren’t the only creatures I was looking for on my day off on Friday – I spent a lot of time watching birds, dragonflies, frogs, and other insects, too. Before I found myself captivated by the butterflies in the field next to the Hilda Road feeders, I spent a lot of time wandering around the trails at Shirley’s Bay and came up with a decent list of birds – 22 species in just over an hour, including several open-field and scrub-land species such as House Wren, White-throated Sparrow, Field Sparrow, Gray Catbird, American Redstart, and Yellow 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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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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Pile of Bones

Spring Azure

Spring Azure

On May 10th I spent some time in the west end and had a fantastic day, adding 18 birds to my year list. I started the morning with a quick visit to the Eagleson storm water ponds, hoping to find some warblers lurking in the trees; instead I heard a couple of White-crowned and White-throated Sparrows, a single Swamp Sparrow, a single Chipping Sparrow, and the usual blackbirds and Song Sparrows. The best birds of my visit were a Killdeer investigating the large expanse of dirt where a new block of houses will soon be built, the Barn Swallows flitting beneath the bridge, and two Common Terns catching fish. The terns are a new species for this location.

From there I decided to spend some time along March Valley Road, where there are usually some ponds that attract dabbling ducks and watery fields that attract shorebirds. Last year I was lucky enough to spot a couple of Northern Shovelers, Dunlin, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Least Sandpipers, Semipalmated Plovers, and single White-rumped Sandpiper in May. I was hoping for a similar experience this year and was not disappointed.

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The Family Day Long Weekend

Gray Partridge

The sun came out for the Family Day long weekend, and as luck would have it, I was sick. The scratchy throat that plagued me on Friday turned into a full-blown sinus cold by Sunday, but that didn’t prevent me from going out birding for a few hours each day. There are only two weekends left in February, and with my winter list standing at 66 species – my highest total ever – I decided to follow up on a few reports to see if I could reach 70.

My first target was the Northern Pintail spending the winter on the Rideau River in Manotick. On the way I stopped by Rushmore Road, where I encountered two Horned Larks – one of which was singing – and about two dozen Snow Buntings. There were no birds at the Moodie Drive quarry, and only the usual suspects along Trail Road. I checked the informal feeder area at the dump to see what was around, but the tree beneath which people used to scatter seed had been chopped down. A single Blue Jay was the only bird around.

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To find a Mockingbird

On Sunday, September 4th I planned to go birding with Bob, Chris, and Mike along the Ottawa River. First, however, I stopped for a quick walk at Sarsaparilla Trail to see if any migrants had shown up here yet. This trail in the heart of Stony Swamp is not a migrant trap by any stretch of the imagination, but some interesting birds have turned up there over the years and it’s always worth a quick check. This proved to be the case when, at the boardwalk overlooking the marsh, a Great Blue Heron flew up out of the reeds at the end of the platform. A second bird, much smaller, quickly followed, and with its long bill, long neck, and beautiful warm golden-brown colours I immediately recognized it as a Least Bittern! It flew only a couple of feet into the reeds but quickly disappeared from view. This was a fantastic but completely unexpected moment, for I have never seen a Least Bittern before and wasn’t expecting to find one here of all places!

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