Spring at the Richmond Lagoons


The Richmond Sewage Lagoons (formally known as the Richmond Conservation Area) is one of the few places in Ottawa that did not close its parking lots during the COVID-19 pandemic, and as such, it is one of the few birding spots I visited regularly during the months of April and May. The habitat is unique: there are three cells left from the former sewage lagoons, each containing its own mini-ecosystem. The first cell as one approaches from the parking lot on Eagleson (the southernmost cell), has deep water and extensive cattails, making it great for Pied-billed Grebes, rails, bitterns, Swamp Sparrows and waterfowl, mainly geese and dabbling ducks. The middle cell has deeper water and very little cattails, making it a better spot to see diving ducks. The third cell used to be almost entirely choked with cattails interspersed with small patches of open water, making it the best spot to watch and listen for rails. This spring when I arrived on my first visit I was dismayed to see that not only had the cattails been chopped down, but so had some of the tall trees bordering the cell. The cell looked like a soup of water and what was left of the churned up marsh bottom and vegetation, although a deep puddle ringed with a few cattails remained.
Continue reading

The Phalarope and the Jaeger (Redux)

Back in 2011 I wrote about a visit to Andrew Haydon Park where I had the privilege to see both a Red-necked Phalarope and a Parasitic Jaeger. Today I had the opportunity to see another Red-necked Phalarope the same time a different jaeger was reported.

It was a cool, gloomy morning threatening rain, so I wasn’t sure I wanted to go out birding. At 10:00 I received a report that two Red-necked Phalaropes, as well as several Sanderlings, Pectoral Sandpipers, and Bonaparte’s Gulls, were refound at Ottawa Beach (Andrew Haydon Park East). Then, almost three hours later another report came in: a jaeger was also present at Ottawa Beach! It wasn’t a flyby, as so often happens with rare birds; instead it had landed and was resting on the water. That report settled my indecision, so I headed off to the river. Unfortunately by the time I arrived it was just a dark blob bobbing on the water near Britannia Pier, so I turned my attention to the shorebirds instead. I saw the Bonaparte’s Gull standing in the water, the Pectoral Sandpipers and Sanderlings near the mouth of the creek, and both Red-necked Phalaropes. One was foraging on the opposite bank, but the other was on my side of the creek only a few feet away!

Red-necked Phalarope

Continue reading

Shorebird Season

Long-billed Dowitcher

By Labour Day weekend shorebird migration is well underway and some of the less common species start to arrive in our region. While the Eagleson storm water ponds are a great spot to find common species such as both Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Least Sandpipers and Semipalmated Sandpipers, the mudflats of the Ottawa River attract a variety of other birds, especially those that prefer tidal beaches and rushing water. Unfortunately, the water level of the Ottawa River depends not just the amount of rainfall we receive during the summer, but also the actions of the dam further upstream. We have received little rainfall this summer, as in most of our summers recently, however, this year the dam gates have remained shut so that the falling water levels have created the mudflats necessary to attract flocks of shorebirds. It has been great to see the sandbars emerge on the river on my daily bus commute along the Sir John A. MacDonald Parkway, and I was thrilled to see the mudflats developing at Andrew Haydon Park in recent weeks. This past weekend I went looking for shorebirds early in the morning, and the huge exposed muddy beach at Ottawa Beach was the best I’ve seen it in years. As long as the dam gates remain closed, this part of the Ottawa River shoreline will remain the best spot for viewing hard-to-find shorebird species throughout the fall given its accessibility.

Continue reading

A Day At Rondeau Park

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

We spent our second day at Rondeau Provincial Park. The weather was essentially the same as the day before: sunny, though with less wind, which caused migration to slow even further. When we arrived in the park, we spent about an hour at the Visitor Center feeders, waiting for one of the Yellow-throated Warblers to show up. This southern species is very uncommon in Ontario, but usually can be found in the southern part of the province every year. Unlike most warblers, which dine chiefly on insects, the Yellow-throated Warbler will sometimes visit feeders for suet and sunflower seeds; at least two individuals have been reported at a couple of different feeders in Rondeau Park.

Continue reading

En Route to Point Pelee

Pectoral Sandpiper

Pectoral Sandpiper

On Saturday, May 4th, my birding partner, Deb, and I set off on our first road trip and my annual spring visit to southern Ontario. My parents both live in Cambridge, and it has become a tradition for me to spend a week there in the spring, with a three- or four-day trip to Point Pelee and Rondeau Park to enjoy the spring migration. It takes five hours to drive there, but we arrived early enough to spend some time birding the area with my mom. First we visited the square near the Main Street bridge. The Red-tailed Hawk was still using the same stick nest on the same church steeple in the square; we didn’t see any fluffy chicks this time, but an adult was sitting in the nest. This is at least the third time the hawk has nested here in the last four years.

Continue reading

Painted Ladies!

Painted Lady

A large influx of Painted Ladies over the past couple of days has made for some exciting butterflying. Until now, I had only seen three of these gorgeous butterflies, one several years ago at a sewage lagoon, and two earlier this year on Canada Day. American Ladies are usually the more common of the two migratory ladies, and were present during the massive Red Admiral migration last spring. However, when reports of large numbers of Painted Ladies across Ottawa began flooding in this month, it was clear we were witnessing another large wave of butterflies… though just where they had come from and where they were going remained a bit of a mystery.

Continue reading

Sabine’s Gull, Part II

The following day I returned to Andrew Haydon Park with Deb to try and find the Sabine’s Gull for her. We began our search at Ottawa Beach where we found lots of puddle ducks swimming in the small “bay” along the edge of the mudflats: several mallards, one American Black Duck, one Green-winged Teal and five Blue-winged Teals. On the river we saw a female Common Merganser swim by, and in the trees we could hear Cedar Waxwings and a singing Warbling Vireo.

We didn’t see anyone with scopes so we walked over to the mouth of Graham Creek to see if any shorebirds or Rusty Blackbirds were present. Continue reading

The Phalarope and the Jaeger

I had taken Monday off work for personal reasons, and after taking care of a few things at home that morning, I went to Ottawa Beach and Andrew Haydon Park to try and catch up with Ottawa’s latest rare bird: a juvenile Parasitic Jaeger. This bird had been discovered at Shirley’s Bay on September 7, 2011 but has been regularly seen on the Ottawa River between the Britannia Yacht Club and Dick Bell Park this past weekend. An approachable, long-staying Red-necked Phalarope and a small flock of Black-bellied Plovers at Ottawa Beach tempted me to brave the bus to see whether I could find any of these birds.

Because I walked from the Bayshore transit station along Holly Acres Road to the park, I started my visit at the east end of Andrew Haydon Park. I followed Graham Creek to its mouth, checking the shrubs for warblers and migrants, and finding very little. I went down to the sandy shoreline but saw no shorebirds on the west side of the creek; however, a couple of people with spotting scopes on Ottawa Beach sparked my curiosity, so I tried to see if I could find a way across the creek without having to walk all the way back to the bridge. Continue reading