We headed out of the park to eat a late lunch in Leamington (nothing along Point Pelee Drive was open on Easter Sunday) and then returned to the marsh boardwalk as our final stop in the park. It was a bit cool out on the water, but it was great to see several Barn and Tree Swallows swooping over the observation platform. As usual, there were lots of Red-winged Blackbirds and grackles, but unlike other years we saw no warblers or small migrants in the trees adjacent to the parking lot. Six Turkey Vultures and one Double-crested Cormorant flew over, and we heard two Song Sparrows and three Swamp Sparrows. We also saw two Herring Gulls land on a small clump of dirt in the marsh – this was the first time I’d seen this species at this location. Common Yellowthroats hadn’t returned yet, so we didn’t hear their rolling “witchity, witchity, witchity” song in the cattails.
The weather was supposed to be warm and sunny yesterday, so I headed out to the Bill Mason Center to look for marsh birds and dragonflies. Chris T. had found a Crimson-ringed Whiteface at the sand pit early in the season last year, and as I’ve never seen this species in Ottawa, I was curious to find out if his dragonfly was a chance visitor or if they were common there in the late spring. While this species has a flight season from late May to early August, I have never seen it there during any of my summer visits to the Bill Mason Center. I was also hoping to find a few marsh birds such as bitterns, Sora and Virigina Rail, so it seemed like a great idea to stop there after checking out the Carp Ridge and some of the roads in Dunrobin for other species.
When Doran and I returned to Ottawa on July 23rd we were shocked to see the effects of the drought. Ottawa had received no rain while we were gone, except for the severe thunderstorms on the day we returned, and the landscape reflected this. Almost all the lawns were dry and brown, the fields were parched, and the wildflowers were brown and withered – there were hardly any left in bloom. In our backyard, the weeds had all thrived when the grass died, and all my container plants appeared dead. I was shocked to visit the Richmond Lagoons and Jack Pine Trail and find there was no water in the ponds at all. The mudflats at Shirley’s Bay and Ottawa Beach were quite extensive; the water level on the river was lower than I had ever seen it.
On my first full day in Alberta I met my best friend April for brunch, and then the two of us went to Elk Island National Park for some birding. She isn’t an avid birder like I am, but loves the outdoors and is always happy to try something new…especially if it means getting away from the kids!
We decided to stop by my old house in the country first since it was on the way. We parked on the road in front of the driveway, but the house didn’t resonate with me at all. I noticed in a detached way that someone had put some shutters up outside the second floor windows and painted them green, but felt no emotion at seeing it again after 16 years, nor any curiosity about the people who lived there now.
On Sunday Deb and I went birding together. It had been a while since she’s been able to get out, so she was missing out on a lot of new spring arrivals; I suggested we head out to the Dunrobin area which has been very productive so far this spring. We got lucky on some of the back roads where we spotted a Red-tailed Hawk perching on a telephone pole right next to the road and a pair of bluebirds checking out a bluebird house in the same area. Savannah Sparrows were singing on fence posts, an Eastern Meadowlark was singing on a telephone wire right above the road, and Turkey Vultures were soaring overhead.
The day after the BioBlitz, I visited a place I hadn’t been to in a long time: the marsh on Moodie Drive near Nortel. It’s a good spot to find Willow Flycatchers, Marsh Wrens, Least Bitterns (though I personally have never seen or heard one here), Alder Flycatchers and rails. So far I haven’t even heard a Sora yet this year, let alone seen one, and I was hoping to find one at the marsh.
It was a bit cool when I left, with a couple of light showers passing through; I thought I might have to turn around and go home, but fortunately the rain had moved on by the time I reached the parking lot on Corkstown Road.
Before heading to the Bill Mason Center, we made a quick stop along Constance Bay Road near the intersection of Dunrobin Road. The grassy fields here are a good spot to find Eastern Meadowlarks, Upland Sandpipers, Savannah Sparrows, and Bobolinks. The Bobolinks weren’t back yet, but we could hear a couple of meadowlarks singing in the distant fields. We also saw a Northern Harrier gliding over the fields before it dropped to the ground to seize whatever prey it had been hunting. I was especially eager to see an Upland Sandpiper, a species I’ve only seen once before years ago in the east end. We found a shorebird sitting on a post at the very back of the field, and although the heat shimmer made identification tricky, it didn’t have the long neck of an Upland Sandpiper.