On June 5th I headed out to Dunrobin to spend some time looking for odes and birds. My first stop was the Crazy Horse Trail on March Road at the end of Huntmar Road. This is a relatively new pedestrian-only trail for hikers, skiers, and snowshoers that was developed by the Friends of the Carp Hills under an agreement with the City of Ottawa. It is named for an old tavern that used to stand adjacent to the trailhead but has long since been demolished. The goal of the trail is to provide recreational access to the the Carp Hills on City-owned property while keeping impact on the environment to a minimum. The trail is narrow, and as there is no intention to groom or widen the trail, people are asked to respect the natural areas by staying on the trail, keeping dogs under control at all times (which means using a leash if necessary), leaving no waste, and respecting property boundaries. There are some rough, volunteer-built boardwalks in places too wet to cross which adds to its charm. In fact, all trail maintenance and improvement depends on volunteers, rather than the City, which makes it doubly important to respect the work they have done in creating this trail. Continue reading →
When I got back from Costa Rica I didn’t much feel like doing any birding back here in Ottawa. I’d been spoiled by all the colourful, tropical birds and exotic species that I’d seen – Costa Rica was a dream come true for me, and it was hard to return to reality. As soon as I got back I started thinking about a return trip there, wanting to spend more time in the rainforest so I could see birds such as Cotingas, Jacamars and Bellbirds. And oh, the hummingbirds and tanagers there!
It was difficult to get excited about birding in Ottawa, and the weather didn’t help. It was cold and rainy when we left and still cold (only 16°C) when I returned. The thought of going dragon-hunting stirred my interest somewhat, and when the weather warmed up the weekend after we got back, I decided it was time to take my net out of hibernation. Continue reading →
On August 7th I met up with Chris Lewis at Shirley’s Bay for a morning of birding and dragon-hunting. The morning got off to a great start when I saw a group of Wild Turkeys along Rifle Road even before I met Chris at the parking lot; there were two adults and a couple of baby turkeys! As soon as I stopped the car the adult turkeys began herding their offspring away from the road. Although they weren’t that close to begin with, it was cute to watch the babies stop and peck at the weeds while Mom and Dad steadily walked toward the back of the meadow. I’ve seen Wild Turkeys in that field before, but this was the first time I’d seen them with any young, and it was a thrilling experience.
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.
On August 16th Chris Lewis and I went to the Bill Mason Center to do some dragon-hunting. As the weatherman was predicting a steamy high of 30°C with 100% humidity, we met at 7:30 in the morning in order to beat the heat. For the second day in a row, a thick early-morning fog hung low over Ottawa, but once we arrived at the sand pit we found a bright, sunny morning with no trace of fog. It was really starting to warm up by then, but as it was still early in the day, all we saw at first were a couple of darners we accidentally scared up from the vegetation along the northwestern side of the pond. None were cooperative; instead of settling back down in a spot where we could see them, they zoomed off altogether.
The weekend after we got back from Grundy Lake, Chris Lewis invited me to go dragon-hunting. We were just heading out to the Bill Mason Center when we got a call from Bob Cermak and Bernie Ladouceur, who were doing a Seedathon that day in order to raise funds to keep the OFNC birdfeeders stocked over the winter. The goal of a Seedathon is to find as many species as possible within 24 hours, and ask sponsors to donate either a lump sum or on a per-species basis. They had just received a tip about an Eastern Screech-Owl sitting in a relatively accessible area and thought we might be interested. Chris and I delayed our plans to go to the Bill Mason Center long enough to get directions to the owl, and then set out to find it.
On the second Sunday of July I headed out to the Bill Mason Center to look for dragonflies. It was already sizzling hot when I arrived around 8:30, with the humidity in the “barely comfortable” range but not yet reaching “intolerable”. I didn’t intend to stay very long; just long enough to see if I could find some Calico Pennants, Azure Bluets, and perhaps some large darners or emeralds at the sand pit.
The first interesting bird that I saw was this Baltimore Oriole near the parking lot. It looks to be a first year bird, lacking the deep orange colour of adult orioles. Baltimore Orioles attain their adult plumage after reaching their second fall, which they then keep year-round with no breeding/non-breeding plumage differences typically seen in other songbirds.
After returning to Ottawa I couldn’t wait to go birding and see what migration had brought in. On the day after we returned, I spent two hours at Jack Pine Trail. An Ovenbird and a Black-throated Green Warbler had returned to the woods; I heard both of them singing away. I also heard, but didn’t see, two new year birds: a Black-throated Blue Warbler and a Great Crested Flycatcher. This turned out to be my only Black-throated Blue Warbler this spring; hopefully I will see one in the fall. In the clearing near the feeder, which still had seeds in it, I saw two White-crowned Sparrows and a Black-and-white Warbler. It was chilly, so unfortunately no butterflies or dragonflies were flying.
Later that week I found my first Scarlet Tanager of the year at Confederation Park downtown, and found a second male at Hurdman Park later that same day. The breeding birds had all returned to Hurdman, including Yellow Warblers, American Redstarts, Warbling Vireos, a Baltimore Oriole, a Gray Catbird and a Least Flycatcher. A few migrants were still around; I found a White-throated Sparrow and a Black-throated Green Warbler foraging with a few Yellow-rumps; when I started pishing, a Common Yellowthroat and a Lincoln’s Sparrow popped out of a brush pile! The Lincoln’s Sparrow was new for my Hurdman list.
I returned to Mud Lake in mid-August in the hope of finding some interesting dragonflies. It was a much a nicer day than we’d had for the OFNC dragonfly outing, but there were fewer dragonflies flying, and nothing as interesting as the Spot-winged Glider and Swift River Cruiser we’d found two weeks ago. June and July are the best months for finding a good diversity of odonates; by mid-August a number of species have already finished flying for the year, including many emeralds and common summer species such as the Dot-tailed Whiteface. However, other species are just becoming abundant around this time, such as the mosaic darners, and it was these that I was hoping to find.
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.