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Late Summer in Stony Swamp

Snowshoe Hare (juvenile)

A few years ago I wrote a post about the winter wildlife of Stony Swamp. However, it’s a great place to see wildlife in late summer as well. Many birds are done raising their young and are leaving their nesting areas in a phenomenon known as post-breeding dispersal. By late August, the first songbirds have started migrating through our area as well. Many mammals, too, are moving around, fattening up for the winter ahead and looking for safe places to spend the winter. While there are fewer insect species around, many late-season insects are still breeding and laying eggs to ensure their species’ survival for another generation. Stony Swamp is a great place to see all of these, as the variety of habitats within its boundaries provide food and shelter for a variety of different creatures. And the one thing I like about the trails here is that I never know what’s going to turn up on an early morning or late afternoon walk!

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Gray October

The cool weather and gray skies arrived this past week, and with them came the fall birding doldrums. This usually hits me when I realize that we are now halfway through the fall migration season, and that more species have already departed than are still left to come. It’s going to be at least seven months before I hear another Ovenbird or see a flock of Barn Swallows swooping over farm fields; the Wood Thrush, the Eastern Kingbird, and the Yellow Warbler are all somewhere far south of here. Both the birds and the seasons are moving on, and this was made evident when we had to turn the heat on as the nights started dropping down into the single digit temperatures.

I headed out to the Eagleson Ponds yesterday morning, but didn’t spend much time there as there wasn’t much to photograph. After about an hour I ended up with 27 species, and for the first time in months I did not see or hear the Northern Flicker. Sparrows and finches were abundant – it was a mild morning, and several Song Sparrows were still singing. A couple of White-throated Sparrows were attempting to sing, too. A couple of those popped into view when I started pishing, as did an adult and juvenile White-crowned Sparrow.

White-crowned Sparrow


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Dragon Blitz 2016 – Part I

Northern Cloudywing

Northern Cloudywing

When I decided to take today off it wasn’t my intention, in the beginning, to embark on an all-out “dragon blitz” and search for as many odonate species as possible (or at least as many as I could find until my stamina began to falter); the forecast for the weekend looked terrible, so I wanted to go out while the weather was nice to look for birds in the morning and odes as soon as it warmed up. However, that’s exactly what it became as I started finding some good dragonflies early in the morning and decided to keep visiting different trails where I knew I could find different species.

My morning began with a visit to Lime Kiln Trail, which isn’t a place I visit very often. However, a Mourning Warbler has been heard singing away there for a couple of days now, and I thought I would try to find it. My walk started out fairly quiet, but I saw a Veery on the ground and a Common Raven flying overhead right near the beginning of the trail, and heard a couple of Red-eyed Vireos and a Brown Creeper in the woods.

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Additions to the Winter List

Black-backed Woodpecker

Black-backed Woodpecker


Last week a first-year male Harlequin Duck was discovered on the Ottawa River in the channel between Bate Island and the Gatineau shore. While this is not the first time a Harlequin Duck has been seen in the Ottawa area, it is only the second one to appear here since I started birding in 2006. I got my “lifer” Harlequin Duck on December 22, 2007 in the exact same location, a female. Others have wintered along the rapids at Strathcona Park in previous years, including a female which over-wintered there for five years straight beginning in 2000. Harlequin Ducks are primarily found in fast-moving water, breeding on fast-flowing mountain streams in British Columbia and Labrador, and wintering along rocky coastlines or turbulent rivers. The rapids near Bate Island and at Strathcona Park do not freeze in the winter, making it an attractive spot for many different ducks, including Harlequins, in the winter.

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After the Fire

Black-backed Woodpecker

Back in July, the day before my fiancé and I left for our trip to Alberta, a large fire broke out in Stony Swamp only a few kilometres from our house. The fire department estimates that between 40 and 50 hectares burned altogether; although it has been referred to as a “brush fire” rather than a forest fire, many trees were affected, some of which fell down completely, others of which were merely charred. Large, uncontrolled fires are rare in our area, but the drought had created exceptionally dry conditions this past summer so it isn’t surprising that this fire grew to such a large size or took a couple of days to bring completely under control.

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