A Purple Life Bird

On Friday I got a call at work from Bob Cermak who told me that he was looking at a Purple Sandpiper at Andrew Haydon Park. He knew I needed this bird for my life list, and it was with intense disappointment that I told him that I couldn’t escape from work to go see it. I just had to hope that it would still be there the following day.

When I arrived at the park early the next morning, I found one birder with his scope pointed at the Purple Sandpiper. I was thrilled that it was still there, although when I first looked through the scope it was so well-camouflaged that I couldn’t see it! Then he moved, and I saw the orange bill. Continue reading

Water Robins

After several days of gray, oppressive skies, Monday turned out to be beautiful and sunny. I decided to take my camera with me to work so I could go to Hurdman at lunch; however, even before I got to the bus stop that morning I found something interesting to photograph. A few thin, gauzy white clouds were spread across the sky, and in one of these I noticed the rainbow colours of a sun dog! Sun dogs are very common, but are seldom noticed. They appear twice a week in North America, on average, no matter what time of year it is, but are best seen when the sun is low in the sky. Sometimes they are so bright it appears as if there are three suns in the sky; at other times, only a smudge of colour is visible.

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More Snow Geese

On Saturday I stopped in at Sarsaparilla Trail before heading up to Andrew Haydon Park to look for a Greater White-fronted Goose that had been photographed there the day before. Because the weather has been so mild, the pond at Sarsaparilla was completely open; the thin layer of ice had melted, and about 150 Canada Geese were swimming in the middle of the pond. The only other waterfowl species present were two mallards, two American Black Ducks, two Hooded Mergansers, and a single Great Blue Heron. There weren’t very many birds in the woods, so I didn’t linger but continued on my way up to the river. Continue reading

In a Dark Wood

On Saturday I visited a trail I haven’t been to in many months: the Old Quarry Trail in Stony Swamp. Although it is known for the tame deer that can be hand-fed in the winter time, there are lots of other bird and mammal species around that make it worth visiting. Porcupines are quite common, and it’s an unusual day when I don’t see at least one high up in a tree sleeping or feeding on bark. Pileated Woodpeckers, cardinals, Ruffed Grouse, finches, juncos, nuthatches, ravens and Brown Creepers are also found here year-round, though they seem to be more conspicuous in the winter time. I’ve seen fox tracks and Snowshoe Hare tracks in the snow on occasion, but never the animals themselves. What an amazing treat it would be to come face-to-face with one of these creatures!

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Visiting the East End

The next day Deb and I visited the east end, mainly to see if the Sandhill Cranes were feeding in their usual fields near Smith and Milton Roads. Although they had been seen on the day of the Ottawa Fall Bird Count, none had been reported since. We weren’t sure if this was because people had been looking for them and not finding them, or if nobody was actually looking. I suspected the latter when we arrived at Milton Road and found a large flock of cranes in the field behind the house right near the corner. We could hear them calling to one another, a sound I find both soothing yet somehow prehistoric, and when I conducted a head count I came up with about 80 birds. Of course, more were grazing with their heads down, so it is possible that were over a hundred!

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Waterfowl watching

The first Saturday of November was a crisp, beautiful sunny day so I headed back up to the Ottawa River to check out the waterfowl. My first stop was Shirley’s Bay where the woods proved to be extremely quiet. Only a couple of robins, chickadees, and a Hairy Woodpecker were present, making me long for the mid-September mornings when the trees were filled with migrating warblers, vireos, flycatchers and thrushes.

The dyke was more productive. Although the Bald Eagles were absent, at least a thousand Canada Geese filled the bay. When they eventually flew off, a few Green-winged Teals, mallards, and at least 50 Northern Shovelers – the most I have ever seen before! – remained.

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Along the Ottawa River

With so many fantastic water birds being seen right now, where else should Deb and I go on Sunday but up to the Ottawa River? We started off the morning at the Deschenes Lookout where we ran into a number of birders – including Bob Bracken, Chris Lewis, Mike Tate, Bob Cermak and Paul Mirsky – watching the still-present Razorbill. Someone had suggested that this eastern seabird was injured, accounting for its long stay, but we watched it fly rapidly all the way from the ruins on the Quebec side to Bate Island and back without any difficulty whatsoever. In flight the Razorbill looks rather football-shaped, with no neck and a short tail and long, triangular-shaped wings that beat rapidly like a duck’s.

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200 Snow Geese!

It was cold and sunny when I headed out first thing on Saturday morning. The thermometer read only -2°C and a hard frost coated the rooftops and the lawns of suburban Kanata. As usual, I decided to stop in at Sarsaparilla Trail before heading elsewhere. Only 12 species were present, including an American Robin, a couple of juncos, and at least two Golden-crowned Kinglets. A single White-tailed Deer was grazing on the vegetation just beyond the path, and we stopped to look at one another for a moment before going our separate ways.

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Another October Rarity

On Saturday, October 22nd, I stopped by Andrew Haydon Park to look for some of the waterfowl reported earlier in the week by Bruce DiLabio. All three scoters (Black, White-winged and Surf), Long-tailed Ducks, Red-breasted Mergansers, and Brant had been found along the river between Shirley’s Bay and Andrew Haydon Park on Thursday and Friday; I needed all of these birds for my year list.

I didn’t see any of these birds at Andrew Haydon, but I did run into a fellow birder looking for all the same birds I was. Paul Mirsky and I went over to Dick Bell Park next, where we had much better luck: three winter-plumage Common Loons were swimming out in the river towards Shirley’s Bay, while a single Red-necked Grebe was diving in the bay on the west side of Dick Bell. Best of all, four Surf Scoters flew in and landed on the river directly in front of us, and not all that far out, either. Continue reading

Winter Birds and Summer Birds

On Sunday Deb and I went birding along the Ottawa River. It was still windy with lots of dark clouds moving through, and I wore my winter coat even though the forecast mentioned more showers later in the morning. We stopped at Ottawa Beach first to look for shorebirds, diving ducks and Hudsonian Godwits, but a large flock of songbirds in the trees near the parking lot turned out to be the highlight of our stop. I saw a few juncos moving about the brush, and heard Golden-crowned Kinglets calling in the trees overhead. When I stopped for a closer look I noticed a yellowish bird – some type of warbler – with the group and started examining the flock in detail. I didn’t see that particular warbler again, but I noticed one Nashville Warbler, one Yellow-rumped Warbler, at least two Ruby-crowned Kinglets, and – to my surprise – a Black-and-White Warbler! I don’t think I’ve ever seen one in October before, so seeing one again was like enjoying a little bit of summer. Continue reading