A quick trip to the Moodie Drive quarry pond one evening after work proved to be an excellent idea. Among the usual Ruddy Ducks, Pied-billed Grebes (at least 15!) and mallards were three Ring-necked Ducks and about a dozen Gadwall. Several cormorants were perching in the trees on the spit, while a large raptor perched on top of a hydro pole way in the back. When I turned my scope on the raptor it turned out to be an adult Bald Eagle!
Best of all, while driving home on one of the back roads I noticed a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk sitting on a fence post right next to the road. These birds are difficult to photograph and tend to fly off as soon as they catch you looking at them, so I drove by, did a U-turn, and pulled up beside him with my passenger window open.
Juvenile Red-tailed Hawk
He didn’t know what to make of the car; I took a few photos through the window while he sized up my vehicle. Even though I’m sure he couldn’t see me sitting all the way on the driver’s side, apparently he didn’t like what he saw for he flew off a moment later.
Juvenile Red-tailed Hawk
I was pretty pleased, as these are my best photos of a Red-tailed Hawk yet!
Many birds begin migrating in late August, particularly those birds that feed chiefly on insects. It is not unusual to see large numbers of migrants at this time of year, even though it’s still summer according to the calendar. Insectivores leave the north early to ensure food is still plentiful as they make their way to South America, where many of them will spend the winter. I headed over to Andrew Haydon Park and Mud Lake again during the third weekend of August to see if I could find some of these summer migrants, and I wasn’t disappointed!
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.
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.
I had planned to lead a dragonfly outing on Sunday, August 5th with Chris Lewis for the OFNC, but by the time the weekend arrived I knew I was in trouble with a particularly bad sinus cold that left me feeling stuffed up, headachy and drained of energy. I went out for a little while on Saturday to see how I felt to be out; the beautiful day turned out to be a pleasant distraction, and I managed to last for a couple of hours before returning home to rest. I didn’t see much at Sarsaparilla Trail, but I did hear a Gray Catbird mewing somewhere along the water’s edge (a new species for that location) and see a couple of Pied-billed Grebes on the water. A Slender Spreadwing in the cattails at the end of the boardwalk was a great find, as I had never seen one here before.
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.
This is just to let my loyal readers know that after returning from a 10-day holiday in Alberta a few days ago, I’m back and beginning to blog again! I still have a couple of entries to post from before I went away and hope to get those up soon so I can share my stories and photos from Elk Island and Jasper National Parks with you! I will be back-dating my entries for a while until I can catch up.
In the meantime, here’s something to whet your appetite:
After leaving the Valley of the Five Lakes, Doran and I drove south until we reached the turnoff for Athabasca Falls. Although my family had visited these falls when I was a kid, I didn’t remember them at all; it would be like seeing them for the first time. The falls are only 23 metres high, but the large volume of water that funnels into the waterfall makes the Athabasca Falls one of the most powerful falls in the mountain parks. The Athabasca River, which is fed by the Columbia Glacier about 70 kilometres south, thunders into a narrow gorge, where the quartzite and limestone walls have been worn away and potholes have been created by the force of the rushing water.
Our last two full days in Jasper were busy with family. My sister’s wedding was on Saturday, and most of the guests were arriving Friday. I awoke at 5:30 a.m. on Friday to the sound of something walking on the roof and several crows and a magpie squawking loudly. The footsteps sounded heavier than the Red Squirrels I’d seen sitting up there, so I decided to get up and investigate. It was already growing light, but when I went outside to check I didn’t see anything. A moment later I heard the crows rush off and land in a nearby tree. I followed, and was startled to see a young Great Horned Owl sitting in a tree right about eye level!
On Thursday afternoon we visited another famous Jasper mountain, Mount Edith Cavell. The snow-covered, craggy peak of this mountain dominates the skyline south of the town of Jasper, and it is about a 45-minute drive from the townsite. It is reached by taking Highway 93A to Cavell Road, and following Cavell Road twelve kilometers to the parking lot at the end. Cavell Road is narrow and has sharp turns and tight switchbacks that are unsuitable for trailers and large motor-homes, which should be left in a parking area at the beginning of the road. While it wasn’t quite a “white-knuckle” ride up the mountain to the parking lot, the road was steep enough and narrow enough to make me uneasy. There were no shoulders….the white line at the edge of the pavement was all that separated the road from the rocky slope on one side and the vegetation on the other.