Animal Tracks and Signs

Bohemian Waxwing The last weekend of February was a beautiful one for going out and looking for those last few species to add to my winter list.  Although both Saturday and Sunday morning started out cloudy, the sun came out each day not long after I headed out.  The temperature was decent, too, with the highs in the -7°C range.

On Saturday I drove out to the Richmond Nursery to look for seeds to start my spring garden.  Since I had some time to kill before the nursery opened, I decided to spend some time at the Richmond Lagoons and driving the back roads around Richmond.

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Three Finches

House FinchI managed to visit Hurdman twice in the past ten days, and both times I found three species of finch. Both House Finches and American Goldfinches were abundant, as usual, but I was surprised to find one Common Redpoll on Friday and two the following Wednesday.  Although a number of redpolls were visiting the feeders at Hurdman regularly in mid-January, they had disappeared toward the end of the month and hadn’t been reported since.  Seeing them again really made my day.

A flock of Bohemian Waxwings had also been reported recently, and it was these I was looking for.  Given the abundance of berries around Hurdman Park I figured they would show up sooner or later, as they had in winters past.  I hadn’t seen them at Hurdman all season, however, and I missed them the day after they had been observed by Pat Blake.

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Unexpected Surprises

Common Redpoll

Last weekend Deb and I spent the morning birding in the east end.  It’s been a while since we’ve been to the Frank Kenny area, and as we’ve heard no reports from the east end we thought it would be worth taking a look.

The day started out sunny but cold (-14°C), so we were happy to be in the car driving around.  It soon became clear why there have been no reports from the area: there was nothing to see!  We drove from Trim Road to Wall Road and the back roads around Frank Kenny and Giroux and didn’t see a single hawk, let alone a Snowy Owl or a shrike.  There were no Snow Buntings, Horned Larks, Lapland Longspurs, or American Tree Sparrows to be seen either. All we saw were crows, and, close to the farm buildings, pigeons and starlings.

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A Visit to the Old Quarry Trail

White-breasted Nuthatch

Last weekend Deb and I spent the morning birding the Old Quarry Trail in Kanata.  We were hoping to find some deer, porcupines or other mammals as well as some woodland birds for our year list.  2011, at least for me, has been relatively devoid of mammals; so far all I’ve seen are squirrels and deer, and I was looking forward to seeing something different.

It wasn’t too cold, but the sun never came out as promised.  Because of all the fresh snow there were many skiers and snowshoers on the trails already.  Unfortunately a noisy pair of cross-country skiers startled the first deer we saw near the “Deer John” feeders.  Although the doe bounded off into the woods, the birds were not as skittish and remained close to the elaborate feeding area just off the main trail.  Species present included a Brown Creeper, a pair of White-breasted Nuthatches, a Red-breasted Nuthatch and, of course, chickadees.  A small flock of finches flew over – redpolls, perhaps – and kept heading north without stopping.

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Another year, another coyote killing contest

A year ago I blogged about the The Great Coyote Kill, a coyote-killing contest sponsored by the Osgoode Township Fish Game and Conservation Club in order to eradicate the “infestation” of coyotes in the Osgoode area. I was urged, and urged readers of this blog, to write to Mayor Larry O’Brien asking him to oppose the contest.

Unfortunately neither the City nor the Minister of Natural Resources accepted responsibility for the issue and the contest was allowed to run. They must not have killed enough coyotes during their last contest or over the summer (coyotes may be legally hunted all year round) for this year another “cull” is taking place. And even though it has been brought to the Minister of Natural Resources’ attention that such contests are illegal pursuant to Section 11(1) of the Fish & Wildlife Conservation Act, no action is being taken to stop the contests.

Wildlife Ontario and the Ottawa-Carleton Wildlife Centre have been active in bringing this issue to the attention of Ottawa city councillors, Ontario’s MPPs, the Minister of Natural Resources, Premier Dalton McGuinty and the local media. Now they are urging the public to write to the Premier and ask him to stop the senseless slaughter. The Wildlife Ontario page provides tips for what to say in your letter, links to the MPPs of Ontario and city councillors of Ottawa, and several informative and thought-provoking links to articles published in various newspapers recently. I have taken points from many of these articles in my own letter to Premier McGuinty.

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The Hermit Thrush

Hermit Thrush

I visited Hurdman a couple of times last week on my lunch break.  Both Monday and Friday were sunny, while Tuesday was mild but cloudy.  The temperature has been pleasant during the past week, and the House Finches have been singing up a storm, both at Hurdman and in my neighbourhood.  In fact, with the exception of the snowstorm on Wednesday – the largest snowstorm we’ve had so far this season, dumping a whopping 15 cm of snow on the city – the weather has been much nicer lately for going out birding.

Despite the relatively milder temperatures, however, the amount of open water on the Rideau River has continued to decrease; there are now only two pond-sized areas open south of the footbridge and another small open area beneath the 417 bridge.  The mallards and black ducks still congregate beneath the highway, while the Common Goldeneyes and the male Barrow’s Goldeneye continue to dive for food in the two “ponds” in the middle of the river.

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Snow Birding

Barred OwlLast weekend it was too cold to go birding.  This weekend it was too snowy.  Although the temperature was better for birding (only -9°C compared to -19°C), it snowed all day on Saturday and all morning on Sunday. I can’t say that I am impressed with the weather so far this year; good birding days  – at least during the weekends – have been few and far between. 

In defiance of the snow, however, I decided to go out to Jack Pine Trail on Saturday morning.  I haven’t been out for a walk in the woods in a while, and this time when I arrived the feeder was humming with activity.  Several chickadees, a pair of Red-breasted Nuthatches, a White-breasted Nuthatch, a pair of Hairy Woodpeckers and a single Downy Woodpecker were all visiting the feeders.  At least one Dark-eyed Junco was flitting about in the shrubs behind the feeders, and I even saw two Blue Jays and a brilliant male Northern Cardinal patiently waiting in the trees nearby.  While I usually see one or two jays hanging around the feeders, the cardinals don’t stop by very often.  In fact, the cardinals are more frequently seen – and heard – during the warmer months of year.

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Northern Hawk Owl

A Northern Hawk Owl has been spending the last month or so near Low, Quebec right in the exact same location where one had been seen in the winter of 2006-07. Speculation is that it is the same individual, but since the owl is not banded I suppose we’ll never know.

Deb and I made the trip across the border on a bitterly cold morning last weekend. We didn’t see much on the drive up other than a few Blue Jays, crows and ravens, and at first we didn’t see a single bird after we’d left the highway. There was no sign of any Purple Finches picking grit up off the road this time.

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A Search for Gulls

This winter has been quiet for gulls. I am still missing Glaucous and Iceland Gull for my winter list, so I decided to go to Billings Bridge yesterday at lunch to see if I could find them – or any gulls – there. I started my walk in the park across from Billings Bridge mall where I found only a pair of mallards. Although there was a fair amount of open water, there was a distinct lack of birds. I walked along Riverside Drive, and once I passed the end of the island I saw a few Common Mergansers – including one male! – and Common Goldeneyes. There were no gulls loafing on the ice.
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More Redpolls

I returned to Hurdman on the following Tuesday. I didn’t see the Barrow’s Goldeneye that has been frequenting this section of the river, but I did see one Common Merganser and several Common Goldeneyes.

In the woods, a flock of about 150 starlings feeding on the buckthorn berries was an unexpected sight. Maybe one of these days the Bohemian Waxwings will find these berries as well! The usual birds were present at the feeders, including lots of House Finches and goldfinches and about half a dozen Common Redpolls. I was happy to find these endearing finches so accessible, and spent most of my lunch hour photographing them. Here are a few images of the redpolls feeding.

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