Northern Birds

Last weekend was a great one for seeing a variety of northern birds moving through – though, for various reasons, not for photography. Earlier in the week, a Northern Hawk Owl had been discovered near the Ottawa airport. This northern species only appears in southern Ontario during the winter when food becomes scarce in its normal range; I last saw this species in January 2011 when one set up a winter territory near Brennan’s Hill, Quebec. I drove out to Bowesville Road just south of the airport early Saturday morning but had no luck finding the Hawk Owl (apparently it waited until after I left to put in an appearance). I did, however, see a group of Common Redpolls, a Snowy Owl resting in the middle of a green field, and a Rough-legged Hawk in the same area. The Rough-legged Hawk appeared to be keeping an eye on a group of Wild Turkeys feeding right below the tree in which it was sitting; both the hawk and the Snowy Owl were season firsts for me.

Snowy Owl
Ottawa, January 2007

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Ottawa: The most “wildlife unfriendly” city in Canada

The City of Ottawa hates wildlife. It seems to me that Canada’s capital city would prefer to live under a plastic bubble where no pesky rodents, Canada Geese, insects, amphibians, and other wildlife can enter rather than find ways to live in harmony with the fauna we share our land with. The City of Ottawa has shown time and time again that when it comes to dealing with wildlife conflicts, it believes there is only one solution: to kill the “pest” that is causing the problem. Whether it is gassing groundhogs, killing moose, encouraging the senseless slaughter of coyotes by refusing to end the coyote-killing contests, or actively live-trapping (i.e. KILLING) beavers and destroying their lodges, the City of Ottawa resorts to barbaric measures each time a conflict arises instead of considering progressive and humane alternatives.

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Three Mammals and Two Wrens

Carolina Wren in the snow

Carolina Wren

On Saturday I went out by myself to follow up on a few sightings in the west end. I started off with a tour of the back roads near Richmond, hoping to find some Horned Larks to add to my Ottawa year list; however, these birds, as well as the Snow Buntings and Lapland Longspurs they often associate with, were absent. On Rushmore Road I noticed a canine standing at the back of a snow-covered field, so I pulled over to check it out. It wasn’t a domestic dog as I had first thought but a coyote! He just stood there looking at me, and I just stood there looking at him, and neither of us made any move. Then he lay down in the snow, still watching me, so I got out my scope for a better look. I was surprised he didn’t turn his tail and run away!

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Boxing Day Beavers

On Boxing Day I got up early to check out a report of an American Coot at Billings Bridge along the Rideau River. This species has eluded me all year, and the idea of adding it to both my year and winter lists was just too tempting to resist. I parked in the large parking lot at Billings Bridge mall (despite my aversion to being anywhere near a shopping mall on Boxing Day), then crossed Riverside Drive to get to the park.

Although the water was still open along this section of the river, I saw no ducks along the shore. A couple of years ago it was not unusual to see about 100 mallards and American Black Ducks in this area during the winter, but I think people have stopped feeding them here and now feed them at Linda Thom Park on the other side of the bridge. I recall finding a Green-winged Teal and a couple of female Wood Ducks here a couple of times in winters past; today there were no ducks whatsoever. Continue reading

Algonquin Part I: Dragonflies and more Dragonflies

On July 23rd Doran and I drove to Algonquin Provincial Park where we would spend the next four nights at the Canisbay Lake Campground. I had booked two adjacent sites, one for us and one for my Dad who would be arriving the same day in his new trailer. We arrived first, in mid-afternoon, and quickly began to assemble our tents. While we were putting up our sleeping tent, a beautiful Compton Tortoiseshell drifted out of the woods and into our campsite. It flew off before I could get any pictures, but I was happy as it boded well for the campsite I had chosen. It was on the last road in the campground, and backed onto the woods. There was nobody behind us, and the woods were too dense to see my Dad’s campsite next door. Although there was no one on the other side of our campsite, we could see the campers on one of the other roads which ran parallel to ours. Other than that, our lot was very private and secluded. We could hear the beautiful song of a Hermit Thrush coming from the woods behind us, and a couple of American Redstarts flitted noisily above us in the trees. Both would be constantly present over the next four days.

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