Rare Bird Alert: King Eider in Ottawa
That night I dreamed of going to the river to look for her. And when I woke up earlier than usual, I decided I would take a quick look before I had to go to work. It was just getting light when I left at 6:40 am, and as soon as I arrived I started scanning the flocks of geese at the east end of the park. There were lots of other birds on the river, including some Common Goldeneye, scaup and a Surf Scoter, but I saw nothing that looked like the bird I’d seen in the photographs. Then I spotted another birder, Aaron, scanning the water from the middle of the shoreline. We met up to compare notes. Like me, he only had limited time to look for the bird before work and hadn’t found her. Just as I was about to tell him I had to leave, I spotted a lone duck with a distinctly sloping profile swimming away from the shore. I took a quick look through my scope and confirmed that it was the female King Eider – a lifer for me!
Alberta 2012: Last Days in Jasper
Wildlife in the Backyard
The End of March
Saturday started off cloudy but cold as I headed to the Beaver Trail for an early-morning walk; I had to put gloves on to keep my hands warm until the sun came out. Juncos were singing in the woods, and I witnessed a couple of Hairy Woodpeckers chasing each other around a dead stump. I had just passed the Wild Bird Care Centre and was walking toward the marsh when I heard the distinct, wheezy song of an Eastern Phoebe. It kept singing long enough for me to catch up with the bird in the parking lot by the WBCC; this is not the first time I’d seen one here, as I’d come across one in the spring of 2007. They used to nest on the side of the building, although I don’t know whether they still do. The phoebe was sitting in a tree high above my head, flicking its tail as it sang. It seemed too cold for any insects to be flying yet, and I didn’t see the phoebe attempt any flycatching. The sun was supposed to come out later, however, and I’m sure both the phoebe and I would appreciate the warmth once it did!
A Blast of Summer in March
Temperatures returned to seasonal during the week after my trip to Algonquin with Deb. I stopped by Hurdman twice during the week, and picked up two new year birds: a pair of Hooded Mergansers on Monday and a single Song Sparrow on Friday. On Saturday the warm weather returned. The temperature reached an unseasonal high of almost 20°C, and the days have gotten progressively warmer ever since.
I decided to visit Sarsaparilla Trail first thing Saturday morning, despite the gray fog that blanketed the area. Several new birds had arrived, including Red-winged Blackbirds, a single Song Sparrow, three Hooded Mergansers, Canada Geese, and Common Grackles. I could only see the edge of the pond closest to the boardwalk; I couldn’t tell if any Great Blue Herons were lurking around the edges of the marsh. At one point a male Purple Finch landed on a tree overlooking the marsh and began singing. This was one of the highlights of my trip, along with two Eastern Chipmunks scurrying about in the woods.
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!
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.
Algonquin Part III: Spruce Bog Trail
When the rain stopped, the five of us headed out for a walk along the Spruce Bog Boardwalk. Unfortunately there were few birds, butterflies or dragonflies present, but there were lots of flowers in bloom and it was still a nice afternoon for a walk, especially when the sun came out. A few Black-capped Chickadees greeted us at the trail entrance, but no Boreal Chickadees were in evidence. I checked the registry box area for Spruce Grouse but didn’t find any there this time. The woods were pretty quiet.