Andrew Haydon Park is best known as a dynamic birding hotspot in the fall and early winter (before the Ottawa River freezes) when various types of shorebirds and water birds stop over on their way south. The thickets and woodlots also provide cover for migrating warblers and songbirds, and hawks patrol the water’s edge regularly looking for an easy meal. The park is not visited by birders as often in the summer, possibly because they are ranging farther afield looking for uncommon breeding birds or rarities somewhere else, possibly because the park is usually full of picnickers and children and smoking barbeques and radios playing loud music after 10:00 am.
However, first thing in the morning, before all the people arrive, the park is full of birds. Common breeding birds, true, but still birds worth seeing as they are only here four or five months of the year, and watching them feeding and raising their young is always enjoyable. Even on a bright mid-July morning there is plenty of avian activity, and today I managed to find 32 species before 10:00 am. Continue reading →
The following day was gorgeous, so I hit a few hotspots before returning to the Rideau Trail to continue my quest for the first butterflies of the year. My day started with a junco visiting my backyard for food, and a baby chickadee in our front tree emitting begging noises while fluttering its wings at the adult searching the gutters for insects or cached seeds. I had a Tree Swallow and a flyover Killdeer at Kristina Kiss Park, a drumming Ruffed Grouse and more Dark-eyed Juncos at Old Quarry Trail, and two Snowy Owls sitting on chunks of ice out on the river at Andrew Haydon Park. Only the Eastern Phoebe calling near the western creek made it seem like spring….it was slow to warm up to its alleged high of 15°C.
By the end of March temperatures were back to seasonal again, with daily highs between 6 and 8°C. Then it got cold again in early April, with snow in the first week. The birds were coming back, though, and with a long Easter weekend right at the beginning of the month, I was able to get out and spend some time looking for migrants.
On Good Friday (March 30th) I counted 20 species at the Eagleson ponds, including at least five Song Sparrows, two American Tree Sparrows, one Dark-eyed Junco, and eight robins. Blackbirds were back in good numbers; I observed at least five male Red-winged Blackbirds and 15 Common Grackles! In the water, a male Common Merganser had joined the five Hooded Mergansers – two males and a female were swimming in the northern pond while a male and female were swimming together in the southern pond.
On the last day of July I spent some time at Old Quarry Trail, a place I hadn’t visited since March. I always like to visit this trail at least a couple of times each season; it’s great for robins, waxwings, Black-backed Woodpeckers, and porcupines in winter, warblers in migration, and a variety of breeding birds and odes in summer. It has a nice mix of habitats, with mixed coniferous-deciduous forest, a large, cattail-filled marsh, vernal ponds, and an open field which are all home to a variety of species. Summer, however, is my favourite time for visiting, as I’ve found a number of interesting odes there during the height of dragonfly season, including a Williamson’s Emerald patrolling the boardwalk a few years back.
On Good Friday I traveled to southern Ontario for my annual spring visit with my mom. Last winter she moved from Kitchener to Wallaceburg, which is about 30 minutes northwest of Chatham-Kent near Walpole Island; although situated in a mostly agricultural area, the move to Wallaceburg meant new birding opportunities and a chance to work on my Chatham-Kent county list. My mother and step-father had already visited one of the best birding spots nearby, Peer’s Wetland, which was also an eBird hotspot that looked promising with 159 species; although we ended up visiting quite a few places, Peer’s Wetland ended up being the most interesting, as well as my favourite spot. As it is only a 15-minute drive from my mother’s house, we visited it almost every day.
In late July I got an invitation from the OFNC’s Conservation Committee to attend a small BioBlitz on the Quebec side of the river on August 28th. A BioBlitz is an intense survey that takes place within a short amount of time that attempts to record all the living species within a designated area. I’ve attended a few BioBlitzes before and generally enjoy them; it gives me the chance to see new places that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to access, and spend time with individuals with other areas of expertise during the survey. I am not a big fan of some of the newer types of BioBlitz which invites the public to come along and asks the experts to lead small groups during the survey – it seems to me that the purpose of these BioBlitzes is more to engage the public and introduce them to the types of flora and fauna that are present in familiar or well-known areas rather than to survey new areas for a particular purpose. I turned down the one opportunity I was given to attend one of these types, so perhaps I’m wrong about this.
After my return to Ottawa from southern Ontario I was eager to get out and see what was going on in my favourite conservation areas. On Saturday morning I headed out to Mud Lake where I had an excellent morning, finding 39 species in two hours including nine warblers, three flycatchers, three sparrows, and two thrushes. I didn’t spend much time searching for water birds, but even so I saw the usual mallards, a couple of Wood Ducks, two Spotted Sandpipers, and one Great Blue Heron in the channel behind the ridge. A large number of gulls were roosting on the rocks in the rapids, and I spotted a couple of Herring Gulls among the Ring-bills.