It’s been a great year for mammals. Actually, no, check that: it’s been an AMAZING year for mammals, considering I’ve been able to get great photographs of so many species – including those that are not only hard to find, but rarely stay out in the open long enough to snap a picture. It’s been a while since I’ve done a “Year in Review” post, but since I ended up with so many great mammal photos this year I thought I would dedicate one to this subject.
Ottawa is home to a great many mammal species, and we are fortunate that this city has a large variety of green spaces in which they live. Still, they can be difficult to find, as many are nocturnal or crepuscular (active around dusk and dawn), and those that are active during the day may vanish as trails get busy with people. The best times for seeing mammals, I find, are very early in the morning or late in the afternoon in less busy areas. In any case, being in the right place at the right time is often a matter of luck, and I seem to have had more than my share of that this year!
On November 30th I spent some time at the Eagleson Ponds looking for migrants. I haven’t been able to get out as much as I would have liked these past few weeks, and with the days getting colder (some days have not even reached as high as 0°C recently) I have felt even less inclined to go out – my tolerance for cold has plummeted these past few winters, leaving me with no desire to get out first thing in the morning when it is well below zero. When it warmed up to -1°C after four subzero days in a row, I decided to take advantage of the nice weather to head out to the ponds in the afternoon just to see what was around. It was a cloudy day with no wind, perfect for scanning the flocks of geese still around.
While a lot people like to get out early on Boxing Day to hit the stores, I like to get out early to hit the trails. It was very quiet and peaceful at the Beaver Trail this morning, and I had the place to myself for almost the entire 90 minutes I was there. I chose the Beaver Trail as I hadn’t been there since early October and was curious as to whether the new boardwalk was finished. Besides, you never know what might show up in Stony Swamp – my hopes were high for something fantastic, like Great Horned Owl, Northern Goshawk, Black-backed Woodpecker, American Three-toed Woodpecker, Pine Grosbeak or either crossbill species. My expectations were realistic, however, and I figured I would be lucky if I saw a Ruffed Grouse. The temperature was only -3°C, and although it felt cold after the 17°C weather we had on Christmas Eve, the day was gorgeous with the sun sparkling on the frost-coated trees and vegetation.
As expected for this time of year, the woods were quiet. At first the only birds I observed were a couple of chickadees, White-breasted Nuthatches and crows. I thought that the ponds might still be open, but both were frozen solid.