Tag Archive | rarities

Another Rare Heron in Ottawa

Cattle Egret 2

Cattle Egret

First there was the Yellow-crowned Night Heron west of Carp at the end of May. Then there was the Little Egret which appeared in Carp at the beginning of June and then spent some time along the Ottawa River in mid-July. These birds range from quite rare in Ottawa to MEGA-RARE!!! in Canada, and both birds were lifers for me. Although there are three previous records of Yellow-crowned Night-herons in Ottawa (in April 1970 at Rockcliffe Park, in May 1999 at Mud Lake, and in April 2007 in “Ottawa” – perhaps the bird that was seen briefly at Billings Bridge but never relocated?), this was the first time one had lingered long enough for me to see it. The Little Egret was not just a first record for Ottawa, but a first record for Ontario! I never thought I’d see more than one rare heron in a calendar year, let alone two rare herons in two days.

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After the Storm

Bohemian Waxwing

March has arrived, and this year it came in like a lion. On Saturday the same weather system that triggered a number of tornadoes in the United States moved through Ottawa; 70 km/h wind gusts made birding virtually impossible, though the mild, 4°C temperature made it tempting! Birding in such conditions can often be rewarding, as sometimes birds carried on stormy weather systems end up far beyond their normal range. Indeed, one intrepid birder visiting Britannia Point on the Ottawa River discovered Ottawa’s first Heermann’s Gull roosting on the ice with several other gulls. This dark species breeds on the western coast of Mexico and ventures north to the United States after the breeding season; it is very rare in eastern North America. When the alert went out I joined the group of birders watching the gulls hunkered down on the ice. The wind was vicious and rattled my scope, but I did get a few good looks at a dark bird (gray both above and below) with a white head. The bird was too far away and the lighting too bad for me to discern any other features such as the characteristic red bill. The Heermann’s Gull settled in with the other gulls at dusk but has not been seen since.

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Another October Rarity

On Saturday, October 22nd, I stopped by Andrew Haydon Park to look for some of the waterfowl reported earlier in the week by Bruce DiLabio. All three scoters (Black, White-winged and Surf), Long-tailed Ducks, Red-breasted Mergansers, and Brant had been found along the river between Shirley’s Bay and Andrew Haydon Park on Thursday and Friday; I needed all of these birds for my year list.

I didn’t see any of these birds at Andrew Haydon, but I did run into a fellow birder looking for all the same birds I was. Paul Mirsky and I went over to Dick Bell Park next, where we had much better luck: three winter-plumage Common Loons were swimming out in the river towards Shirley’s Bay, while a single Red-necked Grebe was diving in the bay on the west side of Dick Bell. Best of all, four Surf Scoters flew in and landed on the river directly in front of us, and not all that far out, either. Continue reading

Sabine’s Gull, Part II

The following day I returned to Andrew Haydon Park with Deb to try and find the Sabine’s Gull for her. We began our search at Ottawa Beach where we found lots of puddle ducks swimming in the small “bay” along the edge of the mudflats: several mallards, one American Black Duck, one Green-winged Teal and five Blue-winged Teals. On the river we saw a female Common Merganser swim by, and in the trees we could hear Cedar Waxwings and a singing Warbling Vireo.

We didn’t see anyone with scopes so we walked over to the mouth of Graham Creek to see if any shorebirds or Rusty Blackbirds were present. Continue reading

A Rare Gull

On the morning of Friday, September 16th, a juvenile Sabine’s Gull was discovered at Ottawa Beach just east of Andrew Haydon Park. Reports came in throughout the day that it was still there, giving me hope that I might be able to see it the following day. The Sabine’s Gull is a small, handsome bird which breeds in the Arctic. Adults in breeding plumage have a dark gray hood, edged in black, and a black bill with a yellow tip. Its back is slate-gray back, its belly and tail are white, and the tops of the wings are white in the middle with black tips, giving the bird a distinctive ‘M’ pattern in flight. Juveniles are brownish instead of gray and black, with a white face. All plumages have long, pointed wings and a notched tail. Continue reading

The Phalarope and the Jaeger

I had taken Monday off work for personal reasons, and after taking care of a few things at home that morning, I went to Ottawa Beach and Andrew Haydon Park to try and catch up with Ottawa’s latest rare bird: a juvenile Parasitic Jaeger. This bird had been discovered at Shirley’s Bay on September 7, 2011 but has been regularly seen on the Ottawa River between the Britannia Yacht Club and Dick Bell Park this past weekend. An approachable, long-staying Red-necked Phalarope and a small flock of Black-bellied Plovers at Ottawa Beach tempted me to brave the bus to see whether I could find any of these birds.

Because I walked from the Bayshore transit station along Holly Acres Road to the park, I started my visit at the east end of Andrew Haydon Park. I followed Graham Creek to its mouth, checking the shrubs for warblers and migrants, and finding very little. I went down to the sandy shoreline but saw no shorebirds on the west side of the creek; however, a couple of people with spotting scopes on Ottawa Beach sparked my curiosity, so I tried to see if I could find a way across the creek without having to walk all the way back to the bridge. Continue reading