Tag Archive | Ron Pittaway

More Northern Wanderers

Pine Grosbeak

After my sojourn at Sarsaparilla Trail I went home for a quick lunch. Then, taking my friend Suzanne’s advice, I went back out in the early afternoon to check some local crabapple trees for feeding flocks of northern birds. There are several in my neighbourhood, and although I’d seen several Pine Grosbeaks and Bohemian Waxwings over the past week and a half while waiting to catch the bus, the trees remained full of fruit and empty of birds. I decided to head over to the spot where Suzanne had seen her flock of Pine Grosbeaks earlier in the week and, quite by luck, discovered a huge tree full of berries on the way. Even better, the trees were full of birds!

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Sarsaparilla Trail in the Late Fall

Red-breated Nuthatch

I never tire of visiting Sarsaparilla Trail. It is a short trail, which means I can spend as little as half an hour there and still have a good look around; however, I usually spend at least an hour there, more if there are a lot of birds on the pond or chickadees to feed.

It is a peaceful place. Because it’s such a small trail, I usually don’t encounter many people there, especially very early in the morning at this time of year when the temperature is hovers around 0°C and there is still frost on the grass. The chickadees eagerly seek me out, often followed by the nuthatches, Blue Jays and squirrels, and I can talk to them without worrying about what anybody thinks.

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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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My Deerest Friends

White-tailed Deer

Deb and I spent Sunday birding the west end. It was supposed to be sunny and a few degrees above zero; although the temperature “warmed” up as promised, the sun stayed hidden behind a thick bank of clouds all morning. Undeterred, we spent the first half of our morning doing some “car” birding. We checked the agricultural fields in the area between Richmond and Kanata and found a couple of good birds almost right away: a flock of about 50 Snow Buntings in the fields at the intersection of Barnsdale and Twin Elm, and a flock of at least 150 Bohemian Waxwings in the trees a little further along Barnsdale. We watched the waxwings fly down to the ground in ones and twos, and wondered what the attraction was. We had less luck at the Richmond Lagoons and Moodie Drive quarry pond, both of which were almost completely frozen over. There were hundreds of Canada Geese present, but no Snow or Ross’s Geese which we were been hoping to find.

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