Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Amherst Island with Colin & Hilda

Dec 18, 6:15 am

We left Ottawa on time and arrived for the 8:30 ferry with 15 minutes to spare. It was very cold, and the only birds to be seen were a few Common Mergansers and Mallards. We made the short crossing and used the heated facilities to don our heavy warm clothing. We drove straight across the island, stopping twice to view Red-tailed Hawks and a Rough-legged Hawk. While viewing one of the former, Colin heard its mate calling, and it soon flew over the road to join the one we were scoping.

At the far side of the island, we saw a raft of Common Goldeneye and one Northern Harrier.

We were able to drive right in to Owl Woods. We flushed several Blue Jays as we drove slowly in. We were the first ones there, so decided to park right on the edge of the road, for fear of getting stuck. We put on our warm hats and boots and started hiking in. A friendly White-breasted Nuthatch and many Black-capped Chickadees followed along looking for handouts.

We checked every evergreen tree on the way in. In a clump of cedars, Colin found some whitewash and a pellet, but they may have been old.

In the woods proper, we split up and each saw owls. At one point, I saw one perched briefly and thought it was a Barred Owl, but it was obscured by branches, and was most likely a Long-eared Owl. Over the course of the next couple of hours, we did see about 5 Long-eared Owls, flying about, but never got an opportunity to photograph one. We checked the usual spots for Boreal and Saw-whet Owls, but could not find any. A few other birders arrived, including Michael and Wade from Ottawa.

On the trail back out, we saw a Northern Cardinal and a Hairy Woodpecker.

We drove out to the north side of the island, and photographed a Red-tailed Hawk that was perched low and close. We drove to the east end and saw a large group of Tundra Swans out on the ice, accompanied by Black-backed Gulls.

We turned up to the KFN property and saw two Rough-legged Hawks from the road. Just around the corner were a female Snowy Owl on a utility pole and an all-white male on the ground. A little further along, there were several House Finches in a shrub by the road. We headed back towards the ferry, stopping to photograph an obliging Rough-legged Hawk. We crossed back on the ferry, and drove to Kingston to check out Elevator Bay. We had some trouble to find it, and when we did, it was just about all frozen over. We made a stop by the penitentiary, and saw several male Common Mergansers in the water.

All in all, it was a very good day to be out in nature.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Wall Road

Dec 11, 2:30 pm

We had a drop off to make in Orleans, so decided to make a quick check of the near east end hotspots while we were out.

On Wall Road, Barbara spotted a perched Rough-legged Hawk. It took off to hunt, oblivious to our presence. We continued on to Milton Road to confirm what we expected – the Sandhill Cranes had departed.

Winter Water Birds - Ottawa Centre & West with Tony Beck

Thursday Dec 10, 8:00am

On a very windy snowy day, we started our search at Britannia Pier. The winds were strong and the rocks slippery, so we decided not to venture out too far. Seeing little, we decided to retreat to Mud Lake.

We went up on the ridge where we saw a White-breasted Nuthatch, several American Goldfinches and lots of hungry Black-capped Chickadees. In the channel, there were several Mallards, a Common Merganser and a few Common Goldeneye. Down on the road we had a male Pileated Woodpecker really close. Nearby were a Downy Woodpecker and a Northern Cardinal.

We checked out the bay by the filtration plant, and found Hooded Mergansers, three American Black Ducks and more Common Goldeneyes.

From there we went to Burnside Pit, which was partially frozen. There was a strange goose on the edge of the ice – it looked like a Snow Goose with strange marking about the face. Definitely a hybrid. A couple of Hooded Mergansers were swimming in the open water.

There was an immense array of gulls on the ice. The were several Glaucous, lots of Great Black-backed & Herring Gulls, and at least one exciting gull, the size of a Herring, with darker back, that was sleeping. We froze our butts off waiting for it to stir, but it never did.

We drove over to Richmond with the heater on full blast. We went north Huntley Road, then east on Brownlee, where we found a car in the ditch. We lent the young guy a phone, but he could not get an answer. So we drove back into Richmond to a garage where we phoned a tow truck. Then we headed back to tell the young fellow who had by this time contacted his friend who was on the way.

We resumed birding by driving up to Fallowfield Road and over to Eagleson, where we saw a large mixed flock of Snow Buntings and Horned Larks. We pulled over and studied the group, which was feeding on spilled grain just off the roadway. Sure enough, Tony spotted a Lapland Longspur among the throng. We finished the day by driving down Rushmore, finding more Snow Buntings.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Greenbelt Trails - Ottawa West with Tony Beck

Tuesday Dec 8, 8:00am

We met at the Coliseum parking lot – Heather, Rick, Tony & me. We went first to Ottawa Beach. There was not much action, unless you count Canada Geese. We hiked over to Andrew Haydon Park and scanned the river, since the ponds were now frozen. We spotted a single Surf Scoter and several scattered Common Goldeneye.

There were a total of seven Buffleheads in the corner, in with a bunch of Mallards.
Scanning the docks at the Yacht Club, we saw one Glaucous Gull along with a bunch of Great Black-backed Gulls.

We moved on to Shirley’s Bay, where we saw a Red-breasted Merganser and a Common Loon. We checked the Hilda feeders and had a couple of late Red-winged Blackbirds, a White-throated Sparrow, an American Tree Sparrow, lots of Blue Jays and a Mourning Dove.
We decided to leave and head out into the countryside. Tony spotted an adult Northern Shrike at the corner of Rifle Road and Carling. On March Valley Road, we saw a dark-morph Rough-legged Hawk and a pair of Ravens. We circled the roads out around Dunrobin without seeing much, besides deer, so decided to try Grandview Road. We saw a Northern Cardinal and several Dark-eyed Juncos at a feeder. At the end of the road, we found a large flock of Bohemian Waxwings with a couple of Cedar Waxwings thrown in. There was also a Hairy Woodpecker to round out the day.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Early Winter Specialties - Ottawa West with Tony Beck

Thursday Dec 3, 8:00am

It was one of those really wet miserable late fall days. Only Heather and I braved the elements.

We got a Common Raven and American Crow in the parking lot at the Coliseum.

We went to the ponds at Andrew Haydon Park. The Lesser Scaup and Green-winged Teal were still present. On the river were many Herring Gulls and Common Goldeneye.

We hiked over to Dick Bell Park to check out the large number of Great Black-backed Gulls on the docks. Right on the path was a first-winter Iceland Gull. It flew up and joined his friends on the dock. There was a Red-breasted Merganser in the water and a female Bufflehead close to shore.

We drove off to Grandview Road. We saw a pair of Northern Cardinals. The female had strange pink feathers. There were also some Dark-eyed Juncos and Blue Jays. We drove to the end of the road and went a short distance down the trail. There were many Northern Cardinals – at least a dozen, all together. We also saw a Hairy Woodpecker.

We carried on to Shirley’s Bay, but did not see much in the water, other than Common Goldeneye. At Hilda Road feeders, there were a couple of American Goldfinch, a White-breasted Nuthatch, and some male and female Red-winged Blackbirds (unusual). We walked around the block, and, at the corner of Lois and Hilda, we heard and finally saw a Brown Creeper.

We drove out to March Valley Road, where we saw an Adult Red-tailed Hawk perched.

We decided to stop in a Pinhey’s Point to have a look around. Tony is considering a request to do a birding workshop there. We carried on out to Dunrobin to check the feeders on O’Hara. We saw a Mourning Dove, White-breasted and Red-breasted Nuthatches, a couple of American Goldfinch, and lots of Blue Jays. After hanging around a bit, a flock of Bohemian Waxwings came in going for the ash seeds.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Ottawa West with Tony Beck

Thursday, Nov 26, 8:00 am. Ottawa Beach, Andrew Haydon Park

Today Rick joined Tony and me. Tony wanted to see where I had found the Peregrine Falcon, and, indeed, the evidence was still there in the form of the remains of the gull.
We saw two Blue-morph Snow Geese swimming aound with the Canadas. Then Rick saw the Cackling Geese. Indeed, there were seven of them swimming together. We hiked over to the main ponds of Andrew Haydon Park, and saw three White-winged Scoters and a Surf Scoter out on the river along with lots of Common Goldeneye. We even saw one of the Blue-morhp Snow Geese swimming over our way. There were a couple of Red-breasted Mergansers over by the docks at Dick Bell Park.
I saw a couple of Greater Scaup quite far out, and there were several Lesser Scaup in the ponds.
We moved to Shirley’s Bay and met Wilson Hum. There was an adult Bald Eagle perched in a tree along the dyke, and a Common Loon in winter plumage on the river.
We made a stop at Hilda Road feeder and met the guy who fills them. There were several Red-winged Blackbirds in the tree beside the feeder, and a few Blue Jays and a Hairy Woodpecker came and went. We drove down Eagleson Road and spotted a Dark-morph Rough Legged Hawk perched by the road. We turned down Brownlee and scoped a Red-tailed Hawk. We made the loop back to Eagleson and spotted a light-morph Rough-legged Hawk. We moved on to Burnside Pit on Moodie Drive. We had one Common Merganser and many Hooded Mergansers. We were able to see two Glaucous Gulls and lots of Greater Black-backed, Herrin and Ring-billed Gulls. We went over to the dump and found another Glaucous Gull and a Thayers Gull. Tony was really pleased about the latter!

Ottawa West with Jane & Connie

Wednesday, Nov 25, 9:00 am. Ottawa Beach, Andrew Haydon Park

I decided to check in on the ladies, knowing that I could only stay an hour. I got there before them and was treated to a Peregrine Falcon on the saandspit devouring a Ring-billed Gull. When I ran to get the camera, it vanished.
After Jane and Connie arrived, we scanned the river for quite some time, spotting a Red-necked Grebe and Common Loon. We moved to the foot of Scrivens Street, and saw another loon and lot of Common Goldeneye.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Cranes and Snow Geese with Tony Beck

Tues, Nov 24, 8:00 am, Trim Road Park & Ride.

Today Heather joined Tony and me on our search for Sandhill Cranes. Unfortunately, it was quite foggy in the early morning. We headed straight for Smith Road by Milton. There were 21 Sandhill Cranes in the ploughed field. A couple of Blue Jays flew across the road, and Heather spotted a Red-tailed Hawk perched way in the distance, shrouded in fog. She aslo noticed a group of Wild Turkeys in the distance by the edge of the forest. We moved further up the road and found about 31 more Sandhill Cranes, some of which were dancing.

We decided to grab a coffee in Navan and see if the fog would lift - it didn’t, in fact got worse. But to our good fortune, a family group had moved much closer to the road, and we were able to get decent photos. There was also a tree full of American Tree Sparrows.
We took the 417 to St Rose, where we found two Snowy Owls, and had a flock of Snow Geese fly over. On Conc. 20, we had a light morph Rough-legged Hawk and a flock of about 50 Snow Buntings.

We took the 417 to St Rose, where we found two Snowy Owls, and had a flock of Snow Geese fly over. On Conc. 20, we had a light morph Rough-legged Hawk and a flock of about 50 Snow Buntings.

We went back to the 417 to try and find the large flock of Snow Geese we had seen earlier. We exited at the Maxville Road and looked on both sides of the highway. On the south side, we fouind a Northern Shrike on Athol Road. We saw four Red-tailed Hawks, two flyi ng around and two perched. We made our way back to Hwy 138 on the back roads, and found a sizeble flock of Snow Geese, perhaps 2000.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Late Fall Migration – Ottawa East with Tony Beck

Thursday, Nov 19, 7:30 am

We met at Petrie Island – Tony, Heather, Rick, Janet W, Jeremy and me.
There was one lone Green-winged Teal swimming around in the dim light west of the causeway. On the other side were four or five Common Mergansers including a drake.

We took off in two vehicles, stopping on Wall Road where we saw a large flock of Snow Buntings and a couple of American Tree Sparrows.

We stopped in Navan for coffee and a bathroom break, then went down Perrault and out to Milton Road. We saw a bunch of Wild Turkeys on the east side and a Red-tailed Hawk perched in the distance on the west side. Also on the east side we spotted six or seven Greater Snow Geese in with a flock of Canadas.

We turned west on Smith Road and saw a bunch of Sandhill Cranes, including some in flight in the fields south of Smith Road. We stopped to try to count them – there were at least 35. We drove south on Milton Road and stopped to look at and digiscope a light morph Rough-legged Hawk. We drove down to the 417 and headed east to Casselman. Just at the exit, Janet drew our attention to the white cloud over the highway. There had to be 12,000 Greater Snow Geese rising off the fields at the Casselman exit. We pulled off and tried to photograph the spectacle – the most Snow Geese most of us had ever seen. The majority seemed to be heading further east, so we drove to Conc. 20. They had not reached that far, but there was one surprise Snowy Owl on a utility pole. After much photography of the unconcerned owl, we headed back, stopping at Giroux ponds. There were many Canada Geese and a few Common Mergansers. Heather spotted another Red-tailed Hawk.

We headed back to the Trim Road Park and Ride, where we had left our vehicles. Another Red-tailed Hawk soared overhead to cap out a great day of birding.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Coniferous Woodland Trails – Ottawa West with Tony Beck

Nov 17, 7:30 am

We headed out for Kerwin Road trail. We made a quick stop on March Valley Road when we saw a pair of Hooded Mergansers. Then on Berry Side Road, Tony spotted a nice adult Red-tailed Hawk perched in a backlit situation, so we didn’t even try for a photo. We were hoping for a rare woodpecker or something else, but we were not rewarded. We hiked all the way to the pond and trailer, seeing only Black-capped Chickadees, a couple of White-breasted Nuthatches, a few Blue Jays, and an American Crow. We heard a Raven.

It was still below zero, so we decided to go to the Heart & Soul Café foe a hot beverage. Tony wanted to buy some Ecuadorian Free Trade coffee beans anyway. On the way, Tony spotted a group of about 15 Bohemian Waxwings on Thomas Dolan Parkway. They were real close at eye level, but flushed to a tree top when we parked.
After coffee, we returned to the city to Andrew Haydon Park. At first we didn’t see the photographers, but they were on the far side of the pond. After trading insults, we learned from Joe that the Blackpoll Warbler was still around and posing for great photos. So with nothing new in the ponds, we decided to head over to Dick Bell to check it out. Same result as Sunday when Barbara & I went. Zip. We got a fair chance to photograph some Red-breasted Mergansers, and saw big rafts of Common Goldeneye and a few Bufflehead on the river.
With the excellent light and no other prospects, we decided to return to Andrew Haydon Park to photograph the scaup and other ducks. From the car, Tony spotted something white on the river, which turned out to be a single Greater Snow Goose.We located the single Ring-necked Duck and got some good images. There were a few adult male Lesser Scaup, some juvenile males, and quite a few females. The Ring-billed Gulls posed for reflection shots too.