Monday, February 28, 2011

Birding and Skiing in Algonquin Park

Feb 25-27, 2011

We had a ski weekend with our friends in the park. We drove up early on Friday morning and stopped near the East Gate to ski trails at the Leaf Lake Ski Area, which we did not have time for on a previous outing. A couple of Gray Jays greeted us in the parking lot. At Dee's Cabin, while having lunch, a young Pine Martin appeared to our delight.

After skiing, we went to the Visitor Centre, which was closed (only open on weekends). The feeders out front were devoid of life, and those out back are inaccessible.

We went across to the Spruce Bog Trail, where we found another birder/photographer set up at the suet feeder. We were very fortunate to see the Boreal Chickadee right away, as the birder said that it had been only coming in for a minute or so once every hour. Other birds in the area were Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers, Gray Jays, Common Redpolls and a Brown Creeper. Another, much darker, Pine Marten patrolled the area behind the feeder.

We carried on all the way through the park to Dwight to the Spring Lake Resort. Our target ski trails were the Fen Lake Trails at the west gate, so our lodge was convenient.

However, Mary Anne had had a skating accident and was unable to ski. So we decided to spend the next day snowshoeing and hiking on the Mizzy Lake trail, which is known for wildlife viewing. It was a very enjoyable 5-hour hike, but we saw very little wildlife, but lots of tracks. There were a trio of Gray Jays that would come to the hand. Other than that, we only saw a White-breasted Nuthatch, a couple of Hairy Woodpeckers and a few Black-capped Chickadees.

It snowed about 5 cm overnight, so the skiing the next day at Fen Lake was absolutely fantastic. John and Mary Anne departed for Sturgeon Falls/North Bay, while the rest of us had a great day on the trails. Wildlife sightings while skiing were restricted to a single Gray Jay.

We looked for Black-backed Woodpeckers at Km 8 hydro poles, but saw none. We stopped again at Spruce Bog Trail and were fortunate to see a couple of Boreal Chickadees. Unfortunately, the light was low, so the photos are grainy because of the high ISO required. Many Common Redpolls entertained us again at the parking lot.

Once again, we did not see any Spruce Grouse, which was the only disappointment in an otherwise very successful trip. A quick check at the Visitor Centre mainly produced hordes of Common Redpolls.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Gatineau Park and Wakefield

Thursday, Feb 17. 7:45 am

I picked up Nina at home and then we met Bob and Rick at the Coliseum.

We all went with Bob. Our first stop was Bate Island where we saw a few ducks - Mallards, Common Goldeneye and a male Common Merganser.

We drove up through Gatineau Park to Chelsea, turning at Pine Road to Cross Loop, then Cowden. We go out and hiked as far as the bridge. Bob remarked that all the houses have now been demolished by the NCC. They were all expropriated in the 1970s for a zoo site, which never went ahead.

We saw and heard several Common Ravens. Rick could hear a woodpecker tapping rather loudly, but we could not locate it. He figured it was a Pileated that he saw fly overhead. There were tons of Blue Jays in the fields and we saw one Hairy Woodpecker fly in, then another one. There were also some Common Redpolls in the treetops. Nina spotted a White-breasted Nuthatch, and we all got on it.

Down by the bridge, Rick heard Bohemian Waxwings, and sure enough, a small flock flew overhead.

We returned to the car and proceeded along Cross Loop Road. Bob showed us his old house, which is now empty and used for radon gas monitoring experiments. Just before the covered bridge, we saw two Mourning Doves by the side of the road.
We got out and scanned the fields. Another group of Bohemian Waxwings flew over and Bob spotted a Northern Shrike in the distance. We motored on, and Bob saw another Northern Shrike. We turned left onto Hwy 105, then into Subway for coffee and a bathroom break.

We turned onto Hwy 366, then right on Ch. des Erables towards Rupert, and Bob's next house (we never did make it). We saw bunch of Rock Pigeons on a barn, but none of the three Bald Eagles that Bob and Nina had seen before showed up this time. We turned right at Rupert and made our way back to the main highway via Ch. Shouldice and Ch. MacLaren.

Monday, February 14, 2011

West End birding with Ross & Margaret Ann

Sunday Feb 13, 9:00 am

Our first stop was the Trail Road Landfill Site, where we immediately saw thousands of American Crows and flocks of small birds in the fields in front of the hill. It turned out to be a mixed flock of American Tree Sparrows, Dark-eyed Juncos and Horned Larks.

As we scoped the small birds, the crows suddenly all took to the sky at once. The reason soon became clear, as a Red-tailed Hawk settled on the fence.

As we were looking for the reported Glaucous Gull, Gillian Mastromatteo drove up on the same quest. Suddenly Ross spotted it on the ground, and we all got fair scope views. There were no other gulls about. As we were packing up to move on, a small flock of Snow Buntings flew overhead.

We headed out along Barnsdale Road. Margaret Ann spotted another small flock of Snow Buntings amongst the old corn stalks, as a murder of crows was gathering in the adjacent trees. As we turned onto Eagleson, we saw a couple of flocks of Rock Pigeons.

We drove down Rushmore without seeing anything, then returned to Richmond to go to the bakery and stock up with goodies. From there we went to the arena to use their washrooms. We drove north on Huntley, then turned onto Brownlee, where we immediately saw and photographed another group of Snow Buntings.
There was yet another flock on the road ahead. We did the loop to Eagleson, Aikins and Shea, then back to Huntley via Fallowfield.
We sped on through Stittsville and Carp to reach Kinburn Side Road. It was only 4 km to Kinburn, so we turned left and went to check the fields where Horned Larks had been abundant on the OFO trip. But there was nothing today. So we did a U-turn and hightailed it to Constance Bay to look for the Red-bellied Woodpecker on Goodin Street. Mark Gawn and Hedrik Wachelka were already there and about to leave without seeing it. So after a short time, we followed suit. However, there was a very yellow American Goldfinch at one of the feeders, a Hairy Woodpecker at a tree trunk and Common Redpolls in the trees overhead.

We headed back towards town, turning left at Thomas Dolan Parkway and wended our way by Sixth Line Road to Riddell Road. We turned at March Valley Road, and immediately the front seat occupants saw a very dark Wild Turkey under the Ottawa Duck Club feeders. We all jumped out, but the sly bird dropped down almost out of sight.  A dozen or more American Black Ducks were in the stream just past Klondike Road.

Our last stop would be Hilda, so we checked the shortcut through Connaught, but the gate was closed. So we went around by Carling and Rifle Road. We kept a sharp eye out for Bohemian Waxwings or a Northern Shrike, but there were neither today.

At Hilda, there were a few nice Common Redpolls, a Hairy and Downy Woodpecker, some Blue Jays and lots of Black-capped Chickadees.

From there we went to the Taj Indian Restaurant for a fabulous lunch, then went home, pick up Grant, and went for a ski on Trail 10, the one that passes close to Hilda. A fabulous day!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Mud Lake raptor search

Feb 1, 2011  11:00 am

No sign of any raptors, but a Pileated Woodpecker was working a tree in the frigid woods.