Text by Barb C
After three days of rain or overcast dreary skies, this morning dawned bright blue with no clouds. It was chilly though and around 3 degrees when Connie, BarbC, Lynn, Barb & Bill Bowman met up at the Mud Lake parking lot. Connie’s target birds today were Eastern Blue Birds, Eastern Phoebe and an Eastern Meadowlark. Not asking for much…. if possible.
There were lots of Canada Geese around and one Double Crested Cormorant in Mud Lake. We saw Common Mergansers, Wood Ducks and a Pied-billed Grebe from the roadside shore. We had to use our scopes to see the birds in the back. There was also a Canadian Beaver that swam by. There are pretty easy to id, the large head and ears are easily seen and the large wake behind the animal means a strong big swimmer is motoring along. Bill identified a Leopard frog from the sound we heard, the Leopard call is like a big snore sound.
We decided to do the ridge first in the early morning sunshine and there were many Dark-eyed Juncos flitting about and many Red-winged Black Birds, including females. The Robins were out along with the “Hey Sweetie” Chickadees. We found our first Yellow-rumped Warbler in breeding plumage of the year here, along with male and female Pine Warblers. We encountered a Ruby-crowned Kinglet in the bushes and it was typically very flighty but we ended up having great looks at it. One of Connie’s target birds was found. Another new bird for the year was a beautiful White-throated Sparrow in bright breeding plumage. We took our time and poked around and found some patches of Snow Drops (Lynn sent info on this afterwards on the plants we discussed; Common Snowdrop – “Galanthas nivalis”). These are usually the first spring ephemerals and sometimes there is still snow around them. They are perfectly suited to our Ottawa climate. We viewed the Ottawa River side also for diving ducks. The water was wild and high and fast. There were some female Goldeneye that were sailing by in the swift current. On the way down from the ridge to the road we came across patches of small blue flowers which Lynn identified for us as Scilla. Lynn followed this up with more information. These small bluebell –like flowers are called Scilla or wood squill, “Scilla siberica”.
We saw many patches of Scilla on our walk through the forest of Mud Lake. It was pretty dry on the path along the lake to the back of the lake, with only a few wet spots which was surprising to us. We found Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers, more Juncos and Song Sparrows which were everywhere yesterday. In addition on the path near the back bridge, there was a lingering American Tree Sparrow. We looked for the nest-building Pileated Woodpeckers in the back but they were not there. To get to the bridge at the back one had to go through some deeper water as there was some flooding there. Some of us did this and once on the bridge we had great views of Painted Turtles sunning themselves on rocks and logs. Turtles need to do this to harden the shells after being in the mud all winter. When they emerge in the spring their shells are soft.
We returned the same way we came and in the big pine tree area, we saw people looking up and the Pileated Woodpecker male was excavating a nest hole. The chips of wood were flying in the air and the nest hole was high up in a tall white snag. There was no bark on the tree.
We saw some more pairs of ducks; Wood Ducks and Black Ducks along the shore. Here Bill and Barb Bowman said goodbye and Lynn also had to leave.
So it was just Connie and I and we had no other plans for the day, so that meant….. we continue to bird until it is time to go home.
Connie and I walked over to the east side of the water filtration building in hope of finding a Black-crowned Night Heron which would have been nice to see. Nope! The only heron was saw this day was the fly-by of a Great Blue Heron over Mud Lake. They were kind of scarce.
By now the call of nature was presenting itself and we drove to Shirley’s Bay to use the facilities and have lunch at Hilda St feeders. In the parking lot at Shirley’s Bay we met two birder friends and they told us about a reported sighting of a Ross’s Goose on Old Highway 17 near Antrim. We told them we were looking for Bluebirds. We wished them good luck.
At Hilda Feeders there was hardly anything in the feeders but still lots on the ground underneath the feeders so there were birds. American Tree and Song Sparrows were abundant. On the feeder we spotted our first Cowbird of the year! It was solo. We had a quick picnic lunch, each of us sitting on a cushion on the large rocks. There is nothing better at this time of year to have lunch outside in the sunshine. We finally shed a layer of clothes and I took off my rubber boots which were hot and put on shoes.
We parked my car in the little parking lot opposite the turn-off to Shirley’s Bay. There was a trio of huge barking dogs in the yard next where I parked, so it was a good spot. Off we went in Connie’s car. We drove down March Valley. We passed the spot where the Bald Eagle nest can be seen and the Egret Rookery and stopped but it was too far to view any activity like a sitting bird and there was a lot of heat haze already. There was nothing at the Duck Club feeders and then we turned on to Riddell Road which now has a new name which I googled just now and can’t find any info on it. The street sign said Cameron something Street. On this road we saw that the Osprey had returned to its nest and one Osprey was sitting on the nest and the other was nearby. Connie also saw a third big raptor-like bird flying by. I did not see it when I got out of the car and I was quick. It was gone, so it is a mystery raptor.
Once on Concession 6 we looked for something different and it was pretty quiet in the lovely afternoon sunshine. We did see a Wild Turkey Tom cross Concession 6 slowly and he was all alone, no female Turkeys were with him. So he was a Romeo on the hunt or else had a death wish, he was strolling across the road and there was a truck coming up fast behind us which we thought he may pass us and hit the Turkey. Did not happen, whew! We drove down the north side of Berry Side Road which is usually good in migration and maybe this was a touch too early as there was nothing unusual there. We turned around and headed south to turn on to Concession 5. We turned left which was not usually where we go and we were quickly rewarded with Bluebirds on a property. Connie parked as she wanted to take photos of the bluebirds and when I got out on my side there was a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker working away on a nearby Birch Tree and up really close. I took photos of this fellow since he was so busy and did not mind. The sapsucker was there for the longest time and even Connie took photos of it after her Bluebird photo session.
From here we went down Berry Side Road toward the Constance Lake houses and we heard a Warbling Vireo. Off we went to Thomas Dolan to see what was on Constance Creek. There was not much on Constance Creek except Canada Geese. We bumped into the two birders we talked with earlier and they had seen the Ross’s Goose and a White-fronted Goose . Also Eastern Meadowlarks were seen. It was only 3:30 or so, Connie and I decided to go and check this out.
We arrived on the Old Highway 17 past Antrim spot across from a flooded field and there were birders still there. The Ross’s Goose was easy to spot. It was feeding and walking around when we viewed it through a scope. It was so white compared to all the other Canadas there. Greater Yellowlegs were spotted AND Eastern Meadowlarks. Some Canadas started to fly and we scoped through the flooded area for the White-fronted Goose with no luck but we had some lovely birds today. By the time we headed back to town and my car, it was after 5 pm. We were delighted with the birds today! The bird list follows.
Mud Lake shore by parking lot
1. Pied-bill Grebe
2. Double-crested Cormorant
3. Canada Goose
4. Wood Duck
5. Red-winged Black Bird, both sexes
6. Hooded Mergansers
7. Great Blue Heron
8. Black Duck
10. American Crow
12. Northern Cardinal
13. Black-capped Chickadee
14. Downey Woodpecker
Leopard Frog heard
Canadian Beaver viewed
Mud Lake - The Ridge
15. Dark-eyed Junco
16. Yellow-rumped Warbler
17. Common Goldeneye
18. American Robin
19. Northern Flicker
20. Pine Warbler
21. Trees Swallow
22. Song Sparrow
23. Ruby-crowned Kinglet
24. White-breasted Nuthatch
25. House Finch
26. American Goldfinch
27. White-throated Sparrow
28. Brown Creeper
Mud Lake - On the way to the back of the Mud Lake bridge
29. Hairy Woodpecker
30. Common Raven – heard several times
31. American Tree Sparrow
Mud Lake - By the Water Filtration Plant
32. European Starling
33. Eastern Phoebe
34. Mourning Dove
35. Brown-headed Cowbird
On Riddell and Concession #6
36. Osprey on nest and partner nearby
37. Wild Turkey Tom
On Concession #5
38. Eastern Bluebirds
39. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
On Berry Side Road – heading south
40. Two American Kestrels on a tree
41. Warbling Vireo – heard only
Old Highway 17 and Antrim Road area
42. Eastern Meadowlark
43. Ross’ Goose
44. Greater Yellowlegs