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19 October 2009 @ 02:30 pm
More from my birding holiday  

Friday began with another trip to Andrew Haydon Park first thing in the morning. It was quite chilly, with the temperature hovering at -3°C, so we quickly scanned the flocks of geese on the grass and the hundreds more in the water for any elusive Snow or Cackling Geese. We didn't see either of these, although we did see a raft of scaup on the water and a grebe - possibly a Red-necked Grebe - far out near the middle of the river. It was too far away for me to tell which species it was, and did not have the red neck of an adult Red-necked Grebe still sporting some of its breeding plumage.

There were also three Brant together on the lawn near the western pond, and I hoped that our summer Brant was one of these and would remain with the two newcomers when it came time for them to leave.

Long-tailed Duck

It was too cold to linger near the water, and my mom said she was ready to go. I did want to check out the eastern pond before we left, as I had seen a few ducks and geese there upon our arrival. We drove over to the other parking lot, and I left my mom in the car while I ran to take a quick check. There were a few geese and mallards swimming in the pond as I had guessed...but there were also two brownish female ducks present as well. They had white around the eye, and at first I thought they might be Wood Ducks...until I saw them diving. Then I realized they must be Long-tailed Ducks, even though these "sea ducks" are more commonly seen in the waters off Lake Ontario and on the Ottawa River when they are passing through...not on small ponds! I ran to the car to get my mom, shocked and elated with the find.

Long-tailed Duck (female)

We watched the ducks for a while, both of us really pleased; for this was a year bird for me, and the closest I'd ever gotten to this species, and it was a life bird for my mother.

Long-tailed Ducks

There was also a female Green-winged Teal at the edge of the pond near one of the footbridges. The brilliant green speculum of her wing was showing, making identification easy.

Green-winged Teal

We left the park shortly after, deciding to head home for a hot tea while waiting for the day to warm up. A few hours later, once the temperature had risen a few degrees above zero, we went back out. It was feeling warmer, too, with the sun shining down, although the wind blowing across the open spaces was still quite chilly. We checked the back roads near Richmond again where we found about a dozen pipits and two Rough-legged Hawks hovering near Brownlee Road. Both were much closer to the road than the one we had seen earlier in the week, and we got much better looks at these magnificent birds.

After that it was time to try one of the trails; I was still hoping to find a Fox Sparrow to photograph. We went to the Beaver Trail, where I'd had luck with these sparrows before. The only birds we found, however, were a few chickadees at the boardwalk and several juncos in the woods. There wasn't a woodpecker to be seen or heard, nor any Brown Creepers, another species I'd often seen along this trail.

While walking along and kicking aside the fallen leaves, I noticed an interesting creature on one leaf. Its unusual, symmetrical shape caught my attention, so of course I had to stop and photograph it. I thought it might be some type of larva, and was surprised to learn later, after checking with a friend, that it was in fact a moth caterpillar!

Crowned Slug (Isa textula)

I thought that the caterpillar was very intriguing, more like something one would find swimming beneath the surface of the sea than residing in the middle of the woods! The adult moth it will eventually become, on the other hand, is rather plain and unremarkable in appearance. It was interesting to contemplate that perhaps every creature has at least one stage in its life cycle where it is beautiful and eye-catching, perhaps as part of nature's design...although beauty, of course, is in the eye of the beholder.

Crowned Slug (Isa textula)

The day was warming up, due to the lack of wind and the warm sunshine filtering down through the trees, and so I wasn't surprised to see a few dragonflies hanging about the sunnier patches. A few were basking on the boardwalk near the look-out, while others perched on leaves on the ground, only to fly up as we passed.

Autmn Meadowhawk

I saw a few meadowhawks in the meadow too, and several grasshoppers were also still around, hopping out of our way as we walked through the grass.

Beaver Trail

I thought this image of the meadowhawk perching on the autumn leaves was quite charming:

Autmn Meadowhawk

We saw no other species of birds on our way out, and so I decided it was worth driving over to Shirley's Bay to see if we could find anything interesting there. A few chickadees were foraging in the woods as we walked to the dyke, and we found at least two dozen robins there as well, several of which were bathing in the puddles on the main road. There were no other thrushes, warblers, vireos or wrens to be found.

The bay itself was quiet, and had completely flooded. The shorebird habitat - and the shorebirds themselves - had vanished. We did see some teals close by, and further out we found a raft of scaup, some Buffleheads, female Red-breasted Mergansers, and both male and female Hooded Mergansers. A kingfisher flew over the marsh, and a Great Blue Heron was hunting along the shore of the first island.

It wasn't until we were on our way back that I saw them. I looked out to the open, windy river side not really expecting to see anything (all the diving ducks and mergansers were on the calmer, sheltered bay side) when the sight of a shorebird standing motionlessly on a fallen tree caught me by surprise. I stopped, slowly raised my camera and took a few pictures before realizing that there were actually three shorebirds on the log: two Dunlins and a Semipalmated Plover!



All three appeared to be watching the waves roll up onto the shore, not moving in the slightest. Then when they realized they were being watched, they all started scurrying along the shore, running and stopping then probing in the sand. We watched them until they disappeared, then left the dyke altogether.


On our way out of the woods, near a side trail leading to the mouth of the creek, I saw a flash of white and realized a White-tailed Deer had just moved out of sight behind some bushes. I started to mention it to my mother, but then noticed a second deer was standing stock-still on the trail, staring straight at us! This female apparently felt threatened, for although we did not make any move toward it, she stamped her front leg on the ground, all the while gazing at us almost defiantly. Then she stamped her back leg. Sensing her agitation, we turned and walked away, leaving them both in peace and solitude.

We wondered what would have happened if, instead of leaving, we had remained or even tried to approach her; when I later asked my birding partner Deb, who has much more experience observing mammals than I do, she said the doe might have actually charged us and reared up on her hind legs while kicking out at us with her front legs. This scenario is most likely if she was in fact protecting her offspring, and we wondered if the other deer had been a young fawn.

We went home after that, for it was late in the afternoon and I had to pick my fiancé up from work. That was my mother's last night in Ottawa with us, for she was going back to Cambridge the next day. We decided to visit Andrew Haydon Park one last time the following morning, just as it was getting light, for we wanted to see the geese before they flew off to spend their day in the nearby farm fields. Once again our attempts to find a Cackling or Snow Goose came to naught, although it was nice watching the geese fly off in large flocks as the sun slowly rose high enough to illuminate the river.

In the park, two Brant were feeding on grass near the western pond.


That was the end of my mom's birding holiday in Ottawa, for she left later that morning. I was pleased that I was able to find so many new life birds for her - the Long-tailed Ducks brought the total up to nine lifers - and that we found such a nice variety of species: two geese, one duck, one hawk, one gull, one warbler, one sparrow, a kinglet, and the pipit. It was also nice to show her places she hadn't been before, such as Shirley's Bay and the agricultural fields near Richmond. It was definitely a memorable holiday for the both of us, and I enjoyed spending the week birding with the person who first introduced me to birds.