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04 November 2009 @ 08:40 pm
Late fall at Mud Lake  

After leaving Shirley's Bay, Deb and I decided to get out of the wind and visit Mud Lake. Neither of us had been there in a while, and we were curious to see what species might be around....a late Yellow-rumped Warbler, a Brown Creeper, a Pileated Woodpecker, or a Great Horned Owl would all be great additions to my new-born month list, although if some unusual rarity decided to stop by while we were there, that would be fine too!

There were more cars parked along the road than expected, and we figured that everyone wanted to get outside while the weather was nice - the temperature had risen to about 11°C, and it actually felt warm once we got out of the wind. Only a few people there were carrying binoculars; the majority of people seemed to be simply out for a Sunday stroll.

We walked along Cassels Street, intending to check the lake before heading up to the Ridge. Before we got very far, however, we came across a beautiful Dark-eyed Junco picking at the gravel along the shoulder.



Dark-eyed Junco


I took a few pictures from a distance, then advanced a few steps before stopping to take a few more pictures. I find juncos to be very skittish, and difficult to get close to, so I was surprised when I was able to get within about twelve feet of it. Then a jogger came up behind me, and startled the junco into flight when she ran past me toward the small bird. The junco disappeared into the shrubs across the road with a flash of white outer tail feathers, reminding me of why I like to go out early, before other people are out: most of the people I see very early in the morning are birders, or people appreciative of the peace and quiet of those early moments and less likely to disturb others who may be around trying to enjoy the same.



Dark-eyed Junco


After the junco flew off, we walked over to the lake to scan it for waterfowl. We saw the usual Canada Geese and mallards, and over two dozen Hooded Mergansers! There seemed to be a disproportionate number of males, and although most were out in the middle of the lake, we admired their handsome, colourful plumage from a distance. We also found two American Wigeons in the reeds close to the shore. We saw no herons, Pied-billed Grebes or Ring-necked Ducks, and figuring we had seen everything there was to see we went up to the Ridge.

It was fairly quiet on the Ridge; most of the migrants had departed for warmer climes. A few juncos lingered on the ground beneath the shrubs, the chickadees flew up to us demanding food, and a couple of House Finches were present. We also heard the high-pitched call of a flock of Golden-crowned Kinglets, and found one that was relatively cooperative, foraging in a shrub at eye level. Its golden crown is visible in this picture (although not much else is!)



Golden-crowned Kinglet


Also along the Ridge I saw a few Autumn Meadowhawks perching on the ground. I was quite happy to see these late-flying dragonflies, for they reminded me of summer's warmth and how much I enjoyed my first full season dragonflying this past summer.



Autumn Meadowhawk


We left the Ridge, and found a small Downy Woodpecker tapping on a tree right above the slope as it descends to the road. It was too awkward to take any photos, though he couldn't have been more than a few feet above our heads! We left him to his excavation and continued across the road to the entrance to the woods. There were a few mallards in the small inlet by the road, and we were surprised to see a Great Blue Heron there as well! Unlike the other heron species in Ottawa, the Great Blues will stay through the fall and even into the winter as long as there is open water to fish in.



Great Blue Heron


In the woods we found more chickadees and even a couple of White-breasted Nuthatches looking for handouts. We were also treated to the sight of a large Pileated Woodpecker excavating a hole in a tree right beside the trail. He was several feet above our heads, and paid no attention to the people gathered around the base of the tree, watching and taking photos. A couple of Hairy Woodpeckers in the vicinity completed the trinity of our three resident woodpecker species in one location on the same day.

We scanned the lake from the dock, looking for more waterfowl. We could still see large numbers of Hooded Mergansers, a few American Black Ducks, one mallard-black duck hybrid, and several American Wigeons. There were no Wood Ducks to be seen.



American Wigeon


While walking through the woods back to the road, I was just saying to Deb that if it were a few degrees warmer we might even see a few butterflies around. A few species, such as Eastern Comma and Mourning Cloak, overwinter as adults in cozy little crevices and may fly on warm days. We didn't see any butterflies, but not even five minutes after I had mentioned it I saw a small whitish moth flutter by. A second one also appeared, and so I decided to track them down to see if I could figure out what they were. Altogether we came across perhaps ten of these moths in one area, though they wouldn't land where I could photograph them. These are the two best photos that I got:



Bruce spanworm (Operophtera bruceata)


The adult moths of this species appear in October and November, well after the first frosts of the year. These moths are found from coast to coast in Canada. One interesting fact about this species is that the female does not fly because of its underdeveloped wings.



Bruce spanworm (Operophtera bruceata)


After photographing the moths, we returned to the Ridge one last time in the hopes of finding a few more kinglets to photograph. However, we neither saw nor heard any sign of them, so we contented ourselves with photographing the chickadees amongst the buckthorn berries.



Black-capped Chickadee


We called it a day soon after, both of us really pleased with all the interesting birds and insects that we found. It turned out to be such a nice day that neither of us could believe it was the first of November. Hopefully the warm weather will stick around for a while!