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25 September 2010 @ 09:54 pm
A Visit to Andrew Haydon Park  

The weekend arrived with the usual gray, overcast skies, but enough sunshine was breaking through the clouds to give me hope. My first stop of the day was Andrew Haydon Park, where a pair of Redhead ducks have been inhabiting the ponds for the past couple of days. This was the first species of interest to show up in the man-made ponds this fall, and I was eager to see these ducks up close.

I checked the western pond first but found only a handful of mallards and geese. There appeared to be more birds and more activity in the eastern pond, but I decided to walk down to the river first to see if anything interesting was around in the small bay. This proved to be a great decision.


While skirting the edge of the pond I came across this juvenile Great Blue Heron standing in the water. Juveniles lack the clean blue and white colouration of adult herons and have more streaking. Andrew Haydon Park is a great place to see them in the late summer and fall.

Great Blue Heron

As I was watching the heron, it paused in its hunt for fish to scratch an itch. Just like cats and dogs, birds use their legs to scratch their heads, though the effect is more comical.

Great Blue Heron

I walked down to the rocky slope to the river where the first bird I saw was a bright white egret. He was standing in the shallow water where only a few weeks ago shorebirds had foraged in the mud.

Great Egret

I tried to be inconspicuous as I sat down among the rocks to take some pictures, however, it soon flew off to deeper waters. I contented myself with watching the Blue- and Green-winged Teals and was pleased when a couple of the former swam out into the open.

Blue-winged Teals

Then they, too, flew off, along with every single bird in the marsh - including the Great Egret. As the waterfowl all lifted into panicked flight, I began to look around to see if I could find the cause of the commotion. Sure enough I spotted the culprit, an adult Bald Eagle flying toward Dick Bell Park with something in its bill. I think it flushed all the ducks purely out of amusement, for once they disappeared it began flying lazily across the river toward Gatineau. The egret returned to the water but the teals never came back.

Since the ducks showed no sign of returning I left the river and walked over to the eastern pond in the park. There I found two unfamiliar ducks swimming near the shore with several mallards and Canada Geese. Although the male was not in its crisp, beautiful breeding plumage, his head still had a rusty sheen that immediately separated him from all the other ducks.

Redhead (male)

Males in breeding plumage have a reddish brown head, orange eyes, a black chest and tail, and a gray back and sides. The bill is blue-gray with a characteristic black tip. Non-breeding males are quite brown, with a duller head color as can be seen in these photos.


Female Redheads have yellowish brown heads with brown eyes and a pale eye ring. The body and tail is mostly dark gray brown, while the underside is a pale gray brown colour.

Redhead (male)

Although the two Redheads were fairly close to the shore near the bandshell when I arrived, they swam further out into the pond where they began diving for food. The majority of their diet consists of leaves, stems, seeds and roots of aquatic plants, and once when the male emerged I noticed a long, thin green plant dangling from his bill. In the summer, aquatic invertebrates may supplement their diet.

Redhead (male)

Redheads nest in marshy lakes and ponds from Alaska south to Oregon and as far east as southern Manitoba and the Dakotas. The Redhead is known to lay eggs in the nests of other Redheads, at least 10 other duck species, and even nests of the American Bittern and Northern Harrier! Many eggs laid in other species' nests fail to hatch. Fortunately, most females also raise their own brood.

In the winter, these ducks congregate in very large flocks on lakes and sheltered bays. These flocks may contain up of tens of thousands of birds and usually include Canvasbacks and scaup.

Redhead (female)

I spent an enjoyable half hour photographing the ducks diving in the middle of the pond, and was delighted when I saw them both swim back toward the shore. I left my place on the island and returned to the main bike path, taking a few pictures of them as they attempted to sleep in the reflection-dappled water.

Redhead (female)

This was quite an experience for me, for I normally see these ducks far out in the local sewage lagoons or at the large Moodie Drive quarry pond where a scope is definitely required. I enjoyed the fantastic close-up views of these two birds and even managed to get some great photos! It will likely be a long time before I see such an accommodating pair of Redheads so close again.