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28 August 2006 @ 09:27 pm
Birding with an Expert  

Last Saturday, eager to experience more of the wonderful fall migration season, I went out to the Jack Pine Trail first. Birds seen there included Common Moorhen chicks on two different ponds, a couple of Northern Flickers, and a mystery Sandpiper. I spent two hours there before heading over to Britannia.

At Britannia, the birds weren't flitting and flying out of every shrub and tree as they had been last Saturday, but there were still a good many around. I went up on the Ridge first and saw a few birds flying about, though none were close enough or sat still long enough for me to attempt identification. This was the wonderful world of warbler watching, and I soon learned that these small, brightly coloured birds rarely stay still long enough to get a good look....or a photo!


Red-eyed Vireo


A man came up to me while I was studying the activity on the Ridge and asked what I was seeing. I told him honestly that I wasn't sure, that I thought it was a warbler but I am not familiar enough with them to identify them. He said it was probably a Yellow-rumped since this part of the Ridge was full of them. We started talking, and I mentioned that this was my second visit to the Britannia Conservation Area. He asked me if I had been to his website and handed me a brochure. I had to laugh since I recognized the website immediately - it is a goldmine of information on birding in the Ottawa area, one of my favourites, and in fact, I had printed out his pages on birding in Britannia! So I pulled them out of my bag and showed them to him to Larry Neily, who laughed along with me.

So we made our way along the Ridge, seeing mostly Yellow-Rumped warblers - which Larry kindly pointed out to me along with a description of its identifying features, including the bright yellow rump which gives this bird its name.



Yellow-rumped Warbler - female or juvenile male. The best photo of the day.




Yellow-rumped Warbler


We then made our way down toward the river where we met a university-aged man carrying a camera with a long telephoto lens. Larry Neily asked his questions - what had he seen? and had he been to his website? - and the young man had much the same reaction I did, although a bit more extreme. Yes, he'd heard of Larry, and he was in fact a fan! It seems anyone who's at all interested in birdwatching in Ottawa knows about Larry Neily's website!

The younger man introduced himself as Chris Bruce and he has his own website (http://www.pbase.com/reflectionsofnature) which has some beautiful photographs...I am really envious now after seeing them!

Larry decided he was going to circumnavigate Mud Lake and I asked if I could join him. Chris came with us, and I was really impressed walking with them - they were both very knowledgeable, not just about birds but dragonflies, butterflies, and wildflowers, and they made for very pleasant company. Larry has a fantastic sense of humour so we both found ourselves laughing a lot. And when Chris said he always takes some food for the chickadees and pulled out a plastic baggie full of sunflower seeds, I had to take out my own with a smile. It was like I had found two kindred spirits.

When Larry pointed out an American Black Duck on the water, I became interested as I had never seen one before (to my knowledge). They look quite similar to the female mallards, only much darker. I took photos of both to highlight the differences.



American Black Duck - differentiated from the mallard by the darker colouring and the purple wing patch (speculum) bordered with black.




Male Mallard in eclipse plumage - note the blue speculum bordered with black and white


I saw a lot of birds that day. Highlights include:
  • Great-crested Flycatcher
  • Pileated woodpecker
  • Downy woodpecker
  • Gray Catbirds
  • Black Ducks (new bird!)
  • Mallard Ducks
  • Canada Geese
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Kingfisher
  • Mystery heron - possibly a juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron
  • Cardinals
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • Turkey Vulture (new bird!)
  • American Redstart (new bird!)
  • Red-eyed Vireo
  • Nashville Warbler *
  • Eastern Phoebe *
  • Spotted Sandpiper **
  • A few other warblers including Cape May and Magnolia **


* represent new birds which Larry and/or Chris identified for me, but which I have photos for; I am adding these to my list as I can positively identify them from my photos.

** represent birds which Larry and/or Chris identified for me, but which I don't have photos for, and which I didn't get a good enough look at to be able to identify them on my own.




Turkey Vulture




Eastern Phoebe


Altogether it was a great day with great company - it was so wonderful to be with people who shared my enthusiasm for watching and photographing birds! I could not have asked for a better group of people or a better day!


  • Lifer #62 Eastern Phoebe
  • Lifer #63 Nashville Warbler
  • Lifer #64 Turkey Vulture
  • Lifer #65 American Redstart
  • Lifer #66 American Black Duck