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20 August 2006 @ 08:22 pm
A new place for birdwatching: Britannia!  

I had been told that Britannia is the best place to go birdwatching in Ottawa, so yesterday I was curious enough to go see for myself. All I can say is.....WOW!!! They were right! I ended up going both yesterday and today.

The site is right on the Ottawa River. The road to get there runs parallel to the river, and on one side is Mud Lake; on the other is a high ridge blocking sight of the Ottawa River. The ridge is filled with dense shrubs and trees, but trails lead over it and along the top, though it is a very steep ascent. The trails that go over the Ridge lead right to the water. Except for the road side, the lake is surrounded with woods which "act as a magnet for passing landbird migrants" according to a website on Ottawa birdwatching sites.

Green Heron

A view of Mud Lake and the road from the Ridge:

An inlet on the Ottawa River:

Saturday morning was beautiful and sunny. I got out of my car, and the first thing I heard was the "crying baby" sound coming from a shrub across the street. I finally got a good look at the bird, and I am 95% certain that it is a Gray Catbird - and that this is the bird I photographed at Parliament back in June. At that point I realized there were more birds in the same shrub, flitting away for cover. Most of them I had never seen before. In fact, as I walked down the road to the main trail entrance, I saw more and more birds in the trees and in the shrubs along the ditches. I could have spent the whole day just on the road!!! At that point I knew I had discovered a birdwatcher's paradise.

Gray Catbird

The second new bird I identified was a female Wood Duck - slightly smaller than a mallard, with an elliptical white patch around her eye and a short, shaggy crest which are quite distinctive. I saw a couple of them on the lake, along with a lot of mallards.

There is a swampy area between the road and the ridge, and I found a Green Heron skulking in the shrubs there. I also saw a few others along the shore of the lake, as well as a couple of Great Blue Herons - most of them flew off before I had even realized they were there, startling me with their huge wingspans as they took flight.

Green Heron - Juvenile

The Ridge and parts of the trail around the lake were alive with sparrows, chickadees, cardinals, catbirds, warblers and vireos. Yesterday I recognized a Black-and-white Warbler; and today I saw a White-throated Sparrow. I saw many, many more that I couldn't identify, even after taking dozens of photos. My third new bird was a Yellow-rumped Warbler; I got some pretty good photos of the male, and I think the female was with him.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

On the Ottawa River I saw sandpipers, kingfishers, ducks, gulls, and a Great Blue Heron. There is a long island just offshore, so the trail I was following didn't look right out onto the open river. Rather, it gazed out on a narrow channel for much of the shoreline. Most of the ducks and gulls had congregated in a rocky area between the shore and open river; even with the binoculars I couldn't see clearly enough to notice if there were any unusual birds in the flock. I couldn't even get close enough to tell what kind of sandpipers or gulls they were. However, I did identify a female Hooded Merganser and a Red-eyed Vireo from my photos....two more lifers!

Today I saw what I think is an Osprey flying around the edges of Mud Lake; it had a white face and belly, with dark wings and a dark line through his face. Then I saw three more flying over the river. They sort of hovered over the water as they were flapping their wings. They look similar in shape and colouration to the one shown in flight on Cornell's web page. I also saw a hawk in a tree, but the photos turned out too dark to help identify it. Unlike yesterday, today was gray and damp and even drizzly, so I didn't spend as much time there.

Two different mystery birds

I can't wait to go back - hopefully the weather will be nicer on Saturday!

  • Lifer #58 Wood Duck
  • Lifer #59 Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • Lifer #60 Hooded Merganser
  • Lifer #61 Red-eyed Vireo