Friday, November 27, 2009

November 26, 2009 Gulls , Goldeneyes and feeders

On November 26th, at noon the two male Barrow's Goldeneye were still frequenting the Rideau River north of Hwy 417 near the Rideau Tennis Club. There in a flock of 60+ Common Goldeneye. Spent an hour towards dusk observing gulls coming in to roost on the Ottawa River off Andrew Haydon Park. The viewing conditions were excellent and I counted 17 Glaucous (various ages), 7 Iceland (various ages), 4 adult Lesser Black-backed, and 350+ Great black-backed Gull. Also, still 1000's of Canada Geese coming in to roost at dark.
Good birding, Bruce

Directions: From Ottawa take 417 east to the Vanier Parkway and exit north. Follow parkway to Donald Street and turn left (west) and continue to Rideau Tennis Club/Rideau River.

Directions: AHP: From Ottawa take Hwy. 417 west to Greenbank Road exit. Turn north and follow to Carling Ave. Turn left and follow to Andrew Haydon Park (Holly Acres Road) and turn right.

The House Finch was unknown in Ontario prior to 1970 and first recorded in Ottawa in 1977.

The female House Finch in easily recogonzed by its gray/brown coloration, slim appearance and streaking on the breast.

The American Goldfinch like many of the finches enjoy niger feed.

The male Barrow's Goldeneyes are still present on the Rideau River in Ottawa.

During the winter months many birders come to the Ottawa area to record their "lifer" Barrow's Goldeneye.

Note the blacker side and distinct head shape of the male Barrow's Goldeneye.

The purplish sheen on the head and black and white checkered pattern on the scapulars are helpful identification marks.

Monday, November 23, 2009

November 22, 2009 Birding Renfrew County

Yesterday afternoon Ben and I spent a few hours birding in Renfrew County. Our first stop was Muskrat Lake at Cobden and we observed 3 Bonaparte's Gull, 1 American Coot, 4 Green-winged Teal and 4 Common Loon. Our next stop was Lake Dore and with excellent viewing conditions, calm water, we observed 76 Horned Grebe, 7 Red-necked Grebe, 32 Common Loon, 3 Long-tailed Duck, 5 White-winged Scoter and 22 Bonaparte's Gull. A few Evening Grosbeak were heard calling as they flew overhead and a Northern Shrike was observed along Point Church Drive. Later at the Pembroke Marina there was a flock of 150+ Snow Bunting.
Good birding, Bruce and Ben

Directions: Lake Dore is located off Hwy 41 near Eganville/Golden Lake. Muskrat Lake is located at Cobden off Hwy 17.

The Horned Grebe is a regular fall migrant on Lake Dore with peaks numbers during October and November. Sometimes 100+ birds can be seen.

The Red-necked Grebe is also a regular fall visitor to Lake Dore but in lower numbers.

The Northern Shrike tends to perch up high while hunting.

The Bonaparte's Gull can sometimes be very common on Lake Dore during the fall season. Even staying into December if the lake remains open due to mild weather.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

November 21, 2009 Ottawa Local Birding

Still lots of Sandhill Cranes east of Ottawa off Milton Road. On Wednesday, November 17th Jack Romanow and I observed 70+ feeding in a recently harvested cornfield just west of Milton and Smith Road . The cranes were very vocal giving their loud trumpeting and rattling calls. It was interesting to hear the young cranes giving a cricket like call. At first I couldn't figure out where the other sound was coming from until i realized it was from the juveniles. Always something new to experience in the bird world! The cranes have now been present for over a month and will likely continue there flight south once the cold and snow finally sets into eastern Ontario. They do occasionally linger into December if the weather is mild. There was a Northern Shrike along Dunrobin Road at Murphy Side Road on Thursday and I have a few Purple Finch in the Carp area along with a noticeable increase in American Goldfinch, 50+, at my Niger feeders too. Yesterday while watching a female Barrow's Goldeneye at Deschenes Rapids, an adult Peregrine Falcon took a drive at a nearby female Common Goldeneye only missing it by a hair!

Sandhill Cranes feeding in cornfield.

The cranes are easy to overlook as they bend over to feed in the fields. There grayish brown plumage blends into the surroundings.

Hooded Mergansers are regular fall migrants throughout eastern Ontario.

The female Hooded Merganser is less striking but has a distinctive head shape.

Cooper's Hawk having breakfast.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

November 12-20, 2009 Barrow's Goldeneyes, hybrids, and female Common and Barrow's Goldeneyes

With the influx of Goldeneyes during the past few week along the Ottawa and Rideau Rivers I've been closely looking through the flocks for both male and female Barrow's Goldeneyes. It's been lots of fun and so far I've observed 2 male Barrow's Goldeneye along the Rideau River off Strathcona Park and the Rideau Tennis Club area, 1 male Barrow's at Remic Rapids, 1 hybrid male Barrow's x Common Goldeneye off Strathcona Park, and 2 female Barrow's Goldeneye, one at Deschenes Rapids and the other at Remic Rapids. Since the river is still free of ice it is hard to know exactly how many Barrow's Goldeneye are in the Ottawa area. The goldeneyes can move from the Rideau to the Ottawa River and this usually happens once the ice freezes over and only the rapids and any fast moving water remains open.
During the past week I've also observed a few orange-yellow billed female Common Goldeneye along the Ottawa and Rideau Rivers. I've had a few local birders report possible female Barrow's that have turned out to be Common Goldeneyes. It is very important to remember the bill colour of female Barrow's is only an aid to the identification and it is not diagnostic. The most important field mark to look for is the head shape. The head of the female Barrow's Goldeneye has an oval shape created by a steep forehead, flat crown and elongated hind neck feathers like a mane. The latter gives the appearance of a swept back crest, similar to the male Barrow's and female Hooded Merganser. The head shape of the Common Goldeneye lacks the " puffiness" of the female Barrow's. It has a rounded rather than flat crown and a sloping forehead. The male hybrid goldeneye has characteristics of both Common and Barrow's Goldeneye. The facial crescent is smaller, the shoulder spur is short and the checkered pattern on the scapulars is not well defined. Hybrids are rare in Ontario but do occur.

Two male Barrow's Goldeneye off Strathcona Park. Note the distinctive cresent on head, black shoulder spur and checked pattern on scapulars.

The male Barrow's Goldeneye also has a blacker back and sides than a male Common Goldeneye.

Female Barrow's Goldeneye have a distinctive head shape, note the steep forehead, flat top and puffy back of head. Also, the head colour is a chocolate brown.

Female Barrow's Goldeneye in centre with female Common Goldeneyes. Note the head shape.

Comparison of female Common and Barrow's Goldeneye in flight.

Comparison of male Common and Barrow's Goldeneye.

Male Barrow's Goldeneye in flight.

Yellow/orange billed female Common Goldeneye.

Comparison of female Common Goldeneyes.

Hybrid Common x Barrow's Goldeneye. Note smaller facial crescent, short shoulder spur and less defined checkered pattern on scapulars.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

November 9 - 11, 2009

The Andrew Haydon Park/Dick Bell Park area continues to attract birds. The most interesting one recently was a Blackpoll Warbler. First observed on November 5th it was still being observ ed as late as November 10th. This is the first November record for the Ottawa area. The Blackpoll Warbler is a regular spring and fall migrant throughtout eastern Ontario and breeds across the Canadian treee line. Usually at this time of year these birds are on there wintering grounds in South America. Not sure what its future holds! It was very active, feeding in the pine trees near the lighthouse.

A late Blackpoll Warbler at Dick Bell Park.

There were lots of insects to feed on in the pines.

Fortunately with only 3 trees to check this usually serective warbler was easy to find.

Nearby a Red Squirrel was munching away at breakfast.

A juvenile Great Blue Heron resting.

Monday, November 9, 2009

November 7 & 8, 2009 Amherst Island birding

Spent the weekend birding Amherst Island. Overall the birding was good despite the strong southwest winds on Saturday and Sunday was a beautiful sunny day. Highlights included four species of owls in the "Owl Woods" Barred, Long-eared, Short-eared, and Northern Saw-whet Owl. Land birds were hard to find due to the winds and the big surprise was a White-winged Crossbill in the Jack Pine Plantation. There was an immature Northern Shrike that was vocalizing giving a buzzy call note as it flew from tree top to tree top. I only observed a few Meadow Voles in the "Owl Woods" and at the eastern point on the KFN property. The hawks numbers were still low with Northern Harrier being more numerous than Red-tailed Hawk. At the gravel point there was a small number of shorebirds including a late Semipalmated Sandpiper and 4 Black-bellied Plover. On Sunday we watched a pair of Peregrine Falcon chase a Greater Yellowlegs.
Good birding, Bruce

Directions: Located 18 km. west of Kingston. Exit off Hwy. 401 at exit 593 (County Rd. 4, Camden East) and drive south to the very end (Millhaven). Turn right on Hwy. 33 and drive 100 metres until you see the sign for the Amherst Island ferry. The ferry (20 minute trip) leaves the mainland on the half hour and leaves the island on the hour. Cost is $8.00 Canadian round trip. There are no gas stations on the island. There are restrooms on the ferry, and at the island ferry dock. The East End K.F.N. property is at the easternmost part of the island on the east side of the Lower Forty Foot Road.

Because of liability issues, visitors to the Kingston Field Naturalists'
property at the east end of Amherst Island MUST be accompanied by a KFN
member. For KFN contact
information or how to become a member, please visit ."

Numerous Common Loons were observed from the ferry.

This immature Northern Shrike was very vocal, giving a short buzzy call.

The feeders in the "Owl Woods" were very active with a variety of species including White-breasted Nuthatch.

The Long-eared Owl is a regular migrant on Amherst Island. Usually very flighty, this individual was somewhat tame.

A White-rumped Sandpiper was found in a flock of Dunlin.

The Pectoral Sandpiper was easy to pick out with its distictive breast marking, yellowish legs, looked like a giant Least Sandpiper.

A Black-bellied Plover in flight

November 5 & 6, 2009 Birding along the Ottawa River

The Ottawa River continues to attracted migrants. This afternoon at 1:30p.m. I observed 2 flocks of Red-throated Loons along the river off Andrew Haydon Park. The first flock totaled 31 birds and the second flock 17. There were flying and landing on the river and last seen heading south-east. The Red-throated Loon is a rare fall migrant throughout eastern Ontario and sometimes occurs in large flocks. On November 12, 1984 I observed 2000+ Red-throated Loons off Shirley's Bay during the passage of a cold front. These birds likely came from the James Bay region. The same day we observed a light morph NORTHERN FULMAR flying east over cornfields near Woodlawn. Anything is possible!
Good birding, Bruce

Directions: AHP: From Ottawa take Hwy. 417 west to Greenbank Road exit. Turn north and follow to Carling Ave. Turn left and follow to Andrew Haydon Park (Holly Acres Road) and turn right.

Andrew Haydon Park is a good area for Red-breasted Mergansers.

Late lingering Great Blue Herons can be found along creeks and in beaver ponds.

The American Tree Sparrow is a regular fall migrant and over winters in small numbers throughout eastern Ontario.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

November 1-3, 2009 Local birding Ottawa area.

There was a good movement of birds along the Ottawa River on November 1st. We birded from Shirley's Bay to Britannia and off Andrew Haydon Park we observed 9 Cackling Geese, 56 Brant and 75+ (mainly males) Long-tailed Duck. All 3 scoters were noted along with Red-necked and Horned Grebe. We had a small movement of raptors including 2 Golden Eagle (1ad. and 1 immature), 14 Red-tailed Hawk, 1 imm. Northern Goshawk, 1 Cooper's Hawk and an immature Peregrine Falcon at the Moodie Drive Ponds. Later in the afternoon I observed 200+ Brant flying south over Britannia.
Good birding, Bruce

Directions: AHP/DBP: From Ottawa take Hwy. 417 west to Greenbank Road exit. Turn north and follow to Carling Ave. Turn left and follow past Andrew Haydon Park (Holly Acres Road) and watch for Dick Bell Park on your right.

Directions: Moodie Drive ponds: From Ottawa take Hwy 417 west to Hwy 416. South on the 416 to exit 66 (Fallowfield Rd.) Right (west) on Fallowfield to Moodie Dr. Left (south) on Moodie, go past Trail Rd. on your left and Cambrian Rd. on your right until you come to a very large sand & gravel operation on the left (east) side of the road. ***PLEASE NOTE*** - do NOT cross the gate to the sand & gravel operation. This is private property, and most of the birds can be well-viewed from the road.The landfill site is located on Trail Road. There is no access but the gulls can be viewed from Trail Road just south of the main entrance.

Directions: Shirley's Bay: From Ottawa take Hwy. 417 west to the Moodie Drive exit and turn north (right) on Moodie Drive and continue to Carling Ave. Turn left at Carling Ave. and follow Carling to Rifle Road. Turn right (north) on Rifle Rd. Park at the lot at the end (boat launch).
Walk back to the road, and continue through the gate on the Department of National Defense property. There is a trail on your right (clearly marked with vehicle "No Entry" signs) which heads into the woods, and, eventually to the dyke. There is lots of POISON IVY along the dyke.

OFFICE BEFORE ENTERING THE DYKE AREA-- Call (613) 991-5740 and request
permission to visit the dyke area for birding.

On November 3rd, at around 9:00a.m. there were 2 adult male Barrow's Goldeneye feeding in a mix flock of diving ducks off Andrew Haydon Park . The flock of 100+ ducks included Common Goldeneye, Greater Scaup, Lesser Scaup, White-winged Scoter and Surf Scoter.
Good birding, Bruce

Directions: AHP: From Ottawa take Hwy. 417 west to Greenbank Road exit. Turn north and follow to Carling Ave. Turn left and follow to Andrew Haydon Park (Holly Acres Road) and turn right.

Camouflage is very important for many species.

The American Black Duck is a regular sight along the Ottawa River and surrounding creeks and ponds.

With high water levels along the Ottawa River the ponds at Andrew Haydon Park have been good for "puddle ducks".

This Red-breasted Nuthatch was checking out the sunflower seeds and decided that this one wasn't good!

An immature Peregrine flushed up ducks at the Moodie Drive Ponds.

We were lucky to see two Golden Eagles soaring over the Jack Pine Nature Trail. This adult was in view for a few minutes.

A mixed flock of Cackling and Canada Geese.

A flock of Brant at rest off Andrew Haydon Park.