Thursday, March 28, 2013

March 28, 2013 Local Ottawa birding.

A variety of migrants are slowing many their way in the Ottawa district. This morning at dawn I had a number of American Robins in full song.  Along the Carp River Canada Geese were honking as them were leaving to feed in the nearby cornfields.There continues to be lots of activity at the Hilda Road feeder including at least 2 Southern Hoary Redpolls. Unfortunately I didn't spend enough time at the feeders to see if the Hornemann's or Greater Common Redpolls were still present. At Shirley's Bay the female Bald Eagle was still on the nest and at least 2 Great Blue Herons were back at the heron colony.  A pair of Merlin were present in Kanata doing aerial displays and very vocal., love is in the air!

Canada Geese arrive in numbers along the Carp River. 

Thousand's of Canada Geese are now on there way north. 

A Beaver quickly swims along a creek. 

Red Squirrel 

Red-winged Blackbirds are back in numbers. 

A pair of courting Common Ravens overhead. 

A female Hairy Woodpecker  resting. 

March 27, 2013 Napanee Alvar

Hi Everyone
I spent a couple of hours birding the Napanee Alvar this morning. I was fortunate to find 1 adult Loggerhead Shrike actively feeding in a field but unfortunately I couldn't read the bands. There were also 3 Northern Shrikes, 2 adult and 1 immature also present. Overall it was still somewhat quiet with only a couple of Eastern Meadowlarks singing, 2 Northern Harrier displaying and 1 Eastern Bluebird. Later on between Napanee and Gananoque along Hwy.401 I counted 35+ Turkey Vulture, 2 immature Bald Eagle and 11 Red-tailed Hawk.
Good birding,

Directions: From Kingston take Hwy 401 west to exit #593 and go north to Nugent Road and turn left. Follow west to CR 27 (Main Street). The Loggerhead Shrike was along Craigen Road near Joyce Road.

An immature Northern Shrike sits waiting for some movement below in the vegetation.  Note the distinctive grey feather edging on the breast. 

At a distances the grey feather edging aren't as obvious on the northern Shrike.   

March 26, 2013 Presqu'ile Birding

Another great day birding at Presqu'ile and nice weather conditions too! With Presqu'ile Bay now open the waterfowl are dispersed but there was a good concentration along Bayshore Drive. As the remaining ice was melted Redheads, Canvasback, Ring-necked Ducks were in a feeding frenzy as more of the shallow waters were exposed. The most common scaup was Greater Scaup with a few 1000 but only a handful of Lesser Scaup were located off the Government Dock. At Owen Point new arrivals included 6 Double-crested Cormorant on Gull Island along with the 1000's of Ring-billed Gulls and 2 Great Blue Heron on High Bluff Island sitting up inspecting a old nest.
Land birds were still scarce with a few more Song Sparrows singing, numerous American Robins and very vocal resident Red-bellied Woodpecker near the Lighthouse. There were still 100's of Long-tailed Duck, Red-breasted Merganser, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, and smaller numbers of White-winged Scoter and Lesser Scaup.  

Direction: To reach Presqu'ile Provincial Park, follow the signs from Brighton. Locations within the Park are shown on a map at the back of a tabloid that is available at the Park gate. Access to the offshore islands is restricted at this time of year to prevent disturbance to the colonial nesting birds there. Birders are encouraged to record their observations on the bird sightings board provided near the campground office by The Friends of Presqu'ile Park and to fill out a rare bird report for species not listed there.

Male Canvasbacks pursue a female while a pair of Redhead look on. 

Redheads. Note the difference in head shape of the males. 

A great comparison of head shape of Redheads, Canvasback and Ring-necked Duck. 

There was a nice selection of diving ducks in Presqu'ile Bay. 

Redheads and American Wigeon take to the air.

A flock of American Wigeon  over Presqu'ile Bay.

A mixed flock of Redhead and American Wigeon take flight. 

Northern Pintails were on the move with many flocks landing in the now open marsh. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

March 26,2013 Greater Snow Geese in eastern Ontario

Hi Everyone
This morning along Hwy.416 from Kemptville to Prescott and along Hwy.401 to Kingston there was a major movement of geese. I counted 10,000+ Snow Geese between Gananaque and Kingston all migrating north-east at a high altitude and 10-15,000 Canada Geese. The sky was full of geese! Most of the Canada Geese were at a lower altitude and many were likely roosting along the St. Lawrence River last night. It may be an amazing weekend for waterfowl!
Good birding,

Sunday, March 24, 2013

March 24, 2013 Local Birding

Hi Everyone
Bohemian Waxwings continue to move around and through the Ottawa area. Today I had a number of flocks including 250+ near Stittsville, 50+ at Shirley's Bay and 100+ along Carling Ave at Moodie Drive area. The redpoll extravaganza at the Hilda Road feeders continued today with all subspecies being reported. Check out my blog for recent photos of all subspecies. The Bald Eagles have return to Shirley's Bay, the site of the first nesting record for Ottawa last spring. The eagles were observed on March 20th at the nest and today an adult sitting. If you require additional information, please email me privately.
Good birding, Bruce

From Carling Ave. head north on Rifle Rd then right onto Lois Ave then right onto Hilda Road.

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 causeway. There is lots of POISON IVY along the causeway.

OFFICE BEFORE ENTERING THE SHIRLEY'S BAY AREA-- Call (613) 991-5740 and request permission to visit the causeway area for birding.

Bohemian Waxwing

Bohemian Waxwing

March 23, 2013 Presqu'ile Provincial Park Birding

The birding today at Presqu'ile was very good with a nice selection of diving ducks mainly in Presqu'ile Bay. There was a large number of Redheads, 3000+ and numerous other species of waterfowl including Canvasback, Greater Scaup, Lesser Scaup, Common Goldeneye, Bufflehead, and no shortage of Mute Swans. Off Owen Point, Gull Island was full of Ring-billed Gulls along with lots of puddle ducks around the island. A lone Killdeer was along the shoreline at the point and a female Northern Harrier.  A few small flocks of White-winged Scoter were observed off the Lighthouse and Salt Point. The puddle duck numbers were low with a small number of American Wigeon, Gadwall, and a Northern Pintail. An Iceland Gull along with 2 immature Great Black-backed Gulls were noted off the Township Park. On our drive down 2 Barred Owls were sighted along Hwy. 416 near Kemptville and 3 Northern Shrikes were seen, I near Kingston and 2 along Hwy. 37 south of Tweed.

A Red Fox  was seen at Calf Pasture.

A total of 3 Northern Shrike were found doing our drive from and to Ottawa.

There were 100's of Long-tailed Ducks on Lake Ontario.  

Striped Skunk 

There were  a few 1000  Redheads in Presqu'ile Bay.

March 22, 2013 Redpoll feeding frenzy at Hilda Road Feeder.

The feeding frenzy of redpolls continues at the Hilda Road feeders located near Shirley's Bay.  This afternoon both subspecies of Hoary and Common Redpoll were present feeding and very tame. There were 250+ Southern Common Redpoll, 1 Greater (rostrata) Common Redpoll, 5-6 Southern (exilipes) Hoary Redpoll, and 1 Hornemann's (hornemanni) Hoary Redpoll.  This was one of the best studies I've ever had of all the redpolls. Below is a series of photos of all 4 subspecies.  The feeders are located off Rifle Road. Take Carling Ave. west from Moodie Drive and follow Carling Ave. and turn right on Rifle Road. Follow north towards river and take first right Lois Ave. and then right on Hilda Road. With the mild temperatures on the way it's difficult to know how long these redpolls will remain in the area. It is a worthwhile outing to make and study these birds. The redpolls were still present on March 23rd.  

Southern Hoary Redpoll 

Greater Common Redpoll 

Southern Common Redpoll

Southern Hoary Redpoll  

Southern Common Redpoll male

Hornemann's Hoary Redpoll

Hornemann's Hoary Redpoll 

Snowshoe Hare 

Southern Common Redpoll 

Southern Common Redpoll

A mixed flock of Southern Common Redpoll both male and female along with a Hornemann's  Hoary Redpoll.  Note the larger size of the Hornemann's Hoary Redpoll. 

Hornemann's Hoary Redpoll. 

Hornemann's Hoary Redpoll. 

Southern Hoary Redpoll with Southern Common Redpoll. 

Hornemann's Hoary Redpoll 

Friday, March 22, 2013

March 21, 2013 Local birding.

A few more signs of spring today with small flocks of Red-winged Blackbirds and Common Grackles at feeders searching for food. There has been a noticeable increase in Ring-billed Gulls with birds now hanging around malls, construction sites and schools, all looking for something to eat. Start checking the Ottawa and Rideau Rivers for migrating waterfowl and other water birds. A few American Robins and Song Sparrows are now back along with numerous pairs of Canada Geese waiting for the ponds to thaw as they sit on any open grassy areas around Kanata. These local breeders are always early while the main migration north will carry on through April. When  milder temperatures arrive we will get our first Tree Swallows, Eastern Bluebirds and Eastern Phoebes. These insect eaters can survive the cooler temperatures at night, at least for a while and will eat berries too.  

A Great Gray Owl perched at dusk looking for supper.

This Great Gray Owl appear extremely tame and sat on the same perch for over 2 hours.

An early Turkey Vulture soaring over the Shirley's Bay area.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

March 20,2013 Spring birding!

What a difference a year makes! Last spring on this date we were basking in mild temperatures, 27+c, no snow and lots of early migrants. This year is more typical of winters of the 1960's and 1970's, lots of snow still on the ground ,overnight cool temperatures and only a sprinkle of spring migrants. With more snow flurries on the way it appears spring is delayed for at least another week. Regardless, there are still many winter species around including Common Redpoll, Hoary Redpoll, Pine Grosbeak, Bohemian Waxwing and Snow Buntings. Unfortunately, the longer days of light has resulted in our wintering owls to start moving north back to the boreal forest. No recent reports of Boreal or Northern Hawk-Owl but there is a small number of  lingering Great Gray Owls. Despite the up and coming gloomy weekend forecast a few species are already building nests or starting to renovate for the spring season. I watched an American Crow carrying sticks to a nest site today and the pair of Bald Eagles that successfully nested at Shirley's Bay last summer raising 2 young are back again. Woodpeckers are drumming and both Northern Cardinal and House Finch are in full song.  The next wave of migrants will soon be on their way north! 

Great Gray Owl 

Great Gray Owl 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Winter Owls around the Ottawa area, February and March 2013

 This winter will definitely be remembered as one Ottawa's best winters for northern owls in years. For the first winter in many years Amherst Island wasn't the owl capital of eastern Ontario but instead it was Ottawa. With Boreal, Northern Hawk, and Great Gray Owls around birders and photographers flocked to the Ottawa area to view these highly prized owls. We were even lucky to have a few Snowy Owls in the area too. Birders/photographers came from many of the north eastern states and even from as far away as Texas. Starting in mid February all four species could be found in one day or in a few hours of searching. It was hard to estimate the total numbers but at least 40-50 Great Gray Owls were reported, mainly from the greater Ottawa area and Algonquin Park. Others were scattered around  north of Kingston and east of Presqu'ile. The Northern Hawk-Owl was only found a handful of times with one setting up a winter territory in south-east Kanata. This individual was first observed before Christmas hunting along Robertson Road just east of Eagleson Road and finally settled in near the Old Quarry Trail. A few were found west of Ottawa along Hwy. 7 too. It was probably the best winter for Boreal Owls in Ottawa since I started birding in the late 60's. At least 5 were found  and 1 was present for over a month at the Fletcher Wildlife Garden. This individual was a lifer for many. Others were observed at Constance Bay, Kanata, Stittsville, and in a couple of wood lots in the city of Ottawa.
On February 13th I recorded all 4 northern owls in one day in the Ottawa 50 km radius, my first time ever and also one of the few times I've recorded the 3 boreal forest owls in one day too. Unfortunately the down side of all the excitement was the issue of baiting owls. This began with the Great Gray owls along the Rockcliffe Parkway at Green's Creek and continued with the Northern Hawk-Owl at Old Quarry Trail. Even the Boreal Owl at FWG was taunted with a mouse. The big question for many was..Is this practice ethical?   

The first south bound Boreal Owl was reported during November and  by mid January it was apparent that a small movement was underway. 

Not all were found hidden in spruce or cedar trees. This individual was roosting in a deciduous tree all day. 

For the first time in Ottawa a Boreal Owl took up residents in a local park and was present for over a month. Most Boreal Owl sightings in Ottawa are one day wonders.


On a few occasions the Boreal Owl was observed with a rodent in its talons for a later meal.

A Northern Hawk-Owl takes flight. 

The Northern Hawk-Owl is a rare but regular winter visitor to eastern Ontario. The first ones were reported in November and others were found during mid January to early March scattered around eastern Ontario.  

This Northern Hawk-Owl  spent much of its day roosting in a tamarack stand  where it had cached many of the domestic mice it was baited with during the day.

The Northern Hawk-Owl devours a domestic mouse that it had cached in a old platform nest. 

After a meal it sometimes would sit and preen for a while before flying back out to its favourite perch.

While studying the Northern Hawk-Owl as it was feeding I noticed that it suddenly raised its head and stared up into the sky. It was apparent it was watching something over the tamarack forest. I looked up and there was an adult Bald Eagle soaring over the area.

Adult Bald Eagle soars over the area as the Northern Hawk-Owl watches. I've observed this behaviour before with Great Gray Owls. During the winter of 1983/84 I watched a Great Gray staring up into the clear sky. I looked and couldn't see anything, so with my binoculars I scanned the sky. Amazingly the owl had caught sight of a small silver balloon. Incredible eye sight!  

A Great Gray Owl rests during the afternoon in a pine tree after a morning of being baited. Our last invasion and likely the largest was back in the winter of 2004/05. That was the first winter I witnessed  baiting which coincided with the boom in digital photography.

Great Gray Owl

A Great Gray Owl  sits up in a spruce tree and catches the early morning sun shine.

The Snowy Owl is a regular  winter visitor  to eastern Ontario. Their numbers vary winter to winter and this year were very scarce.