Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Easter Weekend in Ottawa

Easter Weekend in Ottawa
Petrie Islands Park

    We spent Easter in Ottawa visiting my daughter, Caroline, son-in-law, Andrew and two grandchildren, Sam and Will.
    During our time there we meandered through Petrie Islands Park three times to do a little birding. When Sam and Will were quite a bit younger we had visited the same location in January where we were able to show them their first ever Great Grey Owls Strix nebulosa.

    Given the severity of the recent winter and the huge amount of snow deposited, none of which ever melted during the cold months, it was not surprising to find a good deal of the park under water.

    There was a wide variety of bird life, however, and given fairly warm temperatures, it was very pleasant indeed to explore the various habitats enjoying both the auditory and visual sensations of spring migration. All of the trails were submerged but we managed to pick our way through the woods without even getting our feet wet!
    Numerous male Song Sparrows Melospiza melodia trilled from high perches, proclaiming territory and advertising for a mate, while periodically descending to ground to find food.

    American Robins Turdus migratorius probed among the leaf litter, tossing it aside vigorously to find whatever tidbits lay concealed beneath.

    The activities of American Beavers Castor canadensis seemed to be everywhere, with many more trees being accessible due to the flooding, but given their nocturnal habits we never actually saw an animal.

    Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers Sphyrapicus varius have returned in good numbers and this male had chosen the metal post of a parking lot sign from which to drum and announce his availability to any interested female.

    In the following picture you can clearly see the nictitating membrane being drawn across the eye as a protection against flying bits of debris.

      Muskrats obviously found the submerged habitat much to their liking and they were easily found going about their business. They seemed to have no difficulty finding new sources of food on what would normally be dry ground some distance from their watery haunts.

     It was a very pleasant surprise to find numerous Rusty Blackbirds Euphagus carolinus, a species that has experienced very serious population declines in recent years. Usually this is a bird I am able to find more easily in the fall; it is rare that I see them in the spring.

    Both Golden-crowned Kinglets Regulus satrapa and Ruby-crowned Kinglets Regulus calendula were present, but we were only able to photograph Golden-crowned as they flitted around in constant motion.

    As might be expected Mallards Anas platyrynchos wasted no time in exploiting the abundance of new habitat, entirely suited to their needs.

    Eastern Garter Snakes Thamnophis sirtalis have emerged from their hibernaculae and this handsome individual was very cooperative in terms of being photographed.

    We heard Pileated Woodpecker Dryocopus pileatus several times and saw one briefly as it flew from a tree deep into the woods and out of sight, but evidence of their activity was not hard to find.

    Several amphibians were seen, but this Northern Leopard Frog Rana pipiens was the only one that permitted a photograph. Others dived into the frigid water and submerged instantly.

    All in all it was a fine place to visit and there were many people walking around and enjoying the first promise of spring after a long and arduous winter, the worst in living memory in many parts of the country.

    Caroline, Andrew, Sam and Will look quite content to be enjoying some fresh air and sunshine.


  1. Great photos, David.
    All pictures are very well photographed, my compliments.
    Greetings Irma

  2. What a great variety of critters! The sapsucker is fabulous, and I love the frog!

  3. It’s hard to imagine a more wonderful weekend than enjoying the sights and sounds of a Canadian Spring. Rusty Blackbird is one I never caught up with in Ontario but I do remember the rather smelly Garter Snakes, perhaps because Brits never see snakes and to pick up a real live snake was an irresistible challenge.

    Holes made by Pileated Woodpeckers are very common - not so the actual bird as I recall, I am pleased you confirmed this. If only they were as common and numerous as kinglets in April?

    Caroline, Andrew, Sam and Will look rather tired after their trek. I hope you treated them to an expensive meal out that evening?

  4. What a wonderful place to explore with family, David. Sounds as if you had a great time. There seems to be plenty of snow still around! I love the Muskrat images. I'm not sure if I've ever seen a picture of these before, but I'm reminded of the old Everly Brothers number of the same name. Super images, too , of the Garter Snake - I rather like snakes!

    A great post - thank you.

  5. Haha!
    2 grand children!
    My goodness I thought you were in your 40's! LOL!!!
    I don't know why but it makes feel much better since I am a granny too!!
    How lucky to have your family around, ours is in Australia....
    Anyhow, what an interesting array of critters!
    A snake is unusual here, I bet?!!
    I have seen this species only on TV, showing how they can pack together making sometimes a huge and impressive intertwined knot!
    The wholes made by the pecker are funny, as if he thought of accommodating several families on top of each other! LOL!
    We have Musk rats here but I never saw one.
    A great series of pics especially those showing the flooded areas.
    I'll go just now and have a look at your latest posts!
    Cheers, keep well!

  6. Interesting observations and well-documented. Greetings

  7. Gorgeous shots but I don't like snakes.... Best greetings

  8. You were so nice break and a visit to your daughter and son. Delicious gewansdeld there and what have you seen a lot. I think that woodpecker super beautiful, but also your other birds, frogs and snake. Bijoznder to see so many chopped holes in the trunk that tree. The beaver is a very beautiful animal and great fun that you've seen .. A very nice blog Davi, swank!


  9. Nice place, lots of interesting nature photos you've done :)