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.