Halton County, ON
28 January 2015
My daughter, Caroline, was visiting us from Ottawa, so we took her down to LaSalle Park to see the Trumpeter Swans Cygnus buccinator and any other gems we could find.
Here she is with the swans forming a backdrop on the ice of the bay, now completely frozen over.
Having spent some time with the swans we wandered along the woodland trail and this friendly squirrel seemed to come out to welcome her.
While checking out a small posse of Dark-eyed Juncos Junco hyemalis and Black-capped Chickadees Poecile atricapillus we noticed flashes of rust in the dense undergrowth. First of all I thought it was probably an American Tree Sparrow Spizella arborea but in short order I caught a glimpse of a Carolina Wren Thryothorus ludovicianus. This is not a common bird at all, although in recent years it appears to have extended its range considerably. It is vulnerable, however, in extreme winters and I am sure that many were killed off in last year's record freeze. So, it was a distinct pleasure to see this species.
It is not the easiest bird to photograph for it is constantly on the move, flitting around from perch to perch in search of food, and always in dense tangles and dark undergrowth.
You can imagine our delight when we realized that we were actually looking at two birds.
I am quite sure that we watched these birds for at least twenty minutes and it seemed at times as though they were happy to move along with us.
While watching the wrens we also saw a Brown Creeper Certhia americana but the two pictures we were able to get were both of poor quality.
As might be expected, Black-capped Chickadees were omnipresent and they are accustomed to human friends bringing sunflower seeds for them to eat. These confiding little creatures readily feed from the hand and Caroline could not resist!
A Cooper's Hawk Accipiter cooperii was patrolling the woodland margins and no doubt some unfortunate passerine would fall victim to this predator before the day was out.
When viewed close up it is a fearsome looking raptor and no doubt inspires terror in its potential victims.
Following lunch we headed down to Bronte Harbour. I had told Caroline about the Snowy Owl Nyctea scandiaca I had seen there recently and she wanted to see it, telling us that she had been searching in the Ottawa area for this species, without success. We located the bird as soon as we arrived, feeding on freshly killed prey. As far as we could tell, it looked as though it had killed a Mallard Anas platyrynchos and no doubt was dining well.
Ice floes have formed in the inner harbour and I am sure that there is at least a passing resemblance to the familiar habitat of parts of its tundra home.
We took pictures from several vantage points and in the following image you can easily see the kill upon which the owl was feeding
Snowy Owl is without question one of the most magnificent birds I have ever seen out of the roughly 3,400 species I have seen around the world, and it never ceases to be a grand pleasure of the highest order to encounter one.
I hope that I see many more before the winter is over.