Tagged: birding

Gatineau park outing

by Sophie Roy

On May 20, 21 birders enjoyed the bird life of Gatineau Park, with leaders Justin Peter and yours truly.

Photo by Norbert Haché

The group started the day off well with two Black-Billed Cuckoos calling at the meeting point, at P8. After birding the parking lot we headed to the nearby “P8 pond” and observed Pied-billed Grebes, Northern Rough-winged Swallows and a male Black-throated Blue Warbler. On the walk back to the parking lot the group had incredible views of three American Bitterns in flight.

One of three American Bitterns seen near parking lot P8. Photo by Sandra Dashney

We then headed to two other parking lots by car (Camp Fortune and P9) and found Blackburnian Warblers, a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Northern Flickers, Bay-breasted Warblers, and a Rose-breasted Grosbeak.

Belvédère Huron was the next stop, a lookout along the Champlain parkway, where the group heard the first Blue-headed Vireos of the day. Scarlet Tanager, Red-eyed Vireo, Black-throated Green Warbler and Veery were also heard and seen at this location.

The next stop was Étienne Brulé Lookout. Here, we had stunning views of an adult Broad-winged Hawk coasting along the Eardley Escarpment. The outing concluded with a short hike on Western Lodge and Pioneer Road trails. At the end of the Western Lodge Trail the group stopped at the lookout and were surprised to see a Peregrine Falcon harassing a Turkey Vulture. Along the trillium-covered trails, we observed a Least Flycatcher, Scarlet Tanager, and Blackburnian Warbler and heard Northern Waterthrush, Tennessee Warblers, and Ovenbirds. During the outing we also enjoyed seeing an Ovenbird nest, a first for many members.

Plant life and trees were also looked at, many members smelling the Red Trillium for the first time.

Scarlet Tanager photographed by Sandra Dashney

Ovenbird photographed by Norbert Haché

Ovenbird nest photographed by Derek Dunnett

Blackburnian Warbler photographed by Sandra Dashney


Early fall birding along the Ottawa River

Northern Flicker, photographed by Sarma Vishnubhatla.

Northern Flicker, photographed by Sarma Vishnubhatla.

On Sunday, 11 September, Jeff Skevington led an outing to Britannia and points west along the Ottawa River. At least 28 participants spent the day visiting the best birding spots along the river, looking for migrants and, especially, shorebirds.

As Jeff reports, “We had many groups of warblers and ended up with 20 species of warblers for the day. My personal highlight was a group of warblers at Shirleys Bay that were coming to a puddle to drink. We had 6 Northern Parulas, 1 Tennessee Warbler, 1 Magnolia Warbler and 1 Black-throated Blue Warbler all attending the puddle at one time.

“We also saw 11 species of shorebirds, with the highlights being Sanderling and Short-billed Dowitcher. The species total for the day was 85.”

Sarma Vishnubhatla was kind enough to share her photos with us, and Jeff uploaded the list of species seen to eBird – if you have an eBird account, click here for the day’s checklist

Some of the participants in Sunday's birding excursion, led by Jeff Skevington (at right with scope).

Some of the participants in Sunday’s birding excursion, led by Jeff Skevington (at right with scope).

Ducks and gulls along the river

by Roy John

Report of an Ottawa Field-Naturalists’ Club excursion on Sunday, 22 May 2016.

A dozen people went to Mud Lake to take advantage of the recent change from cold windy weather to lovely warm sunshine. This had brought in numerous, much delayed, migrants over the last few days.

Wood Duck photographed by Roy John

Wood Duck photographed by Roy John

As soon as we arrived at Mud Lake we were told that a rare Yellow-throated Vireo had been found in the woods. We plunged in and soon could hear it singing. It took a bit more effort to actually see it jumping around the tree tops, but we all eventually did. A little further in, the resident Screech Owl sat rigidly still for all to see. Dave Moore did his turkey call and pulled a Wild Turkey out of the woods.

We continued around Mud Lake, finding many new species. At the east fence we saw a Raccoon’s nose poking out the hole of a garbage skip, obviously trapped (the city were informed). So we had a beautiful morning with many good birds.

A number of species were strangely missing. Although we heard a Great Crested Flycatcher many times, we never could see it. We saw only a few Tree Swallows (a pair at a nest), but no others – very odd for Mud Lake. There were no Green Herons and only one Great Blue – yet Great Egrets were easy to find.

All in all, a warm, sunny day with 43 bird species seen (plus 4 heard).

Canada Goose
Wood Duck (photo above)

Wild Turkey

Double-crested Cormorant

Great Egret
Great Blue Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron

Ring-billed Gull

Eastern Screech Owl photographed by Roy John

Eastern Screech Owl photographed by Roy John

Eastern Screech-Owl (photo at right)

Belted Kingfisher

Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker

Eastern Phoebe (heard only)
Great Crested Flycatcher (heard only)

Yellow-throated Vireo
Warbling Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo

Blue Jay
American Crow
Common Raven

Tree Swallow

Black-capped Chickadee

White-breasted Nuthatch

American Robin

Gray Catbird photographed by Roy John

Gray Catbird photographed by Roy John

Gray Catbird (photo at right)

European Starling

Cedar Waxwing (photo below right)

NEW WORLD WARBLERS (11 species + 2 not seen or confirmed)
Tennessee Warbler
Common Yellowthroat (heard only)
American Redstart
Northern Parula
(Magnolia Warbler – not confirmed)
Bay-breasted Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Pine Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler

Cedar Waxwing photographed by Roy John

Cedar Waxwing photographed by Roy John

Chipping Sparrow
Song Sparrow

Northern Cardinal

Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle

Pine Siskin (very late)
American Goldfinch

Non-bird species
Midland Painted Turtle
Water Snake
Spiny Baskettail (photo below)

Spiny Baskettail dragonfly photographed by Gillian Mastromatteo

Spiny Baskettail dragonfly photographed by Gillian Mastromatteo

The changing world of birds in the Ottawa Gatineau District – a 50-year perspective

by Richard Singhroy

Richard Singhroy is a student at the University of Ottawa. As part of the university’s Community Service Learning program, he has volunteered to report on several OFNC outings and meetings.

On Tuesday November 10, the monthly OFNC meeting started with a few announcements from Mark Brenchey. After drawing our attention to the sale of lens wipes by the Education and Publicity Committee, Mark went on to talk about the Youth Summit, now in its eight year, and the OFNC’s role in sponsoring young people to attend this event. This year, Sophie Roy was chosen, and she was at the meeting to give us a presentation on her experience.


Sophie Roy at the 2015 Youth Summit. She says, “We were doing something called blanket toss. Like First Nations did. You lie in the middle of the blanket, then get thrown into the air by people who pull on the blanket all at once. I believe the blanket toss was originally used to see across icy flat landscapes, but now it’s an event in the northern games.”

Sophie, who is a birder, spoke about how on the first day of the camp she got a chance to interact with threatened species such as the Hognose Snake. There were also a variety of outings including hiking, canoeing, and camping. They even got a chance to look at the stars at night with a telescope. The summit was held near Lake Couchiching, and it sounded like Sophie had a lot of fun.

Mark also talked about coming events and how the Events Committee needs new members.

The main presentation of the evening was given by Bruce Di Labio. Bruce is a well known among birders of the Ottawa region as a journalist, speakers, but most of all as an avid birder. He told us about how he started birding at an early age, when he and his friends would go out on their bikes to take photos of birds.


Long-time OFNC member, Bruce Di Labio

Bruce explained how Ottawa is in the path of a major migratory route because of its location south of Hudson and James Bays. According to Bruce, you can find around 361 species in the 50-km radius circle around Ottawa, 406 in eastern Ontario, 493 in all of Ontario, and 672 in Canada. Almost half of the birds in Canada can be found close to Ottawa!

Bruce talked about the history of birding in Ottawa from 1881 to 1969. Some recent additions to the Ottawa bird population are the Razorbill, Cave Swallow, and Violet Green Swallow. We also looked at species that have been threatened by habitat loss, such as the Henslow’s Sparrow, Bobolink, and Meadowlark. There were also many introduced species, such as the Grasshopper Sparrow and Eastern Towhee.

Chimney Swift in nest built inside a tall chimney. Photo by Bruce Di Labio

Chimney Swift in nest built inside a tall chimney. Photo by Bruce Di Labio

Unfortunately the Great Horned Owl has dropped in numbers. There were quite a few declines in bird species in the last five decades. For example, because of the change in style of chimneys, the Chimney Swift has seen a loss in nesting areas and, therefore, a drop in population. The Whip-poor-will is another species that has seen a recent decline.

Bird feeding has caused an increase in some populations, such as the Northern Cardinal and Carolina Wren. Bird feeding can give birds a foothold in an area. For example, if a bird is migrating in search of seeds, then it might not need to go south if there is enough bird feeding in the Ottawa area. One thing I found surprising was the Wild Turkey is an invasive species.

Bruce talked about records since 1954, where the Barrow’s Goldeneye has seen a rise. Although still rare, the Arctic Tern remains a regular migrant. Red Knots have seen a rise from the 70s to the 80s, but their population has been falling since. Hunting caused the Great Egret population to fall, but since 1972 it has been recovering. Finally, Bruce talked about the effects of DDT and how bird populations have risen since it was banned. The best example of one of these species is the Bald Eagle.

All in all, the presentation was informative and interesting.

Late fall birding


by Richard Singhroy

Richard Singhroy is a student at the University of Ottawa. As part of the university’s Community Service Learning program, he has volunteered to report on several OFNC outings and meetings.

On Sunday, November 1 at 8 am, a group of Ottawa Field-Naturalist Club members met at Andrew Haydon Park to do some birding. Birding is the act of cataloguing local birds. It is great for getting fresh air and learning about the different types of birds. Mark Gawn, who was leading the outing, has vast knowledge of birds and their migrating patterns. I learned a lot about birds and how to identify them.

A few tips on birding, it is a good idea to bring along a field guide to help you identify the birds and know ahead of time what birds you might find in an area. Because many birds migrate through our area, fall is a great time to find a large variety. It is also a good idea to bring a pair of binoculars.

DSCN0735We saw a number of migratory fall birds, probably the best known being the Canada Geese. We also saw Common Goldeneyes, which can be identified by their protruding forehead and the white spots under their eyes; they also have black and white feathers. We also spotted Red-necked Grebes, which can be identified by their red neck and needle-like beak. Depending on time of year the colour of the feathers can change.

At Ottawa Beach, we saw a few other birds, including a Bonaparte’s Gull. This bird lives in the boreal forest and can be identified by the white edges on its wings. Surf Scoters were also seen – a beautiful black and white bird.

After a hike in the forest and a stop to listen to the singing of American Tree Sparrows and other birds, we arrived at another site where we were hoping to see a King Eider. Unfortunately, we did not find one, although we DID spot a Black-bellied Plover, a Bald Eagle and its nest, a Northern Shoveler, and a Northern Pintail, just to name a few. There were large flocks of maybe 70 or more individuals. Most were White-winged Scoters and Black Scoters, but there where also Redheads, American Wigeons, Long-tailed Ducks, Gadwalls, and Barrow’s Goldeneyes.

In the end, I learned a lot about birds and how to recognize them. It was lots of fun; I would definitely recommend birding and will be doing it whenever I get the chance. All of the results were posted to eBird, a popular database that you can report your own results to.

Birding in Gatineau Park’s Parkway Sector

by Justin Peter

Report on an OFNC excursion led by Justin Peter and Carlos Barbery, 13 June 2015

From Gillian Shields: "Great crowd for the bird walk. We've already seen Black-billed Cuckoo!" — with Carlos Barbery and Justin Peter at Gatineau Park.

From Gillian Shields: “Great crowd for the bird walk. We’ve already seen Black-billed Cuckoo!” — with Carlos Barbery and Justin Peter at Gatineau Park.

Balmy temperatures and clear skies greeted 40+ OFNC members and friends who joined today’s Birding in Gatineau Park’s Parkway Sector excursion for its third annual installment.

As usual, we started by watching birds while still at our meeting point of P8 parking lot. We honed in on a singing Nashville Warbler by the parking lot (but without seeing it successfully) and discovered that Black-capped Chickadees were nesting in a cavity excavated in a fence post right by the Gatineau Parkway (apparently they were there last year, but I had forgotten!).

Black-billed Cuckoo photographed by Derek Dunnett

Black-billed Cuckoo photographed by Derek Dunnett

We continued along toward the “P8 Beaver Pond” and made what would likely be our best sighting for the day: a Black-billed Cuckoo flycatching and hawking for prey by an aromatic stand of Balsam Poplars. Though not quite everyone got to see it, most did and we were thrilled at this event. Some even managed photos of this elusive skulking bird!

Other highlights early on included an Eastern Kingbird fearlessly confronting a Merlin high overhead and a young male Purple Finch (entirely devoid of any purple tones) that appeared to be including a number of imitations of other birds’ vocalizations into his own.

Indigo Bunting photographed by Derek Dunnett

Indigo Bunting photographed by Derek Dunnett

Good parking lot birding continued to be the theme at Champlain Lookout where everyone got views of a male Indigo Bunting perched high. It’s always a highlight and one we expect at some point. Although we did not manage any views of Mourning Warblers this year as in previous years, we got ample opportunity to hear the “churlee-churlee-chorlee” song of a couple of individuals.

Perhaps todays’ most bizarre event was a Common Raven walking along our quiet forest trail a short distance ahead of us and appearing uncharacteristically unwary of us, despite the short distance between it and us. A short distance further, we enjoyed a Blue-headed Vireo making its “call-and-answer-with-interjected-sneeze” song at close range.

All in all it was a successful day with a total of 63 species observed by some or all of the participants. Thanks go out to all the participants who brought along their enthusiasm for birds and the Park and lent their eyes and ears to the effort!


Laid Back Birding

by Bev McBride

The Laid Back Birding event at Mud Lake went well this morning. About 15 people tolerated the cold wind to follow me around the trails (with Dave Moore bringing up the rear).

We encountered 34 species in a good mix of spring migrants, winter visitors, and year-round residents. Migrants included Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Eastern Phoebe and Song Sparrow along with Red-winged Blackbirds and Common Grackles.

Ring-billed Gulls have returned in force, covering their nesting colonies on the north side of the Ottawa River. Turkey Vultures soared over later in the morning. As ever, the ornate Wood Ducks were a crowd-pleaser. The lone Great Blue Heron standing by the frozen pond looked annoyed. I realize I am just projecting my own feelings here.

A flock of Bohemian Waxwings at Mud Lake (photo by Norbert Haché)

A flock of Bohemian Waxwings at Mud Lake (photo by Norbert Haché)

For winter visitors, Two lingering Herring Gulls, an adult and subadult, posed on the ice for comparison. Some Common Goldeneye remain on the river. Two flocks of Bohemian Waxwings circulated around, even coming close enough for us to see identifying details (see Norbert’s photos elsewhere on this page).

Bruce di Labio who was there with his birding class alerted us to a Snowy Owl flying overhead and a few of us caught a glimpse. Downy Woodpeckers abounded, chasing each other and calling.

We heard good amounts of song as well, with American Robins, Song Sparrows, Dark-eyed Juncos, Northern Cardinals, American Goldfinches, House Finches and Red-winged Blackbirds all going at it. A few of us got a glimpse of a Sharp-shinned Hawk darting in behind the large shrubs near the bird feeders.

Thanks to all who came out and who agreed that, in spite of a long walk, the excursion still qualified as laid back birding.

The Ottawa Field-Naturalists’ Birds Committee

By Claire Elliott


The 2014-2015 OFNC Birds Committee.

Every month a dedicated group of OFNC bird enthusiasts meet at the Fletcher Wildlife Garden to discuss bird-related news in the Ottawa region and to plan bird-related events and conservation initiatives. If you have participated in a bird-related OFNC event, visited a bird feeder located in an Ottawa greenspace, or requested help with an ID from identifications@ofnc.ca, there is a good chance you have come in contact with the work of the OFNC Birds Committee.

Weekly Bird Report for Ottawa/Gatineau Region

Every week, notable sightings data is packaged into a report and disseminated on the Ontario Field Ornithologist’s OntBirds email list, the OFNC website, and the OFNC Facebook page. If you are thinking about going birding in the Ottawa region, these reports are a great resource for finding local birding hotspots at any time of year. Due to increasing and widespread concerns regarding disturbance of wildlife and property, the OFNC Birds Committee no longer reports owl sightings on the internet, though reporting of all bird occurrences to the committee is encouraged for the maintenance of local records.  Please direct your sightings to sightings@ofnc.ca.

Christmas Bird Count

Since the inaugural Ottawa event in 1920, the OFNC has participated in the Audubon Christmas Bird Count. Each December, the Birds Committee in partnership with Club des ornithologues de l’Outaouais organizes the Ottawa/Gatineau chapter of the count.  New and seasoned volunteers are encouraged to participate each year.  The 2014 report will be available shortly on the OFNC website.  As well, a write-up on the 2014 event appeared on this blog in late December.


Clementine, one of three chicks from the 2014 Data Centre brood, tests the wind, June 29, 2014.

Peregrine FalconWatch

The Ottawa Peregrine FalconWatch began in 1997 as an initiative to protect local nesting falcons and promote the recovery of the species. Each summer, volunteers monitor Peregrine chicks and wait for the young to make their first attempt at flight.  Once the young birds gain their wings, volunteers ensure the safety of chicks, rescuing them after any crashes, returning the chicks to the nest, or if necessary seeking medical attention for the chicks.  A detailed account of the last FalconWatch season can be found on the FalconWatch website.

Bird Study Group

The Birds Committee occasionally offers workshops and talks on bird-related subjects, including bird identification and biology.  The most recent Bird Study Group meeting took place in early December covering winter bird field identification skills in preparation for the 2014 Christmas Bird Count.  If you would like to be put on the email list for future Bird Study Group meetings, send an email to birdstudy@ofnc.ca.

These 13 migrating birds flew into a glass building in Kanata this morning. No one likes looking at dead birds. Let's support F.L.A.P. and see if we can prevent this.

These thirteen migrating birds flew into a glass building in Kanata. Let’s support F.L.A.P. and see if we can prevent bird-building collisions.


The Ottawa chapter of the Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP) was founded in 2014 by Anouk Hoedeman of the OFNC Birds Committee.  This group aims to document bird-building collisions in Ottawa during spring and fall migration, while concurrently raising awareness of collision prevention and bird-friendly building design. For her work, Anouk was awarded the 2014 OFNC Conservation Award. New volunteers to FLAP are always needed.  Please contact FLAP at Ottawa@flap.org if you are interested in getting involved this spring.

The Ontario Field Ornithologists’ Convention 2014

In October 2014, the Ontario Field Ornithologists held their annual convention in Ottawa.  Many Birds Committee members actively participated in this event, leading field excursions and helping to contribute to the 152 species observed over the weekend.  Recently, Birds Committee member Bob Cermak was awarded the OFNC President’s Prize for his contribution to the convention for organizing the OFNC-led field trips.


The backyard feeder with a Black-capped Chickadee visitor at Fletcher Wildlife Garden.

Bird Feeders

There are six winter bird feeders in the Ottawa/ Gatineau region that are maintained by the Birds Committee.   Maps of the feeder locations can be found on the OFNC website.  Stop by to enjoy some winter birds!

If you would like to learn more about the OFNC Birds Committee and their past and present activities, you are encouraged to visit OFNC birding and bird sightings webpages. Membership information on the committee can be found in the April-June issue of Trail and Landscape. Lastly, if you bump into any birds committee members at a meeting or on an outing, feel free to ask about the committee and its activities!

OFNC hosts Ontario birders’ convention in Ottawa

By Linda Burr

OFNC member, Mark Patry, and colleague, Manson Fleguel, led Friday's excursion to Westmeath Provincial Park and area. Photo by Mark Brenchley

OFNC member, Mark Patry, and colleague, Manson Fleguel, led Friday’s excursion to Westmeath Provincial Park and area. Photo by Mark Brenchley

Last weekend, a gathering of some rather exceptional “species” took place in Ottawa. I am referring, of course, to the annual convention of some of this province’s most enthusiastic birders. From September 26 to 28, the OFNC played host to some 230 members of the Ontario Field Ornithologists (OFO), who chose Ottawa for their annual convention this year. The three-day weekend included a full slate of field trips and evening programs designed to delight birders of all levels of interest and ability.

Local experts shared with OFO participants their intimate knowledge of the region’s best birding spots and their expertise in spotting and identifying birds. Twenty-eight field trips provided ample opportunity for participants to scour the region in search of new species, and the fine weather made for optimal viewing conditions.

Young birders from the Ontario Field Ornithologists convention chasing an Orange-crowned Warbler and a Blue-headed Vireo at Shirley's Bay. Photo by Gillian Shields

Young birders from the Ontario Field Ornithologists convention chasing an Orange-crowned Warbler and a Blue-headed Vireo at Shirley’s Bay. Photo by Gillian Shields

One of the traditions of the annual convention is a tally of all bird species found over the course of the three days. As of Saturday evening, at least 135 species had been tallied – an impressive number, especially considering that unusually high water levels on the Ottawa River had flooded out traditional shorebird haunts. Highlights included multiple sightings of a lone Ross’s Goose at Andrew Hayden Park, several White-fronted Geese at the Moodie quarry ponds, and migrating waterfowl and warblers. Be sure the check the OFNC bird sightings this week for a full report.

Another great feature of this year’s convention was a focus on young birders, with youth-oriented activities and outings. Many participants were impressed with the birding skills of these young people. It was wonderful to see the ways in which OFO is nurturing Ontario’s next generation of birding enthusiasts.

Evening programs on Friday and Saturday provided opportunities for OFO members to meet other birders from across Ontario and for old friends to get re-acquainted. Friday evening’s program of “Birds and Beers” included birding “Jeopardy” and a presentation by Bruce Di Labio on the birds of Ottawa Region.

OFNC members, Justin Peter and Carlos Barbery, led a walk at the Britannia Conservation Area. Photo by Gillian Shields

OFNC members, Justin Peter and Carlos Barbery, led a walk at the Britannia Conservation Area. Photo by Gillian Shields

At the Saturday evening banquet, OFNC President Fenja Brodo officially welcomed OFO members to Ottawa. The program featured Chris Earley, the University of Guelph Arboretum’s Interpretive Biologist, as he gave an inspiring presentation on the ways in which our love of birds can be used to help people connect with the natural world. Clive Goodwin was honoured as this year’s recipient of OFO’s Distinguished Ornithologist award.

All in all, the OFO convention was a great success, thanks to Bob Cermak and the many members of the OFNC who played a key role in organizing this year’s gathering.

Education and Publicity Committee members, Linda Burr (pictured) and Mark Brenchley (the photographer) staffed the OFNC display during Saturday evening's festivities.

Education and Publicity Committee members, Linda Burr (pictured) and Mark Brenchley (the photographer) staffed the OFNC display during Saturday evening’s festivities.

Birding in the south end

Grasshopper Sparrow seen on a recent OFNC field trip to the open area south of Ottawa airport

Grasshopper Sparrow seen on a recent OFNC field trip to the open area south of Ottawa airport

by Heather Oake Pickard

I attended the excellent OFNC event held yesterday (May 28) in the fields near the airport – a guided birding trip for rare sparrows and other local birds. Many thanks to trip leader Gord Belyea and his assistants.

Highlights for me included great looks at Grasshopper Sparrow, Clay-colored Sparrow, Field Sparrow, and Alder Flycatcher. I saw 44 species of birds and enjoyed the vocalizations and songs of many of them.

Here is a photo I took of a Clay-colored Sparrow. What a beautiful sparrow it is!

Clay-colored Sparrow, photographed south of the Ottawa airport by Heather Oake Pickard

Clay-colored Sparrow, photographed south of the Ottawa airport by Heather Oake Pickard

Bobolink on a fence south of the airport, photo by Heather Oake Pickard

Bobolink on a fence south of the airport, photo by Heather Oake Pickard