A Spring Outing

A Spring Outing

Graeme wanted to get out on the trail to obtain some high speed shots of birds in flight with his Sony NEX-FS700 with SELP18200 lens.The easiest place to do that is on the many trails in the National Capital Commission’s Greenbelt where the Chickadees and Nuthatches are quite happy to come in close and personal to obtain a sunflower seed or two from outstretched hands. Graeme was shooting at 1080p and either 240fps or 480fps. I on the other hand was shooting with my Nikon D300 and a 70-300 f2.8 lens. I restricted myself to 1 frame at a time. My finger can’t click at 480fps LOL. I hadn’t been out on the trails much this winter, so was a willing participant and offered him a hand – actually offered to hold out my hand with an offering of sunflower seeds.  The temperature has continued to be rather chilly so winter clothing was a necessity and outstretched hands can become uncomfortably cold rather quickly.


It was a Sunday, so the birds had already seen plenty of outstretched hands offering all sorts of bird seed. All along the trails, there were small piles of seed left behind by hikers and skiiers sharing the trails with the birds and the squirrels. After leaving a few seeds scattered among the snow-covered branches of the cedars alongside one portion of the trail, so that Graeme would have plenty of winged visitors to photograph, I headed further along the Sarsaparilla Trail to see if there was anything else that might catch my attention.

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There had been reports of a Barred Owl in the area and others had seen a Porcupine sleeping in the higher branches of the trees, but I saw neither. Often, when I walk along this trail, I will be greeted by a Blue Jay or two, but this particular day, the Chickadees were my only companions. There were signs that a Pileated Woodpecker had recently been hard at work, but as this large woodpecker tends to be a bit wary of humans. I suspect that this particular woodpecker had taken a few days off from its labours to avoid the weekend crowds of humans.

014_9211-Chickadee  014_9214-viewing-platform

014_9218-Pileated-holesWhen we arrived back at the parking lot, we found that someone had left a copious supply of seeds and peanuts at that spot, so we stopped again to watch the Chickadees and Red Squirrels return time after time for another bit of food to add to their cache. As we were about to leave, a Red-Breasted Nuthatch joined in and returned a few times.

014_9221-Chickadee 014_9222-Chickadee

014_9224-r-b--nuthatchOur next stop was the Bird Rescue center.  Although the sunshine was sufficient to melt some of the snow on the roof, it was still quite chilly when not in the sunshine.

014_9231Icicles-After that stop, we headed over to the Old Quarry Trail, hoping to see a White-tailed Deer or two. We saw only one doe this time around, and she was a bit skittish and raised her tail in alarm as the X/C skiiers passed by. The Chickadees and Red Squirrels were happy to entertain us, though, and in addition to a few Red-breasted Nuthatches, our more common feathered friends were also joined by one White-breasted Nuthatch. The sky was blue and the sun angle was warming, so I was able to tolerate standing with my hand out for quite a lengthy period of time, as about 20 Chickadees swooped in, one after another, to pick out their favourite seeds. Red Squirrels watched on waiting for their opportunity to run in and get something to eat.

014_9245-w-b-nuthatch  014_9253-red-squirrel 014_9256-Red-SquirrelTwo years earlier, the temperature was significantly warmer and snow had all melted away.  Not this year, though!!!  Nice to be able to interact with the birds and mammals we find along the trails and provide them with a few more seeds to help them get through the winter.

Feeding those Chickadees and Nuthatches again – Sarsaparilla Trail, Ottawa

My cycling partner was in town today so off we went to the Greenbelt Trails in search of Ottawa’s ferocious chickadees that attack the visitors’ hands in search of nourishment. They don’t really attack, but I always tell visitors that! Adds a bit to the suspense of the moment when the hand is outstretched waiting for something to happen.

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Chickadees and More – Sarsaparilla Trail – Bell’s Corners, Ottawa

Chickadees and More – Sarsaparilla Trail – Bell’s Corners, Ottawa

The Chickadees were hungry today and quickly cleaned out my supply of black sunflower seeds. Didn’t take long before two fellows came along the trail and these two fellows were even nicer than I was – their seeds were already shelled :-).

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Feeding the Chickadees, Sarsaparilla Trail, Nepean, Ontario

Feeding the Chickadees, Sarsaparilla Trail, Nepean, Ontario

Only -18C. Actually quite balmy :-).

One of the things that I enjoy about walking Ottawa’s Greenbelt trails is putting a few sunflower seeds in my bare hand and feeding the chickadees.
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Chipmunk Trail, Ottawa Greenbelt, Nepean, Ontario

Chipmunk Trail, Ottawa Greenbelt, Nepean, Ontario

A Visit to Owl Woods – Amherst Island, Ontario (April, 2006)

Amherst Island is an island on the east end of Lake Ontario and can be reached by a car ferry that leaves from the mainland on the half hour. (Location)

The trick, then , is to arrive at the dock a few minutes before the ferry arrives to pick up cars and passengers. On this particular day, we missed our turn-off point from Hwy 401 and sailed right on by. Since the 401 is a divided highway, we had to drive a fair distance before we could turn around and get back on our original plan. In the meantime, the ferry had come and gone and we had the pleasure of waiting dockside until the ferry had traveled to the island and back.

I kept myself busy looking for birds to photograph such as this Mourning Dove I found cooing in a nearby tree.

The ferry did eventually come (right on time) and it wasn’t long before lines were let loose from the dockside moorings and we left the mainland behind.

As soon as we got close enough to the island, Gerhard had his binoculars out and was scanning the shoreline for birds. I, on the other hand, was not looking at birds as being the only thing that I might like to photograph. 🙂

The first bird of interest, other than house sparrows and starlings, were the tree swallows.

The next was a lone Snowy Owl which was sitting one of a line of fence posts. I mention that it was a line of fence posts because each time that I thought that I was close enough for a good shot, the owl seemed to sense that and moved one post farther away.

The snowy owl is one of the norther diurnal owls and is often seen out in the open during the day and can often be seen swooping down on its prey during the day. My owl was just a fence-sitter today.

After I had provided enough entertainment for my birder friends, I stopped with the snowy owl and returned to the roadway ready to head out in search of something else. My birder friends had been watching the whole process thought the binoculars and thought that it was great fun to see the owl tying with the photographer!

My friends were all ready with their binoculars, so off we went into the woods in search of owls.

The Owl Woods as it is named is a section of woodlands with an area of open area of forest as well as an area of densely packed pines. The area of densely packed pines was our destination for toeay but along the way we did encounter a few other species such as woodpeckers and chickadees.

Female Hairy Woodpecker


Normally, I carry sunflower seeds in my pockets but this trip I didn’t have any. From its reaction, we determined that this Chickadee didn’t like its food gift wrapped so we unwrapped it for him and he was a a lot happier.

Although we did see lots of owl nests, we only had fleeting glimpse of owls on this particular outing so no photographs of those owls. Note on a later trip to the same location, I did obtain a beautiful photograph of a Saw Whet Owl.

While I didn’t find too many owls to photograph on this trip, with the exception of the Snowy Owl, I was really happy to get close to tow species of birds which are normally hard to see and find because they are so well camouflaged.

The first of these is the Brown Creeper which feeds on insect in among the gnarly pines and is both small and well camouflaged.

Brown Creeper

The second was the Wilson’s Snipe, a bird that frequents marsh margin land. It is often easy to hear in the Spring as it dives down from high overhead and makes a winnowing sound as wind flies through its wings. Seeing one in the air is easy once you hear one. Finding one, on the ground, is another matter as they camouflage very well with the marsh vegetation that they frequent.

Wilson’s Snipe

Although, I often see Downy Woodpeckers when out in the woods, I am always eager to see another.

Downy Woodpecker

Another beautiful Spring day to be out with friends on a birding excursion. Only question left for discussion was whether they should trim a bit or I should grow back a bit. We decided to leave the status quo as it was 🙂