Barred Owl OFNC Birds Committee
Seedathon 2001

from Chris Lewis

On Sunday September 2, the Ottawa Field-Naturalists' Club annual "Seedathon" was held. This is a "Big Day" conducted each year in early fall, to raise funds for purchasing seed for the bird feeders maintained by volunteers of the OFNC. But this year was kind of special, as it was the 20th anniversary of the event, and Bob Bracken, Bernie Ladouceur and I were proud to get out there once again, to look for as many species as we could find (and maybe even try to beat the all-time Seedathon record of 131 species which we set last year).

Well, we didn't beat any records, but we did wind up with 124 species. We blame the shorebirds in Ottawa for this shortfall — i.e., the LACK OF THEM!!! We had a pathetic and paltry 7 species of shorebirds (we had trouble squeezing out a Killdeer!) in spite of the excellent habitat in the "50K" (the Ottawa Naturalists' area, a 50 km radius from the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill). However, we suspect that the habitat may just be a bit TOO excellent, and that the shorebirds which were so numerous and accommodating just 2 weeks ago may be availing themselves of the extensive feeding grounds (in areas that are inaccessible to those who'd like to SEE them feeding). Or maybe they all just fed well and moved on south.

But we really have no reason to complain about our day. Here are some highlights.

The wee hours (4 a.m. until dawn) were chilly but clear and windless with a spectacular full moon.....and once the Owls got going, they wouldn't shut up! At least 10 Great Horned and 5 Barred Owls were calling almost continuously from the woods in the Munster area, and an Eastern Screech Owl even chimed-in briefly. The thrush migration was nothing like we experienced on the same date during last year's Seedathon, but we heard several Veerys and Swainson's Thrushes, as well as a Hermit Thrush calling near dawn. We continued to the Dunrobin area and were pleased to find several Woodpeckers (a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and 3 Pileated's within 1/2 hour) and songbird species including a family group of 5 Eastern Bluebirds.

After such an encouraging start, the aforementioned lack of shorebirds at Shirley's Bay was disappointing. Quite frankly it was DEPRESSING! Ottawa Beach (Andrew Haydon Park East) was even worse, with huge inviting sandflats — but not a single bird. Our spirits were raised at the Britannia conservation area, where we managed to find an immature Green Heron, an immature Black-Crowned Night-heron, as well as an Osprey, a Merlin, a Peregrine Falcon, a Philadelphia Vireo, and 14 species of warblers (Tennessee, Nashville, Northern Parula, Yellow, Chestnut-sided, Black-throated Blue, Yellow-rumped, Black-throated Green, Palm, Bay-breasted, Blackpoll, Black-and-white, American Redstart, and Wilson's). We had also found Pine Warbler and Common Yellowthroat prior to visiting Britannia, bringing our warbler total to 16 species for the day.

We made a noon stop at the nearest Tim Horton's (what birder doesn't appreciate "Tim" at convenient moments, whether the reason is doing a mid-big-day list total, grabbing a quick coffee or nibble, or just visting the "used coffee department"?) and we found ourselves at 104 species — not bad, but not looking good to beat last year's total. Nevertheless (damn the shorebirds, full speed ahead!) we had a great afternoon.

At the Casselman sewage lagoon, we refound the juvenile EARED GREBE which we'd discovered there the day before. At the Embrun sewage lagoon we saw one of 3 hard-won Bonaparte's Gulls, 15 resplendant Ruddy Ducks, another Merlin, and a bonus Common Moorhen. At the Russell lagoon we found nothing... except for a most excellent DRAGONFLY — a Black Saddlebags (Tramea lacerata), a rare immigrant species from the southeast, which nearly flew in our faces! This was the 4th time we've seen this odonate species in the 50K since August 25 of this year. The 1st record for Ottawa-Carleton County was found by us at Britannia on 25 August, and the 1st and 2nd records for Prescott-Russell County were individuals we saw at the Embrun lagoon on Sept. 1 and 2. There were also Wandering Gliders (Pantala flavescens) flying... but, ahem! Back to the birds.....

We had success in our traditional "sparrow field" along Leitrim Road near the Ottawa airport at 5 to 6 p.m., finding some of the "toughies" for this time of year: Clay-coloured, Field, Vesper, and Grasshopper Sparrows.

And our next-to-final stop at a pond along Moodie Drive south of the Trail Road landfill produced not only 1000s of waterfowl (mostly Canada Geese and Mallards, with a couple of American Wigeon and a Ring-necked Duck trying to hide among them) but also our 3rd Merlin, and a single VERY EARLY LESSER SNOW GOOSE.

Our truly final stop was at a patio in the Britannia area, where we tallied up our species and numbers and enjoyed the gorgeous clear evening, while we hoped that all the species we missed during the day would just fly over us... tick!... tick!... tick! Ah well, we can dream, can't we? Especially after 15 solid hours of ultimately very satisfying birding in the Ottawa 50K.

We raised at least $940 in pledges for the bird feeders and as always, every last penny is "for the birds." All who pledged will receive a letter summarizing our day, the species numbers and totals, as well as maps of the OFNC bird feeders and instructions re: sending your $$ to the OFNC.

MANY SINCERE THANKS TO ALL WHO CONTRIBUTED!!! The birds as well as all the people who enjoy the OFNC appreciate your donations.

Here's to another 20 years!

Many thanks again from Chris Lewis, Bob Bracken and Bernie Ladouceur, Ottawa

P.S. Anyone interested in directions to the abovementioned locations in the Ottawa area, please e-mail Chris Lewis at weewa@primus.ca

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