Barred Owl OFNC Birds Committee
Seedathon 2004

from Bob Bracken, Bernie Ladouceur and Chris Lewis

On Sunday Sept. 5th we conducted the 23rd annual Seedathon (our team's 5th), and once again we were proud to carry on the time-honoured tradition of a "big day in the 50 K" for a good cause - raising funds to purchase seed for the Club's bird feeders.

Fortunately, birding is not yet an Olympic sport. We certainly wouldn't have won any medals for record highs this year. However, we did have a day full of highlights. As usual, we started in the Munster area before dawn, and we were rewarded with 9 Great Horned and 2 Barred Owls, American Woodcock, Whip-poor-will, several migrating Veerys and Swainson's Thrushes, as well as a Northern Mockingbird. A thrilling chorus of Coyotes greeted us near the south end of Munster Rd. at daybreak (we wish we could count mammals but we do have to follow the rules, even in this non-Olympic event). Another treat in the early morning was a group of 17 Wild Turkeys - 15 youngsters attended by 2 adult hens - farther north along Munster Rd.

The shorebirds that were so plentiful during the preceding weeks at Shirleys Bay had almost totally cleared out, but the 6 GREAT EGRETS (an unprecedented number for Ottawa) here since at least Sept. 1st were a fine consolation prize. Waterfowl numbers other than the monopoly of Mallards were also low on the Ottawa River as well as the Embrun and St. Albert sewage lagoons. In spite of the inviting-looking habitats, the birds just weren't there.

Our most productive area for songbirds this year was not Britannia, but the Thomas Dolan Parkway in the Carp Hills, where a few roadside stops yielded 10 species of warblers, as well as 1 Blue-headed and 2 Philadelphia Vireos. Poor Britannia coughed up only a handful of Yellow-rumped Warblers, though she did redeem herself somewhat with a Willow Flycatcher (rare in fall).

Nevertheless, we consider that many of these shortfalls compared to previous years were more than compensated by a spectacular surprise. At high noon we visited one of the ponds on Moodie Drive south of the Trail Rd. Landfill where we found 38 Ruddy Ducks, an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull and ….a juvenile SABINE'S GULL!!! We observed this very rare gull (the 1st record for Ottawa since the late 1980's) for 10 minutes, planning to initiate a Rare Bird Alert ASAP so that others could enjoy it as well. But our excitement turned into dismay as the bird began to fly higher and higher, finally disappearing to the south, probably never to be seen again. We did our duty, spending nearly half an hour trying to find a pay-phone to put out the Alert (yes, we're all dinosaurs without cell phones). Then we proceeded with our prime directive: The Seedathon. The show must go on.

A mid-afternoon venture into the "sparrow fields" south of the international airport was successful for all the expected species except Clay-coloured Sparrow. Our subsequent visits to the two aforementioned sewage lagoons revealed that the ponds were nearly devoid of avian life-forms. A single American Coot, and a Merlin snacking on the swallows were our only noteworthy sightings.

For the 1st time in our team's history we birded in la belle province. The marshes west of Masson were a refreshingly pleasant area to wind down our day. As sunset approached, we added Common Moorhen, Virginia Rail, Marsh Wren and Sedge Wren, and simply enjoyed this extensive and beautiful wetland. We ended our day back in downtown Ottawa, with one of our home-grown juvenile Peregrine Falcons roosting on the Crowne Plaza Hotel at dusk.

Altogether we spent 15 hours out and about. We drove 325 km, walked approx. 10 km, and tallied 116 species. And who could complain about the perfect weather? If only a Sabine's Gull and a pack of Coyotes could count for more "points"……Never mind. We enjoyed a great day for a good purpose - and we'll do it again next year!

We encourage everyone to visit the OFNC feeders at: the Fletcher Wildlife Garden on Prince of Wales Drive, the Mer Bleue on Dolman Ridge Road, the Pine Grove Trail on Davidson Road, the Jack Pine Trail on Moodie Drive, and the Canadian Museum of Nature on Pink Rd. in Aylmer, QC. The museum feeders are jointly supplied by the OFNC and the Club des Ornithologues de l'Outaouais.

On behalf of the Ottawa Field-Naturalists' Club and all the birds, we thank you for your support!

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This page was revised on 12 January 2005
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