By Gregory Zbitnew; photos by participant Suzanne Hawkins

(Editor’s note: Gregory submitted his text long ago, just after the trip; as did Suzanne submit the photos. It’s all my fault that it’s being posted so late. Thank you very much to Gregory and Suzanne! BM)

The third annual “birding in the bleak midwinter” field trip took place on the Rideau River on February 1, 2020.  Nine participants enjoyed a surprisingly mild, windless day.  A mild winter so far meant that unusually long stretches of the river were open. The first leg started at the Hurdman Bridge and was a walk to the Rideau Athletic Facility and back. The second leg was a brief stop at the Rideau River at Billings Bridge where we carefully studied the large DUCK flock for anything different.

Common Merganser female (left) and male on the Rideau River

The “heat island” effect of this area was finally evident when a YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER was briefly heard and glimpsed just south of the Rideau Athletic Facility.  Unfortunately it did not stick around for general viewing.  However, this bird was first reported in the area on January 30th, and was seen by another person later that morning so there is an excellent chance that it will be around for a while.  That same person saw a BELTED KINGFISHER shortly after the OFNC party had moved on, so that was an unfortunate miss by us.

Other than this the land birds were in fairly short supply, and nothing else out of the ordinary was seen.  The river, however, was very good to us.  We had excellent looks of a male HOODED MERGANSER, 2 male BARROW’S GOLDENEYE, and 3 other common species of DUCK.

A Common Goldeneye gives a rare view from beneath

We were also lucky at Billings Bridge, where were saw all the “good stuff” that has been seen there this winter, specifically the pair of WOOD DUCKS, the female HOODED MERGANSER, and the somewhat elusive but elegantly plumaged male NORTHERN PINTAIL.

So, while it was definitely the bleak mid-winter, with 8 species of DUCK and 8 other species of birds, the birding itself was not bleak at all.