Last week I had what I would describe as an almost perfect day of fall migration bird-watching at Britannia Conservation Area. I managed to wake up relatively early without an alarm or any plans to go look for birds. I felt energized, the wind was blowing from the north so I grabbed my binoculars and camera and headed out the door.
Britannia Conservation Area
I live very close to Britannia Conservation Area which is one of Ottawa’s birding hot-spots. It’s an amazing area of forest and wetlands that’s right alongside the Ottawa river. It’s also an awesome migrant trap. If you live in Ottawa or anywhere nearby, this is THE place you want to head to for spring and fall migration birding.
I entered Britannia from one of the back entrances along the bike path (see bottom of page for a map↓). Within minutes I could hear the sounds of a mixed flock of songbirds. Chickadees were calling, warblers were chipping and woodpeckers were tapping. I quietly moved along the darkly lit trail and got my first glimpse of this Blue-headed Vireo. First bird of the day and a lifer! My heart was racing as I quickly focused my camera and reduced the shutter speed to get a few clicks of this gorgeous bird.
I also saw a Black-and-white Warbler, a Warbling Vireo and a Red-eyed Vireo in this flock. The birds were frantically eating and quickly moving deeper into the forest.
I continued north along the trail into some sunnier areas of a sumac field. You really feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere in this part of Britannia which can be a bit creepy on your own! However, the birds were active and I got some nice views of a Least Flycatcher, Yellow and Yellow-rumped Warblers, a Juvenile Pine Warbler and a brightly coloured male Baltimore Oriole in full orange plumage. I also saw a Scarlet Tanager and a Rose-breasted Grosbeak. Not bad! The icing on the cake was Juvenile Cedar Waxwing landing right beside me with a berry in its mouth. Click, click, click – this could be the photo of the day!
I left the sumac and headed towards Cassels Street on the trail that goes alongside Mud Lake. I ran into another photographer there who very excitedly said,
I’ll show you a picture on my camera of a bird I just saw – and it will blow you away!
I was pretty thrilled about my Blue-headed Vireo lifer photograph at this point, so I said it would have to be something pretty impressive to top that. He turned his camera screen towards me and there was a picture of a Barred Owl. Wow! A surprise and unexpected visitor.
I followed this photographer along the ridge to the spot where he had last seen the Owl. Nothing. We continued along the trail alongside the river and bingo, there was the Barred Owl roosting in a tree. Awesome! I got some really close up views and photographs, but I didn’t hang around long as the Owl was trying to sleep and we didn’t want too many photographers disturbing it.
Cassells Street and Ridge
I made my way back down Cassels street and I noticed some warblers at eye-level in the trees alongside the road. I stopped to take some pictures and these warblers came even closer to me. So close I could almost touch them! A Black-throated Blue and a Magnolia. Then I noticed the entire flock of warblers was lining the trees on both sides of the street. I went up on the ridge to cut them off and got amazing and close-up views of Tennessee, Blackburnian, Chesnut-sided, Northern Parula, Bay-breasted and Black-throated Green Warblers.
At this point in the day I was starting to get tired, it has been non-stop action all morning! I decided to make my way back home along the trail beside Mud Lake and then back onto the garden path to the back entrance of Britannia. While I was walking along I saw a Magnolia Warbler on the path trying to catch an insect. On the path! That’s the type of perfect day I was having.
Things were quiet in the middle of Britannia, I didn’t come across any more mixed flocks of migrants. But, when I started walking along the garden path, named because you walk along a row of houses that backs onto the conservation area, I noticed some warbler action in some shrubs low to the ground. I investigated further and there was a sprinkler running in the backyard of one of the houses. The birds were going nuts flying through and bathing themselves in the water! I saw a pair of Nashville Warblers and a Blackpoll Warbler fully bathing themselves in a pool of water that had formed. There were other warblers including a Magnolia and Blackburnian flying in and out of the spraying water.
This video I took is adorable:
It was an unreal and special way to end my perfect day of fall migration birding.
What Birds Did I see? Click here for the Bird List.
Map of My Route: