Life Bird #473
December 21st, 2017
The next day I tried again and hit gold. The Black-Throated Gray Warbler
appeared east of the ridge. Many birders that day enjoyed good views and, for
the camera-equipped, photo ops as it actively foraged in a stand of buckthorn.
Black-Throated Gray Warbler breeds in the west from Arizona and New Mexico, up
to the southwestern tip of British Columbia. It prefers pine and mixed
oak-pine forests. Like most warblers, it is a dedicated insectivore (although,
as suggested by its attraction to buckthorns at Mud Lake, it will also take
the occasional berry.) This bird is often considered part of a "superspecies"
with the closely related warblers Black-Throated Green (our local
representative), Townsend's, Hermit, and Golden-Cheeked. It is the least
colorful of the bunch (unsurprising for a southwest bird), but still has a
certain somber handsomeness about it and a little spot of color, especially on
. The one in Ottawa was probably a young (first-year) bird.
Sadly, but not unexpectedly, this lost waif was not able to contend with an
Ottawa winter. It did surprisingly well for awhile, until the big snow
arrived. That morning, Bruce di Labio went to Mud Lake and found it lying
motionless at the base of a tree. He picked it up and cradled it in his hand
to try to warm it, but it was too late. A silver lining on the cloud is that
now the Royal Ontario Museum has a specimen for a very rare bird in our
I find it interesting that the same man who found the warbler was the man who
was there to try to rescue it in its final moments. It was the same with the
Bullock's Oriole in Pakenham: Ray Holland found it, and Ray Holland was there
to rescue it when the winter turned harsh. (And for the oriole the ending was
happy: it was eventually released in British Columbia after convalescing at
the Wild Bird Care Centre.) Even though many, many people went to see both
birds, those men were there when it counted. It speaks to their dedication and
their skill as field-naturalists.
And now for more photographs from Mud Lake.
Wood Duck (female)
Wood Duck (male)
Fox Sparrows only appear in Ottawa in migration. This one was a little late
moving on to its wintering grounds (but much better able to deal with being
late than an insectivorous warbler.) It was in with a group of White-Throated
Sparrows and Dark-Eyed Juncos, all coming out to forage on birdseed that
someone had scattered on the trail. But it was much shyer than they, quickly
darting back undercover whenever a human got close. I've only managed a few
photos of this bashful sparrow (one of my favorites) over the years, and I
still haven't gotten one that I'm truly happy with.