December 7th, 2018
My final set of photos.
Blue Flag iris
This spring and summer I went exploring in a new corner of Marlborough Forest.
I found a vast wetland, and within it, a large pond that was almost an exact
double of Roger's Pond--so much so that it disoriented me at first! (I later
learned that their similarity is due to both having been constructed by Ducks
Unlimited.) After the initial discovery, I returned many times. So much
birding magic happened at that site. Pied-billed Grebes and Ring-necked Ducks
breeding on the same pond. Willow Flycatchers and Alder Flycatchers singing
side by side. American Bitterns getting in aerial fights. One day a pair of
Trumpeter Swans flew by, and I wondered, with some excitement, if they
intended to breed nearby. (I never saw them again, though.) On another day, I
arrived in the early morning and took a fox by surprise.
Grebes are feisty birds as a rule, and Pied-billed Grebes, despite their
diminutive size, are no exception. The breeding pair on this pond were like
phantoms, abundantly heard but seldom seen, but the one thing that helped me
find them was the Ring-necked Ducks. Whenever the ducks suddenly flushed, I
learned to check the spot where they had just taken off from, and like as not
I'd see a Pied-billed Grebe with just its neck and head sticking up, like a
snake in the water. Grebes launch sneak underwater attacks using their sharp
bills as weapons. I've read that some waterfowl will flush as soon as they see
a grebe duck under anywhere near them.
Marsh Wrens nested in the cattails. One wren nest was actually visible from
the trail, with a wren occasionally visible as it snuck into and out of it.
(This is an elusive bird that I seldom manage to actually spot.)
Around this time I was already winding down from nature photography, so I
didn't capture most of what I saw. But I was happy to be able to capture this
handsome fellow, who was swimming along the edge of the pond one day. As he
slid gracefully through the water, I followed on shore and snapped picture
Northern Water Snake
My big aspiration for next spring is to finally go exploring Richmond
. Richmond Fen is a huge wetland, one of the biggest fens in eastern
Ontario, famous among Ottawa birders for its breeding Sedge Wrens and, once
upon a time, breeding Yellow Rails, the only known spot for that elusive
species in the Ottawa area. (No one knows why, but they've disappeared. Now
Yellow Rails are unheard of here.) There is no easy way to get into it. You
can canoe into it in spring when the Jock River is high, if you're good at
canoeing. You can walk into it by trespassing along an active Via Rail line
with fast-moving passenger trains, which seems a bad idea for multiple
reasons. And there's also a trail between the ends of Kettles Road and
Goodstown Road...which is said to be very, very flooded. Not flooded as in
rubber boots. Flooded as in hip waders.
Richmond Fen has a mystique for me. The inaccessibility just makes it all the
more interesting. I was intrigued earlier this year when I found out that it
is essentially the northeastern extension of Marlborough Forest--you can see
it on Google Maps in terrain view, that MF + Richmond Fen is really just one
big contiguous green space. At the same time I realized that the place where I
discovered that Showy Ladyslipper colony
--the place that fascinated me
with how fenny it felt--was in fact very close to Richmond Fen, arguably the
southernmost finger of it.
So this spring, I'm making a concerted effort to go there, to get into the
heart of the fen. I don't know how. I'm not an experienced canoer--not really
a canoer at all--and any time I bring up the subject with people who are
canoers, their interest evaporates as soon as I mention that a river is
involved, and that the river does, technically, have rapids. Maybe it's time
to buy hip waders!
And that's about it, at least until I decide to take up the camera again.
(Although if you have an interest in reading stories-sans-photos, let me
know.) I have done a massive rehaul of my gallery
recent months: deleted much cruft, changed to zoomed-in thumbnails, and put
all my best work (or at least what I consider my best work) up front. I'm very
happy with the results. So if you haven't visited in awhile, you may want to
have a look!