NeilyWorld  Birding Ottawa - Southwest - Ottawa River West: Ontario

(Andrew Haydon Park East)

Spring: **  Summer: **  Fall: ***  Winter: *

        Independent Directions to this Site: From Highway 417 (The Queensway) take exit 129 (Greenbank & Pinecrest Roads). If travelling west, the 0.3 km offramp dumps you right or north onto Pinecrest Road. If driving east, a 0.3 km offramp brings you to Pinecrest/Greenbank Road, where you will turn left or north onto Pinecrest Road and in 0.4 km join the westbound offramp traffic. Both groups will now follow Pinecrest Road north 1.0 km from here to Carling Avenue. Turn left or west on Carling and go 1.7 km to the turnoff for the parking lot for Ottawa Beach on the right or north. Turn right into the lot.
        Ottawa River West: Ontario Route Directions: From the Britannia Pier and Britannia Beach parking lot, return south on Greenview Avenue 1.2 km to Carling Avenue. Turn right or west on Carling and go 1.7 km to the turnoff for a parking lot on the right or north. Turn right into the lot. Welcome to Ottawa Beach.

Airborne Image  and Map of Ottawa Beach
Airborne Image and Map of Ottawa Beach

        Site Description and Birding Information: Though a children's playground has taken precedence over the environment here, it is still one of the top spots along the river for waterfowl and shorebird viewing. There is a viewing platform which allows views of the rafts of geese and dabbling ducks along the shore to the east. These birds can be viewed more closely by following the bike path to the east toward the previous site along this route, Britannia Pier (this area can also be seen from the north end of Scrivens Street). The main attraction is the spit of bare sand and its sheltered cove of mud which, when the water is low enough to allow exposure, attract a variety of shorebirds, gulls and terns during their migrations. The viewing platform is not as useful for shorebirds, so you may wish to walk out to the spit. The trail begins at the west end of the parking area and follows the creek to the spit. Be careful, there are often unexpected holes and ditches. There are a few semi-trails into the marsh. The creek outflow and trees along the bike path can be checked for migrants.
         Ottawa Beach is not often productive of shorebirds in the spring, water levels are usually too high. However, in late summer and fall, when the spit and mud flats in the cove are exposed, it is excellent. This spot has hosted all our regular common shorebirds (Killdeer; Black-bellied and Semipalmated Plover; Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs; Least, Semipalmated and Pectoral Sandpiper; Dunlin and Sanderling) and had repeated visits from many of the less common among them such as Short-billed Dowitcher (late Jul. - Sep), White-rumped Sandpiper (Aug. - Oct.), Ruddy Turnstone (late Jul. - mid Oct.), Lesser Golden Plover (Aug. - Oct., mostly in Sep.), Baird's Sandpiper (mid Aug. - Sep., mostly late Aug.), Red-necked Phalarope (late Jul. - Sep), Stilt Sandpiper (mid Aug. - mid Sep.), Red Knot (early Aug. - mid Sep., usually 1 to 5 with one flock of 37), Whimbrel (late Jul. - early Sep., also seen late May - early Jun., sometimes in small flocks, best chance is during or immediately after a thunderstorm) and Red Phalarope (Sep.). Repeat visits have taken place for the even rarer Hudsonian Godwit (Aug. - Oct), Western Sandpiper (Aug. - early Sep., mostly singles) and Buff-breasted Sandpiper (Aug. - Sep.). Piping Plover has occured twice (Aug. 14, 1974 & Sep. 7, 1983) and Willet (Jul. 29, 1990) and Ruff (a Reeve, Jul. 24, 1987) once each.
         Gulls and terns regularly take advantage of the spit (when exposed) to roost. Herring, Ring-billed and Great Black-backed Gulls are common roosters. In early winter, before freeze up, Iceland and Glaucous Gulls may visit. Common Tern (May - Sep.) and Bonaparte's Gull (Jul. - Oct.), along with less common Lesser Black-backed Gull (mostly Oct. & Nov.), Caspian Tern (possible mid Apr. - mid Oct., records here from early Jun. - late Sep.), Little Gull (possible from late Apr. to early Sep., more likely in Ottawa in May & Jun. but seen here at the extremes) and Franklin's Gull (possible May through Nov., more likely in Jun. & Sep., most records here late Aug. - early Oct.; most recently Sep. 14, 2005) have made repeat visits to this location. Sightings of Laughing Gull (Oct. 15, 1985), Thayer's Gull (Jul. 31, 1988 & Oct. 26, 2004), Mew Gull (Oct. 6 - 9 [14], 1991), Vega Gull (Nov. 17, 2004), Forster's Tern (May 28, 1982) and Arctic Tern (Sep. 5, 1988) have taken place at Ottawa Beach. Pomarine Jaeger (Oct. 19, 1973, juvenile Sep. 30, 2006), Parasitic Jaeger (Sep. 19, 1973, Sep. 26, 2001 & Sep. 3, 2010), and Long-tailed Jaeger (Aug. 11-12, 2007) have all been spotted from here. First year Northern Gannets passed here on Oct. 14, 1992 and Nov. 15, 2007.
         As previously mentioned, there is a platform for viewing the waterfowl that gather along the shore here. Large flocks of geese extend eastward from the spit all the way to Britannia Pier during the autumn. These birds are nearly all Canada Geese, sometimes numbering over 10,000; but normally in the hundreds. In September and October there are sometimes Snow Geese associated with them, usually singles or very small groups, but sometimes 50 or more. Much less often, in October and November, a Greater White-fronted Goose may be found with the Canada's. Sometimes these birds will tarry with this flock for more than one day. Brant are seen, often in deeper water than the Canada Geese, in late May to early June and again in October and November. These flocks can range up to 200 birds, but are usually much smaller. Two Tundra Swans were seen here Apr. 14, 2009.
         Puddle ducks are often loosely associated with the geese, often feeding closer to the shore, sometimes in the cove formed by the spit. Among the abundant Mallard are a few Black Duck, Green-winged Teal, American Wigeon, Northern Pintail, Blue-winged Teal and less commonly Northern Shoveler and Gadwall. Out in the river beyond the spit one can see most of the regular and uncommon diving ducks the pass through in the fall, as well as a goodly quota of loons and grebes. October is the best month for these fowl. November can be good too. White-winged, Black & Surf Scoter; Greater & Lesser Scaup; Common & Barrow's Goldeneye; Redhead; Canvasback; Long-tailed Duck; Ruddy Duck; Common & Red-throated Loon; and Horned & Red-necked Grebe. A possible Yellow-billed Loon was reported from here (Nov. 15, 1986).
         The marsh and Graham Creek have attracted a few herons over the years. Green-backed Heron can sometimes be found along the creek. Four Black-crowned Night Heron were seen here Sep.13, 1993. A Cattle Egret stopped at the marsh Nov. 7, 1992. A Great Egret was seen here on May 10, 2003.
         Because of its position on the river, a ready food source and frequent study by birders, this spot has had a good variety of raptors reported. Peregrine Falcon (aka Duck Hawk) patrols this section of the river, especially during shorebird and duck seasons. Merlin, Cooper's Hawk and Bald Eagle also hunt here occasionally. Both Golden and Rough-legged Hawk have been seen flying over at least once.
         Snow Bunting and Lapland Longspur are sometimes seen along the shore in late fall and early winter; and American Pipit have used the shore here in migration. The treed areas to either side of the parking area and playground can be productive of passerines during migration. Olive-sided Flycatcher and Orange-crowned Warber (Oct. 26-27, 1991) are two examples. The marsh itself has produced some interesting birds, including a Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow (Oct. 3 - 5, 1998; Sep. 28 & Oct. 1, 2007) and a very late Swamp Sparrow (Dec. 16, 1973).
         Additional information on this and nearby sites is available at the Ottawa Field-Naturalists' Club website's Britannia page.
        Ottawa River West: Ontario Route Directions: From the Ottawa Beach parking lot, turn right or west on Carling Avenue and go 0.3 km to the next parking lot. Turn right or north into this lot. This is the next site, Andrew Haydon Park.
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Copyright 2000 - 2010     Larry E. Neily
Last update:  September 3, 2010