Wildlife Notes: June 2018
Foxes have been the talk of the western part of the Village, New Edinburgh and Lindenlea this season with many sightings of one or more handsome adults, hunting in daylight. On April 6, a fox was spotted running across MacKay into the grounds of Rideau Hall. Two days later Tazim Lal saw one carrying food from Pine Hill/Lisgar Road into the Princess side of the grounds. The next day Joni Hamlin’s children saw one carrying a squirrel on Springfield in the direction of St. Brigid’s School. Susan Sweeney Hermon saw one with a squirrel near the French embassy on April 18. Alison Green noticed a fox going through her yard at the south end of Manor on several occasions. Starting on April 19, Elise Aylen videoed a fox carrying a squirrel on Lindenlea Road sidewalk near Springfield on three occasions; each time trotting west in the direction of Rideau Hall. On another occasion the video shows the fox trotting along the sidewalk in the opposite direction – but not carrying anything. This is strong evidence for the den being west of Springfield, most likely in the grounds of Rideau Hall. John McPherson took the photo above of an adult carrying a squirrel on Wood Avenue on April 21. The food carrying would have been to provide for the young. The risks of hunting in broad daylight where there are people and dogs were evidently outweighed by the value of catching squirrels that are only available during the day.
On April 26, Lise Ouimet saw two foxes, one large the other quite small. On May 5, Adrienne Blair saw an adult with three young opposite the Princess gate of Rideau Hall. That clinched the evidence of successful breeding.
Ravens have been my highlight this spring. On March 13 I noticed that a pair had built a nest high in the communications tower above the public school: One bird was sitting, the second arrived and transferred something to the bill of the sitter. The next day the sitter repeatedly pulled at and rearranged the surrounding sticks. For the next month, each time I checked I could see a tail sticking up, so a bird was incubating. On April 14, two birds were present, one perched on the side of the nest, the other on the top of the tower. They reacted to our laying out tarpaulins to keep icy rain off the lawn where the Spring Book Sale tent was to go behind the Community Centre. Both birds called, the one on the nest made a shallow dive towards us, but swerved well above. The only sighting since then was of a bird above the nest on April 19. So the nesting attempt failed, approximately when hatching should have occurred. This may be only the second breeding attempt by Ravens in Rockcliffe. My observations started in 1969, and the first nesting I saw was in 2009, described in the May and July Wildlife Notes. That nest was on the front of 585 Acacia. It was abandoned between May 2 and 17. It is unlikely that these great birds of legend ever nested in the settlement of Rockcliffe prior to that year because they only began to breed in the Ottawa region after the 1960s. They now have many nesting sites within the City limits.
A flight of 11 Wood Duck males swung over the marsh and flooded trees on the east side of the lake on April 13, announcing their arrival with squealing calls before settling into the water below the trees – the only open water at that date. The lake was almost entirely ice covered until the 26th. Every first sighting in spring of these extraordinarily beautiful birds is a treasure. But those ducks were at a distance. On May 13, as I watched from the boardwalk overlooking the lake inlet, a male Magnolia Warbler appeared on a twig close to me, flitting for a moment into a shaft of strong early morning sunshine that lit up its striped yellow breast, a flare of colour against the dark background.
The Tree Swallows are back and it looks as though at least one box in the east marsh and three on the west shore are being used.
Anthony Keith, 16 May 2018