Waterbird Migration in the Nation’s Capital

Throughout October and November, waterbird viewing in the Nation’s Capital provides a birder with many joys and ID challenges. Millions of birds travel along a major waterway in this region: the Ottawa River.  In this post,  I will detail a “when to see” list for species/groups of waterbirds in the Nation’s Capital. In the fall, the passage of a cold front tends to bring with it many waterbirds. The passage of such a front followed by a downpour means getting to the river is an absolute must (if you have the time for birding, of course). What rain does is drop waterbirds to the river and halt their journey until the skies have once again cleared. It is possible to see large rafts of loons and ducks on the river when these events occur. In all honesty, however, a visit to the shoreline of the Ottawa River anytime during October-November regardless of weather may produce some interesting sightings. I have put together some Line Graphs using eBird’s very useful Explore Data option. These graphs provide information as to when the peak passage of certain species occurs. As for where to see ducks, consider their habits. If you’re looking for dabbling ducks, consider visiting sewage lagoons, flooded fields, quarry ponds and shallower waterways like the Ottawa River at Ottawa Beach and Petrie Island or the Rideau River, esp. at Dow’s Lake in the fall. If you’re looking for diving ducks, loons and grebes then viewing the Ottawa River from Shirleys Bay, Andrew Haydon Park, Britannia Pier and Bate Island would all be good ideas.

 Dabbling Ducks

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Photo: Mallard, American Black Duck and Green-winged Teal. October – November, all years, Ottawa County, Ontario.

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Photo: Green-winged Teal and Blue-winged Teal. An illustration of the steep drop off in numbers of Blue-winged Teal in October. Blue-winged Teal migrate earlier than Green-winged. October – November, all years, Ottawa County, Ontario.

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Photo: American Wigeon and Gadwall. October – November, all years, Ottawa County, Ontario.

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Photo: Eurasian Wigeon (Totals). October – November, all years, Ottawa County, Ontario.

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Photo: Northern Shoveler. October – November, all years, Ottawa County, Ontario.

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Photo: Northern Pintail. October – November, all years, Ottawa County, Ontario.

Diving Ducks: Sea Ducks

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Photo: Scoters (Black, Surf and White-winged) tend to peak in sync

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Photo: Common Goldeneye and Bufflehead. October – November, all years, Ottawa County, Ontario.

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Photo: Barrow’s Goldeneye. October – November, all years, Ottawa County, Ontario.

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Photo: Harlequin Duck. October – November, all years, Ottawa County, Ontario.

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Photo: Long-tailed Duck. October – November, all years, Ottawa County, Ontario.

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Photo: Common and Red-breasted Meganser. October – November, all years, Ottawa County, Ontario.

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Photo: Hooded Merganser. October – November, all years, Ottawa County, Ontario.

Diving Ducks: Aythya

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Photo: Canvasback. October – November, all years, Ottawa County, Ontario.

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Photo: Redhead. October – November, all years, Ottawa County, Ontario.

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Photo: Ring-necked Duck. October – November, all years, Ottawa County, Ontario.

scaup

Photo: Greater and Lesser Scaup (and Scaup sp.). October – November, all years, Ottawa County, Ontario.

Loons

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Photo: Common Loon. October – November, all years, Ottawa County, Ontario.

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Photo: Red-throated Loon. I chose Totals vs. Frequency to showcase what I believe to be quite representative of this species’ peak passage through our area. October – November, all years, Ottawa County, Ontario.

Grebes

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Photo: Red-necked and Horned Grebe. October – November, all years, Ottawa County, Ontario.

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Photo: Pied-billed Grebe. October – November, all years, Ottawa County, Ontario.