Experience this globally significant IBA at these public vantage points and get to know your wild neighbours – the waterbirds, plants, amphibians, fishes, mammals and other creatures that call this region home throughout the year. It’s your gateway to nature right in the city!
Explore each wildlife hotspot by a location on the tour. It doesn’t matter where you start or end your tour!
Here are a few species to keep an eye out for:
Greater Black-backed Gulls, Common Golden-eye, Common Merganser, Long-tailed Duck, Surf Scoter, Common Loon, Red-necked and Horned grebes, Bufflehead and even Harlequin Ducks if you’re lucky!
Tip #1 – Keep Your Eyes on the Bird
When you spot a bird, try to keep it in your line of sight for as long as possible. If you are using binoculars, practice bringing them up to your face while keeping your eyes on the bird. This can be harder than it sounds! Try practicing on other objects first if you’re having trouble.
Tip #2 – Know What to Look For
Once you have focused on a bird, look for:
• overall size and shape
• special markings
• bill characteristics
• leg length and colour
• wing span
• tail shape
• flight patterns
• feeding habits
• which part of the habitat it uses (e.g., tree-tops vs. lower branches, deeper water vs. shoreline, etc.)
Tip #3 – Listen for Bird Calls
Listening for bird calls is one of the best ways to locate a bird. Keep your ears tuned to your surroundings and let your curiosity lead you to discover new bird sounds. Birding isn’t always just about seeing birds – it’s about enjoying them with all your senses! Visit Dendroica to listen to songs and the different types of songs birds use to communicate, and see photos of birds in your area.
Tip #4 – Know When to Look
Learning about the birds in your area will help you decide when to go birding. Some birds are only visible during certain times of the day. For example, songbirds are easier to see during the first two to three hours after dawn, or just before sunset. Knowing when your local birds are feeding and active will make it more likely that you will spot them. As many birds migrate south during the winter, knowing what season or time of year they appear in your area is another factor to consider.
Tip # 5 – Be a Responsible Birder
When you are out birding, it’s important to leave the area – and the birds and their young you’re observing – undisturbed. Approach birds, their nests, and habitat quietly and discreetly, and keep your distance. Try not to disturb them when they are nesting, feeding or roosting – doing so can frighten the birds, causing them to burn important energy reserves, or even leading to the abandonment of unhatched eggs. Birds can also go places where you may not be welcomed – please respect private property. But birds will often come to you, at home in your yard, or on a walk through nature. You don’t have to get in your car to go birding!
“… Mud Lake is an amazing area of forest and wetlands. Located in Ottawa’s west end, Mud Lake is home to hundreds of species of wildlife, with raccoons, frogs, turtles and foxes, to name but a few. This ecologically significant urban natural landscape is also prime birding territory, with thousands of birdwatchers coming each year to observe hundreds of different species. A walk through this easy-to-access urban jungle provides an exciting escape from city life.”
-National Capital Commission
Shirley’s Bay is also a significant stop-over sight for many migrating bird species, including the Black-bellied Plover, which will log tens of thousands of kilometers on its round-trip journey between the Arctic breeding grounds and its tropical wintering grounds which is largely in South America. Migratory birds like the Black-bellied Plover will make several stop-overs during their migrations, connecting diverse human communities in the western hemisphere through a shared responsibility to protect our shared migratory birds.
There are 7km of hiking trails and two recreational pathways, making it inviting to explore the area on foot or by bicycle. Throughout the year there is hiking and, when the weather is warm, boating, cycling, birdwatching and picnicking are popular activities. During the winter you can cross-country ski, snowshoe and ice fish at Shirley’s Bay.