I wander the internet from time to time – and I ‘spose you do too 🙂 – checking out some of the travel sites about all those exotic destinations that I have not yet been able to visit.
It occurred to me that our local wildlife, accustomed though we are to seeing it, may be just as exotic to folks from other lands as their animal life is to me.
So, to all you visitors from countries without our animals, birds and plants, here’s an introduction to Ottawa area birds – animals – the walking, crawling, and flying things that you might see in and around Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, when you come for a visit.
They were reintroduced to Ontario quite some time ago, and in the last few years, they are a common sight in the farmer’s fields around Ottawa.
The video shows a flock that visited our rural bird feeder (a couple of hours from Ottawa) in the spring of 2012. The tom did the whole display thing a number of times. The hens ignored him. Finally he went back to eating some of the cracked corn we toss down for birds that enjoy that feed.
I have seen moose just outside of Ottawa on our local Highway 7 as the picture left will attest. This was taken a couple of years ago west of Ottawa on highway #7. The photo was taken in the spring and she looked like she had suffered a hard winter.
The traditional forage area for these magnificent creatures extends through and to the southeast of Ottawa. They are well protected save for an annual hunting season, so there are lots around. Rumour has it that they are spreading farther south as things warm up in their traditional grounds.
It seems at least once a year or so that the animal rescue squad, police and fire-departments are called into someone’s suburban Ottawa backyard to extricate a moose from their swimming pool.
Brother Sam, living about 35 km southeast of Ottawa was sitting in his gazebo one afternoon a summer or two ago, and a bull moose, standing about 6′ at the shoulder wandered into his backyard, stood looking unconcerned for a moment, and then wandered off into the neighbour’s property.
Will you see a moose every time you come to Ottawa? Nope. They are pretty shy. But you do want to be extra careful driving the highways around Ottawa late evening and in the night. Moose are hard to see, being dark-furred animals, and they are so huge that the typical small car will drive right under them. Under them, well, at least under them until the passenger compartment collides with the moose’s belly, with disastrous results.
If you are in downtown Ottawa in the concrete and pavement area, of course, whitetails will be hard to find.
Get to the outskirts, in Ottawa’s Greenbelt area for example, or any backyard in Ottawa that backs onto a larger woodlot, and whitetail deer will be there. Watch wide open fields around Ottawa and along the less urbanized stretches of the Ottawa or Rideau River, particularly in the evening. You will see these graceful and shy creatures at the edges of the green.
To farmers and gardeners, whitetails are a real pest. They are not omnivorous, yet the list of things they will eat seems to far outstretch the list of things they won’t. We used to have tulips and small dogwoods growing adjacent to our house. Not any more! All that was left were deer tracks!
In the evening, particularly as you are leaving Ottawa, watch out for whitetail deer adjacent to and crossing the highways. They appear as if by magic, and around Ottawa area deer – vehicle collisions are common.
Here is a video of whitetail deer taken at our bird feeder in January 2011. I hope you enjoy it.
In the wild the chipmunk lives in the forest. In the urban environment, this fawn, with black and white side-stripes, creature is everywhere, and particularly, at any sort of bird feeder as they stuff their cheeks round as ping-pong balls, taking and hoarding the food intended for our winged friends.
They dig elaborate burrows and their approximately 2″ (5 cm) diameter holes can be found in lawns, sides of the road, between tree roots, and of course, right smack dab in the middle of your prized flower garden.
The pleasure is derived from their cheery “chip, chip, chip” call as they scurry about sourcing food and that they are easily tamed if you care to spend a few minutes each day in your backyard with some sunflower seeds or peanuts handy. You’ll soon have them eating out your hand, literally.
The pain? They eat flowers and flower bulbs like crazy, and can quickly dig and destroy beds of flowers.
The raccoon is ubiquitous.
It’s a nocturnal animal, so you rarely see one during the day, though the one in the photo was raiding one of our bird feeders early one morning, and when I went outside, rather than dropping to the ground and scurrying away, he bolted up the tree and posed for this photo.
Don’t let their cute ring tailed, and black masked-eyes fool you. If you corner one, or your dog or cat gets into a scrap with one, the raccoon’s formidable claws and teeth will ensure that it prevails. If the one in the photo hadn’t run up the tree, but rather had felt cornered and braced me, I’d have given way immediately.
They are omnivorous. If there’s food around, so too will be the raccoon, in every Ottawa backyard (and sometimes front yard too!).
Sometimes though, they are not so little, getting up to about 1-1.5 meters (3-5 feet) in length. Even so, most encounters will be with much smaller garter snakes.
In the Ottawa area you’ll see garter snakes most early mornings and late afternoons in the summer. During spring and fall you’ll most often see them during mid-day on a sun-warmed rock or pathway, while trying to keep their cold blood warm. In winter the garter snakes around Ottawa, and much of Canada for that matter, are snuggled up in their dens to survive the frigid conditions above ground.
They are very useful critters to have around, munching on insects, frogs, and sometimes even rodents. They swim well and skim across small ponds and lakes, while sometimes stopping to catch a small fish or tadpole.
They secrete a smelly substance if you pick them up, and they will bite. Their bite isn’t poisonous, but it does sting a bit. That I can tell you for sure.
This is a first for us, folks. Subsequent to her seeing this, investigation suggests that there are now a lot of elk around Ottawa. They are migrating southward evidently as a result of the warmmer weather.
Are you going to see an Elk in downtown Ottawa during your visit? No, not a live one, certainly. Yet, you might see this incredible creature during your visit to Ottawa, Ontario Canada if you take a drive in the country around the city.
We can read about them, or we can see them. Check out the Blue Jay video below.
Mallards used to migrate south in the fall, and return in the spring. Now, some of them can be seen perched on the ice adjacent to an open stretch of water in Ottawa’s rivers and lakes all winter long. It helps that users of Ottawa’s kilometers of bike and walking trails, much of them parallel to the waterways, feed the birds year round.
The photo is of the female. The male mallard duck has an incredibly green head, light body colour, and assorted color feathers. I didn’t get the chance to photograph the drake, unfortunately.
Mallards are not unique to North America. I can recall wandering the shores of Lago del Garda in Italy some years ago, and seeing the mallard hens and drakes floating and quacking in the lake there tugged at my homesick heartstrings.
As you wander along the banks of the Ottawa or Rideau Rivers in downtown Ottawa, or along the canal, or any reasonable area of wetland, you’ll come across a variety of turtles.
The one in the photo had just finished laying her eggs in a sand pile in June, and was heading back to wherever it is that turtles go when they’ve completed that task.
I believe the one in my photo is a Box Turtle. Harmless creatures, (at least to humands) they spend their days sunning on logs and rocks near water, munching on earthworms, insects and small amphibians if they can catch them.
Due to their ponderous and slow-walking nature they easy prey out of the water and many of them are killed each year by cars and trucks as they meander across the roads in an around Ottawa.