Several sites in the city of Pembroke, Ontario, have proven to be very good for viewing common birds as well as finding uncommon migrants and vagrants. Most of this good birding opportunity is because of the adjacency to the Ottawa River, which originates in central Quebec, flows west to the Ontario border, then south and east to Montreal where it joins the St. Lawrence River. In migration, the Ottawa River becomes a conduit for migrating ducks, shorebirds, gulls and vagrants who usually take a wrong turn somewhere. Spring (April to June) and Fall (August to October) are the good times for migrants. In Spring, Red-breasted Merganser, Greater Scaup, Long-tailed Duck and Horned Grebe can sometimes be seen along the Pembroke waterfront.
The Pembroke Marina is situated beside the mouth of the Muskrat River where it enters the Ottawa. Sandflats appear during low water conditions (July to Sept) at this juncture, which presents habitat for shorebird feeding and resting as well as a roost for gulls, terns and ducks. Caspian Terns, rare in Eastern Ontario, sometimes show up in May and June at the marina. In mid summer Green-winged Teal, Mallard, Canada Goose, American Black Duck and other 'puddle' ducks may appear, depending on water conditions. Some area firsts have appeared here: Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Red Knot, Red Phalarope and others. With low water, birders have found that the mix of birds changes regularly. The presence of thunderstorms and other inclement weather can bring flocks of southbound shorebirds to rest on the flats. Some uncommon gulls have bee seen in spring and fall, such as Thayer's, Ivory, Glaucous, Iceland and Lesser Black-backed.
Pembroke has a beautiful public park that stretches about 2 kilometres along the Ottawa River. The Kiwanas Walkway is a paved path that offers wheelchair access as well as a trail for cyclists, strollers, joggers and walkers. The Walkway connects the marina with Riverside Park to the west. A viewing platform overlooks a small bay. The shoreline is vegetated between the Ottawa River and the Walkway and attracts migrants in Fall. Western Kingbird, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Lincoln's Sparrow, Clay-colored Sparrow and northern warblers such as Palm and Connecticut have appeared. There is a small forest, dominated by Manitoba Maple, that attracts nesting birds in summer such as Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Cedar Waxwing, Blue Jay, Gray Catbird, Warbling Vireo, Red-eyed Vireo, Yellow Warbler and American Goldfinch. Many vines and thick underbrush make this a haven for sparrows such as White-throated and White-crowned from early September. Also watch for American Redstart, Northern Cardinal, Spotted Sandpiper (along the shore) and hunting Merlins and occasionally Perergrine Falcons in September. Canada Geese use the soccer fields for loafing and a Brant or Snow Goose may mix with them.
Pansy Patch Park is accessed by MacKay Street and turning west on Dickson to the end and following the access road down into the park. There is also trail access from the east end of the Mary St. bridge. Pansy Patch Park is situated along the Muskrat River in a valley. Carolina Wren nested on the steep west bank for a few years. Watch for White-breasted Nuthatch, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, American Goldfinch, American Robin, Brown Creeper and Blue Jay. House Finch, Chimney Swift overhead and Northern Flicker may be seen. Some large trees occur in the park, one of them, a Cottonwood about 6' in diameter. Low numbers of dragonflies have been seen along this stretch of the Muskrat River. There is a little creek in the park where River Jewelwings and bluets have been found. Water Cress can be seen where this creek picks up speed a little, near the footbridge. Spotted Sandpiper occurs along the rocky shore of the Muskrat River. Common Goldeneye feed in the fast water during ice breakup in April. In spring listen for House Finch, White-breasted Nuthatch and Northern Cardinal.
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