Saturday, 22 October 2011

Feeding the birds -- Jack Pine Trail

One of the best things about the community in which we live is its proximity to the Stony Swamp area.  Part of the National Capital Greenbelt, this protected area is full of walking trails where you can experience different flora and fauna as well as geology and sometimes a little bit of history.  You can check out a map of the various trails (and parking locations) here.

Our favourite is the Jack Pine Trail.  There are lots of birds and small animals such as chipmunks and squirrels to be seen in the forested areas, and the boardwalks across the several beaver ponds often have ducks or turtles and even on occasion a muskrat to see, depending on the time of year and the water level. The chickadees will eat bird seed right from your hand and the ducks are always happy to have you toss them some bird seed or stale bread. 

Monday afternoon the sun broke through the fall dampness and we decided it was a perfect time to head out for some fresh air and family time. We parked at P9, loaded Chloe into the backpack carrier and headed out on the trail.  We had barely left the parking lot behind when I noticed the chickadees flitting up to perch on nearby branches and watching us intently -- clearly they were interested in whether or not we had food for them.  They're a little more skittish in summer when food is plentiful, but this time of year when they're storing up for winter they are eager to feed from the hands of visitors -- even small and wiggly children.  We had lots of fun standing still, cupping birdseed in our outstretched hands and waiting to see which birds would choose to come land on our hands, and which would wait for us to give up and leave a little pile of seed on the ground for them as we continued on our way. I was impressed by Maya's patience and captivated by the delight and wonder on her face as birds came to land on her outstretched hands. 

Chloe loved watching the birds Daddy tried to feed, but they gave her a wider berth as she was a bit too noisy and wiggly for most of them. 

There were many ducks at the first boardwalk pond, enough to quarrel over the seeds we tossed them. (I forgot to take pictures ... oops.) After that, the trail took us through more forest where Maya looked for chipmunks and squirrels, and pointed out all the birch trees she saw, and then eventually to two marshier boardwalks.  Maya was disappointed she couldn't see any frogs, but the usual frog spot was largely obscured by cat tails this time. 

We recommend you check out this walking trail if you're in the area.  Maya is able to walk the approximately 3 Km loop herself (she's just about to turn 4), but you could make it shorter by just walking in from the parking lot as far as the first boardwalk and then returning back out the same way.  (There is a shorter loop you can do in the trail, but it misses the duck pond boardwalk.)  The trail is also navigable with a jogging-style stroller.  If you want a longer walk, the Jack Pine trail connects to trail #26, which adds a long loop over to P11 on West Hunt Club road and then back again.


  1. Have you ever stopped at the Bird Sanctuary that is right at the start of the trail? It's the cabin that is there - it's open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Visitors can go in (I think between 1pm and 3pm) and just have a look around. It's not a big place but they are always chock full of birds and it's fascinating.

  2. Oddly enough, that's where Maya and Jeff were with my father in law and sister in law this afternoon, while I was home supervising Chloe's nap and writing this blog post. We discovered that trail (on the other side of the road from the P9 parking lot we usually use) just a few weeks ago, and we liked it too though I think the walk is shorter. I didn't know it was possible to visit the bird centre, I think Maya would love it, so it definitely goes on our list of things to do.

  3. Last winter we were overjoyed when were could go out onto our back deck and feed the chickadees from our hands. I think that it was a highlight for several of our visitors from the city.

  4. It's amazing how much braver the chickadees are now that the cooler weather has hit. They even managed to snatch a few seeds from Claire's hand, and she's only 20 months old! It's a wonderful way to give the kids opportunities to interact with nature.