University campuses can make surprisingly good places to find birds. For example, once I saw that someone found a Southern Boobook at the University of Melbourne. Boy, was I mad when I didn’t get there in time to find that.
Today, however, I will talk to you about Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. Not only is is a great place to find birds, but it is also close to the Experimental Farm Arboretum, which is probably the most popular place to find birds within 10km of the CBD.
How to get there
We’ll be referring to this map throughout this post:
To get to Carleton you can either enter through the Colonel By entrance (#2) or the Bronson entrance (#1). If you are downtown the Colonel By entrance would be the most logical, as it is a road that is mainly without lights. There is also a dedicated bus, the 104 Carleton, that enters through the Bronson entrance. If you’re taking this bus, just get off at the very last stop (near #6).
Why it is a cool birding spot
Carleton is a great place to go on weekends, because very few people go there, so the birds are not highly disturbed. It is pretty peaceful, and it is one of the nicest university campuses I have ever seen because of all the green space around it. There are also some birds you can easily see here that are hard to see elsewhere.
Where to see the birds
The best place to look is from #2 to #4. There is a path that provides good views of the river. There are some rocks across the way and during the warmer months it is not hard to spot two species of shorebirds: Spotted Sandpiper and Killdeer.
Spotted Sandpiper and Grackle are often jumping from rock to rock looking for food, while the Killdeer are usually more sedentary and sitting on the shore of the small “peninsula” around #3.
Look all along the river. Many different ducks have been found here including Mallard, Wood Duck, Gadwall, American Black Duck, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Hooded Merganser, Common Merganser, and Red-breasted Merganser. That is no doubt because the Rideau Canal bordering #7 is a famous resting spot for thousands of migratory waterbirds.
Between #2 and #3 seems to be a good spot for Grey Catbird.
Another area to check out is #5. It’s not strictly on campus but there is a small pond there and sometimes Mute Swans can be seen around there. Small warblers fly in the trees and the easiest time to see these is during spring and fall migration. During those times there are also less leaves on trees so it’s easier to see birds.
Keep an eye out for gulls. While the most common Ring-billed Gull is sure to be seen, less common varieties such as Greater Black-backed Gull sometimes comes for a visit. So far, these two gulls and Herring Gull are the three Gulls that people have found.
#6 is a good spot for Barn Swallows because they nest in corners of buildings. If you have time, be sure to check out the arboretum at #7, which has an even more impressive list than Carleton.