a peek inside the fishbowl

16 Oct, 2010

Your Sunday stroll: wild things at Mud Lake

Posted by andrea tomkins in: - Ottawa for kids|Easy ways to make kids happy|Ottawa

A few days ago I wrote about Lime Kiln Trail as one of the pretty places in Ottawa to celebrate the fall season. The urban jungle known as Mud Lake happens to be a lot closer for those of us living in Westboro. And it sure is pretty.

Mud Lake, Ottawa

I may or may not have mentioned that Mark is a bird nerd. I don’t mean to sound disparaging, but he kind of is. (I won’t tell you how many bird guides we have lying around the house. He also subscribes to birding newsletters. And buys $19.99 apps for our iPhone.) I am also a bird nerd – although to a lesser extent. I like birds too. They are pretty awesome little creatures.

Mark introduced me to Mud Lake when we were newly married. In fact, it was rather annoying because we managed to get lost. I’m not sure if it’s changed, but at that time the trail seemed peter out on the far side of the lake. Do not let this alarm you! Just heed my advice and turn back at the bridge (that is, if you parked your car on Cassel’s Street and took the trail that goes towards the lake. (You can also walk towards the Ottawa River. There have been Bald Eagle spottings on that side.)

Many people probably drive near it it every day, not even knowing that it’s a major destination for many wild and feathered creatures. It’s an unexpected little place to go birding, nestled next to a water filtration plant and practically within earshot of Richmond Road.

What draws the birds and animals to this place is the rich variety of habitats. There’s a bit of everything here; forest, lake, river, field …  a range between wet and dry. Heck, it’s a buffet. And who doesn’t like a buffet?

Mud Lake is home to hundreds of species of wildlife. Here are a few wild things we spotted (besides our own children):


Beaver? Muskrat? Water weasel? What?

Turtle spotting at Mud Lake, Ottawa


Mud Lake is on a migration route. It might be too late to catch the bigger crowds of birds, but there are a few still lingering.

Mallard at Mud Lake, Ottawa

Apparently Mud Lake is part of what is referred to as the Britannia Conservation Area (BCA).

“This isolated island of “greenspace”, located within city limits, can offer incredible bird-watching during migration. Located at a constriction of the Ottawa River (the Deschênes Rapids), it is an obvious landmark with a great diversity of habitats. The pond (Mud Lake), the mature white pine stand and deciduous woods, and the surrounding urban landscape, all combine to make this a magnet for tired migrants. To date, 248 species of birds have been found in, or seen from, the BCA; this represents 74% of all spp. recorded in the Ottawa-Hull naturalists’ area (the 50 kilometer radius from the Peace Tower). Additionally, 52 species are known to have nested here over the years. For a single site less than one square kilometer in area, the BCA has hosted a truly remarkable number and diversity of birds!” (Read more at the Ottawa Field Naturalists’ Club website.)

I’m not an expert. There’s no way I could identify 248 kinds of birds, but I can reasonably expect to pick out a heron or two, different ducks, nuthatches and our funny friends the black-capped chickadees. If we had seeds I bet they would have fed from our hands.

I think that introducing our kids to the bird world around us is important.

This kind of knowledge forges a deeper connection between us and our outdoor spaces, something that can slip away us city folks far too easily. Birds are the canary in the coalmine (no pun intended). Fostering our children’s deeper respect for the outdoors, in turn, encourages a better awareness of our greater environment, conservation, habitat preservation … not just for birds, but for all of us. A new generation of bird nerds can be a very powerful thing.

You can view a few more pics from Mud Lake over here.

If you go, I recommend bringing binoculars if you have them (many of the ducks hang out in the middle of the lake), sturdy shoes, and of course, your camera. :)

5 Responses to "Your Sunday stroll: wild things at Mud Lake"

1 | LifeofK

October 16th, 2010 at 10:07 am


I love Mud Lake! Great post.

2 | binki

October 17th, 2010 at 10:47 am


Mud Lake….such an amazing little natural nook in the middle of the city. Fulll of fun things. We always go at this time of year to see the plants, trees, animals preparing for yet another season. The dry horsetail at the south end (wet) area is fantastic. When the kids were younger, we’d pick a few (there are thousands and thousands) and make a little craft out of them. It’s kind of a small lake but not too small to paddle. You’ll see even more amazing things from a canoe. Mud Lake is a great place to see wood ducks, if you’ve never seen one. A blast of colours.

Best memories of Mud Lake…following a few giant snapping turtles (by canoe) in the Spring. Wow! The winterberry bushes along the shore (red berries) at this time of the year, the interesting plants up on the dyke, the horned owl that showed us her little family and a big old wild turkey. I’m serious. It just appeared out of nowhere. How did it get there? Oh and admiring a couple of kinglets one spring, with my then 3 year old. Such a delicate fun little bird.

Birds remind us every day of our ecosystem and our duty to keep it as diverse as possible.

3 | Tanya

October 17th, 2010 at 6:35 pm


Love the pic of the little turtle :)

4 | The Ultimate Ottawa bucket list! >> a peek inside the fishbowl

April 25th, 2012 at 7:19 am


[…] Do some inner city bird watching at Mud Lake […]

5 | a peek inside the fishbowl » Blog Archive Andrea's Tuesdays: a bike ride and a half - a peek inside the fishbowl

April 26th, 2017 at 11:41 am


[…] Lake is a really cool place. I’ve written about it before. It really is a little gem and we are so lucky to have it so close to where we […]

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human offspring: Emma (23) and Sarah (21). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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