DESCHÊNES RAPIDS - QUEBEC
Spring: *** Summer: *** Fall: *** Winter: ***
Independent Directions to this Site: From Boulevard des Allumettières or Highway 148, take the Chemin Vanier exit. Turn left or south onto Vanier and go 3.9 km to the Ottawa River and the Deschênes Rapids at the end of Chemin Vanier.
Ottawa River West: Quebec Route Directions: From the Lakeview Terrace area, turn left or south onto Chemin Vanier and drive 1 to 2 km (depending on which street you exit from) to the Ottawa River and the Deschênes Rapids at the end of Chemin Vanier.
Google Satellite Map of Deschênes Rapids Area
Site Description and Birding Information: The narrowing of the Ottawa River at the downstream end of Lac Deschênes accelerates the flow as it approaches and tumbles over a set of rapids. In early summer, the churn below the rapids attracts large flocks of gulls and terns, including rarities, to feed on the plenty. Depending on water levels, which are often fiddled with upstream, the rocks in the rapids may be exposed, providing roosting areas for gulls, mainly in summer and fall. This spot is one of the few places along the Ottawa River which stays ice-free throughout the winter, providing habitat for overwintering ducks. See also the Deschênes Rapids - Ontario site.
The south end of Vanier provides a view of the area above the rapids. To see the area below the rapids, start north on Vanier and take the first right turn (50 metres) onto Rue Martel. Follow it 0.3 km to where it turns left and becomes Rue Rosenes. At this corner you can walk over to the shore and check a partial view just to the right. This spot also gives a view of two small islets, Glissoirs à Bois, just offshore used as gull roosts and nesting areas for Ring-billed Gulls. In 2007, for the first time in the Outaouais, Black-crowned Night-Herons are nesting here among the gulls. In August 2010 up to 30 Great Egret were roosting here. For a more open view of the area below the rapids, proceed 0.4 km north to the end of Rosenes and turn right on the dirt road extention of Rue Houle, going 0.2 km to a boat launch. Watch for cyclists as you cross the bike path just before reaching the river. Here you can usually drive out onto the landing for a panoramic view, using the car as combination blind and shelter. The rapids are to the south and a bay to the northeast often shelters waterfowl. There is a path leading south from the boat launch about 200 metres to a small marsh, a part of the river when the water is high.
View of the Islands in the Deschênes Rapids
One highlight at Deschênes Rapids is in late May and early June when diligent and/or experienced observers can pick out the occasional Acrtic Tern winging its way along the river. While most often single or in small flocks, up to 90 were seen May 30, 1993. Usually only fly-bys, sometimes they hang around for awhile feeding with the congregated gulls and terns. During this period mayflies hatch in millions, providing food for fish below the rapids, and this, in turn, attracts hundreds of birds. The flocks wheel and swoop, patrolling both sides of the river and all points between. The best vantage point for this spectacle is the boat launch mentioned above, and the shoreline immediately to the west. If the wind is keeping the birds away from the Quebec side, try the point north of the NE corner of the Britannia Filtration Plant on the Ontario side of the river. Less common birds, such as Bonaparte's Gulls and Common and Black Terns are normally present in small numbers, and rarities show up regularly among the swirling Ring-billed and Herring Gulls and multitudes of swallows.
View Below the Rapids from the Boat Launch
Gulls roost on the rocks that are exposed in the rapids when and if the water level drops in late summer and fall. Iceland and Glaucous Gulls can be found in early or late winter. Lesser Black-backed Gulls are seen here occasionally in spring and summer and with some regularity in September to November. If the water is very low, shorebirds may stop to rest on migration. Less common species seen here are American Golden-Plover, White-rumped and Baird's Sandpiper and Purple Sandpiper, the latter most likely around the first week of November. As there is often more exposed rock near the Ontario side of the river, the Britannia Yacht Club at the Deschênes Rapids - Ontario site is a better bet for shorebirds. That being said, it is also worth checking the sometimes exposed rock along the shore above the rapids viewable from the end of Vanier.
One or two, sometimes more, Barrow's Goldeneye are usually present all winter with the flock of Common Goldeneye above the rapids. The best viewing of these birds is from the south end of Vanier and along the river immediately west of there alomg the cul-de-sac Rue Bréboeuf. The birds rest along the upstream edge of the ice, and feed by diving above the rapids until they are near the whitewater. Then they shoot the rapids and fly back up to do it all over again. Patience and a good scope are necessary when trying to pick out the Barrow's. This is a good time to look for winter birds of prey, such as Snowy Owl, Merlin and Peregrine Falcon coming for a meal. Bald Eagle has been seen in spring and fall. Waterfowl that are late leaving in the early winter or early in spring usually wind up here to take advantage of the open water.
In spring and autumn, waterfowl cluster in and around the small coves above and below the rapids as far east as the Rivermead section. As well as all the common Ottawa birds, many less common waterfowl, such as Gadwall, Redhead, Oldsquaw, Black and Surf Scoter, and Red-breasted Merganser are normally found here.
In migration, the woods and scrub areas adjacent the rapids are amongst the best near Ottawa for landbirds. This holds true for both sides of the river. Britannia Conservation Area is covered in its own section. On this side of the Ottawa, to the east of Vanier, there are good areas for migrants between Rue Martel, Rue Rosenes and Rue Gibeault and the Ottawa River. The migrants sometimes fill the bushes here. Good vantages to watch from are the overlooks of the channel between the bike path and the closest island. Birds crossing this channel are often visible briefly on both sides before diving into the undergrowth.
View from Bicycle Path near Martel and Rosenes
To the west of Vanier, another excellent area is just beyond the end of the former Rue Bréboeuf (the dirt road heading west from the end of Vanier). The bike path crosses a wooded swamp here, and heads off through the deciduous woods toward the Rue Lamoureux site. The bike path traversing the entire area is an excellent route for birding as long as you are constantly aware of the danger of being in the path of a speeding cyclist or skater.
View of Bicycle Path of the End of Rue Bréboeuf
Watch also for vacant lots in the area. If you find one overgrown with weeds, such as the one on Rue Martel (fall 2003), you may find flocks of migrant sparrows in the fall.
Rarities found at this site recently include:
Little Gull (June 10, 1989; Sep. 2, 2009; May 16-21, 2010),
Caspian Tern (July 9, 1989 & Aug. 21, 1990),
Franklin's Gull (Sept. 10, 1989, Dec. 6, 1992, July 6, 2004),
Eurasian Wigeon (falls of 1989 to 1991),
Black-legged Kittiwake (Nov. 30, 1990, May 26, 2011),
Laughing Gull (June 1, 1993 and June 8-9, 1994),
LeConte's Sparrow (May 1994),
Prairie Warbler (off Rue Gibeault 1996),
Western Kingbird (November 1 - 6, 2001),
Great Egret (May 28, 2005; Jul. 30 - Aug. 2, 2008; up to 30 birds roosting on the island in August 2010),
Harlequin Duck (2 males - Oct. 28-29, 2005, 1 male - Nov. 25, 2006, Nov. 23, 2009),
Sabine's Gull (juv. Sept. 12-13, 2007; Sep. 17, 2010),
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron (ad. Aug. 5, 2008),
Red-bellied Woodpecker (Dec. 23-26, 2010).
See the Britannia section for more rarities found near here. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher has nested along the bike path west of Rue Bréboeuf and was present there again in the spring of 2002.
Ottawa River West: Quebec Route Directions: From the Deschênes Rapids at the end of Chemin Vanier, return north on Vanier 0.1 km to Rue Lamoureux. Turn left or west on Lamoureux and go 0.4 km to Rue Papineau, shortly after which Lamoureux becomes a dirt road and nature prevails (for the time being). Continue along Lamoureux and enter the birding area of the next site on this route, Rue Lamoureux.
Return to Ottawa River West: Quebec.
Return to Birding Ottawa Table of Contents.