Winter activities in Ottawa: Feeding the Birds at Mer Bleue

While Misty is dreaming up ways to make things feel a bit more winter-y I'm all for embracing the warmer temperatures and doing some of the outdoor things I usually avoid because I don't like being cold. 

This weekend I thought we would enjoy the lovely weather and get outside and we headed to Mer Bleue Boardwalk to see if we could find some chickadees to feed. Mer Bleue is a few minutes down Anderson Road from the 417 so it's a short drive from a lot of the city.

What to feed the birds

I'm no great expert on this but we stopped at bulk barn and for $2 or so of the wild bird seed I got enough seed that we could visit at least 5 more times without running out. Someone else who recently went to feed the birds said the birds seemed to love black sunflower seeds even more (and you can get that at bird shops). I stopped for coffee for myself on the way and asked for three small empty cups for the kids so they could each have something to carry a reasonable amount of seeds in on their own.

Where to find the birds

I've only done this a couple of times but here's what I've found to be key (please leave a comment if you have other/better ideas :).... listen for the chickadee dee dee noises... they tend to be close to treed areas, and then put some seeds in your flat hand and wait to see if they show up.

It's not very scientific, we found the birds in quite a few different places around the boardwalk, including in the tree right next to where we parked in the main parking lot. In fact, the most photos I got that I love were taken within 10 feet of my van!

I learned something pretty quickly with my three though. While the birds will land in a completely flat hand that isn't moving, the sensation of having a bird land on your hand is kind of strange and the kids didn't love it so much. My daughter dealt with it best. The boys each tried it once and then wouldn't try it again.

So what do you do instead?

Birdseed on the head! The birds happily landed on all three kids' hats within a few minutes of me putting some seed there.

Birdseed on hat works well. Beware the six year olds who will take off their hat and dump the seed directly into their hair.

Birdseed on hat works well. Beware the six year olds who will take off their hat and dump the seed directly into their hair.

Enjoy the Boardwalk

The Mer Bleue Boardwalk is a nice 1.2 km walk that is completely flat. The three kids (9, 6 and 6) made it the whole way without anyone trying to convince me to carry them or having to be left behind (at least not for long). It's beautiful, there's a self-directed tour if you're interested and if you're lucky your kids will pose for a few pictures for you.

If you're more of a winter person than I am, you can go and check this out once there's snow on the ground too!

There are so many great activities in Ottawa, leave us a comment and let us know where you like to go out and enjoy nature with the kids.


The Rideau Hall Winter Celebration

By Stéphanie

It can be challenging sometimes to find interesting and entertaining activities to for both my kids, and not die of exhaustion in the process. While I have a very energetic young boy, I am lucky to have a really easy girl who's happy to be carried around almost everywhere.

On January 26th, I decided to participate in the Winter Celebration day hosted by the Governor General of Canada at Rideau Hall. It was the weekend after that crazy freezing -40 celsius week we had in January and while the temperature was a bit warmer, I found it was still a bit too cold to bring the baby. My friend was just as happy (happier) to stay at home babysitting, while my boy and I headed to Rideau Hall well dressed, with our skates on my shoulders.

We had a blast! Embassies of Finland, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the National Capital Commission (NCC) had kiosks where they distributed taffy, cookies, candies, hot chocolate and other hot beverages. We did some crafts at the Netherlands kiosk, we participated in an obstacle course organized by young reservists, took a horse-drawn wagon ride, skated - for a good 2 minutes! (my son is learning to skate this winter...) - on the beautiful historic Rideau Hall skating rink, and enjoyed Inuit dancing and throat singing in their beautiful cultural costumes.

Inuit Throat Singing

Inuit Throat Singing

There were a lot of other activities for all ages, including cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, dog sledding and a visit of the residence. The event was well attended but not crowded and the only activity with serious wait time was the dog sled rides (which we didn't do). Very well-organized day, all activities were bilingual, and there was something for all ages. And the Rideau Hall grounds are just beautiful!

The governer general often organizes days of activities like this one, so it is a good idea to monitor their website. Also, all winter weekends, and on family day, the outdoor skating rink is open to the public from noon to 5 and there is even a possibility for groups to reserve the rink during the week.

English: Skating is open to the general public...

My son still carries around his little Norway flag that was given to him on that day! This annual event is definitely on my agenda.

Stéphanie moved to Ottawa about 10 years ago from the south shore of Montréal. She usually works as an analyst for the federal government but is currently on maternity leave to take care of a 3 1/2 boy (Paul) and 4 month baby girl (Emy).