Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Stuck in a rut

Last post to 26-6-7

In typical late June fashion the ticks have dried up and the breeders are busy so harder to find. I’ve been out a few times trying to plug the obvious gaps in the year list but to no avail, I’m rather hopeful that I’ll be adding Connecticut Warbler shortly but I never count my chickens (or warblers) before they have hatched.

We did try for a Northern Mockingbird with only the 10km road as the location and a photo of it sitting on a fence that should have been identifiable, it wasn’t! It was a nice place to visit though and my butterfly pages, if I’ve done them yet, will show European (Small) skippers in phenomenal numbers. It is no exaggeration to say that, in 100m of road, I saw more Small Skippers than the cumulative total that I have seen before in my life.

Also true to form for this period of the year, my attention has switched to insects, namely dragonflies and butterflies. Many people here have little interest in them but, generally, they are the same ones who can’t identify gulls or peeps so its no good trying to engage their inquisitive nature where none exists. With that in mind I’ve deferred from decorating the pages of this blog with images of the aforementioned insects although I have slipped a Snowshoe Hare in which we saw at Tremblant last time up there and I forgot to include in the last posting.
Anyway, the garden is full of young birds with the Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers fighting both species of nuthatch (that is Red-breasted and white-breasted for you Europeans) for feeder space and the ubiquitous Common Grackles often join in the fun.

Upland Sandpiper, one of my regulars which is not quite in Quebec but certainly could see it from God's own province.

Eastern Bluebird, a bit distant but the get the idea.

Bobolink objecting to me using the road. They seem very common this year.

Brown Thrasher. Chop its bill in half, shorten the tail and give it an olive wash and it would be a Song Thrush, how close many of these birds are to each other, well, with a little imagination they are.

Indigo Bunting, another common bird this year.

One of the immature Hairy Woodpeckers from the garden.

Red-breasted Nuthatch, giving the garden constant noise.

One of the local Spotted Sandpipers pretending to be an extension of a rock.

Big Foot the Snowshoe Hare, just look at those tootsies!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Ruffed Grouse 7-Spruce Grouse 0

9-10 June 2007

Saturday 9th was spent south of Huntingdon adding Clay-colored Sparrow and Ring-necked Pheasant to the year list. Frustratingly we drove past a Yellow-billed Cuckoo, or at least the group who ha been watching it, and we couldn’t find the grasshopper Sparrows although I was unsure of the site. It wasn’t a bad day, over 100 species again, but looking for a bird in somebody’s garden still feels like intruding. As it happened, the owners of the property were doing some gardening so I plunged in with my usual “parle tu Anglais”?, fortunately a little was spoken and, with the aid of my French version of Sibley, I conveyed the reason for my peering into their conifers. They were quite happy about it, even interested, so perhaps the sparrow/s now have a couple of guardians for the duration.

Sunday was Tremblant revisited.

The previous week a friend had chanced a Spruce Grouse scudding across the track and also managed a Boreal Chickadee, so we set forth with renewed optimism. The healthy Blackfly population kept most from venturing into the heart of the park so we cruised undisturbed the rough road to our first stop. We walked the trail, stopped and listened but had nothing much to show for it. A Rusty Blackbird was still in territory, probably a breeding pair. The usual boreal warblers were also occasionally vocal.

It was shaping up to be a hot day weather wise, but the birds were a bit scarce so we made do with a surfeit of Canadian Tiger Swallowtails, the odd one of which may still be stuck to the car’s front grill.

Our next stop was Lac Tador, or at least the trail to it. Eventually the “quick three beers” (yeh right, that’s just what is sounds like) was heard and the primary reason for entertaining the flies was found, Olive-sided Flycatcher. Below is a record shot from some distance, they are, fortunately, distinctive enough. Moving on we visited a short trail to a stagger-in camp site which has always been good (well once) for Boreal Chickadee. Unfortunately they did not know that but a couple of inquisitive Grey Jays fluttered around us. At this point the camera refused to take a photo until I reset it so I missed the chance. The second best photos are below, we also saw a Black-backed Woodpecker here.

We did a fair bit more exploring, using quieter tracks and trails, but the Spruce Grouse and chickadees just never appeared. The Ruffed Grouse were oblivious to us at times and we saw seven in total including the one below. The question is why do they cross the road even when you are creeping up on them in a two ton van! There are two answers here. They are either very stupid or very confident of their camouflage, I favour the latter.

We have a couple of trips planned in the next few weeks but summer is hoving into view and the likelihood is that birding opportunities will be few. I’ll be out anyway but expect fewer birds and more Butterflies and Dragonflies on these pages.

Following the weekend’s additions the year list is now 239. I have a potential 17 shorebird species still to find though and many fairly common autumn migrants to look for. If you have a good Quebec site for Sharp-tailed Grouse and are willing to share, please leave me a message, otherwise its Barraute at dawn. Thanks.

A view of the underparts of the North American race of Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica erythrogaster.

Pine Siskin, lots about at Tremblant.

The aforementioned Grey Jays.

A couple of views of Parc Mont-Tremblant.

A Ruby-throated Hummingbird atop a twenty five foot sappling, aren't digital cameras wonderful.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Nice surprise

7 June 2007

While out looking for Grasshopper and Clay-colored Sparrows this evening I came across a Loggerhead shrike, something of a rarity now in Quebec.
I managed a poor record shot but it was worth trying, it is a Quebec tick and only the third this year so far. As the species is sensitive in this province I'll not publish the specific location although I think it was just a lucky sighting of a late spring overshoot.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

The last day of May

May 31st – June 2nd 2007.

With May running out I took the opportunity of another day off work to bird the Huntingdon/Dundee area of Quebec in the hope of one or two of its specialties.

Logging on to the bird news first thing is a habit and a fine picture of not one but two Wilson’s Phalaropes at Baie du Febvre almost made me change my plans and make the drive, however, my appetite for driving versus birding was on the wane and so I stuck with my original plan with just a few variances. I had intended to bird the Huntingdon area first, then move down to Dundee but the prospect of St-Timothee Marsh, almost on the way, tempted me there first. It turned out to be a good choice with Willow Flycatcher, Marsh Wren, Sora and a very showy Least Bittern added to the year list. Bolstered by success I went on to Maple Grove but no Caspian Terns were evident. Two big lumps out on dead trees in the minch turned out to be two Bald Eagles, not new for the year but a May tick.

Here I almost quavered and postulated the Baie de Febvre option again, instead I went to Ste-Martine which was predictably quiet except for a small flock of Chimney Swifts, I like swifts. I moved on and washed up on Carr Front, a small gravel track south of Huntingdon. Field Sparrows sang their bouncy song, largely from cover but a few distant birds showed. I tried several spots along the track trying to pick out the subtle warbler songs despite clatter of Ovenbirds. At the third stop a warbler crossed the track and perched up, it was my prime target, a male Golden-winged Warbler with no wing bars or funny plumage to suggest a family predilection for exotic liaisons with its blue-winged relatives. Further on a stop produced another Golden-winged Warbler, a singer but I couldn’t locate it, nearby a wheeze of towhees were nest building.

Usually such success signals the end of the day’s productive birding so I repaired to the IGA (a grocery shop) to stock up for lunch. I then opted to go east and bird the fly haven that is the Gowan Road. This road offers excellent birding but the flies made very audible noises as they bounced off the car. All of the tracks that branch off the gravel road have Privee declared in bold and, as many of the inhabitants of these parts are Good Old Boys, its probably best to stick to the main track although, to be fair, I could not hear any dueling banjos anywhere.

As it happened I did not need to venture off track and found a singing Yellow-throated Vireo about 300m after the creek going east for those who know it. The woods were alive with flycatchers who will never go hungry here. I relied on deet to keep me sane if fragrant and came away with Scarlet Tanager and Eastern Wood-Peewee added to the year list in addition to the vireo.

My last real target required a short hop over to the Lac St-Francois reserve at Dundee although my knowledge of both the species and its preferred habitat were sketchy. On arrival at the Ch de la Pointe-Fraser I noted a car of birders scanning a damp field. Ambling back from the reserve car park I was very grateful that one of them spoke excellent English although I had spent a good 15 minutes rehearsing a French phrase asking whether they were looking for Sedge Wren. They were and we heard three singing. I saw one fly briefly but wanted more so I went back for the scope as they left and scanned and waited. Eventually one came up into a small shrub and sang its heart out.

The wren was year list addition number nine and the end of an excellent days birding with 109 species seen and taking the May list to 190.

Saturday June 2nd was spent looking for the local Grasshopper Sparrows without luck, either they are not back yet or have been scared off by the recent loud horse thing in the next field. As an afterthought I dropped into St-Lazare sand pits and was greeted by a patch tick, two Red-necked Grebes.
Below are a few shots to enjoy. Despite there being many birds around, not too many wanted their picture taking this week.

Suddenly Red-eyed Vireos are everywhere.

Any patch of scrub seems to have a Brown Thrasher belting out its song, we even had one in the garden recently.

Just a picture of an American Robin.

One off the offspring of my local Red-shouldered Hawks after a damp morning.

A Killdeer living up to it's scientific name, look it up, you'll understand my meaning then.

Record shots of the Red-necked Grebes from St-Lazare sand pits. The water is very high there and they could stay, I'll keep an eye on them if they do.

A couple of shots of Red Foxes. There were four in a field near Dundee. I'm not sure what the one in the first shot is watching but the second shot is a fine example of synchronised scratching. Oh and not as single rich person in a red coat trying to chase them.