Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Finally a Bear or seven

29 August 2007

Just back from the Charlevoix where five days birding, whale watching and, finally, Black Bear watching made a welcome change from work.

The year list benefitted from several additions but more of the birds in a later post. A highlight was watching up to seven different Black Bears as they took advantage of a feeding site, our first wild Black Bears ever.

Below a few photos. The bears were about 120m away in the evening light so the shots are not pin sharp. The site is a cottage industry showing tourists the bears and funding a cub rescue system from the takings. The bears are totally wild and their trust is gained over a period of time.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Blimey, a Buff-breast.

23 August 2007

After yesterday's success with a nice trio of shorebirds off the Chemin de L'Anse at Vaudreuil, tonights return visit topped it with a splendid Buff-breasted Sandpiper and an interesting peep.

Viewing was limited to a very short time, mainly because the Police moved me on for interesting parking, but also because the heavens opened with a vengance

Below some pretty awful record shots. Any comments on the other shorebird would be welcome. My experience of the long billed race of Semipalmated Sandpiper is limited and the bird gave me the impression of it being a Western Sandpiper

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

250 and counting

22 August 2007

Now that my favourite shorebird spot is in prime condition, it is getting almost daily attention from me. Despite kids, dogs and other assorted disturbers of birds, they are building nicely and today provided me with three species for the year, making 250 in total.

Things looked a little quiet at first although Semipalmated Plovers were new in and a raft of 25 Blue-winged Teals were also good to see. Eventually I caught up with the feeding mob and amongst them was an immature Red-necked Phalarope. The birds were pretty skittish but I managed to count 75+ Least and 30+ Semiplamated Sandpipers. Mixed in the throng was at least one Baird's Sandpiper and a White-rumped. The regulars were well represented with 45 Lesser and five Greater Yellowlegs and, of course, the ubiquitus Killdeer.

The light was poor and I only managed to get a distant record shot of the phal but it was a welcome bird and I hope it stcks for a while for others to enjoy.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Just how close can you get to a Least Bittern

Or, more accurately, how close will they get to you!

18 August 2007.

After an early morning spin around St-Lazare sand pits, with but few common shorebirds to show for it, we decided to pay L’Ile Bizzard a visit.

For those not in the know, L’Ile Bizzard is an island off the north-west of Montreal. It has a rather pretentious golf course, gothic looking posh houses with plastic owls on the roof and one of the better, and just as important, accessible parks with birds in the area.

The site has woods, lakeshore, marsh and grasslands and holds a host of scarce breeding species. Naturally all of this makes it perfect to form part of the proposed link route between the TransCanadian (highway 40) in Montreal and the north, thereby allowing those who choose to live and commute into Montreal from the towns of the north even more choice of traffic chaos than presently available. Strangely no proposal has been made for running the new road through the golf course, with a concession allowing the fee paying members to claim a free drop if they inadvertently place a drive onto the new asphalt.

Before I continue just a general comment here.

Many people in Quebec occupy three times the space they need. They have a house in or around the city, fair enough, everyone needs somewhere to live. They then buy a chunk of forest anything from 2-400 km north of Montreal for a summer cabin and then they get on their ATVs in summer and Skidoos in winter and go 3-400 km further north still for camping sauvage. Their little summer cabins need services and so up springs a town, populated by people who buy land to the north of the town to build a cabin, they then get on their seasonal vehicle and leave their, to use a modern eco phrase, ‘footprint’ further north still. I don’t blame them, it’s a great lifestyle, but it really will push the species that don’t tolerate disturbance to the limit and possibly eventual extinction, birds and animals alike. Eventually the northward push will meet the Native Americans coming the other way as greater mobility allows them to exercise their rights to slaughter wildlife as they wish just because they can.

Further south we are not blameless, oh no, even if we only own one property. Development without a plan seems to be the norm, and I don’t mean a plan designed to make a city bigger to generate more income to make the city bigger etc. I mean without a plan that is considers the ecology of the area. Where I live in the west they are knocking holes in the woods wholesale (and yes, I live in one of those holes, albeit one made 20 years ago) with no thought for the impact on every aspect of the area. Everywhere has a limit to how many people is resources will support, as we will shortly find out.

I live on a hill; I’ve always tried to live on a hill. Down the road hundreds of new houses are being built on the floodplain and are replacing the phragmites that grew there because the habitat is right i.e. wet. When, one day, high spring tides meet a deluge of the sort enjoyed by much of the rest of the World this year, verily the good people of Vaudreuil will be able to commute by canoe, enough already.

Back to the birds (thank God you cry), so, we went to L’Ile Bizzard and had a jolly fine but relatively birdless wander around culminating in views of Least Bitterns (plural) down to a few feet. They seemed to be everywhere (well six or seven birds minimum) and one, which might be a female but could be a worn male, fed unconcerned as the bikers and hikers filed past. At one point, when the camera had been briefly sheathed, it even got on the boardwalk for a stroll, before flying back to the growing young noisily calling from a nearby reedy clump.

Naturally I snapped a few and the results are below. Enjoy the photos and sorry about the rant, possibly.

PS. Any Montreal birders reading (obviously not those in their cabins, oops, there I go again) might like to know that the Chemin De L’Anse at Vaudreuil is good for shorebirds now, I had 50+ Least Sandpipers there, along with the usual commoner species last Friday.

Something like the normal view of a Least Bittern, click to enlarge.

Intense concentration.

The things we do for fish.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Boreal Boost

Last post to 16 August 2007

We finally found a Boreal Chickadee, hurrah huraah. After two trips to Tremblant, arriving as early as possible, we decided on a different strategy for another bash at one, we got there at midday. The park was pretty busy, especially with the hopefully terminally stupid types who seem to think whooping and screaming around the waterways in a canoe is enjoyed by others, the best we can hope for though is infertility.

Back to the birds, or rather relative lack of them. The Boreal Chickadees gave them selves up 50m along our first trail and were, typically, the peak of our visit. We saw a few Spotted Sandpipers and the usual Ruffed Grouse aka Crazy Chickens, but that was about it.

Closer to home and some encouraging shorebird habitat is developing along the Chemin De L’Anse at Vaudreuil. So far just the usual suspects are on show, Killdeers, both yellowlegs, Spotted and Solitary Sandpipers, small flocks of Least Sandpipers and a few Semipalmated Sandpipers, and, as the autumn wears on, the shorebirds will multiply. Other nice arrivals there are Caspian Terns, often around in late summer, and Blue-winged Teals, still showing vestiges of their summer plumage, mixed in with the usual eclipse grot typical of all ducks.

Just a final note, odd migrants have started to show in the garden, the first autumn warblers were two Pine Warblers, also Chimney Swift and Least Flycatcher were added to the garden year list, the latter being a garden tick.

Below a few shots, nothing wow but I like them.

Nice, reliable Cedar Waxwings will always pose.

My favourite Crazy Chicken.

Spottys in habitat.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Tree Frog treat

7 August 2007

I know that this is supposed to be a birding blog, and that the very astute amongst you will spot immediately that subject of the photos below is not a bird, however, its my blog ad I can post what I like, and do.

I did a little post work wander around one of my often productive little spots, warbler time is now onwards and I have had quite some success on this 300m long unbuilt road which cuts into Saddlebrook Bog. Not many birds around, a few familiar dragonflies though and then a little movement caught my eye, it was a Grey Tree Frog.

I must have visited this spot a couple of hundred times in the past four years and it never fails to amaze me how often it produces something of interest.

The Grey Tree Frog Hyla versicolor is tiny, perhaps just over 2cm long and changes colour to suit its background, that is why this one is not grey. It clambered very sedately around the herbage, only putting on a spurt when I tried to garden for a better shot.

So below the best shots I managed, I really should take the snappy digital with the macro feature next time.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

The long weekend starts here

4 August 2007

Taking advantage of a full three days off work, Saturday I ventured out early starting at St-Lazare sand pits, then making a few stops before winding up at St-Timothee marsh and speed skating circuit

The ‘pits’ were ok, still lots of water but a couple of Immature Hooded Mergansers were nice and the Pied-billed Grebe chicks are now fully grown. The small pits to the west had fewer shorebirds than last week, just Lesser Yellowlegs and the usual Spotted Sandpipers.

On to St-Timothee and the boat ramp car park just below the hydro. As expected a few Caspian Terns were present, six or so at one time, they are often there in August. The rocks on which they sit are a couple of hundred metres from the bank, hence the rubbish photo below.

St-Timothee was nice, no one else there and the Least Bitterns were sitting up on the vegetation, albeit a fair way off, sounds like another excuse for a lousy photo? it certainly is. A couple of Black-crowned Night-herons were also present, both birds of the year and both immortalised below. One slight frustration about St-Timothee, apart from the possibility of being mown down by an in-line skater, is the lack of management of the site for viewing. There is a nicely constructed although obscurely located viewing thing, complete with cripple friendly slats, i.e. only a cripple could use them, but that is it. The place really could do with a birding circuit with blinds designed for viewing from without injury. It would remove the possibility of an encounter with Lycra at speed and make the place more reserve like. Having said that it is the best we have and at least there is no hunting there.

On the way home I tried for Bobolinks in a few of their favourite fields, for some reason the fields had all been cut down. I know that they will be developed (sounds like an improvement but really, if you are a Bobolink, it is not) at some point but why cut them during the breeding season, land developers really need a little education but who will provide it?

Finally I think I mentioned a Black Bear having been around the towns west of Montreal, well they shot it. It seems that the bear had found some Beehives and was eating the honey (it’s a bear, its their thing) so the Canadian Wildlife Disposal Squad swept in and shot it but didn’t kill it and it wandered off. They sent for tracker dogs but the scent was a few hours old by the time they arrived (possibly they got lost on the way) and had faded, of course all that very dry weather must have helped diminish the scent! So the upshot is that the bear blasters are sure it will have crept off and died somewhere, so good are they at protecting the Canadian public from a sticky bear or, it just might be somewhere with a wound and grudge against humans which might persuade it to try a change of diet!

So here are three awful photos, top Caspian Terns, middle Least Bittern and bottom a Marsh Wren in a marsh, it just would not come out!

Two different Black-crowned Night-herons, despite the viewing difficulties