Tuesday, October 23, 2007

We went to Abitibi and saw……

20-21 October 2007

Following reports of a couple of Trumpeter Swans in Abitibi, on Lac Motte to be exact, we or rather I was inspired to go and look for them. In the end we, yes we, went Saturday morning, cruised through some fine scenery and hit Val D’Or by around 16.30. A swift perusal of the site showed, as expected, a beautiful lake with few viewing points and lots of summer cottages hogging the banks.

Sunday we were back on the banks looking for white blobs, any white blobs. You have probably already guessed that we did not see them. We toured the whole area looking at any water available but really very little was on offer bird wise. I harboured hopes of lucking a Sharp-tailed Grouse but no, or perhaps an American Three-toed Woodpecker, well actually, yes. One was on a telegraph pole at St-Mathieu but bad positioning meant nil chance of a photo and it soon settled into the big year theme of flying briskly away.

Because of the distance involved in getting home and the requirement to be at least human at work Monday morning, we had only limited time in the area. We checked out the fields around Barroutte, one of the few sites known, or at least shared, for Sharp-tailed Grouse in Quebec. We were every bit as successful as our last visit, obtaining fine views of fields.

The trip home was not too bad and the ‘parc’ was very scenic, we even enjoyed good views of Grey Jay but it was a long drive. For readers in Notts, and I do know that some birders from Notts do read this, the road through the parc is the equivalent of driving from Nottingham to Portland. There are no real services, apart from a couple of sites to picnic or widdle and apart from Ravens, you don’t see too many birds!

The drive back was about seven hours, enlivened only by a couple of trucks bearing the heads of recently surprised Moose. Quite why they shoot the Moose I’m not sure, they are big and stupid and just stare blankly at you, the Moose are just as bad, you might as well shoot a school bus. It poses the question, do they just enjoy killing big animals, if so they are clearly not fit to hold a licence for a gun!
Below a few photos. I’ve not given up on the year list but can I really drag myself to Tadoussac again, we shall see.

Distant Pileated Woodpecker, c100m away.

Northern Harrier, not too many hawks up north.

One of three Rough-legged Hawks seen.

Cryptic crazy chicken, the wrong grouse though.

Still working on the white balance.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Vireo or cranes

14 October 2007

With news of a White –eyed Vireo being seen off the east end of Montreal, a place called Ile Charron, the choice was, do we trek across town to suffer disappointment or should we cruise out west, beyond the sacred Quebec boundary to try for a flock of Sandhill Cranes (not even a year tick but great birds) and a possible Canada tick, Eared (a.k.a Black-necked) Grebe. Small bird potentially in a bush, big birds almost certainly in a field. After a few seconds agonising, we went west.

The light was again ‘autumnal’ that is to say grey but the birds were there, 45 or so in one field and fairly close to the road. The cranes were a bit skittish and gradually made their way to the back of the field but we enjoyed good views of adults and their young, delving into the soft earth of the ex cornfield.

Our next stop was Alfred Sewage Lagoons. Oh how I (and many others) wish this was in Quebec. The place always has birds with many often tough to find species for Quebec.

This trip was to see the Eared Grebes that had been there for a few days and we saw four in all. Seeing them was pretty easy thanks to the tower erected outside the lagoons. If anyone from the Quebec authorities ever reads this: We parked in the FREE car park especially constructed for the viewing tower. We walked the path to the EXCELLENT viewing tower constructed for OBSERVING BIRDS. And we were able to enjoy the Ruddy ducks, Northern Harriers and assorted other wildlife without having to dodge skaters, dogs, push chairs, cyclists or any of the other many irritations that all Quebec sites seem to be designed for. It was a pleasure to be able to think that this was constructed for us, the birders. If we had this type of thing at all sewage works there would be no need to trespass.

Once back in Quebec we stopped off on the L’anse at Vaudreuil where 80+ Dunlin, 25 Black-bellied Plovers, 15 Semipalmated Sandpipers, 2 Ruddy Turnstones and a White-rumped Sandpiper awaited. I also had a not unusual experience there which hones the point made above.

I was watching the Dunlin and paying close attention to their moult, when a woman with child passed me. I was on the bank by the road clearly watching the birds (through a telescope!). She climbed down the bank on to the mud with the child and walked out to the birds, naturally scaring them away. I’m sure it was not done with malice, she was just displaying a tendency that many here seem to have and that is absolutely no awareness of anyone else and what they might be doing or whether their actions might impact on others.

If you think I am overplaying this, think of how many times you have had people flush birds that you have carefully stalked, or where you have been watching something only for the loud voices (and coats) to appear and march past you in blissful ignorance.

Anyway, reading this, all I seem to do is complain, it must be something to do with advancing age!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Petering out

13 October 2007

After a pretty poor September it seems that the year list is petering out. Few additions can be expected and my revised, revised target is 270 although even that might be optimistic.

The third quarter report sees the list on 264 so basically static. The month failed to yield a Grey-cheeked Thrush (so far!) despite birding suitable locals. Admittedly I didn’t chase any, birds were present in downtown Montreal, I had rather expected to find my own.

For the record the garden list stands at 77 for the year and I have spent 179 bird days in the field. I won’t bother telling you the kilometerage but, on reflection, it is probably not that different from my usual birding kilometres travelled.

Since the last post we have not taken any longer trips although in September I spent more days (or, more accurately, part days) in the field than any other month. In September I covered the L’Anse at Vaudreuil almost daily seeing a total of 20 species of shorebird there. The season is winding down but, as I write, there are still 70+ Dunlin there.

Looking at the year as a whole I would say it has been pretty poor bird wise, perhaps the tone was set with the suppressed Green-tailed Towhee in Montreal which stuck until March in a garden of birder haters. Recently the trend has carried on with a suppressed Eared Grebe at a ‘private’ site, but not so private that a birder was able to photograph it though. I spent many years in the UK trying to make sure that all birders got the chance to see rarities; here they just keep a lot of birds quiet for very tenuous and certainly indefensible reasons. I think the grebe was at one of the water treatment plants, I bet none that saw it, and there would be a few, tried to get limited weekend access for the masses, which here would amount to only 50 or so.

Next month we go south to Ecuador so I hope to have the odd picture to post. Next year I will be concentrating on St-Lazare sand pits, if I can stand the numerous dogs (especially stupid, yapping sled dogs), ATVs, toy glider fliers anglers and the hut, hut, hut from the nearby sports field where ten year olds in body amour spend three hours confused. It’s called Football here, which is rather stupid, but I will not digress, this time.

Below a few shots, when I have had the time the light has either been blindingly bright or very dull, on the odd occasion the light was good the wind was so strong that the poor birdies needed legs like a steroid enhanced American athlete to hold on.

In pouring rain which is why it is rubbish.

A Rusty Blackbird, one of many at Parc Plaisance.