01 October 2007


Finally, we have managed to install "usable" blogging facilities on our own website and so we ask you to please update your bookmarks/favourites and follow us home to ...

... whence the story will continue. we think you'll like the new format, it's more flexible than this and easier to maintain.


Finally, we have managed to install "usable" blogging facilities on our own website and so we ask you to please update your bookmarks/favourites and follow us home to ...

... whence the story will continue. we think you'll like the new format, it's more flexible than this and easier to maintain.

14 September 2007

Kenauk - for the tenth time

Kenauk 2007

Sunrise at Kenauk

As some of my faithful reoders have noticed, there has been a dearth of postings recently - these have been due to editorial inanition and a lack of really good birds to write about. However, we are now back to normal. This past week has been spent, as the week of my birthday has been every year since our arrival in Canada ten years ago, in a very isolated cabin on the enormous and remote reserve that those good folks at Fairmont Hotels keep at "Kenauk" in the Ouatouais region of Quebec. Total isolation, many lakes, boreal forest, lots of birds, bears, beavers, moose, bats, canoes ..... Just a wonderful place to mark being a year older whatever it costs (lots, but it'll be the last luxury we give up). We've said it before and we'll say it again - this is what we came to Canada to find.

The cabin we rent every year in a bay off the northern end of Lac Papineau

... and the view from the cabin

Morning mist

The previous ten years have been universally warm & sunny so it was time for a change and the first day was unremittingly wet so we poked about, read uplifting books, ate a lot and drank plenty of wine & whisky (Highland Park 12yo). After that, cool air & warm sun was good for birding as well as fishing. Morning & evening trips in the canoes to see Wood Duck, Loons & a family of three beavers were de rigeur.

Fishing varied between a fine Bass first cast off the dock to bloody hard work to 14 Bass in one hour ... Not bad at all. No Trout as they are very deep this time of year (Lake Trout = Char) and I don't have the gear but the Bass fight hard and make up for it. Last cast of the holiday from the dock produced the two largest Bass of the week ... And no, we didn't eat them - strictly catch-and-release these days. The "killer" technique involved none of that ironmongery so beloved of the N.American fisherman but a simple light fly rod, a floating line and a single grey hares-ear nymph with a brass, weighted head fished slowly with occasional small jerks - the old ways are often the best ways, at least when it comes to fishing. The last and best fish of the week was taken off the dock on the "last cast of the day" - a big one and a fighter.

Worthy of note was the squirrel rustler who lives on Ile des pins - he has clearly become habituated to boats bringing lunchtime snacks from friendly fisher-folk and he was quickly into our bags looking for just the right goodies - home-made sourdough olive bread and peach stones seemed to be the winners.

The squirrel rustler of Ile des pins checking our bags for lunch

The magic fly

Lac Jackson - cabins at Kenauk come with a boat on the main lake
plus a private"stocked lake back in the forest that you are guaranteed you don't have to share

Birding - Loons, Wood Duck, Broad-winged Hawks, TVs, Pileated Woodpecker, Ruffed Grouse, plenty of migrating fall Warblers ... Yellow-rumped, Blackpoll, Blackburnian, Bay-breasted and Chestnut-sided ... Kingfisher, Red-shouldered Hawk, many, many Northern Flickers and Blue Jays, soaring groups of Ravens, Mergansers and all the regular guys.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

The Merganser family set out for a morning's fishing

Juvenile Common Loon

Next year at Kenauk will see me celebrating my 60th ... Something to look forward to indeed and it's already booked.

PS: these notes have been compiled on the dock looking over smooth water to the sunlit forest on the opposite shore ... All made possible courtesy of my handy HP iPAQ PDA - see, even in the wilderness tech-toys have their place!

26 August 2007

Birding abroad

Today we took ourselves into foreign territory and crossed the border into Ontario to visit Marais Cooper. Usually we go there in the spring but somehow hadn't managed it this year - so a late summer trip was due.

The birds of the day were the Common Yellowthroats which seemed to have been everywhere - in fact that applies to the whole of the year I think. Also seen in the same group of birds were Redstarts and a Canada Warbler.

Cedar Waxwings
are one of our favourite birds but not always easy to photograph though today they behaved themselves immaculately. They were in a mixed flock with Rose-breasted Grosbeaks but the latter kept in the leaves so although i have photos they aren't worth showing here.

"coming up"

"made it"

Cute eh?

Green Heron

Monarch butterfly

Osprey with his lunch

Northern Flickers

We ended the morning with 36 species - nothing rare, but all good for the time of year and the time of day.

22 August 2007


It's that time of year again. water levels on the river are starting to fall revealing wide expanses of mud which attract the small shorebirds thgat are already starting to migrate south. last night we visited the shores of Anse a l'Orme on the northwestern shore of Montreal island and saw a good selection of little guys skittering about.

The birds must have been very keen on feeding as they allowed us to get much closer to them than is normally the case.

Solitary Sandpiper ("go away cruel world - I want to be alone")

Lesser Yellowlegs with a Least Sandpiper by his toes


Least Sandpipers

Semipalmated Sandpiper

19 August 2007


Our weekly birding day is usually Sunday and we took ourselves off today to St-Thimothée marsh which we have not been to since the spring.

Being a marsh, of course, it has plenty of frogs ...

... and being a nature reserve it has the biggest, soundest, most earthquake-proof hide in the world courtesy of our friends at Hydro-Quebec:

Anyway - plenty of good birding. We go here for a short stroll to see what's happening and rarely get away in less than three hours despite it being really quite a small area. Highlight was shared between two birds - one photographed and one hardly believed. The photographed one was a very nice American Bittern that we watched for quite some time catching its afternoon snacks - look carefully at the picture - he's right in the centre:

... and the other bird of the day? I'll come back to that. First, there was a small group of very noisy Killdeer

... several flocks of red-winged Blackbirds starting to gather (and thereby signalling the end of summer approaches), GB Herons, Belted Kingfisher, Least Bittern (heard) and various other marsh critters including this Kingbird

But the other bird of the day seems scarcely credible. A red russet with white and black bird streaked out of a reed bed right in front of us and dived out of site in more vegetation. "Wazzat" we cried and confirming we had both seen the same field marks grabbed our copy of Sibley. Given the territory and behaviour it could only have been a Red-necked or else a Horned Grebe; both pretty uncommon hereabouts except occasionally seen in passage at the end of the season. "Ah well", we thought, "one or the other" when damn me if it didn't fly back again and pretty well clinch itself as being a Horned Grebe. We never did see it on the water because of the high reeds but it could not have been anything else at all. Breed out west, breed in the Iles de la Madeleine but certainly not hereabouts so we count this as good tick indeed.

St-Thimothée never fails us - a good place indeed.

17 August 2007

Tropical gardening

Quite a surprise this year - we had pretty well given up on the Lotus plant but suddenly in the hot weather the pond warmed up and out came this glorious flower ...

... and the Hummingbird (devilishy hard to focus on these guys) came to check out the food potential of the Buddleia we planted last year.

10 August 2007

Active Day

There have been reports of birds on the move in the last couple of days - today's garden visitors included a juvenile Carolina Wren, an American Redstart, a Blue-headed Vireo, a small flock of Baltimore Orioles and a Yellow-rumped warbler (see below) plus a mystery bird, the ID of which will be added once we decide what it is.

The "mystery" bird ... best estimate to date on its ID is a Tufted Titmouse which makes it the one hundredth species in the garden since we moved to live here and a very welcome visitor indeed !!