28 January 2006

Pine Siskins

This weekend the Pine Siskins returned ...... normally we have had them around for a while by this stage of the winter but one assumes that with the warm weather and apparent abundance of food still out in the wild their need to visit the mageoires is diminshed. Nice to se them back - a fine little bird.

Also, Sunday morning, we several times heard the Carolina Wren(s) calling and briefly saw them too .......... either they are much more prepared to appear at the feeders alongside other birds this year or else the population is building up enough that we are seeing several birds at different times. Bodes well for the future.

22 January 2006

The Wren's Return

Bright and only a little cold after several inches of snow yesterday brought in a host of birds to the feeders today ....... including (one of) our friend(s), the Carolina Wren who really seems to be getting through this winteer in fine fettle, so far at least.

The weeken's species list, in order of first appearance, was:
Mourning Dove
American Goldfinch
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Black-crowned Chickadee
White-breasted Nuthatch
Northern Cardinal
Common Redpolls (in profusion)
Dark-eyed (Slate coloured) Junco
House Sparrow
Downy Woodpecker
European Starling
American Crow
Coopers Hawk
House Finch (some with the eye disease)
Carolina Wren

....... and during the day we managed a trip to the flatlands aorund St-Clet to take in another fine Snowy Owl.

15 January 2006

Sparrow tales .....

A much brighter and very cold day, today, brought more Goldfinches, but also the first American Tree Sparrow of the season (another tick for the year-list).

Late afternoon, a walk in nearby Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue took us past a
thick hedge near Le Surcouf restaurant that was filled with dozens of
loudly chattering House Sparrows. Coming back a quarter of an hour
later Jean and I both commented on the fact that all was silent when we
saw the reason for the lack of sparrows sitting in the hedge for a brief
moment before it took wing.

My first thought was "that's a huge Robin" as my eye was caught by a
bright rufous breast albeit with apparently no pronounced streaking, I
then saw, face on, the tail with three broad dark grey stripes on a
paler greyish ground. I could not see the head at all because of a
branch in the way. This bird was within six feet of us - almost
touchable. I thought at first a Sharpie until it took flight, when it
seemed to have the classic falcon wing shape and I (re)thought "or maybe
a Kestrel - perhaps". But it was skulking in a bush - not a falcon sort of behaviour.

In the time it was sitting there (not long) Jean focused on the head
that I cold not see, it had a distinct bright yellow eye (= accipiter) with white
markings around it and the head was quite small. When it flew off her impression of wing
shape etc was the same as mine - Kestrel. Nevertheless, having thought hard about it (and consulted an expert friend) we are decided on it having been a Sharp-shinned Hawk and just hope that it eventually found a fat sparrow for its supper.

14 January 2006

Bizarre weather

Yesterday, Friday 13th January, Montreal temperatures reached PLUS 8degC whereas most years they are more like minus 10 or 15 at this time of year. Today, admittedly the temperatures are falling but they are still above freezing point. I has rained stair-rods all day with some sign of turning to light and wet snow and thus bird sightings have been sparse with only the Goldfinches seeming to be unaffected by the unseasonable rain and appearing in good numbers. Odd woodpeckers have flitted in and out plus the gang-of-three Crows and a very, very wet and soggy BC Chickedee who tried to sort out his disarrayed feathers under the shelter of the overhanging roof on one feeder.

Once it gets cold again all this rain is going to form a thick layer of ice below the snow, thus making it hard for alll sorts of creatures, not just birds, to get to their food.

08 January 2006

Missing Finches

A bright and cold start to the weekend, gradually warming and turning to light snow has brought a lot of birds to the feeders, in particular an ever changing flock of almost 20 American Goldfinches amongst whom was a solitary House Finch. In previous years, the numbers of HOFIs have been much greater by now and reasonable numbers of Pine Siskins have appeared whereas thus far they have yet to be seen (note: small numbers were reported in recent CBCs in the Montreal and Hudson areas so they must be close). Similarly, we have seen only occasional Common Redpolls this winter but as they are an irruptive species that is less concerning.

Early this morning a Sharp-shinned Hawk took a sparrow for its breakfast and perched on our television antenna to enjoy it, dripping remnants onto the snowy roof and entertaining passers-by.

Otherwise, it's the usual crowd of birds with assorted woodpeckers, sparrows and nuthatches plus the "Gang of Three" American Crows who are regulars hereabouts. It seems likely they are parents plus hang-around offspring, but how to tell them apart we do not know.

03 January 2006

Carolina Wren

Although the rest of the working world is back at work today I decided to take a spare vacation day - beautiful cold sunshine and finally the Carolina Wren visited when I had the camera to hand. Usually this bird makes a brief and infrequent visit when I am not at home or when the camera is buried at the other end of the house.

These birds are really at the furthest northern extent of their range here (see the ice on the feeder) and considered a considerable rarity but a small breeding population does seem to have established itself in the area in recent years. A few years back, a pair successfully raised young in a flower pot fixed to the wall beside our front door and got very agitated whenever the mail was delivered.

Hopefully, if the mild winters of recent years persist their numbers will increase.

02 January 2006

Hudson Christmas Bird Count

A day away from the garden today - we took part in the annual Bird Studies Canada Christmas Bird Count centred in Hudson, a few miles west of Montreal. These counts attempt to take a snapshot of bird populations year by year by decade within 20 miles or so of various points around North America. Our assigned route produced 26 species of birds (of which we saw 22) plus a couple of "off route" extras which included this terrific Snowy Owl.

Our personal list for the day comprised American Crows, American Goldfinches, House Sparrows (Europe - come oevr here, they are doing quite well in this area), Blue Jays, Northern Cardinals, Black-caped Chickadees, Mourning Doves, Rock Pigeons, Dark-eyed Juncos, Downy, Hairy and pileated Woodpeckers, European Starlings, White and Red-breasted Nuthatches, Bohemian Waxwings, Common Redpolls, Snow Buntings, Evening Grosbeaks, Snowy owl, Rough Legged Hawks, and finally a Raven.

01 January 2006

New Year's Day 2006

One thing we do most winter weekends is collect data for Feederwatch (http://www.bsc-eoc.org/national/pfw.html) ........ somethng everyone with a garden should do as their small contribution to ornithological knowledge. This weekend is pretty cold with light snow falling and thick crusty snow on the ground - we are seeing the usual birds such as Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers, Northern Cardinals, American Crows, Black-capped Chickadees, House Sparrows, Dark-eyed Juncoes, a Sharp-shinned Hawk (regular visitor which cruises the neighbourhood feeders seeking a packed lunch), Am. Goldfinches etc etc. The picture on the right shows a couple of American Goldfinches and a Common redpoll on one of our niger-feeders over the Christmas holiday period.

As this is a new year we are starting a new garden list for the year ...... our 2005 list comprised 49 species (out of our seven year garden total of 82) and included occasional sightings of the Carolina Wrens that have a toe-hold here, almost the furthest north examples of the species. They get through the winter by making use of garden feeders as the leaf litter they evolved to rely on for insects and seeds is pretty well unavailable. At night they shelter in holes and crannies and occasionally under our deck where there is no wind and occasional warm air from the clothes drier outlet!

Let's hope for at least 50 species in 2006.

For the record, this weekend's feederwatch counts (numbers = max seen at one time) were :
Sharp-shinned Hawk1
Mourning Dove4
Downy Woodpecker2
American Crow3
Black-capped Chickadee9
Red-breasted Nuthatch2
White-breasted Nuthatch2
Dark-eyed Junco2
Northern Cardinal1
American Goldfinch8
House Sparrow3

New Year's Eve 31 December 2005

This is being written on the last day of the year 2005 ...... from tomorrow, 1 January 2006, this site will record birds of note that have visited our garden just to the west of Montreal (that's in Quebec, Canada for those not familiar with the geography). At the moment we are enjoying temperatures of about -15degC with a thick snow cover - needless to say, most birds have migrated far to the south until spring but enough remain to make life interesting.

Briefly, we "bird garden" on a 15000 sq.ft suburban plot less than five minutes from Lac St-Louis on the St-Lawrence river. The garden is full of, and surrounded by, mature deciduous and evergreen trees and is being managed for the birdlife as we try to build up a good understorey of shrubs and berry-bearing bushes. The fine Sharpie whose photograph is below appeared here on Christmas Day and posed almost ten minutes for a photograph until a red squirrel dashed along his branch towards him/her and caused it fly off at last - what a gift.

At the time of writing, a total of 82 different species have been recorded here .......... as follows:

Great Blue Heron
Turkey Vulture
Northern Harrier
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
Northern Goshawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Rough-legged Hawk
American Kestrel
Ring-billed Gull
Rock Dove
Mourning Dove
Great Horned Owl
Snowy Owl
Great Gray Owl
Common Nighthawk
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Three-toed Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Pileated Woodpecker
Eastern Phoebe
Great Crested Flycatcher
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Bohemian Waxwing
Cedar Waxwing
Carolina Wren
Winter Wren
Brown Thrasher
Swainson's Thrush
Hermit Thrush
Wood Thrush
American Robin
Black-capped Chickadee
Red-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
Blue Jay
American Crow
European Starling
Philadelphia Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Tennessee Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Magnolia Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler
Pine Warbler
Bay-breasted Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
American Redstart
Mourning Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Wilson's Warbler
American Tree Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow
Song Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Red-winged Blackbird
Rusty Blackbird
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Baltimore Oriole
Purple Finch
House Finch
Common Redpoll
Hoary Redpoll
Pine Siskin
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow