30 December 2006

Christmas Bird Count

Today was spent - all of it - taking part in the annual CBC for the Hudson area. The route we are assigned to can be seen at http://www.pqspb.org/cbc_hudson.htm - the maps for sector 2 are the ones you want. Supposedly the day was to have been sunny and indded, by the end, it was but the morning was cold driven snow .... not all good for seeing birds which, being sensible creatures, were well hidden and sheltered.

Anyway - the CBCs for those not familiar with them take place all over North America at this time of the year and have done so for the past 106 years, enabling a lot of very useful information about population changes to be amassed.

So - very near the start of the day we managed to tick off a pair of Wild Turkeys on the outskirts of Hudson where they ain't supposed to be (nice) and they were almost "bird of the day" until we got down to the flat lands around St-Clet where there were several mixed flocks of Snow Buntings and of Horned Larks. These birds qualify for the top ten list of favourites - a real soul satisfying bit of birding. What else? The usual common species of course but also some Tree Sparrows, a nice flock of Junco and successive flights of Canada Geese heading north, about 1200 in total. Don't they know it's winter!!

On the way back we detoured into Snowy owl territory hoping to pin down a bird for the start of the Big Year on Monday and failed hopelessly, although we did get a Kestrel which was major compensation ....... on returning home I learned from a friend who had been along the same stretch of road earlier in the day that there were at least two snowies to be seen, and he had photos to prove it. That's birding - it wouldn't be fun if it was easy.

A quiet day of no birding tomorrow and then it's the first of January and 365 days of continuous birding begins - I'm pretty sure who is going to win the contest but I'll try to keep snapping at his heels. I don't have a strategy and, believe it or not have other things that detract me, but we shall at least start by seeking out the winter visitors so that they are under my belt in the next few weeks and the regulars can look after themselves. Should be fun.

A good day out being rounded off at the moment with a large glass of good malt whisky.

29 December 2006

Late departing geese

It got down to -17 last night and finally we are starting to see some ice formation along the banks of the St-Lawrence river. Yesterday and today gatherings of Canada Geese started to arrive and build into rafts on the open water and it will only be a day or two at most before they have finally left us and the river freezes over completely.

Tomorrow is the annual CBC in the Hudson area - we are hoping for Snow Buntings and Snowy owls on our sector.

26 December 2006

That's more like it

Well, it was a very green, mild and un-Quebec-like Christmas yesterday but a very pleasant one for all that, including some nice water birds on the St-Lawrence at the bottom of our road ....... Common and Hooded Mergansers and a small raft of Scaup as well as a flight of about 70 Canada Geese heading north. In the garden we were visited by a House Finch and had a very entertaining 15 minute war of nerves between three American Crows and a most determined red squirrel, each determined to lay sole claim to the bread we had put out in a tree. The squirrel is barely as big as a crow's head but he rushed up and down branches chasing them away with great determination.

This Boxing Day though things are much more seasonal with several inches of (wet) snow having fallen already and the promise of more before the day is over. Compare the picture above to the one posted on Christmas Eve ..... it's the same corner of the garden.

A bit of a cliché perhaps but the Northern Cardinal below is always a beautiful sight in the snow while the Morning Dove above just proves that these birds don't have the sense to get in the shelter .... just look that snow on its back! Their common name amongst birders is "Dopes" - you can see why.

Lastly, the Hooded Mergansers were still around at the end of the road this lunchtime:

24 December 2006

Christmas flowers

It really is truly bizarre. When we gardened in England the "what flowers are in the garden at Christmas" count was a regular feature but this year, with no snow and temperatures above freezing during the day we have been able to resurrect the tradition ..... today, Christmas Eve we have this little Dandelion (hate, hate) and a Hellebore that's in bud if not actually in flower. A friend has flowering Snowdrops. What is wrong with the world?

Dandelion on Christmas Eve in Montreal !!!!!!

Hellebore buds

Most definitely not anything at all like a Montreal white Christmas should be

..... so we look for compensations and, as the title of this blog implies, that often involves food and wine. Last night it was a smoked salmon pasta with a fresh salad, a bottle of Pouilly Fumé and the traditional seasonal trifle (well traditional in this family at least) while tonight it will be roasted poussin with a selection of green vegetables and a potato galette. As for Christmas dinner - wait for tomorrow's posting.

Birds ...... just the regular guys, nothing special. Even down by the river the ducks have dispersed though they may be in close to shore again this evening. January 1st looms and the start of the "Big Year" - you'll be tired of that subject before too long.

22 December 2006

Not winter at all

Weird, weird, weird ......... after the flurry of snow a few weeks ago we have seen no more other than the odd flake and it seems that we shall be having a green Christmas, though not a grey one as the forecast is for sun (after lots of rain tomorrow).

When we lived in England a regular feature of the holiday was counting the number of flowers in the garden on Christmas Day - it seems that this year we shall be able to continue the tradition here after a hiatus of 9 years. At the moment it looks like we could have a Hellebore, in bud at least if not in bloom.


14 December 2006

First Snowy Owl of the season

I pushed back from my microscope to look out of the office window and wish I was elsewhere than in Senneville (as one does) when instead of the usual pigeons and sparrows, a whopping great big white Snowy Owl flew past so close I could almost have touched it if there wasn't glass
between us, albeit it would have had to have been with a fairly long pole.

From the way it dropped then lifted and banked away I am surmising that it had probably been perched on the quite extensive flat roof of the building more or less above my head. Quite some addition to my office window life list. Usually I get just regular birds here with brief appearances by hawks over the Domtar woods and the arbo in migration but this was a real heart
stopper - still got palpitations.

It flew off east in the direction of the MacDonald campus/farm fields if anyone is in the vicinity.

09 December 2006

Lottsa Geese

We are used to seeing large flights of Geese at this time of the year but just before dark, at about 4.15 this afternoon, we watched I don't know how many thousands and thousands (gave up estimating in the end - over 5000 anyway, probably twice that) flying NE to SW over Baie d'Urfé for about fifteen minutes non-stop.

Quite something - must have emptied out the St-Lawrence valley for the year. Think of all those Christmas dinners.

03 December 2006

Winter at last

The weather gods are forgiven for their ice storm on Friday - today the snow came and it's beautiful out there.


01 December 2006


Well, the winter started with a bang today ......... still no snow but we are in the middle of an ice storm (verglace). They don't have these in Europe, or at least we never experienced them in 50 years of bad weather, but basically they involve supercooled rain falling as a liquid and then instantly turning to solid ice the moment they touch down. This results in the world acquiring a thick and very slippery coating of ice which, in the sunlight we often get after these storms, does look extraordinarily pretty and glittery but which in reality is damnably dangerous - especially if you are driving. It is also very cold and very hard to chip off your car when you leave work to drive home - ice is rather hard stuff.

Fifteen minutes ago a neighbour asked to park her car in our driveway as the next door's tree had fallen across the road and brought down power and telephone wires ... for some reason though the electricity is till flowing for now. The weight of all this ice is the trouble - trees just snap under it.

Such fun ..... and nobody has seen a bird all day. Bring on the snow.