26 February 2007

Winter Borealising

Saturday, some driving around local roads yet again failed to turn up a Short-eared Owl (apparently they were all on Amherst Island this weekend where some friends saw 11 of them .... but those would be Ontarian owls and thus barely worthy of note) we found a small flock of Horned Larks

.... and a fairly sizable flock of American Tree Sparrows

Sunday, being a glorious day and barely cold (no gloves needed) we went a couple of hours north to Parc Tremblant - quite apart from some splendid birds, we spent several hours on the raquette trails and worked up a fine appetite. A gorgeous winter's day - as J said over lunch "who needs to go south in winter when they have all this?" You have to wonder, for us sand in your sarnies on a Floridian beach somehow is no contest for the northern forests under a blue sky.

..... in search of photographable White-winged Crossbills like this fine fellow who was there in his glory with hundreds of his chums:

they don't just perch - sometimes they fly and stay in focus at the same time -

For real flying displays, what can beat a Raven ? This fellow buzzed us twice and came so low I could almost have touched him if I'd had that really long lens I lust after ($8000 - not going to get that any time soon) but actually was so close he was hard to get a fix on - terrific bird whatever.

Also seen were Pine Siskins which we had despaired of s they have not come south to Montreal this winter at all

The last weird thing was the spotting of a small group of American Robins, all ion fine fettle and all way north of where they should have been at this season. The odd straggler in Montreal is normal, but not up there where it gets seriously cold.

19 February 2007

Bogey birds and Garden birds

Thanks to our American friends south of the border where today is "Presidents' Day" and the fact that the company I work for is (now) a US company today was not a day on which I had to report to work while almost all of the rest of Canada did. This was good.

Yesterday we took a day off from birding and had great tramp round the snow-shoe trail in the arboretum ..... where, low and behold, we found a small flock-ette of White-winged Crossbills, a bird I had thought I might miss this year. One bogey-bird less and one not being targeted at the time so we take this as a gift from the birding gods.

Then today we went over to the south shore to visit the waste disposal facility at St-Basile-le-grand which is famous for its Short-eared Owls in winter. Bright, bright sunny day and numbingly cold and when we got there we found that because it was a working day the owls were all behind the wire and we were outside of it - however, bogey-bird number two put in a welcome appearance and as we got out of the car the air was filled with gorgeous little Horned Larks s you can see in the three pictures below:

Horned Lark (male)

Incoming flight

Sexual dimorphism - female to the left and male to the right

Well, that was a pretty good bird for the day but the garden has been filled with birds too and this time they almost all cooperated and let us get a full set of portraits. The following pictures are all but one of the species we have had in the garden today ...... Canadians will recognise old friends but our European readers will find this interesting .......

American Goldfinch

Downy Woodpecker (female)

American Crow

Hairy Woodpecker (female)

House Finches

European Starlings

Male and female House Finches and a Dark-eyed Junco

Purple Finch (male)

Northern cardinal (male)

Black-capped Chickadee

Dark-eyed Junco

Blue Jays - there were actually five of these in the garden at one time

Mourning Dove

The missing bird was a House Sparrow

Finally, a Gas Hawk to finish the set .........

11 February 2007


**Note : if you click on the small pictures below you will be able to see them enlarged

We had other plans today than to return to west of St-Clet but a reliable sighting of two Short-eared Owls yesterday had us (and several other car-fulls by the look of things) out there again. Inevitably, the owls did not show themselves but the Snow Bunting "roost" that had been mentioned alongside the SEOWs was just stunning.

Some kind person seems to have dumped a load of grain in a field (maybe scrapings from an old silo?) and the birds were going mad over it.

Also there were Lapland Longspurs and a group of about 20 or so American Tree Sparrows ..... but still not Horned Larks. After seeing huge numbers on December 30th they have avoided me all year so far - clearly the bogey bird of 2007. The Snow Buntings were skittish as usual, flying down to the food source and then up into the surrounding trees where they hung out like so many Christmas ornaments.

Anyway - no Short-ears but driving back we found another Snowy Owl perched on a barn roof. While trying to take pictures from the road the bird decided to chase some pigeons and flew right overhead .......... eat your heart out everyone :

A very good day indeed.

04 February 2007

A good start to February

Well, with January behind me (37 species - after a recount) it's time to start on February .... but before getting down to todays trouvailles, just have a look at this European Starling that came to the feeders this weekend. Who needs tropical birds for spectacular colour - this has to be one of the most gorgeous birds on the planet.

So - off to the flatlands again for winter open-country birds. A nice flock of Snow Buntings were browsing the fields ...

..... before flying off a few yards twittering to each other. Perhaps one of the stars of winter birding.

What we were really after however, were Lapland Longspurs which we eventually found in a couple of small flocks - in this first flock they has some Snow Bunting along for the ride.

Then a well placed group of Longspurs had the decency to pose nicely for the camera - no doubt about the ID at all.

Finally - the Snowy Owl again - not new for the year but new for the month.

Off to a good start.

03 February 2007

Got him ...... !

The Carolina Wren reappeared this morning in the garden, this time for a Feederwatch Day so we can report him to BSC. I managed to get some photos of his rump waving merrily in the feeder but he refused to face me once I had broken my neck rushing downstairs for the camera so I am posting a picture of him taken last year in the same feeder .....

For the record, the January personal list this year was a splendid (though not earth shattering) 36 species while the garden list attained a healthy 20. Now it's February and we can start all over again.

01 February 2007


Had an excited phone calls from England tonight urging me to get on a plane and head off to Farnham reservoir in N. Yorkshire to tick off the first Pacific Loon (Diver) to be seen in western Europe. Yeh, right ......... though I do know someone who just might !!

Meanwhile, I had a very enjoyable half hour at work this afternoon watching a Red-tailed Hawk from my office window moving from the top of one lamp-standard beside the TransCanada Highway to another and finally swooping down to take a fat black rodent (vole?) which it carried to the top of a wooden Hydro pole to gulp down. Very nice.