31 March 2007

Today we saw ...........

Today was a gloriously sunny day with mild temperatures and lots of birds worth going out to see .... 31 species in all with very little effort and couple of them real stars.

We headed off for St-Thimothée where we were greeted by a chorus of loudly squabbling Red-winged Blackbirds interspersed with raucous cries of the Common Grackle.

More melodious calls came from a large number of Song Sparrows starting to set up territories and call in the ladies ... needless to say the one that was best positioned for a photo sat on a power line rather than a shrub.

These were all very fine birds, but the main reason for going to St-Tim was to seek out the famous Great-horned Owl that has set up home in an old heron nest and, right on cue, there she was merrily incubating her clutch quite unconcerned by the surrounding Great Blue Herons who seemed equally unruffled by the owl's presence. The heronry is way out in the marsh and even with over 1000mm of lens of my camera this was the closet image I could get so I have ringed the site of the nest for anyone wishing to follow in our footsteps and then blown up the owl for you to appreciate :

There was barely a moment in the four hours we were in the area that Canada Geese were not flying overhead ....

Leaving St-Tim we stopped by the bridge to St-Louis-de-Gonzagues to check out the bay where some nice Scaup and Common Mergansers as well as a small flight of Common Goldeneye and a pair of Green-winged Teal on an ice flow, were swimming amonst a group of geese and very close to a small flock of Homo stupidicus who were out ice-fishing. "Hello, guys, it's melting, those geese by your feet are on open water !"

At that moment a large ship trundled down the canal ......... happily its name was "The Puffin" so we were debating whether or not we could claim that as a tick too?

Our last port of call was at Hungry Bay where a large raft of Canada Geese not far from shore was keeping itself quite separate from an equally large raft of Snow Geese further out in the bay. Swimming amongst them were both sorts of Scaup as well as Common and Hooded Mergansers and just possibly a (far out in the bay) Canvasback is someone else would like to go and check.

So - a good day and we were all packed away, scope and binoculars stowed in the boot of the car and engine running when the sun went out, a huge shadow drifted over us and J squeaked "wozzat?". That was an immature Bald Eagle that settled on a tree along the canal path but not quite long enough to get the camera out again and leg it down the track close enough to take a sharp photograph ..........

.... before taking off and flying north over the canal towards the western end of Valleyfield. A very satisfying end to the best day's birding yet this year.

...... but lastly, we pathologists have to take our pleasures where we can find them, it's remarkable what you find when the snow finally departs :

We've earned some drinks tonight.

30 March 2007

Yet more signs winter is leaving

The Grackles are back in the garden ........ say what you will, this is an unusually handsome bird even if he isn't house trained and cute

The Geese are coming through daily now, sometimes pausing to rest on the ice which is gradually retreating from the shoreline

And, of course, the Gulls are once again with us. I could have posted an ornithologically stunning picture here but thought I'd be better employed illustrating their disgusting habits. There is a small prize for anyone who can suggest what this chap was busily eating - can't tell but it made a significant and probably painful bulge in the birds throat as it was eventually swallowed whole with a gulp and some crossing of the eyes .... what do you think it might be?

Back in the garden, the snow is now almost all gone and the stray snowdrops illustrated here a few days ago have been joined by this magnificent clump .... well, OK, from and English garden point of view or even from a Vancouver garden point of view it's pretty pathetic but it has taken us 9 springs here to get even this large a clump established. These were accidentally transplanted a season or two ago with a fern we moved to a back corner and they seem to really like their new environment - we shall experiment with moving more odd flowers to the same are in the hope that they form something approximating to a decent show while we are still alive to enjoy them (only 42 years to my royal telegram).

25 March 2007

Another first

Blessed with a foul cold this weekend I didn't get far but was greatly cheered by the first Song Sparrow of the year singing from the top of a high conifer in a garden two roads over ............. and the snow is disappearing fast leaving lovely mud and worse.

23 March 2007

Spring for sure

Warmer today and the snow is melting fast ...... as it goes, the first of the perces neiges (snowdrops) are busily piecing the snow to show that spring really has arrived with the passing of the equinox.

Returning home this evening across the MacDonald campus fields large meltwater pools had formed during the day and were already well populated by gulls, mallards and quite a few Canada Geese ...... but we need a photo of a spring bird too. This chap was in the garden a week or so ago but he's very seasonal so here he is:

22 March 2007

Spring - of sorts

Little activity recently but the arrival of the vernal equinox at 20h09 on Tuesday means it is now officially spring ......... and in fact it must be because in the last 24 hours we have added Common Grackle to the garden's year list for the first time and Red-winged Blackbirds are making a fuss down by the lakeshore.

Plus - the thaw has finally started.

10 March 2007

Euro weather

Apropos yesterday's forecast of freezing rain ahead what we actually got was a bit of wind temperature around zero and cold rain with grey skies ...... in fact pretty much like fenland winters back where we used to live.

This wasn't in the contract - nasty, nasty .... bring back minus 20 and snow please.

09 March 2007

Thinking ahead

Posted by Picasa

The male Cardinals are making a right din up and down the road each morning as they vie for territory, slightly warmer weather is promised for the next few days (with freezing rain - ah the joys of impending spring) but today's illustration is taken form the archives and shows the Snow Geese overhead as we shall see them before too long. Winter os nice but March is not - they don't call it the mucky month for nothing.

03 March 2007

Everybody's a birder around here .....