17 April 2007

Pleasant birds at Plaisance

Picking, with unerring skill, the days on which the region was blattered by a huge storm (the sort that stops planes flying) we took ourselves off for a couple of nights at the Chateau Montebello - the world's biggest log cabin - for a birthday celebration and to be handy for nearby Parc Plaisance. The weather forecast was not good and we wouldn't have gone if we hadn't had a reservation but we are glad we did - a window in the weather opened and we spent most of Monday in dry conditions if more than somewhat cold ones and certainly with the strongest of strong northerly winds. Fabulous birding - the weather kept a number of birds grounded and gave us chances to get up close-ish.

(Keep on to the end for a funny anecdote)


Chateau Montebello from the outside :


.... and inside - you get the scale of the thing? Terrific restaurant too - just what is needed when the winds are howling and slush and snow is falling.

Anyway - we visited Parc Plaisance. This is a small provincial park along the Ouatouais River which holds lots of interesting waterfowl. But first you have to get in - yesterday, the office was unmanned and there was just a sign to the "Perception" (literally, the tax collection office) which turned out to be a small green tin box on a pole with a hopper full of brown envelopes. In each envelope was a two-part lottery-style card which you were enjoined to scratch and reveal the month, date, size of group and a few other options. Keep one part to display in your car and the other to be placed with cash in the envelope in the green tin box. Why they couldn't have a simple parking machine type slot machine like the rest of the world uses, we have no idea but this is Quebec and the Byzantine option is usually the one they choose in circumstances such as this.

Whatever - bracing ourselves against the wind we entered the park where we saw :





A group of 18 Wild Turkeys


A pair of Green-winged Teal




Several groups of Musk Rats out ice-fishing. Sadly, the wind was so strong that the monopod I had taken to support the camera was insufficiently stable to get a clearer shot than this.



A solitary pair of Ring-necked Duck


Several groups of Bufflehead




A magnificent flying display from a Northern Harrier



A beautiful American Kestrel who had a well-developed need to not allow me and my camera any closer than this - coupled with the low light levels, the record shot above was as good as I could get

But - he had a friend so there is hope for an increase in the Kestrel population this year.




A couple of Turkey Vultures came to check us out

"Who's a lovely boy then?"

Short anecdote ..... after dinner in the restaurant last night the waiter apologised for the fact that the bill was delayed "because they have to fix the squirrel". Eventually we worked out that what they had to fix was the computer screen but our very pleasant waiter was not quite as fluent in English as he would have us believe and écran = screen while écureuil = squirrel. Henceforth, our computers will all be equipped with squirrels on which to view our emails etc. A simple confusion of (almost) homophones and we are as likely to make such mistakes ourselves but, nevertheless, the day ended on a chuckle. He got an extra bit on the pourboire for that.


At the end of the day, the 35 species seen were as follows:

HERONS, EGRETS AND BITTERNS
Great Blue Heron
DUCKS, GEESE AND SWANS
Canada Goose
Wood Duck
Green-winged Teal
Mallard
American Black Duck
Blue-winged Teal
Ring-necked Duck
Common Goldeneye
Bufflehead
Hooded Merganser
Common Merganser
NEW WORLD VULTURES
Turkey Vulture
HAWKS, EAGLES AND KITES
Northern Harrier
Rough-legged Hawk
FALCONS AND CARACARAS
American Kestrel
TURKEYS
Wild Turkey
GULLS
Ring-billed Gull
PIGEONS AND DOVES
Rock Dove
Mourning Dove
SWALLOWS
Tree Swallow
THRUSHES
American Robin
CHICKADEES AND TITS
Black-capped Chickadee
NUTHATCHES
Red-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch
CROWS AND JAYS
American Crow
STARLINGS
European Starling
SPARROWS, TOWHEES, JUNCOS
American Tree Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
Song Sparrow
SALTATORS, CARDINALS AND ALLIES
Northern Cardinal
BLACKBIRDS, ORIOLES, GRACKLES, ETC.
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
FINCHES, SISKINS, CROSSBILLS
American Goldfinch
OLD WORLD SPARROWS
House Sparrow

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