Ile Bizard through the Panasonic

As promised here are a selection of Sandra’s photos from the Ile Bizard visit. Unless stated they are not treated or cropped, just resized for the web. The camera type is mentioned in a previous post, if you wanted a versatile camera for a few wildlife photos without lugging around a lot of hefty kit, the Panasonic dos not do a bad job. The macro setting is especially impressive.

A couple of views of Ile Bizard from the boardwalk/stomp/cycle/rollerblade!

A bit of editing on the first show of the Marsh Wren.

Northern Pearl-eye cropped.

Eastern Pondhawk

Female Sedge Sprite cropped.

Teneral Dot-tailed Whiteface.


Ile Bizard

As a devotee of Football, the game where you kick the thing, June weekends this year have been influenced by who is playing in the World Cup. Following the excellent game on Saturday 26-June between Uruguay & S. Korea we ventured out ‘local’ to Ile Bizard. This site, for European readers, is on an island off the north side of Montreal. Heavily developed (and getting heavier) but hosting a park that is always well worth a visit. Typically the birding is incidental to the rights of access of joggers and cyclists and so you share a long and bouncy boardwalk with a steady procession of frequently noisy people but, remarkably, the birds don’t seem to mind. This busy aspect of the site is magnified at weekends, and is part of the reason why we had not visited for three years.

Ile Bizard is a favourite with photographers, here a breed that does not carry optics, just cameras, they are not naturalists as such but they do behave like photographers everywhere and hog the best spots. The site is probably one of the very best for photographing Least Bittern and Marsh Wren and this year a pair of American Black Terns were nesting 10 feet from the boardwalk so it was not surprising to see crowds gathering to look down on the birds. As for the birds themselves, they just got on with it.

Below a few shots, exclusively mine. Sandra also took a batch with the Panasonic. I’ll post a second set of photos when she has processed them.

Herons first, Green above and a couple of shots of Least Bittern taken at Ile Bizard a few years ago just to illustrate how confiding they can be. This visit we only saw flying birds.

I’ve never seen American Black Terns nesting so close to a path.

Some of the birds are moutling, terns typically moult head back making them look a bit scruffy.

You may wonder why I refer to them as American Black Terns. There is a strong lobby for this species to be split from the Eurasian version. There have been several records in the UK now of American Black Terns and birders are slowly formulating the plumage differences between the two ‘species’.

One key feature in distinguishing between the two appears to be the underwing colour.

Marsh Wrens appear to be semi-colonial with pairs in adjacent territories and then expanses of similar habitat devoid of birds.

Perhaps the reason why dragongfly numbers were fairly low.

It was a bit windy at times.

Got to finish a marsh sequence with its noisiest resident.

Atacos Bay

Sunday 20-June we went out to Atacos Bay, a Ducks Unlimited reserve West of Hawkesbury, Ontario. Previous visits have always been productive, the reserve forms part of a very large complex of inaccessible pools managed by agreement with local farmers. Our visit was timed to produce the best dragonfly conditions with birds a hoped for side show.

Although the public reserve is not very big, the trail goes through a mixture of habitats with typical open country and wetland species on offer. Unfortunately the cutting of the trail seems to have been dropped and so we faced a tricky slog through waist high grass with uncertain footing in places. Part of the trail also requires the crossing of a few deepish looking creeks and the bridges have suffered from the same lack of maintenance as the trail, making their crossing entertaining.

The visit was fairly successful although the abundance of dragonfles was fairly low and the condition of the trail meant more attention was paid to your feet than the wildlife at times. We saw several nice species and had plenty of opportunity to look at the ‘blue’ damsels, Sandra’s camera once again perfoming excellently as you will see from the photos.

Two habitat shots of Atacos Bay

Not surprisingly the grasslands hold Savannah Sparrow and Bobolink.

Twelve-spotted Skimmer, above from Sandra at c8m! Below a head on shot from me.

Not too many butterflies but several Great Spangled Fritillaries.

Common Spreadwing female, the only spreadwing we saw at Atacos Bay.

Two great photos from Sandra of Sedge Sprite, the second showing a pair in cop.

Marsh Bluet, Sandra’s two photos again. The common ‘blue’ seen.

Taiga Bluet, quite different looking in colouration and actions from the other ‘blues’.

The first and last Taiga shots are mine, you can see the difference between the Panasonic compact and the Canon SLR, see previous posts for kit details.

Now a couple from the garden, the first is Pronghorn Clubtail.

The first Eastern Pondhawk of the year.

The pondhawk rested up in the shrubbery then suddenly dashed after prey, the result being a sticky end for this male Eastern Forktail (they taste like Chicken).

As always any odonta ID is open for debate (except where obvious) so if you want to comment on anything leave a message.

Tremblant trip

As promised a few images from Tremblant. For those outside Quebec, Tremblant is a pleasant two hour drive from Montreal (the scenic way), its big with lots of lakes and rivers, tons of (mostly invisible) birds and a good biting fly population that dissipates after mid-June. It has most of the Boreal species of birds found in Quebec and some great insects. You might also see Wolf (yes) Bear (no) or Moose (don’t be silly). Warning, there are no bird pictures in this post and so, if you have the attention span of a hamster, look away now.

First a word on kit. I use a Canon EOS50D with a 100-400mm lens for everything, which explains a lack of depth of field on the insects sometimes. Sandra uses her new Panasonic DMC-FZ35 which is bigger than a snappy but not the size of a 35mm. Some of the photos below are taken by her with the new camera. On macro zoom it is superb and it will focus down to 1cm! If you are looking for a camera to do insects with and that is capable of taking bird shots (18x optical zoom image stabilised) we can recommend the Panasonic as being up to the task.

Butterflies first this time, a cute Arctic Skipper.

Silver-bordered Fritillary.

Canadian Tiger Swallowtail (mine)


And now a few views just to get the feel of the habitat, all from Sandra.

The first of two jewelwings, this is Ebony (Sandra’s), River Jewelwing below (mine).

Aurora Damsel

Mustached Clubtail

Pronghorn Clubtail

Lancet Clubtail

Twin-spotted Spiketail – new for me.

Crimson-ringed Whiteface.

Chalk-fronted Corporal, very common.

And finally a good example of the macro capabilities of the Panasonic, this is a hawksbit species (no decent field guide to flowers here either). The flower would be perhaps 1.5 cm across.

More bugs than birds

The last few weeks since the previous post have been characterised by lousy weekends with some heavy rain spells and generally poor conditions for birding or anything else. When the opportunity has presented itself I’ve managed a couple of visits to the pits and a few walks around Bordelais Bog (the bog) but there have been very few bird photography chances, as can be seen by the photo below.

We did manage a trip to Parc Tremblant last Sunday. The flies were hellish and the birds not really showing but that was not surprising as the main reason for the visit was to look for dragonflies and we only arrived around 10.30. One of our most productive birding paths had signs warning about Black Bears, I’ve seen fresh prints down there before. The choice of potentially seeing Boreal Chickadee and Spruce Grouse with the side option of having your arms ripped off by an angry Bear or, working through the many dragonflies around the picnic area was an easy one and I’m typing here with both hands to prove it.

So birds and the bog area first. The local Grey Catbirds have noisy fledged young, a pair of Eastern Phoebe’s are nesting and two male Pine Warblers duet at the boundary of their territory. Add the summer resident Nashville and Myrtle Warblers and Yellowthroats and White-throated Sparrows and its not a bad place for a couple of hours stroll. The bog areas are looking better than ever for dragonflies and each visit seems to give me a new species.

If you only come here for the bird pictures its time to leave, nothing but bugs hereafter.

The first spreadwing of the year turned out to be an Amber-winged, a new species for me.

Boreal Bluet. Not too many damsels out yet but there will be soon. In summer they are often just blue clouds erupting from the vegetation, naturally this makes it harder to sort through them which probably explains some odd gaps in the list of damsels I’ve seen here.

Hagen’s Bluet, yes I know you North American readers who call all small shorebirds ‘peeps’ and invented the term ‘confusing fall warblers’ will struggle to see the differences between this and the previous photo but they are there, you just have to know where to look. Eventually I will complete the ID pages which will help.

This was a new species for me, Sedge Sprite. They are very common but I have been ignoring them as just being a teneral (recently emerged) version of one of the common ‘blues’. When I saw this one I realised my mistake, I’ll be looking closer at everything from now on.

Tule Bluet, yes it looks the same as those before doh! The next shot shows the markings better.

At last an easy one. This is a male Fragile Forktail although, to be honest, they are all a bit fragile if you sit on them.

And now over to you (some chance eh!) I’m struggling with this one. It occurs around the bog area but does not seem to be common. The markings are quite distinctive in what appears to be a mature insect. The problem here is the lack of ready (printed) reference, if its not in one of the few decent books available its a web search and even then the chances are slim. Some features fit Familiar Bluet but others are just wrong.

And now for something more obvious, Hudsonian Whiteface (male) a darter sized dragonfly.

Even as immatures they are quite distinctive.

Yes it is just a four-spotted Skimmer (chaser in Europe) but look at the one in the earlier post to see how different they can look.

Frosted Whiteface. Very common.

Lancet Clubtail. It is hard to tell these things apart sometimes but I think the digital age will revolotionise the ID of odonata and, eventually, definitive field markings will be illustrated. Here are a few helpful shots of one of the commoner species.

The clubtail bit.

And now a few butterflies starting with the European (Small) Skipper. Introduced into N. America in Ontario, now very common.

Hobomok Skipper.

Juvenal’s Duskywing, all good stuff so far eh.

Long Dash, closely related to the short walk and casual amble.

Northern Crescent

White Admiral to finish on an easy one. Tremblant stuff next.

Out early

Having registered to take part in the new Quebec breeding bird atlas, I was keen to get out to my square and start to get to know it, so shiny new GPS in hand I left the house at 03:20. My first stop was the pits, naturally, and it was pleasing to find four Whip-poor-wills singing away at the west end, one even showed itself as it whipped poor Will from the anti-traffic rocks thoughtfully placed there for its use. Another surprise was a House Wren singing nocturnally and Alder Flycatchers, all a good 20 minutes before dawn.

My designated square is east of Valleyfield east of Howick. It has a nice selection of habitats including some excellent looking meadows. I bet if it had not been raining so heavily there would have been lots to see and hear! As it was I did find two pairs of Upland Sandpipers, lots of Indigo Buntings, Bobolinks and Eastern Meadowlarks. My sum total for the visit was 56 species.

I then went to the Gowan Road area near Huntingdon looking for a Cerulean Warbler but it seems to have gone, I had excellent views of a pair of Yellow-throated Vireos though. Moving on to Montee Biggar, the Brewster’s Warbler remains, as does the Yellow-billed Cuckoo, in fact birds were still singing until midday so I did a bit of Remembird recording to good effect, if you are reasonably close you get a very acceptable recording although it found the Brewster’s buzz a bit testing.

Not much by way of visuals to show you I’m afraid, just this too close and against the light Pine Warbler, a species which seems commoner this year.

I added a tab called birding tales to the blog pages, I’ll post a few more tales as and when I get around to checking my notebooks for the details.