Saddlebags invasion

St-Lazare sand pits are on form at the moment. The shorebirds are nicely varied with 3 Baird’s, 5 pecs and a fair number of the commoner species present. A visit tonight had a surprise, another Black Saddlebags in Quebec. After an hour trying to photograph the flying insect I moved 200m further down the rough track and found another nine! Eventually they settled in to roost and I managed  a couple of shots. I think this suggests that we have an invasion happening, possibly a colonisation.

The barometers of climate change are the insects, dragonflies and their range expansions are a window on what is happening to local climates, we will know how significant this invasion is next year if the insects are again present. If you are interested in dragonflies and want to see the the saddlebags the best place is the rough track to the outdoor center, just where the small pine belt ends on the left. Meanwhile keep an eye out for others, they are easily recognised in flight by their short tails and obvious dark wing patches.

Sapsucker school

A hot and sunny weekend has meant that bird activity has been low and the dragonflies are hard to find resting for photos. Yesterday at the pits, two immature Merlin were playing games with the shorebirds, forcing Lesser Yellowlegs to plunge bodily into the water and harrasing a Belted Kingfisher until it left the site. The three Gresat Egrets are still around and an immature Black-crowned Night-Heron was only my second ever for the site. At home everything but a couple of Black-throated Green Warblers has gone, it will need another cool front to drop a few more birds into our area, perhaps late next week.

This summer we have had the pleasure of Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers frequently doing what they do best on our Birch trees. As the season progressed the regular adult was joined by up to two juveniles. The adult seemed to lead the juvs around the area for a while, showing them its stop offs and teaching them how to make their own. We’ve not seen an adult for a week or so now but an immature is present for most of each day, stopping sapsucking only to chase off trespassing Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers. The sap sucked trees are also attracting insects which is perhaps one of the reason the warblers have hung around, also attracted are Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, so much so that I moved one of the hummer feeders to the front porch and got an instant take up.

Below a shot of the immature sapsucker.

This week has also seen an uptunr in wildfowl. Both at the pits and alongthe Chemin de l’Anse good number of Blue-winged and Green-winged teal have arrived while at the pits the first Ring-necked Duck of the autumn showed up Saturday.

Below a digiscoped shot of Blue-winged Teal from the l’Anse, still not quite got the hang of digiscoping.

Local saddlebags

Its been an interesting couple of days. At-StLazare sand pits yesterday now three Great Egrets, a nice flock of 30 Purple Martins and a hawking Common Nighthawk. I was actually dragonflying, trying to hit the swarming darners, luck was on my side. Over one of the rough fields around 30 Green Darners and variable numbers of Canada, Shadow and Lance-tipped Darners hawked. With patience and luck I managed a couple of snaps of perched but wary insects.

At lunchtime today I was sat in my wife’s office when I saw a hawking dragonfly patrolling the area between the buildings. Because Senneville is on a migration route I always keep a pair of bins at the ready, this time instead of focussing on a passing hawk I zeroed in on a Black Saddlebags dragonfly, a pretty rare species in Quebec, but then these things are only rare in relation to the number of people looking. Tomorrow I’ll take the camera in and try for a shot if still present.

On the way home I did the Chemin du l’Anse at Vaudreuil, the water was up a bit on my last visit and shorebirds scattered. I’m pretty sure I got on to an adult Western Sandpiper seconds before a Copper’s Hawk joined the party and the shorebirds went in all directions, I’ll have another go at that tomorrow also.

For those interested in odonata, I’ve started putting the ID pages up, I did a trial to see whether they download and then load into iPods and iPhones, they do and seem ok, comments welcome.

Post breeding female Northern Cardinal.

Green Darner, very common at the moment.

Lance-tipped Darner, one of many swarming.

Twelve-spotted Skimmer

Autumn action

Finally, a few migrants have started to appear. I was up early as usual this Saturday and got no further than the front porch for half an hour, the trees in front of the house were a hive of activity and not just from the Black-capped Chickadees as has been the norm recently. True to form the weather is weekend lousy, roughly 70% of recent weekends have been this way after a pretty good week, this weekend I didn’t mind though because the grotty weather is the key reason why the migrants are feeding in our trees rather than looking down on us from 10,000 feet as the move south.

After the fun had ended and the birds moved off on their feeding circuit I nipped down to the pits. Two Great Egrets  were still there, 20 Least Sands, 48 Killdeer but that was it, so I zapped back home to the still quiet trees! After domestic duties, well buying peanuts and the annual Squirrel treat of shelled peanuts to bury for the winter, we sat down to lunch on the front porch, suddenly the birds were back. For the next hour or so we had great views of just about everything present, and they even ignored the disturbance of slipping inside to fetch cameras. By way of sharing this experience a list follows of birds seen in the garden today and a couple of snaps taken in said bad light. Not a dragonfly day sadly.

Chestnut-sided Warbler, Myrtle Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, Bay-breasted Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, Yellow Warbler (actually new for the garden list, 143 and counting), Wilson’s Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Hairy Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, White-breasted Nuthatch, Red-brested Nuthatch, Common Grackle, American Crow, Blue Jay, Cedar Waxwing, Black-capped Chickadee, Northern Cardinal, American Goldfinch, American Robin, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Red-eyed Vireo, Alder Flycatcher, Chipping Sparrow, Great-crested Flycatcher. I list these mostly for European readers just to get a flavour.

Two shots of Chestnut-sided Warbler, one of the Black-throated Green Warbler.

A couple of shots of a Magnolia Warbler taken Sunday, same light!

New Spreadwing

Following a sweep of the Chemin de l’Anse (25 Lesser Yellowlegs, 2 Great Egrets, a few peeps but not many) I decided to drop in on St-Lazare Sand Pits. A welcome year tick for the pits was a couple of Great Egrets, four years without one, now birds for the past three autumns. Also around were three young Eastern Bluebirds, they have been pretty scarce this year and the first Myrtle Warblers of the autumn.

As it was fairly quiet traffic wise I took a look around a small pool at the east end of the pits, formerly pretty good for dragonflies, now much reduced but still holding water and offering the welcome addition to my life list of Slender Spreadwing. Access to areas of the pits gets harder as they restrict parking everywhere and fence in parts. Luckily I have no idea what the signs say so I ignore them usually and keep my fingers crossed that plod does not happen along looking for a quiet spot to kip and give me a ticket.

I also managed to find a male Autumn Meadowhawk (see last post), and even considered using “told you I would find a male” as a title but decided it might attract the wrong sort of lonely Googler! Incidentally, there is an Audubon insect app for the iPod etc, it has a fair dragonfly reference section.

Enjoy the shots

Slender Spreadwing – fast approaching 70 species for Quebec now but time and species are running out.

Male Autumn Meadowhawk

Painted Lady, on the wing and the move along with the Monarchs.

Quiet weekend

Not much happening at the moment although the appearance of Autumn Meadowhawks says it all really, winter is on the way!

Rain has been a recent factor again and the water levels on the Chemin de l’Anse have risen excluding the shorebirds for a while. The rain seems to have terminated the flight periods of some species, perhaps an Indian Summer is around the corner though and maybe there are still a few weeks dragonflying left, if there is they will soon hopefully be vying with the arrival of those pesky fall warblers.

By way of supplying a few pictures to look out I venutred around Bordelais Bog and environs, see below.

A grump of  Black-capped Chickadees alerted me to the presence of two young Racoons lounging in the garden, they showed complete indifference to me, stretching and yawning before edging down the tree and away. Only Racoons sure but for us Europeans always nice to see.

Autumn Meadowhawk (female), I’ll try to find a male next.

This Spotted Spreadwing was a nice garden tick. The bottom shot shows the spots on the underside.

Flying Canadian Darner, not easy to photograph!

Decent day out

The opportunity for an unexpected day off does not present itself very often and, as we are coming to the end of most people’s vacation period, I lurched at the chance on Thursday 12-Aug to get out in sunny skies and high temperatures, perfect for dragonflying. Starting at St-Lazare sand pits,and not too many birds to look at but a tatty insect flushed off the sheltered bankside was a Spot-winged Glider, a scarce species in Quebec and certainly not the glider I’d expected to find.

Moving on I pushed out to the Lac St-Francois reserve at Dundee, surely a hotbed of dragonfly life but no, noisy Sandhill Cranes honked from the marsh, invisible in the high vegetation, and the Ospreys sat atop their pole, a breeding habitat seemingly the only place they nest these days but very few odes about and what were there were just common fare. Of note were a couple of Bald Eagles including a juvenile which may be a locally bred bird, perhaps.

After a couple of hours I moved on to the Huntingdon area which was quieter still, the exception being a bridge over a steady river where Powdered and Violet Dancers and Stream Bluets were much in evidence. Further on I tried the Gowan Road area, a place where spring dragonflies almost swarm up off the road, zilch this time.

My last stop was to be Bordelais Bog but, on the off-chance, I stopped off at a working sand pit between the developments of Cedarbrook and Saddlebrook, here I was pleasantly surprised by three Wandering Gliders, Saffron-winged and Band-winged Meadowhawks and several bluets which may turn out to be Vernal, I might have to squint at their goolies to clinch the ID.

Below a few shots. I’m working on the Odonata ID plates and may have a few to upload next week.

Spot-winged (more like what-winged) Glider.

Orange form of the immature female Eastern Forktail

A few shots of Band-winged Meadowhawk

Followed by some shots of Saffron-winged Meadowhawk

The highlight of the day were three very active Wandering Gliders, tough to photograph.

At least one of the gliders was female

Close up.