Rain, bad light, good Quebec bird

As seems to happen here at this time of year there was an influx of  ‘southerly’ species into Eastern Canada. Unfortunately most rarities from these events that appear in Quebec end up in Gaspe or Tadoussac which are, realistically, just too far to enjoy on a weekend trip. Cave Swallows are a local possibility though because they do odd things migration wise and so when 100+ were seen in Southern Ontario on Friday I thought I ought to go and try to find one. Another option this weekend was to drive a couple of hours for a Cattle Egret near Trois Riviere which, to be honest, is a pain in the deriere to get to because we are west of Montreal and that egret was east.

Reviewing the possibilities I opted for realism and decided to find my own Cattle Egret in Quebec (a QC tick). If a Cave Swallow flew over in the process then good but, with 14 Cattle Egrets being seen near Ottawa in the week the egret seeking had merit. I opted for checking the Cow pocked fields on the north shore of the Ottawa River but had it in mind to go to Parc Plaisance which was probably the best bet. I try to get to Parc Plaisance a couple of times a year but had sadly neglected the place this year.

We started well, with a first-winter Lesser Black-backed Gullon the rocks at Pointe Fortune and which later obligingly flew over the border into Quebec. A short ferry ride and a hour and a half later and we arrived at Parc Plaisance just as the heavy rain flexed its muscles. Lots of wildfowl were in evidence including a Long-tailed Duck and 200+ Hooded Mergansers. Along the road called Grande Presq’uile we stopped to look at four Cows and there was our egret! Unfortunately it was some way away, as you will see below, the egret is the white thing without the fresian pattern.

After getting suitably wet we headed back home, enjoying the first (distant) Northern Gray Shrike of the autumn. Near Hawkesbury we chanced upon four Red-necked Grebes. Apart from a few flocks of Horned Larks that was it although, back home, the first Fox Sparrows of autumn had arrived. No doubt I’ll bore you with some photos of them some time soon. No Cave Swallow yet…

So, below the record shots and all relevant excuses apply. Unles you can live with the disappointment, don’t bother clicking for a larger image.

Yes its a lousy shot of a Pied-billed Grebe but this is the first photo in an exciting sequence of four depicting how this species makes itself disappear. They don’t dive as such but seem to insinuate themselves under the water.

Northern Gray Shrike is a species I’d like to pin down, not physically you understand that would be cruel, no in a photgraphic sense.


Lousy photos of Evening Grosbeaks!

It is getting colder, I have even been seen wearing a coat twice this autumn yes its been that nippy. Last night was the coldest of the autumn here, the pond had a skin of ice but it was clear and crisp so I was up before dawn and ready. As I stepped outside I could hear Evening Grosbeaks somewhere. I searched for a while but thye appeared to be drifting away so I tape lured them in. The new speaker worked very well and, incidentally, will run for more than 35 hours without a recharge.

Now you have to understand that the light was lousy, I even tried using the flash which is really a last resort for me, anyway below are what could be described as record shots.

The pits had lots of Canada Geese with the odd Cackling Goose in there and the recently arrived Ruddy Duck was also present but little else.

I’m working on an annotated checklist of the birds of St-Lazare sand pits, I’l mention it again when done, its been great fun picking through the notebooks and reliving the day although I’ve looked three times and can’t find the date of the Black-backed Woodpecker I know I’ve seen! I am also still working on the odonata pages and will have the ID stuff done before the first one crawls out of its pond next year.


Told you they were rubbish.

Once I’d lured the little devils in they soon went for the Black Sunflower, they’d gone by the time I got back from the pits though.

If you want to see birds in the garden feed them! The winter arrangement for this year, come on you beauties.

Best ever Harlequin

Not a birdy week at the pits to be honest so the news of a Townsend’s Solitaire locally was incentive enough to get out. The bird was seen along one of the cycle tracks that follow the St-Lawrence Seaway, notably the south section from the Pont Larocque to Hungry Bay.  Another good reason to go out that way was to look at a build up of Horned Grebes in Hungry Bay.

As we crossed the pont the white capped waves suggested it was going to be hard work, the wind would be whipping off Lac St-Francois and the waves making it hard to see things, how wrong can you be! At Hungry Bay they have sensibly installed a small parking bay and a viewing jetty. Another birder was intently scoping the waves as we settled in for a good look around Sandra became animated, there was a male Harlequin not 30m away. Male Harlequins along with Torrent Ducks are the very best ducks in the World (although I have yet to see Spectacled Eider) and here was one giving our best views ever. A chat with the birder revealed that the Townsend’s Solitaire was still around and we got rough directions from the friendly birder.

While the Harlequin did his thing we looked around and it was clear that there was a lot of grebeless action. Flocks of Black Scoters were everywhere, interspersed with small flocks of White-winged Scoters, good stuff. Presently we were joined by Regis Fortin and after drinking in the Harlequin we headed off along the Cycle Track in search of the lost solitaire.

As we approached the spot, Alain Quenneville could be seen intently peering into the windy bankside vegetation. Remarkably it took over an hour for the bird to show again apart from glimpses but when it did it posed out in the open and even fed on the track. Satisfied we went back to the Harlequin, passing a flock of Brants flying east, and found the star bird perched on the nearest rocks. The photos below do not do it justice.

To round off the day we had a look at the lake by the next bridge up, Pond du Gonzages. It was stuffed full with ducks, nothing rare but tremendous numbers of both Scaup, Gadwall, American Wigeon and Ring-necked Ducks.

Map courtesy of Google Earth

Hungry Bay Harlequin site

Solitaire site

130+ Black Scoters.

Not very good but atmospheric.


Its been a bit of a dull week bird wise, even I can only get so excited about the number of Green-winged Teals at the pits rising by two! The weekend has been bright but very windy, I don’t like either condition particularly so I took the weekend off, almost.

Dark-eyed Juncos have arrived and started to blanket the seed patch in the garden. The feeders are a hive of activity all day long so I’ve been watching them a bit more today. The family of Northern Cardinals remains, three juvs with two adults. White-throated Sparrow numbers are climbing and two star birds, a pair of Purple Finches, took over the Black Sunflower feeder. Just out of interest, especially for European readers, below is today’s garden list in full (told you it was quiet!):

Blue Jay, American Crow, White-breasted Nuthatch, Red-breasted Nuthatch, White-throated Sparrow, Chipping Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, American Robin, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Hairy Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Cardinal, Black-capped Chickadee, Purple Finch, Mourning Dove, American Goldfinch, Cooper’s Hawk. Note the absence of House Sparrow (1 garden record) and Starling.

While not birding this weekend we were shopping for new kit. Well actually we went out to buy some sticky labels for return addresses and ended up with a computer, to explain. A couple of years ago we bought a mini computer but it is very limited and coughed when asked to do photos. It only has a tiny hard disk and uses its own operating system and software. While in Staples we saw an Acer Aspire 1 mini, 250Gb hard drive, fast processor and Windows 7 OS. It was reduced in price and we were tempted. Researching the machine on the web we found that it had good reviews so we bought one, a good traveling machine that we could use to edit photos etc while on trips.  Now the bit they don’t tell you is that the Windows 7 starter version is much reduced and has limitations, of course you can upgrade for a price. Also there is no CD drive so you need to install any of your favourite programmes via a stand alone drive, which has not been a problem so far.  To conclude, if you were thinking of a travel machine which can do the same job as the bigger versions the Acer Aspite 1 is not a bad choice.

The second bit of kit bought is only of interest if you use (responsibly) playback. And before anyone leaves a lecture regarding playback should only be used by experts, well how do you think they became expert, think about it. Anyway I digress. I use my ipod in the field (Sibley as an App is very good), usually to play back a call or song to myself but from time to time I’ll try playback to see the bird, especially when in the Neotropics. Speakers have always been a problem, the best choice had been some from Radio Shack (or whatever its latest incarnation is), a cheap speaker but it is bulky and fiddly, needs batteries and I don’t like it, so I’ve been looking for a small, more compact type of speaker. Step forward the iHome range. They do a small, rechargable speaker with a reported battery life of  6+ hours  continuous use and excellent sound, all for $20.00CAN. I have the IHM60 (from Wal-Mart). Its about two inches in diameter and closes to about the same depth.

Enough waffle, below are a few shots of dubious quality.

The male Purple Finch, which is about as purple as my Donkey.

I suppose mauve finch is out of the question

The female

It is my ambition to photograph every species that visits the garden sitting on this snag.

Immature Sunflower seed muncher.

And Daddy.

Heavy frost

After torrential rain for about eight hours on Thursday 30-September prevented my daily pits visit,  I was eager to see what effect it had had on the water levels. Sure enough most of the shorebird habitat was submerged, not a bad thing, it should wash away invasive seedlings. I checked the available birds with some pessimism and was delighted to find an immature Long-billed Dowitcher albeit at range. Predictably it had gone Saturday but geese had started to arrive in ernest and Myrtle Warblers were also on the move.

Sunday was not so good, the geese were still on their way but little else was around. A heavy frost and clear day meant that many birds had shipped out but kinglets are still out there and wildfowl are starting to get more interesting. It was not a great photo weekend but a couple are below.

For those interested I have uploaded more dragonfly ID photo plates, also I have started the St-Lazare sand pits pages, click on the tab.

Downy or Hairy, come on you are big boys and girls now.