Red-bellied Woodpecker

Its turning out to be a good year for new bird species for me at the pits. Yesterday afternoon, (while Greg worried fish) I was finding a Red-bellied Woodpecker, making it five list additions for me this year. I was also searching for dragonflies, specifically Eastern Amberwing, Swamp Darner, Crimson-ringed Whiteface, Brush-tipped Emerald, Racket-tailed Emerald and Vesper Bluet, all species that I have yet to see there, some of which would also be new for me.

The Wood Duck family continues to prosper, they rarely venture far from the north-east corner of the main pits and can probably fly now. Five Green Herons are enjoying the abundance of small fish and frogs although only a couple of Great Blues seem to have caught on to this, perhaps there is lots of food everywhere for them. The American Bittern continues to live around the Dog Track pool, its moved upstream a bit because the irritable Beavers (not a sexually transmitted disease) have built a new dam and are busy raising the water in a new area. The spring that feeds the Dog Track pool had several Shadow Darners patrolling which were new for the year.

Back to the birds and you can almost feel the urge to move starting to build, grackles are in large raiding parties, Cedar Waxwings and Indigo Buntings are everywhere and sparrows are starting to wander in groups. It may only be August on Monday but we have clearly turned the corner. My Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers at home now number four and are on the same Birch trees all day long, also my local Merlins are out of the nest and flying around so the balmy, if boring hot summer afternoons are starting to get more interesting.

Finally back to Beavers. We have a family nearby but the lower water levels in their ditch have forced them out onto a local lake. The lake is used extensively by swimmers and those smoking, tatooed creatures with no volume control that may be young humans (the Jury is still out on possible sub-species). This does not seem to deter the Beavers and I watched one happily working away at a recently collected branch, I was there checking for Vesper Bluets. A local guy and his young daughter passed by so I pointed the Beaver out, they’d only ever seen one in a Zoo!

I didn’t manage a shot of the Red-bellied Woodpecker but have continued to practice with the new Nikon P6000, I’m getting there.

Saffron-winged Meadowhawk.

The Viceroy, a Monarch mimic, this image looks a bit one dimensional.

One of the Green Herons hiding in a tree and grunting at me.

Orange Sulphur I think, I’ll work on it, this is the last of the digiscoped shots.

Aphrodite Fritllary.

The local beaver, it was quite late in the day.

Calico Pennant at the pits

Lyre-tipped Spreadwing

A couple of not so great shots of Shadow Darner. Like all darners they don’t land so much, and when they do its usually late and the are roosting.


Another try at digiscoping

In the past I have had very mixed success at digiscoping, for those of you who do not know what I mean, I’m afraid you have be redirected from your knitting pages.

When Howard and Kate Broughton were over recently I was very impressed by the quality of photo Howard got through his Nikon P6000. Unfortunately this camera has been superseded by a newer and quite expensive model and was no longer available, so I had to trawl through the small ads to find one. Eventually I acquired one from a chap in BC after a protracted period and I recently spent an evening down the pits looking for a recent flush of rarities (Eastern Amberwing!, more in the annotated pits ode list when published) and playing with the new kit.

The photos below were all hand held through a Nikon Fieldscope ED 50 travel scope, not bad for a first try.

Cherry-faced Meadowhawk

Widow Skimmer

Wandering Glider

Tule Bluet

Orange Bluets

Still working on the right settings

Not a Horse

This past weekend we went back up to Parc Mont Tremblant looking for a few of the area specialities. We started at good old Lac Escalier, it never disappoints and sure enough a couple of competative Dragonhunters barged around. The ode activity was not exactly overwhelming but the quality was good. My second Black-shouldered Spinylegs of the year (and ever!) was great, an obelisking Mustached Clubtail was cool but star of Lac Escalier was a Boreal Snaketail which dropped by all too briefly.

After such success the rest of the day was bound to pale  a bit and it was hard work in the high temperatures. We explored a number of minor tracks down to obscure lakes seeing the odd interesting insect. Needless to say, birds were few and far between save the almost constant song of Magnolia Warblers. At one since forgotten lake we came across a nice Beaver dam and parked up, almost immediately the Horse Flies Irritating bastardii descended on us at about the same time that a large ode perched up above us. The ode turned out to be a Lake Emerald, second tick of the day.

The day ended with no Grey Jays at the guaranteed picnic site, 18 species of Odonata and 50 bites each.

Boreal Snaketail – Sandra’s shots, mine lacked a bit of depth of field.

Black-shouldered Spinylegs.

Dragonhunter digiscoped with my old kit.

Crimson-ringed Whiteface

Lancet Clubtail – hopefully they are nearly finished for this year.

Mustached Clubtail obelisking, i.e, pointing its tail at the Sun.

Lake Emerald landed, almost news in itself.

Pleasantly warm

Monty Python described Australian weather as “Hot enough to boil a Monkey’s bum”, well sub Moose for Monkey and you are about right for Eastern Canada at the moment. In the afternoon, the time when I get to go out, the mercury pushed 38 degrees C, I even had to wear a hat!

The birds are all a bit rough at the moment, post breeding and pre migration some moult, some are worn and bleached and the ducks are all in their so attractive eclipse plumages. Thankfully the dragonflies pretty much retain the colours although I have my doubts about Prince Baskettails which have recently developed pale hoops on their abdomens, lost some wing pattern and are pretending to be Lake Emeralds.

The ode year list has crept up to 63 with the addition of the first Wandering Glider today but I now have to travel a bit to find some new species. Strangely I can’t muster much enthusiasm to travel, its vacation period and the gas companies jack prices by 10c per litre or more, pity we ever abandoned the practice of putting theives heads on jibbets at the town crossroads! There have abeen a few Quebec ticks around, the highlight being a pair of Eurasian Collared Doves east of Montreal. Much debate seems to be taking place in French birding circles, (Anglo bird news groups tend to focus on parking charges or some other pointless issue only tenuously related to birding), about whether they are wild or introduced. The species has a history of colonisation which suggests that these may be the forerunners whether introduced or not, either way it is hard to motivate myself to drive out to see them.

I’ll not tell you what this is.

Bank Sand Martin Swallow delete as preferred.

Rhaspberry time for the Great-crested Flycatchers in the garden.

We had a thunderstorm and this Canada Darner was on the porch ceiling when we put the lights on to watch.

Two different female Canada Darners in close up. You have to pity the males, waking up to a face like that and without the excuse of having drunk ten pints the night before!

Slender Spreadwing, very common this year.

Skimming Bluet etc.

The working sand extraction pits at Cedarbrook west of Montreal are proving to have quite a selection of dragonflies and damselflies. They tend to suffer from wind, making it rather choppy and hard to get the little devils to sit for photos. I did manage a few including a bouncing abundance of Skimming Bluets. Prince Baskettails are still around and have regular tussles with the Green Darners. Orange Bluets are also abundant along with Hagen’s and Tule Bluets.

The birds are all panting a bit in the prolonged heat, we have a few more days of it yet.

Skimming Bluet.

Female Green Darner above. Below a flying Orange Bluet.

Two Solitary Sandpipers all alone

Once the 30 degree heat had cooled a tad I went out to the pits. Dog emptiers were in ascendance so I avoided the main pits and went exploring around the seasonal pools and the west end of the pits. Two Solitary Sandpipers were being all Marlene Dietrich on the mud and allowed me to get near enough for a couple of photos and a noisy pair of Common Grackles were trying to knock lumps out of a Broad-winged Hawk.

On the main lake a trio of young Hooded Mergansers enjoyed feasting on the many fish fry available and the first Blue-winged Teal of the fall hid amongst the Mallards

A few shots of the sandpipers.

Scabby Robin, no not a new species to science, just a juvenile.

Obligatory ode, an Azure Bluet.

American Bittern

A long hot day inspired me to go and check out the seasonal pools at the pits, mainly for dragonflies but also for shorebirds. The water is slipping away quickly but there should be some good shorebirding in August whereas the Chemin du l’Anse looks very unlikely to produce a shorebird unless they have legs three feet long.

As I worked though the grasses I noticed an American Bittern in ‘can’t see me’ posture.

But I could and so I did a bit of fat bloke stalking and it just held its ground allowing a close approach if not a full view.

At this point I noticed a line of downy feathers poking out from the crown stripes so is it a recently fledged bird or do adults have this feature. I soon realised why I could see this, it had gone from hide mode to threat mode in one quick movement. I backed off a little so as to not stress it but it followed me down to about 2m, then it began bill snapping and hissing so I just stood and watched as this crazy American Bittern tried to force my 206 lbs out of its area.

I took more photos, obviously, before it suddenly stood up and jogged off through the high grass grunting along as it went. I was very impressed by its decision to go on the offensive and really enjoyed the close encounter. I’ve still not pinned down a marsh hunting bird for the ‘ultimate’ American Bittern shot but I will.

You lookin at me? I said you lookin at me? Well, there’s nobody else here so you lookin at me?

I’m noticing more Monarchs recently.

Did you really expect to get away without any odes! Amber Spreadwing at the pits

Saffron-winged Meadowhawk, another for the year.