Devil in the detail

I was just idly looking at the Nature Blog Network pages, to see where this one is in the averages and to see who is at the top when I noticed the one holding position three, Lee’s Birdwatching Adventures Plus (Birdwatching from a Christian Perspective). I didn’t open it because I’m not much of a one for any type religion but I did have to laugh at the averages figure on the right so I thought I’d share it. Sorry the screen print image is not great but if (huge if) there is a Devil, that has to be where the humour is. If you want to see it for yourself, there is an icon on this blog, once there, set the category to birds and click the 1-40 setting.

Losses and gains

There is an interesting article in Science Daily , link below, which will be of interest to Quebec birders.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120326113107.htm?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+sciencedaily+%28ScienceDaily%3A+Latest+Science+News%29

In Quebec we sit on the very edge of the northern range for Golden-winged Warblers. We also have a small but probably expanding population of Blue-winged Warblers, also extralimital in range, where they have met before we have hybrids. In Sibley’s ‘The North American Bird Guide’ the progeny of hybridization, including back-crosses, are well illustrated and distinctive and I can’t help but think that here is evolution taking place as we watch. The Science Daily article suggests that the Golden-winged Warbler should have elevated protected status to prevent it’s demise but why would we? As I see it we would just be conforming to our own narrow view of biodiversity when, what we actually have is biodiversity within two closely related species, perhaps they are supposed to interbreed and, if one of the parent species lacks genetic vigour to survive, it won’t, but two different species now known as Brewster’s Warbler and Lawrence’s Warbler will. Just a thought.

Below are three photos, not very good ones I admit but I tend to only use my own stuff. The first is a ‘pure’ Golden-winged Warbler taken in Panama. The second a ‘pure’ Blue-winged Warbler (male) from Quebec. The last is a Brewster’s Warbler, a backcross adult also from Quebec.

 

A bit gloomy

The fine weather finally broke after four straight record breaking highs and we have settled into a rather gloomy spell which has stymied migration somewhat.

Last Friday I had a little look around locally, adding Bufflehead to the pits year list, an exquisite male was bobbing around on the ever growing open area of water. It seemed to be a rather flat day, clear ones can be like that times, so I got back on the keyboard, writing up a coulple of more years for my birding book which will be up in a day or so. I took my lunch on the deck and looked up and there was a magnificent adult Bald Eagle lazily wheeling around. It was quite high but I snapped a few frames anyway, then I noticed that one of our American Robins had seen it too and was in alert posture with the crown feathers peaked. I don’t think an American Robin would form a part of a Bald Eagles diet except perhaps as carrion, but it was interesting to see the response.

 

A few year ticks

The fine weather continued but today we had a bit of cloud cover and a breeze too. It should have been perfect for hawks moving but I saw little evidence of it. I had a look at Hungry Bay, lots of Greater Scaup and Snow Geese, then I went to the Huntingdon area where I came across a three way fight between a Turkey Vulture, American Crow and Raven. The TV had what looks like a Chicken leg when an American Crow took the chance to try and grab it. Suddenly a Raven came bombing in and bashed the TV out of the way, it grabbed the leg and off it flew.

I dropped into St-Timothee on the way back and was surprised to find an early American Coot amongst the many Ring-necked Ducks and American Wigeons. New for the year were a couple of Northern Shovelers, new for the Quebec year list was a group of Redheads, this year listing thing gets complicated. The Great Horned Owl sat tight, no doubt surveying the arrival of its many near neighbours, the Great Blue Herons are back.

At the sand pits the first Ring-necked Ducks were out on the growing patch of open water, three males and a female. Snow Geese were pouring overhead, perhaps 10,000 or more going north and everywhere a Song Sparrow sang. There seem to be tons of them this year so far. I messed about with one of the Song Sparrow shots in Photoshop, I’m sure you can guess which one.

End of season report

The Snowy Owl season has finally come to an end, four days of record breaking temperatures here in Quebec probably had them wondering where the hell they were. I checked everywhere today and no white blobs were anywhere to be seen. The season started early with the first bird seen in November 2011, about a month earlier than previously. It took a few more visits to see the next one but from then on birds, were seen on virtually all trips.

I did a total of 54 trips around the lanes, seeing owls on 41 of them. The highest count was my personal record 20 the weekend before last. Most visits produced two owls, one produced six. I think a success rate of 76% is not too bad.

For those reading the Birder’s Life series, I posted 1994 a couple of days ago. My biggest critic tells me that the last two were too light on anecdotes. In mittigation, 1994 was such a birdy year in Notts that I just wanted to convey the excitement, and to keep back some of the humour for the Kindle version!

Unseasonably warm

Today we broke the highest day temperature for 19-March by five degrees, tomorrow it could be more, they are saying it will reach 24c. The snow is going very quickly, even where we live, which is a blessing but we can’t change to summer tires just yet which means that any trips along the highway are likely to have an adverse effect on our winter tires. I stayed local today, the pits and the lanes, I wonder if Snowy Owls sweat?

The pits were a-honk with geese going north this morning, plenty of Canadas and a few less Snow, there was one Cackling Goose but not for long. The Northern Grey Shrike is still there too, wondering what all these summer visitor snack items are although a single Common Redpoll would have been a more familiar fare. Hawks are moving and so I dropped back down to the pits in the early afternoon and saw what I was looking for, a Golden Eagle. Also there seem to be three pairs of noisy Red-shouldered Hawks in the vicinity, the Merlin, who is also back, will be kept very busy mobbing that lot.

I took a quick look along Ste-Julie. After Saturday’s 20 Snowy Owls I thought others would have been tempted out Sunday to look but heard nothing and so presumed that they had all gone. Not so, three birds are still present and there are a few more Rough-legged Hawks around too, not seen a bluebird yet though.

Below a couple of shots of a Red-shouldered Hawk, not great but showing enough, also an American Herring Gull which pushed through the pits, where’s it’s big friend Mr. Glaucous? I need that one for the pits!

Coo

Sunday morning was pretty good at the pits, I saw the first Eastern Meadowlark there for five years and only the third pits record since I’ve been recording’ plus five more year ticks there, I made a year list page under the St-Lazare tab for those interested. Sandra and I then went for a little drive out to the Eastern Townships. We saw a lot of Sherbrooke, thanks to ‘Maggie’ our Sat-nav who took us all around the city for some reason, stupid girl. Eventually we resorted to a map and found the area where a Northern Hawk Owl had wintered, had being the operative word here! The area looked good for birds but we saw virtually none, no Red-winged Blackbirds or Common Grackles there yet, around us west of Montreal they are everywhere.

On the way back we dropped in to look for Eurasian Collared Dove for the year at Sr-Bridgide and easily saw four. I photographed a couple and noticed that they had a bill defect. This could either be through inbreeding, they are the only known Collared Doves in Quebec, or perhaps its down to a long winter and not being able to wear down the upper mandible normally.

Today looks like another great day for migration, more later.