Tremblant trip

There are a few early flying dragonflies that you need to brave the biting bugs for, Uhler’s Sundragon is one and it is supposedly present in the vast Mont Tremblant provincial park somewhere. The weather looked OK at 19C and there was the possibility of seeing, or more likely hearing, a few of the boreal species for the year list. Park Mont Tremblant is a true asset with its rambling trails, little back country tracks and waters of varying sizes. What there is not is some sort of published guide to the different habitats within the park and so it really is a just a case of going where you know or chancing some unknown gravel track.

We had some success and some failures. We probably saw the sundragon but not down and not for long enough to confirm. Other species were in abundance, especially Chalk-fronted Corporal. The birds were tricky, we heard Boreal Chickadee and Grey Jay plus we saw a few of the commoner warblers and enjoyed a Swainson’s Thrush chorus late on. There were a few photo opportunities, the results of which are below. It was pleasing to get some good shots of Springtime Darner, a species that I had not seen perched before and quite a distinctive one.

One odd thing was the presence of a discharged Bear spray on one of the quieter spots we visit, we have never seen Black Bear at Tremblant although there have been the odd set of tracks around the Lac Escalier trails from time to time. You wonder what the story was and whether the owner of the Bear spray also owned the car parked where there are no obvious trails?

The week ahead looks uneventful as May winds down but you never know, usually June produces a few overshoots and perhaps this year one one of the more exotic visitors will be in our area and not in some far flung spot at the end of Gaspe.

Lots of American Redstarts around.

American Emerald – they are usually more cooperative but this time I had to make do with flight shots.

The process of becoming the flying insect is well underway here. Later this exuvia had fallen into the water and the previous owner had taken wing.

A female Green Darner – not many around Tremblant yet.

Springtime Darner.

We were on the trail at Lac Atocos and there were a few Swainson’s Thrushes singing. We stopped for a look and photos and managed a few before three people, a couple and the mother of one of them, came along the track. We stepped over to one side to let them pass and continued to look into the vegetation for the now calling thrush. The three stopped and stood right behind us peering into the bushes too, not birders, just out for a walk in unsuitable clothing. Had they asked what we were doing we would have been happy to say and even try to point out the thrush but no, they just kept peering in. Eventually we just walked off confident that we had encountered, in the flesh, the same type of idiots that cause traffic jams because they slow down to look at fender benders every single time.

Garden Safari

I nipped out to St-Lazare sand pits this evening, the noisy people were gone, a Common Nighthawk was doing what it does best, hawking. Further on four Whip-poor-wills got busy and an American Woodcock flew circuits around the car.

Because we had to do domestic stuff Sandra and I stayed home and enjoyed the garden. Two of the three female Ruby-throated Hummingbirds were buzzing around all day again and a male dropped in too but the ladies were not fussed and chased him off when they saw him. A tiny brown butterfly turned out to be an Eastern Pine Elfin which was a new species for us. Nearby a perched dragonfly turned out to be a Stream Cruiser, a garden addition and making our garden ode list to 24. Other visitors included the Question Mark butterly and Canadian Tiger Swallowtails. It was a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours.

Male Ruby-throated Hummingbird hiding from stroppy females, something I never have to do because all of the women I know are never, ever stroppy.

The Question Mark, you can spell it ? if you like.

Canadian Tiger Swallowtail.

Stream Cruiser in the garden, odd because we don’t have a stream, just a six foot by six foot pond.

Eastern Pine Elfin – nice.

A Common Grackle anting – they sit on an active ant nest and allow the ants to use their formic acid to deal with louse infestation. It seemed to enjoy it.

Hummer fun

Each year from May through September we have had the odd Ruby-throated Hummingbird drop in for a drink at our regular hummer feeder. Gallons of nectar have been donated to the ants in the cause but the maintenance of the feeder has always been worth it to enable us to enjoy our occasional visitors. This year we tried a few of the basket feeders too, they sit on a spike in a hanging basket and the hummers come along and are attracted first by the visual of the basket, then they drink.

Our first bird this year was a male that chose to drop in one weekend lunch time as we sat and ate our bacon sandwiches on the deck with the cameras in the house. So for the past couple of weeks the camera has sat on the table whenever any garden sitting has occurred. Yesterday I was in luck when three different females came calling. Amazingly then even sat in one of our pines about a foot apart and took turns to drink about once every fifteen minutes. Normally a resting Ruby-throat is nervous and shuns attention but one of the trio was a true star and happily sat for snaps. The extended time spent in the garden was also rewarded with only my third ever Twin-spotted Spiketail dragonfly, an unexpected addition to the garden list.

The pits are off limits until Sunday, its the annual nocturnal walk for life which they hold at the Base de Plein Air. A worthy cause but quite why they need blaring disco music to do it by is beyond me, it was still thumping away at 05:00 this morning. I’m wondering whether they have disturbed the Whip-poor-wills which breed right where they hold the event, they probably have no idea that they are even there. I’ll be out tomorrow evening looking for Common Nighthawks anyway so fingers crossed.

Here are a few photos, the dark ones of the hummer were accidentally taken on manual at the wrong settings.

Ode mode

Sunny skies meant one thing, the migrants I had enjoyed watching yesterday would be well gone and so it proved. The pits were quiet but that is OK sometimes, there were however a few Dusky Clubtails out basking in the sun. I then nipped along to Hudson to try for a Little Blue Heron seen recently. I spoke to the nice people at Finnegan’s Market for access to their pond and the railway tracks behind so that I could look for the heron and they were happy for me to park on their land and look at anytime so, if you want to go to their excellent weekend market I can recommend them. Unfortunately the Little Blue Heron had gone but compensation was a Least Bittern on the Finnegan’s Pond. What was obvious all morning were the dragonflies, with many new species on the wing.

My next stop was Cedarbrook pits, a rough, working sand quarry that can be very good for odonata (odes). I was in luck and found my target species, Springtime Darner plus a few Stream Cruisers, none of which deigned to land.

As this is my blog I thought I’d comment on the muppets in the UK Government who think it is fine to kill Common Buzzards just because they kill and eat the Royal Pheasants before the Royals can. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is weighing in but still has its hands bloody after backing the cull of the introduced Ruddy Duck. Many years ago I was involved in the Great Cormorant investigation looking at predation of fish stocks. After a two year survey the evidence was just not there to back up the angling interest’s claims of fish stock decimation, strickly speaking that would be one in ten fish taken by Great Cormorants but the term to decimate has been misused in much the same way as awesome is, which is awesome.

There are millions of Ring-necked Pheasants introduced into the UK every year, many get blasted pretty quickly, very many more don’t and so they become semi wild and harder for the dullards to slaughter. The precentage take by the Common Buzzards will be small but the problem is that the Gamekeepers are feeling the G & T soaked breath of their masters telling them to do something and so they will merely kill the intruders, whether Common Buzzards, Red Kites, Golden Eagles or the endangered Hen Harriers. Don’t be misled, they do kill these birds now, they are just seeking to legalise it.

Enough rhetoric, here are a few ode photos and a fish.

A Walleye, one of a nice shoal at Cedarbrook.

Dusky Clubtail.

Springtime Darner – you only get them in Spring!

Stream Cruiser – note the pale anal appendages, it is OK to look, they are not shy.

Pits tick – Wilson’s Warbler

Grey skies today didn’t dampen my enthusiasm and a short trip to St-Lazare sand pits finally produced a long awaited site tick, Wilson’s Warbler. All of today’s action was in the first section of the pocket wood by the football pitch car park, pity this great little wood is slated to be more football pitches at some point. While watching the Wilson’s Warbler potter about, two warblers chasing each other nearby turned out to be Blackpolls, two year ticks in a few seconds. I settled in to try to photograph the Wilson’s, despite the lowering skies and subsequent lack of light. As I trained my lens through the mass of twigs a Canada Warbler started singing and more or less continued to do so for the next 30 minutes, year tick #3. I didn’t get great shots of anything, not really surprising given the weather. I added pits year tick #4, a female Ruby-throated Hummingbird, before the council workmen arrived to make bird song inaudible by strimming the grass banks around the car park into submission. Why don’t they just seed wild flowers onto it and cut it twice a year?

Blackpoll Warbler – this one was too busy to pose.

This is what they look like when they do sit still, taken a few years ago at Cap Tourmente.

Canada Warbler – always deep in cover.

 Wilson’s Warbler – again, through the vegetation.

Gnatcatcher joy

A few years ago I saw a Blue-grey Gnatcatcher at Mount Tremblant, just a fleeting view and the sort that leaves you empty, a Quebec tick but not in any way satisfying. A few days ago Sheldon and Darlene Harvey found a pair at Dundee reserve in southern Quebec and today was my day to go and look. Naturally, after two glorious days, it threw it down all day. Undaunted I walked the trail and, after three hours, found the pair buzzing around just where you enter the trail from the car park. I managed a few record shots, as you can imagine, with rain tipping down the light was not too great but at least I got a great view this time.

They probably breed every year in Quebec – undetected.

This Willow Flycatcher entertained me for a while.

The Yellow Warblers adopted a punk hairdo.

Even the Warbling Vireos sat still for a photo.

No Boghaunter

Monday May 21st we went out to Mer Blueu near Ottowa looking for Ebony Boghaunter. No joy and the place was hopping with people enjoying the sunshine. We walked the boardwalk seeing a few first of the season dragonflies but it was hard going. The site looks great and has the sort of access that Alfred Bog should have instead of the pointless and featureless boardwalk that they have there. One highlight was a first Brown Elfin butterfly, not much to write home about but a tick nevertheless. Most of the shots are by Sandra. Of interest at home was a Lancet Clubtail that I fished out of our garden pond. In the absence of any current information it was the earliest in Quebec by four days, was being the operative word.

Brown Elfin, a neat little butterfly.

A White-throated Sparrow that sang from the top of a snag, small wonder that it didn’t get a nose bleed being that high.

Frosted Whiteface.

Hudsonian Whiteface.

A couple of views.

An ex Lancet Clubtail, it is deceased, shuffled off this mortal coil and gone to join the choir celestial.