Hard going

On December 1st I was out for the day with a visiting birder, Colin Manville. Our targets were anything he’d not seen before, hopefully including Pine and Evening Groasbeak and Cedar Waxwing. We started at Morgan Arboretum where the wind cut through us and the birds stayed in bed. To be fair we did see both common nuthatches, Pileated Woodpecker and an obliging Red-bellied Woodpecker which eBird coughed at. We then moved on to St-Lazare sand pits but two days of -12°C had reduced open water to 5%. Undaunted by this or the weather we found a smart Cackling Goose amongst the Canada Geese and a couple of Dark-eyed Junco. The next spot was my secret Crab Apple trees where I had a Pine Grosbeak the day before. Naturally they were emptyof grosbeaks and, to compound the issue, a waxwing sp. (Cedar to me but no view for a lifer) flew over and vanished. At least we had some good views of American Tree Sparrow there.

When it is cold and windy there are some places that you don’t want to visit in the sound knowledge that you will experience the weather at it’s worst by dint of their exposed aspect. Hungry Bay near Valleyfield is just such a location but the potential for a scoter was too attractive and so we braved it. It turned out to be a good choice because the feeders on the way in had a couple of Tufted Titmice. At the viewing jetty the ice sculptures did little to suggest that this would be a pleasant experience but a female/immature type Black Scoter within binocular range kept the cold out just enough. We then backtracked to the Pont St-Louis and walked the canal a short way. Another good choice made with five Red-necked Grebes, three Greater Scaup and a Common Loon visible. A Black Duck with a group of Mallards was added to the day list and then a Red-tailed Hawk obliged by flying right over us.

The experience of seeing 30,000 Snow Geese doing what they do best i.e. making a noise, is too good a sight to pass up so we headed for the lake beside the Pont du Gonzague. Disaster, the cruel weather had frozen the lake and we had to content ourselves with three depressed looking Snow Geese in the bay on the canal. A good raft of ducks was scanned and revealed ten American Coots and at least 60 Hooded Mergansers amongst the Mallards and Black Ducks. Both scaup were there and a few each of Ring-necked Duck and Common Merganser for the day list. It was now getting late and we had to move.

After a helping hand, fuel-wise, from Tim Horton’s we headed out to Rue Higgins in Chateauguay, mainly to try for feeder birds such as Purple Finch. The feeders were fair buzzing and we saw another couple of Tufted Titmice and a Red-bellied Woodpecker plus common stuff. I had prepared Colin in advance and told him to expect to be disappointed with regards to seeing a Carolina Wren, I’ve been there several times and only seen them a couple of times there. Fortunately the wren had not read the script and up it popped right in front of us offering a great camera opportunity, although it is difficult to focus it when it is in a bag in the trunk!

Our last port of call was Nun’s Island where I hoped for both Pine Grosbeak and Eastern Screech-Owl. We were a bit late arriving and neither of the regular owl spots were occupied. I did see a Pine Grosbeak fly over and we heard a screech owl call but the day was done and we declared on 45 species.

Now back to today and I managed to track down my first Snowy Owl of the winter at St-Clet. The picture below is a record shot but I’m sure you figured that one out just by looking at it. Also around today were 700+ Snow Buntings and six Green-winted Teal at the pits. Also included below a record shot of the Morgan Red-bellied Woodpecker. Quite why eBird coughs at them both at Morgan and Chateauguay is beyond me, they have been in both locations for some years.

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One thought on “Hard going

  1. Cracking day out Mark, Thanks. Its now the 15th December and I still have not thawed out, maybe it will happen by spring!

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