Sunday night the first real snow of the winter arrived even though we checked the box that said ‘no thank you’ for this year! St-Lazare tends to be colder and snowier than on-island and I’d reckon we had 6” of snow, the wet version and not the fluff. The only plus side of the white stuff is that all the birds that happily scoffed the fallen grain out on the wastes of St-Clet* are driven to the road verges to feed until the wind clears a few spots in the standing stubble. Of course the local people around there are aware of this and drive accordingly when they see a flock swirling around the road, slowing down and letting them clear the road safely, oh and a small flock of pigs went west too!
On the way out to the lanes I dropped in at St-Lazare** sand pits. They are finished in terms of water birds but the woodlots are going to get a good looking at this winter, I did see some Snow Buntings there though.
As soon as I started down Ste-Julie*** it was pretty clear that there were a lot of Snow Buntings around. My normal winter route is between 12-26km but yesterday I thought I’d do a comprehensive count of the Snow Buntings so I did 58km give or take and amassed a conservative total of 19 flocks for 2761 birds, I have never seen so many Snow Buntings out there in the ten years I’ve been birding the lanes.
In with the buntings were 27 Lapland Longspurs, all carefully grilled in case any western longspurs had become mixed in, but they hadn’t. Perhaps there are more buntings around this year or perhaps the late pulling of the corn and the liberal corn spills, evident on every verge, is responsible for such large concentrations of peckish birds. After I’d had chance to tally up and realise just how many buntings there were out there, I regretted not doing the extra 30km or so it would have taken to expand the search area and most likely to add many more Snow Buntings to the total. For the record the largest group was near St-Polycarpe ****, containing at least 600 birds.
* That should actually be St Cletus but the name was thought to be a bit long for the locals to spell when naming the town and so they went for the abridged version. Sainted for being kind to Earwigs apparently. Trip Advisor has this to say about St-Clet, “keep driving!”
** Patron saint of innovative eye surgery and devices for sending cats crazy – they just cannot catch those little red dots!
***The road is named after some cloth-eared bint sainted for rescuing newts from a drained pond I believe. You only have to not say “bugger” when you stub you toe or wear a big embroidered frock to be sainted or have I misunderstood the whole saint thing again?
**** A town named after a mythical figure sainted for working in an aviary and getting covered in parrot droppings as I understand it (as in polly crap). I could go on making a mockery of the saint thing but their little club seem to be so very proficient at it themselves that perhaps my comments are superfluous.
As for the owls, well they will get there in their own good time, November is not been my best month in past years with only odd birds putting in an appearance. I’ll probably be out checking a couple of times a week from now on, although it will be back to the shorter route unless I get inspired. I didn’t get any real photo ops yesterday but below is a record shot of one of the flocks, around 200 birds I’d say. Also there are some older photos of mine of Snow Buntings for anyone who accidentally strayed onto this site looking for winter decorations and doesn’t know what the real thing looks like!
Click on the picture for a bigger image.