I know my second favourite topic after St-Lazare sand pits is the weather, well I am English after all, but really, when local records for low temperatures get broken you know that it is downright unseasonable out there. I’ll not quote facts, I tend to judge the temperatures by how quickly my nose hair freezes or how far past the STOP signs I’ve actually gone before I’m legal. Usually it’s not the air temperature that gets you, although -29°C is red nose weather. It’s the wind chill that really does it, it cuts through your super warm coats, padded trousers and snow boots and gets right to your bladder.

One paragraph later and I start writing about the birds, that’s how cold it’s been.

It has been slow, except for Snowy Owls that is, which are easy to find if you look properly and I typically see between 8-12 around a 7km circle that is centered on St-Clet. Naturally that sort of concentration has attracted photographers and the vast majority are treating the owls with the respect that they deserve, most know their craft anyway. I have heard though that some people have been along Chemin Ste-Julie with toy mice on strings trying to lure the owls in. I’ve not seen it (yet) but if you read this and you behave like that where the owls are already in danger of traffic collision you are a total arse. If you are a birder and see this, tell the miscreants of the danger to the owls and if they don’t stop, photograph them and shame them on Facebook. I did actually write to our local MP about the possibility of getting something done but I’ve not heard back yet.

Yesterday I made the first visit of the year to the excellent feeders on Rue Higgins in Chậteuguay. All birders know the place and those interested enough go there to get their Québec Red-bellied Woodpecker for the year or even life, as I did years ago. The parking lot was a skating rink but I got in and only had to wait a short while before a pair came in, not close but I got a record shot. I also got Tufted Titmouse too, not quite the sticky find in QC that it once was. No Carolina Wrens showed this time, I may well take up a friend’s offer to pop in and see his on his feeder sometime soon. It would be nice to think that we might eventually get them on the St-Lazare ridge but they seem reluctant to leave the river valleys. Tufted Titmouse might make it here though, it is reported on the CBC sometimes but, as the site is not revealed I’m not sure where to look.

Below a distant record shot of Red-bellied Woodpecker etc.

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Today was milder, relatively, and so after topping up the seed at St-Lazare sand pits I did a tour of the lanes. It was very interesting to see the geographical spread of the Snowy Owls, eight this time. There were a couple at the ‘traditional’ spots along Ste-Julie but then it was fairly barren until I got in the greater St-Polycarpe area where I found five and all fairly close to the town. I thought I’d done for the day when I pulled out onto the Cites des Jeunes to head back to the pits but there were two Snowies on utility poles along the stretch between St-Emmanuele and Ste-Dominique. In terms of line of sight one was perhaps only 600m from my hawk watch point at the pits. This encouraged me to linger at the pits a while in the hope of a fly-over but no luck, yet. It will be interesting to see whether the March staging around St-Clet happens this year. If it does it could look like a scene from a Harry Potter film during mail delivery time on Privet Close.

While out with my chopper recently, the wood we bought for the winter is all cut about 2” too long and had to be cut down, I found this hibernating Hoary Comma. I was careful around it and hopefully it will make spring OK. Not bad for QC, the first butterfly of the year in January!


The weather (yes back to that) is going to warm up a bit in the next few day but that will bring unwelcome snow too. I’ll probably try to use the wind-less window to get to the river at Verdun where a couple of Harlequins (males) and a Barrow’s Goldeneye are being seen. I still live in hope of a local Northern Hawk Owl but nothing yet unless suppression is rearing its ugly head again.

I’m afraid that you will have to suffer a couple more Snowy Owl shots, the Cites des Jeunes birds (below). I had to drive the busy road (speed limit 90kmph, translates to 110kmph locally!) a few times to get a window in which to stop and grab a shot but it was worth it. They were a dark immature and what I would regard as an adult female, only the second adult I’ve seen this year out my way. I think my personal winter tally of Snowy Owls is somewhere over 60 individuals at four sites now. Larry Lafleur said he was getting bored with them! I say fill your boots while you can, there will be plenty of times to come when you will struggle to find one.

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2 thoughts on “Brutal

  1. What time of day to you go? I’m an amateur photographer and would love the opportunity of capturing photos like these. Thank you.

    • Hi Ginette. Morning or afternoon are the best times. I tend to just shoot from the car where possible although some of the roads in the St-Clet area can be busy. I would try along Chemin Ranger from route 201 south of St-Clet, just follow it slowly to the Cites des Jeunes. You would also find a trip out to Casselman would suit you, especially if you are able to go during the week. email me at and I’ll send you directions. Mark

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