Migration is still a bit stilted at the moment. The nights are cold and we still have extensive snow and ice in our area. Geese are around but they are milling about looking for areas to feed and loaf and it might be a while before they get either. Some of the smaller birds are on the move, Red-winged Blackbirds and Common Grackles are usually at the forefront of the spring push but even there the numbers are not huge and there are many empty gaps in the roadside vegetation, normally occupied by a singing Red-winged Blackbird by now.
Although this is a birding blog I’ll put here a little piece about a departed friend, my old Hyundai Santa Fe. Known affectionately as the Squat Pig, there have been a few visiting birders who have sampled its comforts as we birded Quebec together. It wasn’t young when I got it and I’m not the most gentle of keepers when seeing a bird is at stake but it did OK until last year when it started to need too much TLC and too many dollars. Yesterday it went and we went back to a Grand Caravan, I can feel a trip coming on. The new, or at least lightly used beast is called Red Dwarf and it’s already done a tour of the St-Clet Lanes looking for Ross’s Geese. I hope it serves as well as the Squat Pig did.
Before I get back to the birding I’ll plug my birding book again here. There is a link on the sidebar that takes you straight to the eBook seller, it’s part of something I’m calling the ‘Just a Birder’ series and called ‘Going for Broke’ ($2.99USD, for 55,000+ words and many illustrations – a bargain). Here is another excerpt, this one refers to an autumn trip to the Isles of Scilly.
‘Upon arrival on the Isles of Scilly, all birders had been lectured regarding the perils of chewing the leaves of an exotic plant that grew on the island (in the entrance to the Garrison half way up on the left, for those interested) and whose name I have long since forgotten, but not as a result of chewing. Because the lecture came complete with specific directions to the said plant, this of course instantly persuaded the foolhardy to go and try it, with some unfortunate results. One lad thought he could fly and jumped of a wall, breaking his collarbone, or so we gullible newbie fools were told. Another birder was tempted to try the substance in the presence of a notorious girl and, again allegedly, ended up trapped in her flat for three days. More should be said of the reputation of this female, who truly did exist.
The loose lass was said to prey on young boy bird watchers, who were easily led to her boudoir by the promise of ‘free’ love. What was not in the brochure was the subsequent rash and trip to the clinic, also provided free, although for those who partook of her affections and who were in relationships, the free part might not include the consequences. She was said to be the area representative for venereal diseases and more than willing to pass on her experiences to the unwary. If the individual that we were told about was the lady that was pointed out to me, she was no oil painting, unless you happened to like modern art. None of this was ever substantiated by an escapee. Some called her the Siren of the Scillies, someone whom, being a Siren, had no problem with being in the proximity of crabs.’
There is a bit more in the book besides just writing about birds! The eBook is available for all types of e-reader at http://www.smashwords.com/ the direct link is http://www.smashwords.com/books/search?query=going+for+broke If you bought a copy and enjoyed it I’d appreciate any comments. The second in the ‘Just a Birder’ series, tentatively called ‘My Patch’ will be available in a few weeks.
This morning I did my regular watch at St-Lazare sand pits. The Northern Goshawks that had been seen displaying regularly have now gone a bit quiet, they could be on eggs although the longer than usual cold weather might have slowed progress. I’m seeing Northern Shrike every day and sometimes it settles in for a sing song. I got a pretty poor digiscoped shot this morning.
Other than a surfeit of American Robins, the ones below were digiscoped and snapped with the big camera for comparison, it was a fairly light morning so I went off around the St-Clet lanes. Yesterday there the regular Snowy Owl at the end of Ste-Julie was still on its mound. Today I came across five new Snowy Owls between the 201 and St-Dominique, south of the Cites des Jeunes. They had been absent in that area for some time and so I’m thinking that these birds are stageing on their way north.
Over the next few days the thaw should continue and for a very small window the fields around St-Clet will be awash with wildfowl before the well-drained fields shed the excess water. I also anticipate open water at the sand pits pretty soon, perhaps accelerated by the winter storm coming through on Sunday being rain rather than snow, we can hope.