A Space on the Shelf

I’ll admit now that I’m a hopelessly hooked collector of books on birds, well not just birds, I have a good selection of Odonata and Lepidoptera books, supplemented by guides to reptiles, mammals, wildflower – just about everything in the natural world interests me. One particular book genre that I enjoy is a well-written avifauna. I recently bought the excellent, if rapidly becoming outdated, Birds of Nova Scotia because I need to know that stuff, and it got me thinking. Just why isn’t there one available for Quebec?

Language issues (for me) aside, the only ready reference to Quebec bird records, seems to be Denis Lepage’s web site at http://www.oiseauxqc.org/listeannotee.jsp I’ve said before that I find the site unwieldy, but better than nothing. I also find the inclusion of drivel, i.e. ‘record non confirmee’ a bit mystifying.  If the records are questionable, then put them in their own rejected section, the same with escapes species, cleanse the thing.

There is currently a new breeding birds of Quebec in production, quite why we need another when there is already a perfectly adequate one available I’m not sure. Please don’t respond to that, I know as well as you the answers, I just don’t think much of them. Presumably the new atlas, once published, will not be as big as the old version, a book so big that you could use it to stun a Moose, just so long as you had the relevant permit! I know many would argue that a breeding atlas is a conservation tool, true if you have a government that gives a stuff but we don’t and never will have, the dollar rules whatever colour the party banner.

The question of creating a provincial avifauna is a tricky one. Records from Quebec are published in North American Birds, but that is so far out of date when you get it as to be of little use and you need to read and remember the contents of every one to get any idea of rarity status.  I think that the value of a good avifauna is overlooked here, perhaps because we are hardly the birding capital of Canada. Size for size the provincial list is fairly modest, something that can be attributed to a very low birder per acre ratio, Quebec is huge after all. I wonder how much gets away without being noticed.

Perhaps one answer to the avifauna issue is to produce an annotated checklist of Quebec birds. Such things give you a condensed version of the species list and some sort of status level for all the species on it. I contemplated doing one myself for a while but it was pre-digital publishing and would have been unilingual, so only half a job. Below is a cut and paste from the QC bird records website.

No – Localité – Dates – Référence

  1. Nicolet automne/1930 échappé, SPHNC 1938:159; CFN 55:14
  2. dune du Nord, I-M été/1985 échappé, Fradette 1992:81
  3. commune Berthier (10 individus) 6-12/06/1993 QO 5(3):23 (photo), QO 6(1):25, photo publiée
  4. Saint-Félicien 4/07-8/08/2003 QO 15(4):44, 5 indiv.,; photo publiée
  5. Ayer’s Cliff 20/05-12/06/2004 QO 16(3):44, 2 ind.; origine captive
  6. Saint-François-d’Orléans 25/06/2005 ornitho-qc, 9 ind.;

This list of Black-bellied Whistling Duck records in an annotated Quebec checklist or avifauna might look something like this:

Black-bellied Whistling Duck Dendrocygna autumnalis

The status of this species as a provincial bird is uncertain and it is likely that all six occurrences, most involving more than one individual, relate to escaped or free-flying collection birds. There is a pattern of post-breeding dispersal and any autumn birds would be more likely to relate to wild birds. The birds included in ‘Liste des oiseaux observés au Québec’ contain three records noted as relating to escaped birds (# 1, 2 & 5), and so can be dismissed. The Berthier and Saint-François-d’Orléans flocks both occurred in June, so perhaps there is some little-known post-breeding dispersal taking place, although why they would travel north is unclear. The Saint-Félicien record of 2003 ties in with a July/August record near Kingston, Ont in terms of arrival period, but again, the supposed sedentary nature of the species probably precludes it from being treated as a genuine vagrant.

It’s that easy!

It has been very cold recently, the winter that we were happy to be dodging late last year has crept in and had a real go at us. Temperatures lower that -20°C with harsh wind chill factors are really making it hard to be enthusiastic about being outside for long. My feeders at home have a growing Common Redpoll flock and a Hoary joined them one morning. Oddly, it took until yesterday for a Downy Woodpecker to appear on the feeders for February. They are usually omnipresent, which is why I noticed. This Cpoll was one that didn’t panic when I passed the feeders one morning this week.

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I was digging around in my digital archive recently, still not the best organised collection of photos you will ever find, and I came across the first Northern Hawk Owl I ever saw. It was at Ste-Foy, just west of Quebec City (Dec 2003) and on an industrial estate. I still think this is one of the best shots I’ve taken of them, even though the digital image was a digiscoped ‘hold small camera to the scope’ type of snap. It is certainly the only one I’ve ever had at eye-level. I’d love another chance like this with the kit I have now.

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My new books have been seeing some activity. The freebies has had nearly 50 downloads so far, the one you have to pay for considerable low but there you go. Just to remind those who didn’t know. I have two recently published eBooks out there. ‘My Patch’ at $1.99US and available by clicking on the cover image on the side bar, it’s also available from Kobo, Barnes and Noble and iTunes. The other is a free eBook called ‘Fifty Seven Varieties of Bird’, again click on the cover on the side bar, coming to other eBook retailers soon I expect.

my patchsmall

Thanks to those who bought my books, I do appreciate the support.

57 varieties small_edited-1

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