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Saturday, November 30 – samedi 30 novembre
Tracking down early Snowy Owls
Guide: Sheldon Harvey 450-462-1459 email@example.com
Snowy Owls and other winter birds have begun showing up in different area around the Montreal region. For this Saturday’s spontaneous destination, we are going to attempt to track down some of these birds around the South Shore areas of St-Hubert, St-Bruno, Varennes, etc. Although cold weather is forecast, conditions should be good. This will predominantly be a driving trip. We will be looking for Snowy Owls (already seen at St-Hubert Airport & Varennes, Rough-legged Hawks, Snow Buntings, and whatever else we can stumble across.
To facilitate matters, we will meet at a spot familiar to most of you have participated in some of our previous South Shore outings. This is Parc de la Frayere, on boul. Marie Victorin in Boucherville, on the St-Lawrence River. After quickly exploring that parc, particularly its waterfront, we will head out on the road trip taking us through parts of Boucherville, Varennes, St-Bruno and finally to the airport in St-Hubert.
STARTING POINT: Parc de la Frayere, boul. Marie-Victorin, Boucherville, Quebec, in the parking lot.
TIME: 8 AM – Half day trip
DRIVING DIRECTIONS: The park is a little less than 30 minutes from the South Shore side of the Champlain Bridge. From Montreal, take the Champlain Bridge, to the first exit off the bridge. Follow Highway 20/Highway 132 EAST, heading towards Varennes/Longueuil). Continue east on Highway 20/132. Note that Highways 20 and 132 split at exit for Quebec City & Hippolyte-Lafontaine Tunnel. Stay to the left at this exit, continuing east on Highway 132. Continue past the exits for de Montarville, de Montbrun and chemin du General Vanier. The next traffic lights will be at Boul. de la Marine/Boul. Lionel Boulet (Highway 229). Turn left at the traffic lights on to Boul. de la Marine, heading north towards the waterfront. Continue north, cross the railway tracks and turn left at the traffic lights at the corner of boul. Marie Victorin. Continue on boul. Marie Victorin, past the hydro pylons. You will see an entrance road into the parking lot for the Parc de la Frayere on your right.
NOTE: Because there are reduce lanes available on Champlain Bridge, HIGHWAY 132 East can also be accessed from any of the other bridges to the South Shore (Mercier, Victoria, Jacques-Cartier, or the Lafontaine Tunnel, as well as the new Highway 30 bridge at Vaudreuil-Dorion.) Once on Highway 132 east, route instructions above apply.
Dress warmly! We will be in some wide open areas so wind and cold will be a factor. We will work in a pit stop, or two, throughout the trip. Carpooling is recommended on these types of trips, plus if you have two-way radios, bring them along, tuned to channel 11, for inter-vehicle communications. If you have any questions, please contact me at 450-462-1459, or on Saturday morning at 514-637-2141.
A total of 11 brave birders (permit not necessary!) showed up on this cloudy, windy & cold November morning. It was very quiet in the park; this is not surprising at this time of year, for bird species. Also it would be a very good idea if the city & park officials started filling up their bird feeders at this time (they normally do, but seem to be late) when local bird species are looking for their winter food source. Or maybe the city parks officials are too busy & overwhelmed with park permits that they don’t have time to fill up their feedersEmoji? I can at least confirm at Visitation Nature Park the feeders have been filled with seed the pass 12 days and are appreciated by the local birds.
A total of 20 species and the last two species added was a beautiful Peregrine Falcon (not surprising seeing I was field leaderEmoji) that flew just over us at the parking area, after most of the group had left. The second was an immature Cooper’s Hawk in the same area. Here are the species of the day, and no doubt the American Robin was our bird of the day, the only bright color seen on this greyish day.
1. American Black Duck (1, male)
2. Mallard Duck (15)
3. Peregrine falcon (1, adult)
4. Cooper’s Hawk (1, immature)
5. Ringed-billed Gull (12)
6. Herring Gull (3)
7. Rock Pigeon (40)
8. Downy Wooderpecker (1)
9. Blue Jay (3)
10. American Crow (2)
11. Black-capped Chickadee (6+)
12. White-breasted Nuthatch (2)
13. Brown Creeper (2)
14. American Robin (42)
15. European Starling (46)
16. Dark-eyed Junco (1)
17. Northern Cardinal (3)
18. House finch (2)
19. American Goldfinch (4)
20. House Sparrow (30)
*And the species seen between 7am & 8am at Bois-de-Saraguay Nature Park
1. American Tree Sparrow (2)
2. Northern Cardinal (4)
3. American Crow (80+)
4. Hairy Woodpecker (1)
5. Downy Woodpecker (1)
6. Black-capped Chickadee (2)
…….. Joel Coutu, trip leader
Eight survivors of Friday’s wind storm made their way to the Beauharnois area for Saturday’s BPQ outing. A misty drizzle persisted on and off for most of the morning but luckily the breezes were very light. Temperatures in the 6 – 8°C made for quite comfortable conditions by Beauharnois standards and viewing conditions were fair except for the constant need to wipe off lenses.
We did not stay long at the rendezvous point near the dam but did have a nice sighting of five Common Loons together right at the shoreline with two or three more farther out. Our first major stop was at the St-Timothée Marsh where a large number of ducks and geese greeted us along with a late American Bittern. Interestingly American Wigeon were the most prevalent ducks seeming to far outnumber other species. Also present were Gadwall, Mallards, Northern Pintails and hundreds of Canada Geese. A single Wood Duck and a lone White-winged Scoter were present on the canal. Just as we were about to leave the area a Peregrine Falcon buzzed the ducks and then perched on a distant snag.
We moved on to the ponds at the St-Louis-de-Gonzague bridge where a flock of 1000+ Snow Geese were resting. Very few of these were young birds which led us to speculate on this year’s breeding success. Also present was a very large group of possibly 1000 diving ducks the majority of which were Ring-necked with scaup mixed in. Four American Coots were also present on the periphery of the group. On the small bay on the other side of the road from the ponds may have been one of most interesting sightings. One of the largest groups of Hooded Mergansers most of us had ever seen was present and putting on a great show of displaying and interacting. A quick count showed that at least 70 were in the group.
At this point only two of us made the final leg of our trip over to Hungry Bay which proved to be fairly quiet although we did add several more loons, some more Lesser Scaup and three Black Scoters.
An almost complete absence of passerines in the area we visited kept our total species list very low.
Sixteen birders gathered at the arboretum this morning for the first part of a two-site field trip that I had somehow agreed to organise and lead for BPQ. It was a little chilly until the sun got into its stride but the trees were at their glorious best and everyone was happy to be out “even if there are no birds” … but there were. In fact there were so many birds that we spent more time in the arbo than planned – not that anyone was complaining though their intrepid leader did at one point wonder why the complaint cliché is usually about the difficulty of herding cats when it would be better phrased as herding birders.
A total of 30 species were seen in the arboretum, – as follows:
Canada Goose 500, Cooper’s Hawk 1, Red-tailed Hawk 1, Ring-billed Gull 200, Mourning Dove 6, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 1, Downy Woodpecker 4, Hairy Woodpecker 2, Northern Flicker 1, Pileated Woodpecker 3, Blue Jay 50, American Crow 30, Common Raven 1, Black-capped Chickadee 20, Red-breasted Nuthatch 1, White-breasted Nuthatch 5, Brown Creeper 1, Golden-crowned Kinglet 10, Ruby-crowned Kinglet 40, Swainson’s Thrush 1, Hermit Thrush 3, American Robin 50, European Starling 25, Cedar Waxwing 16, Yellow-rumped Warbler 3, Chipping Sparrow 6, White-throated Sparrow 15, Dark-eyed Junco 15, Red-winged Blackbird 6, American Goldfinch 2
Around 10:30 all but three of the original group set off to investigate the birding possibilities of the fields south of Cap-St-Jacques. This is a largely unexplored area of abandoned fields that is thoroughly overgrown and pretty well without any trails other than those created by the deer. For that reason, it is quite and undisturbed and so there is a good and a rich wildlife to try to find. The sole exception is a small aerodrome for flyers of model aircraft that seemed to be roaring business but we we were pleased to note that the loud and zooming “hawks” overhead seemingly had no effect whatsoever on the birds who tended to ignore them altogether, perhaps knowing that real hawks don’t fly that fast.
After leaving the access road to the model aerodrome we started bushwhacking our way across the abandoned fields and through thickets of dogwood and buckthorn with a soupçon of willow and chest high grasses and milkweed. Everyone knew what to expect though and there were no complaints expressed (well, not to me anyway. Everyone is so polite.) But we were BPQ birders – we can do this stuff.
I did find a comment on Bushwhacking that those who were out this morning might find appropriate … “Vegetation is not quite your friend, not quite your enemy. You will sometimes grab branches to pull yourself uphill, hold them to lower yourself down gullies, and hang on for balance. Sometimes they will hit you in the face. You will pull thorns out of your hands and thighs. You will accidentally break branches, and other branches will repeatedly untie your shoelaces. Do not show remorse or fear. Plants can smell weakness, and they will team up on you like an NFL defensive line until they bring you down. You are better than them. That is why we have a dish called “salad.”
Birds seen at this second site, necessarily fewer in number if only because of the later time and the hot sun, were as follows:
Great Blue Heron 1, Red-tailed Hawk 2, Ring-billed Gull 1, Merlin 1, American Crow 3, Ruby-crowned Kinglet 12, American Robin 10, Yellow-rumped Warbler 9, Song Sparrow 6, White-throated Sparrow 8, White-crowned Sparrow 1, Dark-eyed Junco 8, Red-winged Blackbird 1, Common Grackle 1
Total species for the day = 32
My thanks to everyone who came for being cheerful and knowledgeable and for sticking the course to the end – by doing so we discovered a bird-rich area that should be explored in greater detail during the next spring migration. A welcome too, to Danielle from the Lanaudiere birding club who joined us today as her club had nothing organised.
If you are venturing out in long grass or the forest, after birds or just for the exercise, please read the document you can download from this link
The ticks you are looking for on your skin after an outing are these deer ticks – there are two species : Ixodes scapularis and Ixodes pacificus
During the summer we plan our field trips just a day or two in advance to make sure we go where the best birds are being seen – check our Calendar pages for details (also on Facebook and the Yahoo group pages)