Friday, October 11, 2019

Attack of the Killer Tits (a Bird Tale)

  Just in time for Halloween, here's my latest published "X-files Birding" tale, Attack of the Killer TitsPeople with heart problems or small children in the room should refrain from reading it (read in a Vincent Price voice). Muhahahaha!

  Great Tits are eating bat brains in Hungarian caves, by the way:

(To read my other published birding tales, click on this handy clickety-click and scroll down:

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Tsippers, Bug-snatchers, and Seed-crackers

Sibley-sized mushroom ball
Chipping Sparrow Spizella passerina
Hermit Thrush Catharus guttatus
Northern Cardinal Cardinalis cardinalis
(with a cracked bill)
Common Yellowthroat Geothlypis trichas
Black-throated Blue Warbler Setophaga caerulescens
Yellow-rumped Warbler Setophaga coronata
Blurry bathtime trio
One of the Cat Lady's cats (NDNC)
Pink-edged Sulphur Colias interior
  The air was blissfully fresh in the cemeteries this morn, and I had more stamina than those crummy hot days of recent memory. BirdCast promised big movement overnight, and it did seem like there were plenty of late migrants out and about (34 species recorded in four hours). Just three warbler species on the day, with quite a few Black-throated Blue Warblers chewping in the underbrush – all females.
  Seems most of the treetop bug-snatchers have already moved through and have been replaced by the skulky seed-crackers that all say ‘tsip’ – Chipping Sparrows, White-throated Sparrows, Dark-eyed Juncos, as well as personal FOY Fox Sparrows and Hermit Thrushes.
  The day’s biggest surprise was a Philadelphia Vireo in the northeast corner of the NDNC – seems late for the species. What else? Loads of Kinglets, and I saw my first Red Fox in a while. For some reason, I eagerly await my first American Tree Sparrow of the year. They’ll get here.

Mount-Royal Cemetery, (Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Cemetery), October 5, 2019
Canada Goose- heard overhead
Turkey Vulture- 1
Merlin-1 by the Molson monument
Ring-billed Gull-1
Downy Woodpecker- 2 (1)
Hairy Woodpecker- 2 (2)
Northern Flicker- 4 (2)
Eastern Phoebe- (1 in the north woods)
Philadelphia Vireo- (1 in the northeast corner of the NDNC behind the garages)
Blue-headed Vireo-1 (4)
American Crow- 25+ (2)
Black-capped Chickadee- 8+ (10+)
White-breasted Nuthatch- 3 (1)
Red-breasted Nuthatch- (1 or 2 in the northwest corner)
Winter Wren- 3
Golden-crowned Kinglet- 2 (3)
Ruby-crowned Kinglet- 10+ (20+ in the north woods)
Eastern Bluebird- 2 (8+ along the western edge of NDNC)
Hermit Thrush- 5 (4)
Gray Catbird- 1 heard on Pine Hill Side
Cedar Waxwing- 2
Black-throated Blue Warbler- 3 (6 well-dispersed in scrubby bits)
Yellow-rumped Warbler- 8+ (8+)
Common Yellowthroat- 1 on Oak Ridge
Northern Cardinal- 2 (1)
Chipping Sparrow- 30+ (50+)
Song Sparrow- 4 (4)
Fox Sparrow- (2 along the western edge of NDNC)
White-crowned Sparrow- (1 first winter)
White-throated Sparrow- 30+ (20+)
Dark-eyed Junco- 20+ (12+)
American Goldfinch- 8 (20+)
House Finch- (4)

Monday, September 30, 2019

Marais de St-Timothée, September 29, 2019

Autumn Meadowhawk Sympetrum vicinum
Canada Darner Aeshna canadensis

White-throated Sparrow Zonotrichia albicollis
Rusty Blackbird Euphagus carolinus with American Robin Turdus migratorius
spot the Green Heron Butorides virescens
Common Gallinule Gallinula galeata
Pickerel Frog Lithobates palustris
  It’s been a year since my last pre-Gangneung Canadian birding jaunt. Time flies, yadda-yadda.
  Yesterday’s plan was to hit the Reserve Faunique Marguerite-D’Youville hard, but an apple picking event meant that the parking lot there was full. Cars were being directed to another, massive (and full) parking lot off the island (whose gates were set to be chained shut at 5 P.M. sharp), where a shuttle bus would be taking the throngs of apple pickers to the site. No thanks, nope.
  So we hit Marais de St-Timothée instead, and it while it wasn’t super birdy, it was at least peaceful – only 32 species were recorded in and around the swamp on a crisp, sunny day. Notable were at least 1,000 icterids on the move, with several flocks of 200-300 (mostly) Red-winged Blackbirds joining to form an unbroken chattering black cloud overhead at the end of the walk. Separate from that mob were four Rusty Blackbirds perched in a dead tree with two American Robins. Perhaps surprisingly for this time of year, but perhaps not, only one species of warbler (three Common Yellowthroats at the parking lot muck canal) was logged all day.
  In other news, dragonflies really like me.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Mount Royal Cemetery, September 18+23, 2019

Cooper’s Hawk Accipiter cooperii

Gray Catbird Dumetella carolinensis

Gray Catbird Dumetella carolinensis
Northern Parula Setophaga americana
Woodchuck/Groundhog Marmota monax

probable Black-backed Woodpecker tree damage

Yeah, that's not creepy in the least
  My planned ‘all-morning’ trip to the cemeteries on September 18th wasn’t as birdy as BirdCast promised, with a total of 32 species seen in four hours. Highlights: a wacky Groundhog eating apples; a Gray Catbird eating white berries (what are they?); finally caught up with the shy Eastern Screech-Owl; heard an Eastern Wood-Pewee calling from the UdeM woods; a personal first of fall Golden-crowned Kinglet; 20+ White-throated Sparrows; and an uptick (upflick?) in Flickers (5).
  Eight warbler species were seen, including some tantalizing head-scratchers that had to be left unidentified. Sigh, I thought I had my fall warblers down. Yellow-rumped Warblers were out in force, especially in the NDNC, and there was a fat little warbler wave by the MRC north entrance on the way out.
  It was very thrushy on Rose Hill, with four Swainson’s Thrush, a Veery, and six young American Robins making the bushes rustle.
  George found a female Black-backed Woodpecker the previous day (like a boss!), but I didn’t catch up with it, and it looks like his bird was half of a pair that was subsequently seen across the street in Mount Royal Park. Cool!

  Weird weather on the 23rd – windy, rainy, and overcast but uncomfortably humid, followed by an eerie dead calm. Highlights: close looks at a Cooper’s Hawk; a young Yellow-bellied Sapsucker on Mount Murray; yet more Flicker activity, with a wave vizzing south over Mountain View; several Winter Wrens in the dark peripheries; and my first Ruby-crowned Kinglet and Dark-eyed Juncos of the year for the cemeteries. Ended up with 26 species in three hours.
  An exploratory Black-backed Woodpecker foray into the Mount Royal Park turned up tantalizing views of a Hairy Woodpecker-sized bird…that was probably a Hairy Woodpecker, but also some fresh evidence of Black-backed Woodpecker damage in a nice little patch of suitable habitat seemingly away from the GPS location of the sightings from a few days ago. Bird mysteries are fun.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Mont-Tremblant, September 21, 2019

So fresh, so north...Tremblant
White-winged Crossbill Loxia leucoptera
White-crowned Sparrow Zonotrichia leucophrys
Cedar Waxwing Bombycilla cedrorum
lesser Fritillary sp.
lesser Fritillary sp.
Dekay’s Brown Snake Storeria dekayi (almost)
  Lovely sunny weather for an early morning trip deep into Parc National du Mont-Tremblant with George and a dozen BPQers. We dipped on most of our boreal target species, although George and I heard (and recorded) the cranky rasps of a frustratingly unseen Boreal Chickadee.
  We ran into White-winged Crossbills several times, which was awesome, as I’d only ever had fleeting looks in the past. The birdiest moment came, as it often does, around the parking lot before the trip officially got rolling, with eight species of warblers, among other bird action. A good variety of sparrows species were also seen on the day, and right before final tally we ran into a wee Dekay’s Brown Snake and a confusing lesser Fritillary…was it a worn Silver-bordered Fritillary?

  And now for a real ‘believe it or not’ incident. On the ride back, as we passed a large mixed-vegetation field near Mirabel, George called out “What’s that?” and pointed out a bird slowly flying over the field. “Owl!” I yelped, without thinking.
  The bird was slightly more compact and ‘nubby’ than a Ring-billed Gull, and showed dirty white underparts, with darker markings glimpsed near the round-looking wingtips. The stumpy head and odd ‘awkward-yet graceful/balancing on the head of a pin’ flight pattern made ‘Harrier’ flash to mind for a split second, before I got a better look at the aforementioned characteristics. The encounter was over in all of ten seconds, but the overwhelming jizz I was left with was that of a Short-eared Owl hunting (I spent a whole afternoon watching a pair hunting low over a field during the day several years ago in Korea).
  The next field we passed had some Ring-billed Gulls over it, and the contrast couldn’t have been any starker (shape, size, colour, flight attitude). The first bird was not a gull. So was it a Short-eared Owl? Only if you believe such an unlikely bird could be responsibly identified after a ten-second look while zipping down the highway. Believe it…or not.

Sunday, September 15, 2019


George and Shrijeet puzzle through a warbler wave
Birds giving side-eye to playback = awesome
Tennessee Warbler Leiothlypis peregrina
Belted Kingfisher Megaceryle alcyon
Belted Kingfisher Megaceryle alcyon
Solitary Sandpiper Tringa solitaria
(my mind slipped and I thought I was in Korea looking at a Green Sandpiper for a moment)
Pied-billed Grebe Podilymbus podiceps
Common Gallinule Gallinula galeata

Locust Borer Megacyllene robiniae
Praying mantid (European mantis) Mantis religiosa
  George, Shrijeet, and I struck east today for six hours of birding in Montreal’s far east end. Thanks for driving, George! There were entertaining rivulets of warblers at PN de la Pte-aux-Prairies/Secteur du Fleuve to pick through, and a nice Philadelphia Vireo. The skies morphed from summer to autumn over the course of the day, but that was bound to happen. I like it.
  At the ‘Secteur des Marais’ of the same park, Shrijeet and George saw a Virginia Rail-sized blob zip across the path into thick lacings of reeds. We then heard (and recorded) some classic Virginia Rail tweeking sounds (shakes fist at the reeds).
  Parc de la Coulée-Grou is a bit of an interesting spot. Not so much a park as what looks like the site of a planned housing development that has been overgrown for about 20 years, with several promising swampy patches hidden away. In the water hazard of a golf course, we found eight Common Gallinules (including juvies), a  young Pied-billed Grebe, and a showy Belted Kingfisher holding court. Good times.

Here are Shrijeet’s eBird checklists:
PN de la Pte-aux-Prairies--Secteur du Fleuve
PN de la Pte-aux-Prairies--Secteur des Marais