Saturday, January 24, 2015

Mirabel, Quebec, January 24, 2015

In the Turkey Woods
Crow hunter (or is he a Raven hunter?) looking for a place to hunt
Snowy Owl Bubo scandiacus
Snowy Owl Bubo scandiacus
Snow Bunting Plectrophenax nivalis
Snow Buntings Plectrophenax nivalis
Snow Buntings Plectrophenax nivalis
Merlin Falco columbarius
Wild Turkey Meleagris gallopavo (Honestly!)
  Dan had Grey Partridge fever, so (relatively) early this morn we zipped up to gloomy Mirabel to scan some large fields in hope of sighting bird-shaped blobs. In spite of numerous recent records in this area, we came up blank on the partridge front, but did manage to get some satisfying winter sightings in. After missing out on Snowy Owls for most of our adult lives (until finally seeing one last week), the species was almost in danger of becoming a 'garbage bird' today. We saw three in and around these fields, including some long luxuriant looks at one from close range.
  The Snow Buntings were out in force, with well over 50 seen near the roads. Long-winged and handsomely pied, they have a graceful clumsiness that always cheers me up. After a romp through the deep snow in some nearby woods, I saw my first actual Wild Turkeys. They looked like a pack of little dinosaurs, as they skulked between the trees.
  Near the entrance of Parc du Domain Verte, we spotted a Merlin that was whipping a nearby group of Chickadees into an agitated frenzy. Since the entry fee for two adults into the park was a scandalous 30$, we said 'Eff this' and went for poutine.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Morgan Arboretum, Montreal, January 17, 2015

Welcome to Hoth

Black-capped Chickadee Poecile atricapillus
Mourning Dove Zenaida macroura
female Pileated Woodpecker Dryocopus pileatus
female Red-bellied Woodpecker Melanerpes carolinus
Common Redpoll Acanthis flammea
  It was COLD at the Arbo. We're talking eyelashes and beards icing up Shackleton-style cold. In spite of an overabundance of layers, our fingers and toes kept alternately dying and reviving, in a painful, tingling hell-in-boots. But that's what gives us Canadians character, innit! I'll just keep grimly telling myself that.
  It was great to see four species of woodpecker, and the birds of the day definitely had to be the pair of Red-bellied Woodpeckers we spotted several times high in the treetops. Gorgeous bird! We weren't lucky enough to stumble onto a Great Grey Owl like we did two years ago (Jan 16, 2013 Arbo Report), but there were some nice birds about. Some spots were dead, while others were uber-birdy. We had to cross a Hoth-like field to confirm a group of Common Redpolls feeding in some reeds, and were rewarded with ridiculously close views of a nearby Pileated Woodpecker, thundering away at a low tree.

Mourning Dove – 5
Red-bellied Woodpecker – 2
Downy Woodpecker – 5
Hairy Woodpecker – 1
Pileated Woodpecker – 2
American Crow – 2
Black-capped Chickadee – 40 ish
White-breasted Nuthatch – 5
Red-breasted Nuthatch – 1
American Robin – 3
European Starling – 35+ in NDG
House Sparrow – 30 in NDG
American Goldfinch – 1
Pine Siskin – 1
Common Redpoll -10

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Jardin Botanique, Montreal, January 10, 2015

Junco hops
Junco hopway
Northern Cardinal Cardinalis cardinalis
Black-capped Chickadee Poecile atricapillus
male House Finch Haemorhous mexicanus
Dark-eyed (Slate-colored) Junco Junco hyemalis
Dark-eyed (Slate-colored) Junco Junco hyemalis
Dark-eyed (Slate-colored) Junco Junco hyemalis
White-breasted Nuthatch Sitta carolinensis
American Goldfinch Spinus tristis eye detail
House Finch Haemorhous mexicanus eye detail
American Goldfinch Spinus tristis
  And we're still at it. Taking advantage of balmy -15 weather, Dan and I hit up the Jardin Botanique in Montreal's east end - the same spot where we saw Pine Grosbeaks in February of 2013. No such luck this time, but there was a good selection of 'old friends' around the feeders.
  My favourite moment was a close encounter with impossibly-rotund Slate-colored Juncos eating ice and snow from tree limbs - is that snow sweeter than ground snow? Also noteworthy were two new feeder stations that were essentially unused, due to being set up far from cover like the extensive bushes found at the busier feeders. We noticed both an American Goldfinch and a House Finch that appeared to have one eye permanently closed. With recent temperatures as cold as -35 at night with windchill, are the birds just closing their eyes because they're cold, or have the eyes been damaged by the cold or some illness?
American Crow - 1
Black-capped Chickadee - 45+
White-breasted Nuthatch - 2
Northern Cardinal - 1 male
Dark-eyed (Slate-colored) Junco - 25+
House Sparrow - 30 regulars in front of my place in NDG
American Goldfinch - 12
House Finch - 9

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Frostbitten in time - Mount-Royal Cemetery, late-1980's

Sweet jacket

Saggy red sweatpants - I'm bringing them back to birding this year
  Wow, I didn't know they made colour film way back then. Here are Dan and I ripping it up on a PQSPB trip to the cemetery - no doubt pissing all the old folks off by impatiently running ahead to see all the cute birds first, flushing them in the process. Heh heh. It's been cold (-25 with wind chill) icy and windy here, so another quiet bird week, but there are plans for imminent birding in the works. And...I move to Suncheon in a few weeks - nutsoids.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Snowy Owl Found

Spot it?
Freezing my arse off, leaning on a barbed wire fence = best New Year's Eve ever

The best view of a Snowy Owl you're likely to get, unless you bring a pillowcase full of mice...
Snowy Owl Bubo scandiacus
Snowy Owl Bubo scandiacus
Dan's crude iPhone + binoculars digiscope attempt
OSO#1 - I think it was also a Snowy...
  I've been waiting to use that obvious and satisfying title for far too long. Dan and I have tried to find this ghostly gargoyle for years, with zero success. Yesterday we cruised around St.Hubert Airport for a couple of hours, scanning the surrounding fields intently. We held one huge advantage this time when compared to past attempts - most of the snow around Montreal has melted over the past week, rendering the Snowy Owl's perfect camouflage much less effective.
  As usual, we pulled over to examine quite a few OSOs (Owl Shaped Objects), only to have them reveal themselves to be stumps, signs, or plastic bags. As we came around the end of the runway, we spotted a good-looking OSO in a promising spot - on a mound of earthen debris at the edge of the runway. We squinted at it for a good 20 minutes from every available angle, but it didn't move. "It's an air vent," then, several seconds later "It moved! It moved! Wait, no..."
  We gave up and headed down the road a bit, vowing to return to OSO#1, when we spotted another OSO on the other side of the road. Same shtick: "I see eyes! Shit, no, I don't see eyes," This was definitely one of my rare 'My-kingdom-for-a-scope' moments, as we were battling with significant distance, and the vicious winds that made it feel like -20 C. We stared at this static blob for a bit then checked out some other fields.
  When we returned 30 minutes later, OSO#1 still had not moved, and we owlucinated on owl-s-d for several more minutes before moving on to OSO#2. "It...moved? It moved! SNOWY *#@%ing OWL!" We were slightly excited. We watched it from the fence line, as it hopped up to the top of the mound for sentry duty, until all 40 digits were frozen solid. Spectacular bird. Massive. Stately. There are no suitable adjectives. Snowy *#@%ing Owl.
  A perfect way to end the year. Interestingly, my birding buds in Korea, JP and Subs, also ended out their years with owlifers.
  Situational symmetry. I just realized that for the last few years, I've been birding hard on December 31st. In 2013 I was in Seoul searching unsuccessfully for Hazel Grouse, and the last day of 2012 saw Dr. Moores and I freezing in the name of a Long-tailed Shrike at Igidae. Here's hoping that 2015 will bring us all more awesome birds, and hopefully less bad news about bird habitat, as well as every other damn thing.