Monday, May 30, 2016

Everybody's birdin' for the weekend

Parc des Falaises de Prévost
Les Sentiers Heritage Plein Air du Nord 
Jo-squito
Insect-addled and cranky
Common Yellowthroat Geothlypis trichas
Chestnut-sided Warbler Setophaga pensylvanica
Magnolia Warbler Setophaga magnolia
Alder Flycatcher Empidonax alnorum
Eastern Phoebe Sayornis phoebe
Pine Siskin Carduelis pinus
Indigo Bunting Passerina cyanea
Veery Catharus fuscescens
Star-nosed Mole Condylura cristata
Saint-Jérôme + Prévost, May 27-29
    While it was great as always to head up north and hang out/bird with Joey, I wasn’t prepared for the omnipotent hordes of biting insects that were out in force up there.  We’re talking hundreds of droning mosquitoes and black flies on or around your head at all times, and I came away with dozens of bites that were inflicted through clothing. Fackin’ell.  Dealing with that, and birding all day in long sleeves, gloves, and head netting in 30° heat is not for the squeamish.
  We headed up to the Alfred-Kelly Nature Reserve/Parc des Falaises de Prévost (http://www.parcdesfalaises.ca/) on the 28th for a family-oriented nature day.  Many visitors were scanning the cliffs with scopes in the hopes of seeing raptor activity, but my attention was focused much lower, in the brush and low trees.  There was plenty of sexy passerine action there, with a pair of Common Yellowthroats, singing Chestnut-sided Warblers, several Pine SiskinsAlder Flycatchers and Eastern Wood-Pewees, as well as three patchy Indigo Buntings that were singing and feeding on blossoms.
  A comical moment came when a large group of people on a beginner's bird walk crossed paths with Joey and I on the trails.  We chatted a bit with the walk leader and pointed out some singing Red-eyed Vireos.  Someone from the middle of the pack yelled in French "Speak, up, the people in the back can't hear you!".  It turns out that Joey and I were both wearing matching green boonie hats and grey adventure shirts (a total coincidence), and I guess folks thought we were part of the show, ha ha.
  The undisputed bird of the trip initially confused me.  In an old Christmas tree plantation near the base of the cliffs, several birds blurred past, and a medium-sized finch materialized at the top of a tree.  In a brief but clear view through the bins, I was shocked to see a bird with a fluro-orange crown and chin offset by darker markings on the face, as well as on on the barely-visible body.  The bird flew off before I was able to get a better look or record shot, and could not be re-found.  I got a Red Crossbill vibe from the bird, but the colours of the illustrations in the Sibley’s book didn’t seem to match up with the bright orange I had seen.  It wasn’t until I consulted the app version of the same book (and later online images), that I realized that my initial suspicions were correct – I had just seen a first-year male Red Crossbill.  Whaaaaat?!  
  I essentially lost my mind and begged Joey to take me back to the spot on the 29th in an effort to get another look.  No luck with the crossbill, but it was a great day spent showing Joey several firsts, including Magnolia, Black-and-White, and Black-throated Blue Warblers.  Unfortunately, two dead Star-nosed Moles were found near the start of the main trail towards the cliffs.  It is probably not a coincidence that this stretch of trail is highly trafficked by countless people with their dogs off-leash, in spite of the many signs stating that dogs are not permitted in the park at any time.
   Our next stop was Les Sentiers Heritage Plein Air du Nord, in Prévost/Sainte-Anne-des-Lacs (http://www.heritagedunord.org/).  A showy Ovenbird got Joey’s pulse pounding there, while a ghostly Veery silently skulking through the underbrush was my highlight.  Several Swamp Sparrows were heard tisking in the swampy area, before one briefly sung from a stump.  Confusingly, at one point a dull White-throated Sparrow teamed up with a Swamp Sparrow and played the old ‘two-birds-in-one-bush’ trick.
  From high overhead in the treetops, we heard an unidentified bird that sounded most like a young raptor begging for food.  These trails are a lovely bit of productive habitat, enjoyed by enthusiasts of many outdoor pursuits.  Hopefully the group overseeing the project can continue to fight the worrying encroachment of seemingly the endless development of gaudy mansions in the area.
  Back at Joey’s House in Saint-Jérôme, several Common Yellowthroat, Chestnut-sided, and Black-throated Blue Warblers had the feeling of birds on territory.  Eastern Phoebes and Alder Flycatchers also appear to have set up shop nearby, while his backyard saw regular visits from Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, American Goldfinches, and Brown Thrashers.  I was enthralled by a Common Grackle as it first pulled out a ball of suet from a feeder, then dropped to the ground and deftly tapped bits of fallen suet onto the growing ball of suet in its bill.  The backyard highlight was a visit from a male Ruby-throated Hummingbird.  Viewed in the eerie light of dusk, I’m not entirely unconvinced that the brief encounter wasn’t a phantasm.  At all three locations, Turkey Vultures, Red-eyed Vireos, Ovenbirds, Hermit Thrushes, Chipping Sparrows, Black-throated Blue Warblers, and Blue Jays were seen and/or heard.

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