Monday, July 31, 2017

White Whale, Black Back

Black-backed Woodpecker Picoides arcticus
Black-backed Woodpecker Picoides arcticus
Black-backed Woodpecker Picoides arcticus
Black-backed Woodpecker Picoides arcticus - note the tridactyl foot (three toes)
Legit Black-backed Woodpecker damage
Dark-eyed Junco Junco hyemalis
White-throated Sparrow Zonotrichia albicollis
American Toad Anaxyrus americanus (tiny toadlet - smaller than a pea)



  If you’ve followed this blog over the years (as I’m confident all four of you do), you’ll know I’ve been chasing ghosts for a while when it comes to Black-backed Woodpeckers.  White whales, even (http://snowyowllost.blogspot.ca/search/label/Black-backed%20Woodpecker).  The rare and reclusive species always seemed to be one step ahead of me: “...pulling me back into the field with the siren-like allure of its maddening absence...” yada-yada-yada. 
  That all changed today when I visited Mont-Tremblant National Park with Kris and Scott.  I checked online and saw some patchy records of Black-backed Woodpecker in the park in past years, but nothing too recent to raise my hopes.
  An hour into the hike, a woodpecker fluttered across the path, and it looked to be the right size.  A quick jittery stalk up to it, and...Hairy Woodpecker.  Humbug.  Three minutes further down the trail, and the same scene played out.  I crept up towards the bird, with less of an enthusiastic bounce to my step...black.  This one had a black back and yellow cap.  My testicles rocketed clean through my body cavity and hit the top of my skull with an audible thup.  Then I did backflips.  Then I got a bit closer and awe-gawked for a while before I remembered the camera hanging off my shoulder.  The light was gloomy, and the bird was moving around a lot, but I managed to snap off a few passable shots.
  On the way back through, a second bird (possible juvie) was spotted nearby, with the first.  It’s a big bloody park, so I’m feeling smug and lucky to have bumbled into a small pocket of apparent breeding habitat for this marvellous (if coy) species.
  Wood-warblers, raptors, waterfowl, tyrant flycatchers, and icterids were notable in their absence - but have I mentioned the Black-backed Woodpeckers?

Mont-Tremblant National Park, July 31, 2017
Hairy Woodpecker-3
Black-backed Woodpecker-2
Red-eyed Vireo-2 heard
Blue Jay-2 heard
American Crow-3
Black-capped Chickadee-10+
Boreal Chickadee-1 heard
Red-breasted Nuthatch-4 heard
Golden-crowned Kinglet-6+
Swainson’s Thrush-3
Hermit Thrush-2
American Robin-3
White-throated Sparrow-3
Dark-eyed Junco-8+
Common Grackle-1 on the way out
American Goldfinch-1 or 2 possibly heard mixed in with the Pine Siskins – only Nial Moores could have been certain (“And one of them has a headache.”)
Pine Siskin-12+ moving high around the periphery of swampy areas
White-winged Crossbill-1 possibly seen at a distance

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