Monday, November 20, 2017

November’s Northbirds

The Tim Burton-y wonderland of Alfred-Kelly Nature Reserve
Joey in the heavy fluff-fluff
Pointing at a thing, totally naturally
Joey trying out the boat anchor on an American Tree Sparrow
Near where we saw American Pipits

Canada Goose Branta canadensis
Joey's shot of an American Tree Sparrow Spizella arborea
Horned Lark Eremophila alpestris
Horned Lark Eremophila alpestris
Horned Lark foraging
  Just returned from a quick foray up north to hang out with Joey, and as is tradition, we squeezed in a few hours of birding at a couple of local hotspots. My arrival coincided with that of ol’ man winter's, with stiff winds, a respectable dusting of snow and temperatures of -8 (before wind chill) being our persistent companions for the day’s birding.
  Along the Rangs Ste Marie & Ste Dominique in Mirabel, we crossed paths with several photographers out trolling for Snowy Owls. We didn’t end up seeing any of the moon-eyed vedettes, as we were more focused on the LBJs that worked the fields along the roads.

  Among them was Joey’s first experience with Horned Larks. After they flushed several hundred feet into the field, we parked and let them work their way back to us for a half hour. Joey was amped to observe them from so close, and hell, so was I. I took a blurry video of the cute way they scuttle about warily like shorebirds when foraging.
  On our way into the area, we saw a small group of LBJs in undulating flight heading along the scrubby wet fringes of an agricultural field, then into some mid-level trees in a small woods at the road’s edge. We parked in what was probably not the best spot (at the side of a snow-choked road) and made our way across towards the birds. Big mistake. They flushed from relatively far off, and went on through the woods towards the south. When they flushed, they made a distinctive, squeaky ‘pip-pip’ call. 
  Mostly on the strength of this call, as well as the quick views from the car (they gave off the jizz of an upright, elongated bird hued in a buffy/brown palette, with chest streaking noted), the size, flight and flushing patterns, habitat, small group size, and time of year lead me to deduce that they must have been American Pipits.
  I’m not sure how crazy unlikely this record is, but after looking online, it appears that November 20 is at the tail-end of observed southward migration for the species. The tree thing bothered me for a species known as a ground-dweller, but apparently it’s not unheard of to see American Pipits in trees after flushing – I’ve seen several pipit species in Korea take to the trees.
  Flushing them before getting an ID locked down was frustrating, as it would have been Joey’s first view of the species (I seem to recall from Korea that pipits have a relatively wide flush-radius). Thus unfolded #746 in my series of painful fieldcraft gaffes turned learning moments: Thou shalt not approach birds, no matter how distant, without first trying to ID them from afar...

Rangs Ste Marie & Ste Dominique, Mirabel, (Alfred-Kelly Nature Reserve/Parc des Falaises de Prévost), November 19, 2017
Canada Goose-3,000+ in the fields
Red-tailed Hawk-1 or 2 patrolling along the 15
Hairy Woodpecker-(1 distant bird possibly heard)
Blue Jay-1 (1)
American Crow-35+ (3)
Common Raven-(2)
Horned Lark-8 in two separate groups
Black-capped Chickadee-(6)
American Pipit-7 probable just east of the intersection of Chemin Dupuis and Route 158 in St-Canut
European Starling-15+
American Tree Sparrow-2 in St-Canut on Chemin Dupuis
Dark-eyed Junco-(3)
Snow Bunting-7 in flight across the road
American Goldfinch-3 overhead, (1 overhead)

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