Monday, March 20, 2023

Tuft Luck Part Deux

Horned Lark Eremophila alpestris

Tufted Titmouse Baeolophus bicolour

Red-bellied Woodpecker Melanerpes carolinus

Snow Goose Chen caerulescens

Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula
(left foreground)

Horned Lark habitat

Waterfowl spot

Being blasted by living winds atop a slippery garbage
heap overlooking a sewage plant?
Birder's delight.

March 19, 2023, Rang de la Barbotte, Lacolle
  Headed down towards the US border with George and the gang, a bit further south of last year's Tufted Twitch. Was quite cold and blustery out – winter’s last breath. The day wasn’t super conducive to photography, with dull light for most of the day. We found a line of tripod dudes along the small road outside of Lacolle, across from where hundreds of waterfowl drifted in the river. The star attractions were a Tufted Duck, as well as an apparent Tufted X Scaup hybrid.

  Tens of thousands of Snow Geese clouded the horizon through the trees, after several shotgun blasts were heard. Is it even hunting season yet? Oh well, I almost never argue with guys brandishing shotguns.

  Cruising around wind-tormented farm fields in search of the ‘field three,’ we found plenty of Horned Larks, but no sign of the Lapland Longspurs or Snow Buntings folks were seeing in the area. Horned Larks are lovely birds - they look chunky in flight, probably because of their relatively large wings.

  Spring will soon be upon us! Warblers, old world and new, are winging north at this very moment. I'm hoping to be confused by both this spring. Should be fun.

Saturday, February 25, 2023

Three nerds, three toes

Pine Grosbeak Pinicola enucleator

Does this hat make me look floofy?

Walkway to the poorhouse

Treetop tourist trap tower
(Say that three times fast)

I bet that hotel was a great place to get into bar fights in the 1970s

February 25, 2023, Parc écotouristique de la MRC des Laurentides
  Went up north with George and Anthony for a nosy around a spot near Tremblant. Some dude lucked into a Three-toed Woodpecker there the other day, probably in the damn parking lot. The location was a tourist-trappy ‘raised walking platform through the treetops’ thing – please enter through the gift shop. We avoided the platform, and the outrageous $30 per head entry fee, and opted for the lovely (and free) trails, which were a whole 20 feet below the walkway. It was ‘heat packs in gloves and boots’ cold up there, but mercifully, there was not a puff of wind in the hills.

  There was loads of great Three-toed habitat along the trails, and plenty of evidence of recent bark stripping, but alas, no luck with the target bird. No doubt we walked right under a few, as they’re a quiet, unobtrusive species that is surely often overlooked. It was worth a shot, eh. Was nice to get up into the boreal cold with some fellow bird nerds, of course, and as always.

  We tallied a grand total of four species (single-digit numbers of Hairy Woodpecker, Common Raven, Black-capped Chickadee, and Pine Grosbeak), with American Crows and Wild Turkeys spotted on the ride. The Pine Grosbeaks afforded lovely close looks, as they fed on crab apples next to the parking lot. When I glimpsed the barred grey wing, chunky grey body, and long-looking tail, I yelped “Mockingbird!” before I could take it back. Oops. Oddly enough, a Northern Mockingbird was spotted in the exact same tree a couple of weeks ago. Cue X-Files theme music.

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Gimpo then and now

My original picture from 2005

Google street view 2015

Google street view 2018

My original picture from 2005

Google street view 2015

Google street view 2018

  Plus ça change, plus ça change. Things happen fast in Korea (Bballi bballi!). I mentioned a few years ago that when I returned to Gimpo in 2018/19, the landscape, both urban and rural, was no longer recognizable as the place I lived in 2005-2006. Not a single thing was in its place anymore.

  One of my favourite walks during my first year in Korea was a narrow country road that wended its way around the contours of a valley. The valley had been used for farming for generations. There were old (100 years old at least) farmhouses settling into the landscape, and moss-covered grave markers on every hill. I had many early birding firsts in this valley of the morning calm. It’s the place I identified, with my Cracker Jack binoculars and fresh “Birds of Korea” field guide, my first Brown-eared Bulbul, Vinous-throated Parrotbill, Black-naped Oriole, and Oriental Dollarbird, among many other common Korean birds.

  I walked the old back road that connected Gimpo and Incheon many times, as it was the quickest way (30 minute walk) to get to and from a friend’s place. I randomly tried to walk the same road using Google Maps the other day, and was surprised, yet not surprised at all, to discover big changes had occurred since 2005. The only two years available on street view were 2015 and 2018. In 2015, there was evidence of massive clearances along the road, with farmhouses and plots being ploughed under, and many of the ancillary buildings along the road being demolished.

  By 2018, everything was gone, and most of it had weeded over in an alarming hurry, as if people had never lived there at all. If that’s where it ended, I’d be cool with it. A quiet valley being restored to nature, roll credits. But I know that’s not what’s going on there. I’m confident that huge new complexes of domino apartments will be constructed there, if they haven't been already. New NDG-sized neighbourhoods being birthed in five short years. Rural being roughly transitioned into urban.

  You can see a hill in the background stripped of trees. This often precedes the actually demolishing of the hill itself – after the trees have been cut and sold, cranes will come and tear the hill down to ground level. I saw it happening in the hills of Suncheon, where they built my whole neighbourhood over a filled-in swamp (Funny side story – the parking lot outside my apartment sank by a foot one day, leaving a corresponding dip in the road. What did the apartment developers do about this worrying structural failure? They painted the dip like a speed bump, as if they’d planned it all along. Well played...). When they ran out of swampland, they levelled a valley, and up went the apartments. I saw the same process in Gangneung – in the six short months I was there, three hills in my neighbourhood were levelled, one of them to expand a grocery store’s parking lot. We’re talking the entire hill – trees felled, dirt and rock picked up and carried off, one dump truck at a time.

  The destruction of habitat in Korea was the most upsetting part of being a birder there. I always grimly joke that if you find a nice quiet birding patch somewhere in Korea, be sure to take a ‘before’ picture, to compare to the inevitable habitat destruction that will surely take place there in short order.

  I wonder if they’ll bulldoze the cemetery hills in Gimpo too, or if the slumbering dead are the only ones immune to ‘progress.’ Stay tuned!

  Anyway, those are my rambling ruminations on a windy winter afternoon. I've been having Verditer Flycatcher daydreams these days.

Sunday, January 8, 2023

Morgan Arboretum, January 8, 2023

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Sphyrapicus varius

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Sphyrapicus varius

Downy Woodpecker Picoides pubescens


  A wintry jaunt through the arbo with Dan this mornfternoon. Was icy, no ski or snowshoe trails were open. With temps of -10 to -15, it actually felt like a Canadian winter for once. It’s been way too warm of late.

  We had thirteen species in a few hours, including a flyover Great Black-backed Gull. No finches, raptors, or wowls were encountered, but a silent Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was a nice winter surprise. Oh, I got crapped on by a Black-capped Chickadee. Good lick! I mean luck. We got absolutely mobbed by an aggressive gang of at least 20 hangry Chickadees at one point - probably had something to do with all the feeders being empty.

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Holiday reds and orange

Northern Cardinal Cardinalis cardinalis

House Finch Haemorhous mexicanus

American Robin Turdus migratorius

Red-bellied Woodpecker Melanerpes carolinus

White-throated Sparrow Zonotrichia albicollis

Dark-eyed Junco Junco hyemalis

Red-tailed Hawk Buteo jamaicensis

Red-tailed Hawk Buteo jamaicensis

Red-tailed Hawk Buteo jamaicensis attended by
American Crows Corvus brachyrhynchos

Northern Raccoon Procyon lotor

Mount-Royal Cemetery, December 21, 2022
  Went for a brief bimble in the cem, and refilled the feeders while George is out of town. What to report? Sixteen species encountered in two hours, mostly concentrated around the feeders. Bucket loads of House Finch (at least 35). Nice to see the Red-bellied Woodpecker out and about. A Red-tailed Hawk was being annoyed by a dozen or so American Crows. No sign of the Wood Thrush.

What else? Getting cold up there. Panic on the streets! ONCEINAGENERATIONBOMBCYCLONE!! It’s winter.

Saturday, December 17, 2022

Christmas Bird Count 2022

Downy Woodpecker Picoides pubescens

White-breasted Nuthatch Sitta carolinensis

Black-capped Chickadee Poecile atricapillus

American Crow Corvus brachyrhynchos

  Did the CBC with Dan this year at Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Cemetery. The whole thing was almost called off because of snow…in December…in Montreal. People are kinda losing their minds over regularly scheduled snow - ‘extreme weather alert!’ I think it’s extreme that the first major snowfall comes on December 17th. Ah well.

  Overall it was decidedly quiet in the less glamorous of the two cems, with most activity confined to the little woods in the southeast of the cemetery. The thick layer of snow gave the whole affair a very Tim Burton-y feel.

Downy Woodpecker: 2
Northern Flicker: 1
American Crow: 18 (+3 in UdeM)
Common Raven: 1
Black-capped Chickadee: 17 (+2 in UdeM)
White-breasted Nuthatch: 4
American Goldfinch: 11 (+3 in UdeM)