A bit more text than usual – feel free to skip and scroll down to the majority of the photographs.
There really is no end to a wildlife year, but sunny and relatively warm as today is there is a definite expectation in the air that winter is coming fast and things will turn white before too long. A friend in Calgary reports a blizzard there this morning and a forecast -15C by the end of the day … and all these westerners keep trying to convince those of in civilisation that life out west is the best. Hah!!
Week two of the Feederwatch season anyway started well with a (photographed) visit of one of the Carolina Wrens to the feeder array. Not possible yet to say these are common birds in the neighbourhood, but “ours” have been around most of the year and hopefully will survive the winter on the back of our food supply. There is a paper in the literature about Carolina Wren survival in winter and contrary to common belief that the winters are warmer and so less stressful – which is true – it is rather the availability of a regular food supply that makes the difference. These are foragers in the leaf litter and so cannot make much of a living when the snow is down unless there are alternative places to eat – it seems that when it comes to cold weather, they are tougher than we thought.
I am beginning to revise my earlier, rash declaration that I am going to concentrate on doing a Bigby (Big Green Big Year) in 2014. I will do one, but I think I need to get fitter before it is a really serious one and so I will probably do a low-key and relaxed Bigby accompanied by a more determined “Big Round Year” or BRY. Elsewhere in the static pages of this blog [LINK] I have spoken about my 7km radius wildlife circle – and hence a “big round year”. So my BRY is a big year, a personal birding challenge confined to finding as many species as possible during 2014 within the limits of that circle … I will be as self-powered as I can be, though I know there are going to be days when the car comes into use but at least it won’t have to go very far. A reasonable compromise I hope. and certainly not the miles and miles of carbon-emitting driving a “real” big year would involve. I am going to note here that it was not difficult for me to avoid any temptation to chase after the exceedingly rare Ross’s Gull that has been showing for a few days now at Chambly down on the south shore. I would dearly love to see a Ross’s Gull but I would rather see it on its natural home territory (another excuse to head north) than as a wanderer like this one. I more and more prefer to go a place and see what lives there than to go and twitch a bird that is out of place. Each to his own, but that’s where my birding is going these days. Also, I simply do not enjoy driving.
And so, a sunny day and off to Anse-à-l’Orme and adjacent Cap-St-Jacques to see what’s about – especially to see if there were any interesting waterfowl in the river. Indeed there were. At Anse-à-l’Orme there were two other stray birders of our acquaintance and a rather large number of Canada Geese lounging about in the bay plus a couple of Mallards, but there are always Mallards. There may have been Cackling Geese in the flock, there were certainly small geese, but the sun was shining and life seemed too short to check every single bird for its cackling qualities so we didn’t. This will lose is birders brownie points, but at my age I don’t care that much (at least, not today – on another ocacsion it may well have been different). Anyway, there was a Brown Creeper working the trees behind us and catching a usable photo of him was more of a priority.
Then on to Cap-St-Jacques for a walk along the eastern shore to check the river and shrubbery. More Brown Creepers, quite a few in fact, and some disputatious White Nuthatches squeaking at each other. Chickadees of course and out on the river groups of Lesser Scaup, Common Goldeneye and a couple of Longtail Ducks. I was checking these when we got home in the field guide and picked up a copy of the National Geographic third edition (not the most recent) to discover that they were still calling them Oldsquaw not so long ago. As we have at least two more recent editions of the guide perhaps it is time to retire that one.
Driving home across the Macdonald farm we were accompanied by a Northern Harrier flying parallel with us and about 30 yards distance. I pulled over and he settled on the ground and looked at us. “Grab the camera” was my immediate reaction but it had the digiscoping adapter on it. Quick change to a regular lens, focus and … and he was up and away though i managed a few flight shots as compensation. The lesson from this being to always, always have the just-in-case lens on the camera before setting off to drive as you never know what will be coming along next. One of my all time favourite birds too. but I see he had been reported to eBird a couple of days prior so hopefully he is sticking around and I will get another chance at home tomorrow?
Anyway, quite enough rambling – here are the photos you have been waiting for. I was going to put them in at regular size but the number got away with me so here is a compact gallery – click on a thumbnail to see them at full size.