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A triple owl day …

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A triple owl day …

Earlier today I was leading a Bird protection Quebec field trip along the snowshoe trail in the arboretum. By gum, to say nothing of by t’eck (I’m tri-lingual, I speak Yorkshire too when stressed), it were reet cold this morning, proper parky like. But despite that a dozen brave souls turned out for what proved to be a very successful morning’s forest birding. Just the right size for a group outing.

IMG_5645We have not organised a field trip along the snowshow trail at the arboretum before and I have to confess that as leader I was a little apprehensive about what we would see other than Chickadees – the forest, like most similar places, as been remarkably quiet since this long, cold spell set in. I learned last night that our exceptionally cold weather is actually originating in Russia this winter and being sent eastwards over the pole by the jet-stream and so, if the group dipped too many species, it was all going to be Mr Putin’s fault.

But as it turned out, we had a great morning and almost had the entire forest to ourselves. Shortly after setting out we spooked a large owl in the trees just south of the Pines Cottage that was universally agreed to be a Great Horned Owl who didn’t want to be near us. Half an hour later we similarly spooked a Barred Owl who chose to keep a safe distance between us and itself. For the next nonety minutes or so things were pretty quiet, but the trail was glorious with a good covering of fresh powdery snow and not too many deep drifts to contend with. Birds along this stretch were scarce and primarily several noisy groups of Black-capped Chickadees and White-breasted Nuthatches with a Cardinal and distant Woodpecker tapping. Every bird was hard won and all the better for it – if bird finding was easy what would be the fun of it? Rosy glowing cheeks abounded.

Coming along the birch walk that cuts through the larch plantation the birding gods decided to start playing nice with us and we had long “soul satisfying” views of a second Barred Owl half way up a tree. To start with he determinedly kept his back turned to us but eventually looked over his shoulder, sneered at us and then took pity and turned to face us … to reveal that he was clutching a squirrel which he then proceeded to rip to pieces. I was especially enchanted by his pulling a long and dripping length of intestine out of ghe carcass but Wayne told me his favourite moment was when it bit the head off. Nature red in tooth and claw and well-fed Owl surviving as it must. To quote Chris “I don’t think the loss of the squirrel had any impact whatsoever on the local population”.

Of course, up to this point I had been congratulating myself on having decided not to bring big camarea with me (way too heavy) and so the photo accompanying this reirt is just a pocket camera snapshot. We did have one long-lens in our party though and I have taken the liberty of including a couple of photos below that I was sent for the official report.

IMG_5649

My pocket (albeit very high tech pocket) camera photo

 

Wayne's photo of the owl looking rather smug and happy after finishing its squirrel

Wayne’s photo of the owl looking rather smug and happy after finishing its squirrel

Larry's photo of the owl all red in beak and claw

Larry’s photo of the owl all red in beak and claw

 

Several groups of Common Redpolls showed themselves near the Blossom Corner feeders and just soouth of the quarry we happened on a good sized flock of Bohemian Waxwings.

All in all, a very pleasant walk along a beautiful and little travalled trail with some excellent birds to lift our spirits. The species seen are listed below – numbers are approximate.

Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon) 5
Great Horned Owl 1
Barred Owl 2
Downy Woodpecker 1
Hairy Woodpecker 1
Blue Jay 3
Common Raven 1
Black-capped Chickadee 40
White-breasted Nuthatch 7
American Robin 2
Bohemian Waxwing 45
Dark-eyed Junco 2
Northern Cardinal 3
Common Redpoll 60
American Goldfinch 6

By | 2015-02-21T16:47:09+00:00 February 21st, 2015|arboretum, birding, birds, BPQ, cold, field trip, owls|0 Comments

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