Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Footsore and virtually bird free!

This has been a lousy spring so far. Migrant warblers have been like Rocking Horse manure out west of Montreal, it has been very hard work! Despite this, and although my 50 year old body objected, I decided to do a Bigby big day.

The whole idea was to go out and see what I could see on foot, the alternative, give my remaining vacation days back to the company, no contest. So Tuesday 20th May, the day after all of Quebec celebrated Queen Victoria's birthday!!! (God bless you maam, no matter how dead you are), I started out checking out the local lake and migrant tepid spots before walking to the pits. Things started well, a Pileated Woodpecker was setting about a local tree and my summer resident Northern Waterthrush even obliged with an impressive display of tail pumping.

The eight kilometer walk to the pits added a few birds to the Bigby list and attracted stares from local residents who used the formula guy + rucksack + walking = call 911, or at least that is how it felt. The pits were not great, there is way too much water now and some of the marginal habitat has disappeared. A pair of Greater Scaup remained, the regular hirundines were about and the breeding Pied-billed Grebes eventually came out of the margins but, can you believe it, no Ring-billed Gull! At least the reliable Vesper Sparrows had read the script.

Moving on I walked the St-Lazare Pinade, normally quite reliable for several species but useless this time. My final throw of the dice was the meadows on Montee Ste-Angelique. This area normally has a nice mixture of species associated with grasslands, even Grasshopper Sparrows breed there sometimes. I did see Savannah Sparrow and Bobolink but no Eastern Meadowlarks, Eastern Bluebirds or even an Eastern Kingbird. To top it all a shiny new 'For sale' sign had appeared dooming the meadows to becoming a Horse playground or, worse still, more 'executive' homes.

I arrived home footsore, added White-breasted Nuthatch in the garden to the Bigby Big Day for a total of 63 species, a list that contained no migrating warblers, just the odd summer resident Yellows, Nashvilles, Yellowthroats and Pine Warblers.

To rub salt into the blisters, the next day three Solitary Sandpipers stood in the middle of a local lake not being solitary at all. Where were they on the Bigby Big Day?

Below a few photos, I've just added a tiny coolpix to the armoury and I'm hand holding the camera, training for those distant trogons in Belize but more of that later.

Solitary Sandpipers ignoring each other and using a little known call which goes ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!
When Pileated Woodpecker decides to destroy a tree its more effective that a local property developer, almost.

This shot and the one below digiscoped through the Nikon 50mm travel scope using a spice lid with a hole in it to centralise the image.

One White-crowned Sparrow lingered long enough to make the Bigby Big Day list, my favourite sparrow.

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