Thursday, November 23, 2017

Turiffic Turdus

American Robin Turdus migratorius...check out that bill!
American Robin Turdus migratorius 
American Robin Turdus migratorius
House Finch Haemorhous mexicanus
White-throated Sparrow Zonotrichia albicollis
  ‘Twas a lovely crisp morning on the mount, glad I layered up - my wips got fwozened. I got wrapped up in a wave of confiding American Robins in Oak Ridge, after I did the statue routine for a few minutes – they were literally walking over my shoes. One male had an overgrown upper mandible, but still seemed to be loving life. Gotta love them Turdidae – I miss the motley variety found in Korea.

Mount-Royal Cemetery, (Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Cemetery), November 23, 2017
Peregrine Falcon-1 over the north entrance
Downy Woodpecker-1
Hairy Woodpecker-2 (1)
American Crow-5 (2)
Black-capped Chickadee-27 (7)
White-breasted Nuthatch-2 (2)
Red-breasted Nuthatch-2
American Robin-50+ in the west and centre of MRC
Northern Cardinal-4
White-throated Sparrow-1 by the feeder
Dark-eyed Junco-2 (1)
American Goldfinch-3 (3)
House Finch-1 male by the feeder

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

  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)

Friday, November 17, 2017

Tuque Weather

Bald Eagle Haliaeetus leucocephalus
Pileated Woodpecker Dryocopus pileatus getting into the wild grapes
House Finch Haemorhous mexicanus getting into the berries
American Goldfinch Spinus tristis getting into the birch catkins

Lil' raccoon feetsies

  Brrr, it was -10 with the wind chill up in the cemetery hills ce matin. No sign of those Red Crossbills from the other day, but there were a few hopeful folks out looking for them.
  Up on Pine Hill Side, I spent an enjoyable 20 minutes under a steady flurry of husks and debris from birch catkins, produced by a busy crew of American Goldfinch.

  It was a pleasure to see some Cedar Waxwings, hopefully the Bohemians show up soon. And a big mess of Evening Grosbeaks, that’d be nice, too. And a Gyrfalcon. Thus ends my Christmas wish list. Oh, and a Boreal Owl in a pear tree.
  On the way out I bumped into Jean-Sebastian Mayer, and we had a laugh about our shared Red Crossbill encounter from Tuesday (on his 1,000th birding session in MRC - legend!). I wasn't able to compare notes with him at the time, as when the birds flushed, he tore after them up the hill faster than I've see a birder run for a fair few years.

Mount-Royal Cemetery, (Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Cemetery), November 17, 2017
Bald Eagle-(1 juvenile winging west)
Downy Woodpecker-2
Pileated Woodpecker-1 male eating wild grapes in L7
American Crow-21 (17)
Common Raven-1 heard
Black-capped Chickadee-26 (17)
White-breasted Nuthatch-4 (3)
Red-breasted Nuthatch-1
American Robin-2
Cedar Waxwing-3 in section H
Northern Cardinal-1
Dark-eyed Junco-16+, mostly in G6
House Sparrow-(2 near Decelles entrance)
American Goldfinch-15 on Pine Hill Side
House Finch-3 in section H

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Crossbill Traffic


White-throated Sparrow Zonotrichia albicollis
Hermit Thrush Catharus guttatus...Shhhhh, it's only sleeping...
Red Fox Vulpes vulpes...scratch scratch scratch...
  This morning at the cemeteries was a slow one until the very end of my three-hour walk, when a single finch flew overhead, towards the north entrance. It was bulky and plain, and made a call I likened to shades of American Goldfinch mixed with the bass notes of a Star Wars blaster. Tsew tsew tsew! 
  Fifteen minutes later, in the pine trees near the north entrance (the direction the singleton had flown), I came on a group of at least a dozen chattering finches in the large pine trees that dominate that area. I got backlit but decent binocular views before they flew towards Mount Royal. They were unmistakably Red Crossbills. Whaaaaat? I would have loved a better look, as this was only my second brush with this irregular species. Next time, Red Crossbills, next time. *shakes fist at sky* 
  Crossbill traffiiiiiic...so hard to get views of you...

Mount-Royal Cemetery, (Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Cemetery), November 14, 2017
Merlin-(1 near Decelles entrance)
Hairy Woodpecker-(1)
Pileated Woodpecker-(1 heard from UdeM woods)
American Crow-5 (8)
Black-capped Chickadee-12+ (6)
White-breasted Nuthatch-2 (5)
Ruby-Crowned Kinglet-1 near the north entrance
Hermit Thrush-1 dead on Pine Hill Side
American Robin-2 overhead
Northern Cardinal-10 to 14, widespread and mobile in the eastern half of MRC
White-throated Sparrow-2 near the north entrance, 1 on Pine Hill Side
Dark-eyed Junco-10 (4)
American Goldfinch-4+ (3)
Red Crossbill-12+ in the pines in section H
+1 Red Fox scratched an itch then bow-yawned

Friday, November 10, 2017

Noah Strycker talk

  Last week I went to the monthly BPQ meeting just down the street, which featured a talk by Noah Strycker (fun fact: his name is pronounced Streaker). He did a global big year in 2015 and ended up seeing over 6,000 species (out of about 10,000 in the world), while having a heaping portion of wacky adventures. While birding is often a solo/personal pursuit for many, a lot of Noah’s highlights and memories from the year involved his interactions with the locals. I can confirm this from my lost decade of birding in Korea – you definitely run into some characters when birding abroad! 
  People laughed at all the correct moments, and his speech and powerpoint were slick and well-rehearsed - in a good way. I’m expecting an entertaining read from his book, Birding Without Borders.
  I had a brief chat with him, and he seems like a cool dude, and an inspiration as well. Here’s a guy who is 
traveling and birding and (presumably) making a living from writing about it. Something to aspire to, for sure.
http://noahstrycker.com/
http://www.audubon.org/features/birding-without-borders

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Twitchin' D'ville

Red-headed Woodpecker Melanerpes erythrocephalus
Downy Woodpecker Picoides pubescens
Tufted Titmouse Baeolophus bicolour
Using a highly secret avian-thinkometer I designed and built myself, for the first time ever in the history of bird science, a birder's thoughts were visually captured.
La Gang
Sketchy-at-times boardwalk

Best tallying-up grub, everrr
  Dan and I headed out to Île Sainte-Bernard to spend time with the latest celebirdy there, a Red-headed Woodpecker that’s been around for about a week. We found the bird well-attended by the gang of regular suspect photogs, and watched it cruise around the woods in search of nuts n bugs.
  A pair of Tufted Titmice near the feeders was another highlight, as were the mobs of sassy Black-capped Chickadees and White-breasted Nuthatch that harassed us along the trails like highwaymen. There seemed to be a paucity of raptors, but I don’t know the spot that well.

Reserve Faunique Marguerite-D’Youville, Île Sainte-Bernard, Châteauguay, November 7, 2017
Canada Goose-9
Mallard-20+
Green-winged Teal-6
Common Merganser-6
Merlin-1
Shorebird sp.-We flushed a shorebird that gave an Eastern Wood-pewee-ish singsong 'Peeaweeee', but never saw the bird well. After listening to every shorebird on the Sibley app on the ride back, Black-bellied Plover was a near-perfect match for what we heard...
Great Black-backed Gull-1
Rock Dove-12
Mourning Dove-2
Red-headed Woodpecker-1 striking adult, swooping between trees in the l'érablière section
Downy Woodpecker-3
Hairy Woodpecker-2
Northern Flicker-1 near the entrance
American Crow-2
Black-capped Chickadee-30+
Brown Creeper-1
Tufted Titmouse-2
White-breasted Nuthatch-10+
American Robin-50+ mostly near the entrance
Cedar Waxwing-4
European Starling-40+
Northern Cardinal-1
American Tree Sparrow-2 at Grande Digue, 5 near the entrance
Dark-eyed Junco-6
Red-winged Blackbird-2
American Goldfinch-12+ overhead

Monday, November 6, 2017

Sparrows on the wane

Snow Geese Chen caerulescens
Hairy Woodpecker Picoides villosus
American Robin Turdus migratorius
  Popped through the cemeteries on a lovely brisk morning the other day. The headline story for me was a complete absence of sparrows except for two forlorn singletons seen right before leaving. Dark-eyed Junco numbers were also way down, while more woodpeckers were seen out and about.

Mount-Royal Cemetery, (Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Cemetery), November 4, 2017
Snow Goose-(123 in one skein quite high up, heading SSW in the early morning)
Canada Goose-133 lower down, also heading roughly SSW in smaller wedges, in late morning
Cooper’s Hawk-(1)
Red-tailed Hawk-1 vizzed south over Mount Royal
Ring-billed Gull-(2 near Decelles – They count! They count!)
Downy Woodpecker-6 (5)
Hairy Woodpecker-5 (4)
American Crow-25+ (11)
Common Raven-1 heard
Black-capped Chickadee-12+ (9)
Brown Creeper-1
White-breasted Nuthatch-2 (3)
Red-breasted Nuthatch-1
Winter Wren-1 in G4
Golden-crowned Kinglet-1 in A3
Ruby-Crowned Kinglet-1 just north of the cannons
Hermit Thrush-1 (1)
American Robin-12+ foraging on the ground and woods of Mountain View
Northern Cardinal-7 (2)
Chipping Sparrow-1 near the north entrance – first I’ve seen since a single bird on October 25
White-throated Sparrow-1 near the north entrance
Dark-eyed Junco-20+ (10)
American Goldfinch-6+ (4+)
Purple Finch-9 on Mountain View
+1 Red Fox

Friday, November 3, 2017

Birding at the Creation Museum

Dystopian hellscapes for all! Hee hee hee!
  Holy crap, I got another birding story published - fooled 'em again! I tried to write something more topical and 'publishable' this time, about a grim birding trip in the not-too-distant future. This one is getting better reviews: "A bit laboured, but it built to a fine end."  Heh, I'll take it.

https://365tomorrows.com/2017/11/03/birding-at-the-creation-museum/

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Early Novembirds

Northern Harrier Circus cyaneus...honestly!
American Tree Sparrow Spizella arborea
Fox Sparrow Passerella iliaca
Hermit Thrush Catharus guttatus
  Things started slowly, on a morning crisp enough to remind my facial extremities of wintrier times. After almost 20 birdless minutes, I finally encountered near-countable numbers of Dark-eyed Juncos on the western edge of NDN, with an American Tree Sparrow tucked in. Soon after, a Northern Harrier slipped high overhead, and the NDN north woods held several Fox Sparrows, frustratingly expert skulkers, as usual.
  Later on, a commotion erupted atop a dead, holey tree, as a swarm of ‘dees and ‘hatches mobbed an unseen threat within. Eastern Screech Owl perhaps? Only the ‘dees know for sure, only the ‘dees.


Mount-Royal Cemetery, (Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Cemetery), November 1, 2017
Cooper’s Hawk-1
Northern Harrier-(1 male vizzed south)
Merlin-1
Ring-billed Gull-(4 near Decelles)
Downy Woodpecker-2 (1)
American Crow-6 (4)
Black-capped Chickadee-30+ (11)
White-breasted Nuthatch-5 (1)
Red-breasted Nuthatch-2
Winter Wren-2
Golden-crowned Kinglet-4 (2)
Hermit Thrush-3
American Robin-6+ overhead, (7)
Northern Cardinal-10+ (2)
American Tree Sparrow-(1 on the western edge of NDN)
Song Sparrow-1 on Mountain View
Fox Sparrow-12+ on Mountain View, (4 in the north woods)
White-throated Sparrow-25+
Dark-eyed Junco-50+ (45+)
House Sparrow-(4 just outside Decelles entrance – They count! They count!)
American Goldfinch-5 overhead, (3 overhead)
+1 Red Fox

Monday, October 30, 2017

Subho, Werewolf Birdwatcher

  Boo. Here's a link to my first published story, Subho, Werewolf Birdwatcher, about a birder in Korea who wakes up to discover images of rare birds on his memory card that he has no recollection of taking. OooooOOOOOoooooh! During the submission process, one editor got back and told me she absolutely hated the ending, whereas another thought it was killer (the truth hopefully sits near the centre of that lovely Venn diagram). That's publishing, eh.
  The spooky birding tales I've been cranking out are admittedly silly, in the style of (but no way near the quality of) the throwaway one-offs of the original Twilight Zone series. The world needs silly supernatural stories about birding, I would argue. Maybe I'll even get some more published, as I very slowly learn how to not suck.

Subho, Werewolf Birdwatcher

My voice sounds like that?!




I rode the scooter like...so
  Way back in the summer, someone suggested I give a talk at the Congrès QuébecOiseaux 2017. I shrugged and filled out the application, which, to my shock, was accepted.
  For those whose French is rustier than mine, I first gave a little breakdown on what it's like to live and bird in South Korea, followed by an explanation of the work Birds Korea does, and some of the conservation challenges, both large and small, that are faced by Korean birds and their habitats. I ended off with the tragi-comic tale of the time I was fed an endangered bird in the guise of fried chicken, and ended off with a little "It's gloomy but there's still a bit of time and hope left" spiel. 
  I fudged on a question at the end, when asked about the percentage of birds in Korea that are migratory - I answered 75%, when that number is closer to 87%. I had actually re-read that exact figure in the Birds Korea Status of Birds the night before, but the lack of sleep and an overload of French clouded my brain and made that fact unretrievable at the moment. Close enough though, eh.
  The rest of the day was a pleasant one, as Dan and I got to check out speeches in all four rooms (conservation, observation, photography, and research), and it was great to network with other bird-minded folks throughout the day. It was a tightly-run ship, all in all.
  Tim Edelsten and Robin Newlin were awesome for letting me use images of grim Korean habitat destruction and the bird species it impacts, and a thank you as well to Nial Moores for letting me use data/graphs/photos produced by Birds Korea. I couldn't have written the speech without Catherine Dion's expert French help, and wouldn't have made it to Victoriaville is Dan hadn't schlepped me there in his trusty Prius.
  But yeah, there's no way my voice is so nasal and insipid in real life. Must have been a problem with the mic. Heh, and I just noticed a lovely tick where I'm pawing at my face throughout. In my defence, it was pretty damn nerve-wracking giving a speech like this in a language that my brain clings onto with its fingernails.

Watch the speech here (Not sure why it's not starting at the beginning...and I swear there were more than two people there...): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dtZSBklk3sQ

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Drunkadee

Black-capped Chickadee Poecile atricapillus
Song Sparrow Melospiza melodia
American Tree Sparrow Spizella arborea
Brown Creeper Certhia americana

                         
  It was spitting rain all morning, but we’re not made of sugar, innit. ‘Twas nice to see an American Tree Sparrow, if only briefly.
  On my way out, I spotted a drunk Black-capped Chickadee bobbing its head and clinging onto a seed (berry?). I briefly thought its bill was stuck shut, but at one point it grabbed the seed with its feet and took a few pecks at it, before re-beaking it. The poor lil' bastid was having trouble flying, and was way too confiding. Its sober buddy was hanging out nearby, perhaps waiting to act as designated flyer. At first I suspected fermented yew berries were the culprit, but I ate like five handfuls and I feel fine.

Mount-Royal Cemetery, (Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Cemetery), October 26, 2017
Cooper’s Hawk-2
Ring-billed Gull-(9 near Decelles)
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker-(1)
Downy Woodpecker-2 (1)
Hairy Woodpecker-4 (2)
Blue Jay-1 (1 muttering half-ass sapsucker and nuthatch calls to itself)
American Crow-7 (2)
Black-capped Chickadee-20+ (10+)
Brown Creeper-2 (1)
White-breasted Nuthatch-4 (2)
Winter Wren-6 (2)
Golden-crowned Kinglet-12+ (10+)
Ruby-crowned Kinglet-8+ (6+)
Hermit Thrush-3
Magnolia Warbler-(1 still in the same area as yesterday)
Northern Cardinal-7 (1)
America Tree Sparrow-1 just up the hill from the cannons – it briefly skulked down low with White-throated Sparrows, before shooting high up into the treetops
Song Sparrow-1 by the stream near the north entrance
Fox Sparrow-(1 in the north woods)
White-throated Sparrow-20+ (12+)
Dark-eyed Junco-50+ (30+)
American Goldfinch-2 (1)
Pine Siskin-7 flyby, and a group of about 20 shimmering much higher overhead was possibly this species
Finch sp.-several birds overhead, husky of form and voice – couldn’t place the call, although Pine Grosbeak sounds like a good match. They're relatively scarce, and I don't have much experience with that species, so hopefully I can get another look...