Due to being without a computer, I haven't managed to update on a so far fantastic trip to Canada. My highlights so far have been American Bittern (showed to 20 metres right out in the open), Green Heron (showed to five metres!), Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Belted Kingfisher, Hairy Woodpecker, Black-billed Cuckoo, White-breasted Nuthatch, Black-throated Blue, Black-throated Green and Blackburnian Warblers and American Redstart. However, this first instalment deals with the humble beginnings of the trip, travelling from Toronto to Mont Owl's Head (in Quebec) over the 15-16 of August.
Things began on 15 August, with an 06:00 wake-up-call, and an 07:00 train to Gatwick. We left for America at 12:30 pm, with two Carrion Crows on Gatwick runway the last british birds I would see for three weeks. After an eight-hour flight, we arrived in Toronto at 15:00. The first bird I saw on american soil, having got away from Britain, was a Peregrine! though since it was probably one of the airport's birds I can't count it on my trip list. However, a Red-tailed Hawk, also on the runway, was far more likely to be wild, so makes it on as trip tick no.1 and lifer no. 556 (I think!). Around the airport, I felt right at home again with House Sparrows trip tick no.2, and, having hired a car from some slightly mad jamaican ladies at the airport, we headed off out of toronto.
Our plan as to drive to Quebec in two days, doing about a quarter of the journey on the 15th and getting some rest before going the rest of the 400-mile journey on the 16th. By the time we had stopped off at a motel in, of all places, Brighton(!), I had added Rat-bird no.1 (feral pigeon), rat-bird no.2 (starling), and Purple Martin, Ring-billed Gull, Mourning Dove, Great Blue Heron, Red-winged Blackbird, American Kestrel and Barn Swallow, with six of those lifers no. 557-563. At Brighton, we had dinner at a fantastic restaurant on the shores of Lake Ontario. 20 or so Caspian Terns and numerous Ring-billed Gulls were offshore, a Wood Duck was on the water, and Purple Martins, Tree Swallows and Chimney Swifts circled above. a Night Heron gave us a brief fly-by and large groups of Red-winged Blackbirds and Common Grackles flew overhead, going to roost in the marshes nearby. Walking through the town, we added Black-capped Chickadee, Eastern Phoebe, American Robin and Chipping Sparrow, and by the time we were home I was so jet lagged I slept through the massive thunderstorm that came in the night. By the end of the day I had seen 25 species of bird in Canada, 15 of those lifers.
On 16 August, I woke up to a scene of destruction. by destruction, I mean the thunderstorm had scattered a few twiggy branches around the motel grounds from the trees above. And I didn't notice this until it was pointed out to me. However, I partly blame this on the fact I was admiring the birds in the sweetcorn field opposite our motel (there are lots of these in Canada, I have found). There were a few Red-winged Blackbirds and Common Grackles. some Barn Swallows zipped overhead, an American Goldfinch was singing away, and American Crows and Blue Jays were calling from the woods behind the field. The highlight was a beautiful male Indigo Bunting, singing from a telegraph wire, which I got a few suitably crap photos of, to appear once I get home. However, slightly more photogenic was a dazzling Monarch butterfly, which I got some goodish photos of. However, by mid-morning we were on the road heading off on a six-hour trip to Quebec.
en route, we made a brief stop at Presquile provincial park, about 10 minutes drive from the motel. Among many birds seen here were a Cliff Swallow, 4 Barn Swallows and 5 Purple Martins, a Chimney Swift, 6 Song Sparrows, 2 Wood Ducks, 2 Eastern Phoebes and 2 Cedar Waxwings. On the road to Quebec thee were a few distractions, including an Osprey perched by a roadside lake, a Bonaparte's Gull that flew over the car, a Caspian Tern that did the same, several each of Turkey Vulture and Red-tailed Hawk, and, crossing over the St-Lawrence River (a huge river that feeds into the Great Lakes), 200+ Bonaparte's Gulls and a few Double-crested Cormorants. non-bird sightings were of a White-tailed Deer, in one of the seemingly endless fields in lowland Ontario.
Eventually, we reached a town called Mansonville, and from here navigated our way through the mountain's to Mont Owl's Head, a mountain (named after a native american chief), where we were meeting up with my aunt, uncle and two cousins in a condos (fancy word for rustic wooden house) on the mountainside, surrounded by woodland with a large lake that stretched into the U.S within three minutes walk. Around the house on 16 August I saw 3 Cedar Waxwings, 3 Chestnut-sided Warblers, 2 Alder Flycatchers, a Downy Woodpecker, lots of Black-capped Chickadees and 5 Chipping Sparrows.
That is the first instalment, in the next one I will write about my five days in the Mont-Owl's head area from 17-21 August.