Saturday, 4 September 2010

Mont Owl's Head area, Southern Quebec, 17-21 August

17 August

I started birding today ridiculously early (08:30). Me, my parents, my dad's brother David, his wife Kate and their two kids were all staying in this one condo (canadian word for a cabin), on the side of Mt Owl's Head. This mountain was named after an indigenous chief who controlled the mountain, and despite it being a ski resort it still felt like a wilderness much of the the time. A beach on the shore of the lake was five minutes walk away through plenty of northern mountainous forest. Walking through some of this I saw a Trail's Flycatcher (the american name for Willow/Alders they can't ID, the ones listed as Alder in my previous post I should really have assigned to this fallback) and a Pileated Woodpecker's chilling call echoed through the woods. The rest of the birds were fairly normal, Blue Jay, American Goldfinch, Black-capped Chickadee, American Crow and Raven. We spent most of the rest of the day in the town of Magog, about forty miles to the North of MOH, and at the northern tip of the lake below Owl's Head. As a Town, unsurprisingly I didn't see much apart from the by now boring Ring-billed Gulls, but I did hear a possible Eastern Kingbird, and on the lake were a few Double-crested Cormorants. 

After several hours in Magog, Me, Dad and my Uncle (David), went for a spot of birdwatching on a reserve on the outskirts of Magog, Cherry River Marsh. This is where the Cherry River flows into the lake, with a few hundred hectares of marshland and some nice coniferous woodland to boot.

We started off by wandering through the coniferous woodland. Chickadees were common as ever, while I saw one lifer, Red-breasted Nuthatch, and heard another, Northern Flicker. Some adorable little Chipmunks were my first mammalian highlight of the trip. The Woodland eventually leads into a huge Alder carr, in which we saw a Chestnut-side Warbler, a Gray Catbird (lifer) and a White-throated Sparrow (lifer). From Once you're out of that you look out over a huge marsh from a viewing platform. Here a Common Yellowthroat called vigorously, and eight Turkey Vulture's were up in the air. The two highlights were also birds of prey, a Red-shouldered Hawk circling overhead was a lifer and a Merlin was a reminder of home. Most odd though was its tendency to hawk for dragonflies, rather successfully, reminding me of a slightly more dashing homegrown falcon at the same time.

Back at Owl's Head in the evening and I saw an Eastern Wood-Pewee while on my way down to the lake, my 34th species of the day, the sixth one to be a lifer and ninth that was new for the trip. Over the three days I had been present in Canada I had now seen 48 species, 31 of which were lifers.

18 August
Today was a very quiet day overall as I spent pretty much all the time with my two toddler cousinsr. I did see some Clouded Sulphur butterflies around the condo and Chickadees and Cedar Waxwingswere ever-present. The only lifers I saw were a Black and White Warbler, singing around the area, and some American Black Ducks on the lake, bringing my total to 50 species, and 33 lifers. But I was well rested  for the following day, which was rather more active.

19 August
around Owl's Head in the morning, the Pileated Woodpecker called again, and I saw Cedar Waxwing, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Black and White Warbler, Raven and my most wanted lifer from the trip, two iradescent Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, one of which was a marvellous, majestic male.
We spent most of the day in a nearby Provincial Park, Mt Orford. This area is a fantastic mixture of mountainous broadleaved and coniferous woodland, with the cherry river (which later forms cherry river marsh) running through it, and there are several large lakes in the area. The list of birds is so numerous, to save time, I have to write it in semi-note form;

  • we saw a Veery, and several different Hermit Thrushes were heard giving their rather peculiar, far-carrying call.
  • woodpeckers consisted of 6 Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers (all this years juveniles), single adult Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers, and some tree-cavity nest holes that would have been recently occupied by Pileated Woodpeckers  (note to all british visitors, Hairy and Downy are their equivalent of Great-Spot and Lesser-Spot sizewise)
  • We heard loads of Ravens and American Crows. The Ravens are the same species as ours while yankie crow is very similar to carrion crow, the but both american versions have far girlier, more pathetic voices than their gruff, rugged brit relations)
  • A few BOPs were overhead. an Osprey and a three Turkey Vultures, the latter having a rather primeval quality to them as they glided overhead, scouring for death.
  • One more Ruby-throated Hummingbird was seen, but it was no where near as good a view as the ones at the cottage.
  • We saw a White-breasted Nuthatch, a prettier version of the Red-breasted and just as weird sounding. 
  • One of the highlights was a beautiful Black-billed Cuckoo, one of my favourite lifers of the trip.
  • Eastern Wood Pewee and Red-eyed Vireo were both common.
  • We saw several different warblers. A gorgeous male Black-throated Blue did a display flight similar to Wood Warbler. I got poor views of a few Black-throated Green Warblers. One impossibly dull female type American Redstart almost passed as a vireo till its tail was seen. A juvenile Blackburnian Warbler's orange breast was glaringly obvious in the sunlit treetops.And a Common Yellowthroat tacked away unseen in phragmites in the woodland.
  • A Song Sparrow was seen. thats all I can say about that, I forgot about it long ago
  • There was a distant Common Loon on one of the lakes
  • we saw a few mammals. a great close view of a young buck White-tailed Deer, and a couple of  Chipmunks and the american Red Squirrel, totally different to our Red Squirrel.
  • A Garter Snake slithered across the track, being unwillingly picked up by my uncle as it went
  • In one of the pathside ponds there were 40+ Green Frogs
  • Butterflies seen, and ID'd by the other two cursons, were American Painted Lady, White Admiral, Northern Crescent and Common Ringlet.
Back at Mt Owl's Head in the evening, Cedar Waxwings were all over, two Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, a Turkey Vulture and a Broad-winged Hawk were seen, and two Red-eyed Vireos, a Black and White Warbler and a Hermit Thrush were heard.

We saw 32 species of bird today, including 15 birds new for the trip, 13 of which were lifers.

20 August
A touristy day spent around southern Quebec yielded a few birds besides;
  • Stopping off at an Art/Maple Syrup/Local Goods sort of shop by the side of the road, Me and dad got bored after a while and went outside, seeing a Turkey Vulture and a Common Yellowthroat
  • In Magog, all the town birds were seen, along with a few Chipping Sparrows.
  • Driving back to Mt Owl's I saw my only lifer of the day, a Belted Kingfisher perched on wires by a roadside lake.
In the evening at Mt Owl's Head I saw another Belted Kingfisher and seven Black Ducks on the lake, and a Ruby-throated Hummingbird and an Eastern Wood-pewee by the condo.

21 August
Getting up early for once, I went birding round Owl's Head in the morning with Dad and my Uncle David. We found one flock of birds containing 10 Red-eyed Vireos, 2 Black and White Warblers, 3 Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers and 3 White-breasted Nuthatches, which clambered up and down the trees together, like one ever twisting body, emitting their rather distinctive calls as they went. The only birds that we saw otherwise were a Song Sparrow and all the common stuff (American Crow, Black-capped Chickadee, Cedar Waxwing  etc)

We spent most of today going round the nearby areas towns and seeing what was there. However, once the touristy stuff got boring I snuck off a few times to see what birds were about. The first stop was the town of Mansonville. By far nd away the highlight here was a gorgeous, splendid, fabulous, bedazzling male American Redstart. Even extreme hyberbole such as that cannot do justice to this beautiful bird. Other birds on a walk alongside a river included two Common Yellowthroats, the same number of Song Sparrows and a few of the ubuquitous Chipping Sparrows. A whole family party(or perhaps several) of Blue Jay's moved through the treetops and a few Chipmunks were heard.

Next stop was the town of Knowlton. Here we found Etang Mill Pond, a lagoon with a fairly low waterlevel. We first walked up to it with binoculars left in the car, not expecting much. However, a few Solitary Sandpipers made it worth going back to get them. As dad trudged back to the car, I spotted a heron stalking through reeds about 50 metres away. My first instinct was American Bittern. And rather happily, as it walked out into the open, I was proved right! It showed gorgeously, in full view along with three Green Herons, while  on the lagoon we also enjoyed good views of 10+ Solitary Sandpipers, 20+ Least Sand's and one Semipalmated Sandpiper, one Semipalmated Plover and a Wilson's SnipeBelted Kingfisher flew through, perching out in the open for a few minutes. And the hihglight was the Bittern taking flight, flying round the lagoon and eventually coming down on the shore about 30 metres away. Using a bit of patience and fieldcraft, I snuck up to within 15 metres of this incredibly beautiful bird, which stayed in full view for 10 minutes, frozen on the spot, right out in the open. An extra highlight was a Green Heron foraging along the shore which came to within five metres! Annoyingly, I didn't have my camera on me!

It was gonna be tough to top that, but a stop by the roadside to check directions almost did. In the grassy field opposite I saw a bird, then two, then about ten as I picked more up. Looking through binoculars, these looked like large Little Ringed Plovers with big beady eyes, except they had bright rufous tails and scurried accross the ground like clockwork toys. Killdeer! I counted 27 in this one tiny field in the end, an incredible sight that capped off a fantstic day.

In the next installment, A week's birding round Toronto and in the wilderness to the North.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Liam , a really captivating read and you have seen some birds i dream of seeing , looking forward to your next post already .


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