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DVOC Field Trip Report
by Adrian Binns

March 4-6, 2006
Ontario and Quebec

Pictures by Adrian Binns

TRIP REPORT

The lure of several specialty species and Snowy Owls proved to be too much, so we made a bee-line for Montreal. We began by looking for a Snowy and came up trumps when Naomi picked out a juvenile sitting atop a brush pile. After watching it for a while it took off, flying parallel to the road giving us wonderful looks before we lost it behind a handful of farm buildings. Next up were the crossbills, a rare commodity this winter, but we only came away with Red-breasted Nuthatch. This was followed by patiently working snow covered farmland near the airport in fierce blowing snow, for Gray Partridges. Somehow we located another flying Snowy, which was well received, but the blinding snow made it almost impossible not only us but also the partridges. After giving the area a second going over we proceeded slowly towards the highway and low and behold what comes flying along side the van, banks in front of it and lands in a shrub row next to a house some 20 yards from us, but none other than 7 partridges. Thank you very much. After they hunkered down for a short while they became bolder and at least one moved into full view.
From here it was onto a Great Gray Owl located in a park, but the winds and more blowing snow in this particular location no doubt drove it into hiding. Arriving in a suburb of Montreal, everything looked good for a Gyr Falcon at its roost site on a large rocky outcrop. The winds had died down the snow had stopped blowing but for whatever reason it never showed and all we ended up seeing were Common Ravens playfully gliding and displaying above the cliff face, which was not all that bad. We picked an Italian restaurant with English speaking waiters in a French part of Canada for dinner. As it turned out it was an excellent choice.

We began our second day hot on the trail on another two Great Grays east of Ottawa but were only rewarded with a large flock of Evening Grosbeaks hanging out at a feeder, which also happened to have a couple of juncos, goldfinch and half a dozen American Tree Sparrows. From here we headed north west leaving the Canadian capital behind and reaching Algonquin Provincial Park by mid day. The feeders held a few dozen noisy Common Redpolls along with Red-breasted Nuthatch, Hairy Woodpecker at the suet, the ubiquitous Black-capped Chickadees and several dozen Pine Grosbeaks. A quick stop to check for Boreal Chickadee produced three Gray Jays and a handful of Black-caps but not our target. Our time spent in the park was very brief because we got word that a Great Gray was being seen several hours away to the south, and that really was top priority. Reaching the ‘spot’ and giving it a good working over failed to produce the beast, but as luck would have it, just as the last person was getting back into the van it was spotted flying across the woodline and landing in a large maple tree. The scope was set up in no time and while the view was not the greatest, the homeowner took pity on us and invited us onto her property for a closer look – a lot closer. We could not have asked for a better look of this most majestic of owls. This even met with Walt’s approval…..yaaah. Searching the side roads we came across a Barred Owl which allowed for a good comparison of these two species.

Dinner was a mixed bag - 11 at a table for 8; a raucous group; tales of “the rack” from Lydia and how best it could be tied in (no pun intended) with birding, conjured up all thoughts of images of massage parlors and dominatrix; above average liquid amber; pretty good food other than Andy felt his came up short and small in stature; the separate checks were working out just fine until Bill scrutinized his and figured out his order of a heaping plate of fried clams found its way on someone else’s bill. Our very pleasant cool, calm and collected young waitress was totally unflustered and managed to get it all sorted out…in 25 minutes!

On our final morning we took our time going through Algonquin. It really was eerily quite with no crossbills and very few chickadees - this being a poor cone crop year in the park for the former and the majority of the later headed south for the winter. We came across everything we saw the previous day as well as a stunning Red Fox with a full coat and very bushy tail and a ravenous American Marten at the feeders. However the highlight was when we realized we could go no further down a trail of unpacked 3 foot snow, without falling at least half way in, which limited our options for Boreal Chickadee. As we figured out what to do next Dennis points and says “look at this”. No more than 30 feet from us and 12 feet up a spruce tree was a male Spruce Grouse seemingly unperturbed at all the attention that he was getting. This more than made up for the lack of birds in the park and for some was the highlight of the trip. Following lunch at the visitor’s center and Lydia commenting about ‘just another grosbeak’ we headed home coming across many Red-tails; a dozen Bald Eagles in the Thousand Islands region; a Great Horned Owl flying across the highway and a Northern Shrike perched besides the road.



Adrian Binns

SYSTEMATIC LIST OF SPECIES SEEN - Ontario and Quebec
March 2006

Species Seen:

The 1st number indicates the maximum number seen in 1 day; the 2nd number indicates the number of days it was seen out of 3 days

Birds:
Great Blue Heron (1 in NY)
Canada Goose (common in NY)
Mallard (6 in NY)
Bald Eagle 12/1
Red-tailed Hawk 35/3 (including 20+ in NY)
Gray Partridge 7/1
Spruce Grouse 1/1
Wild Turkey 20/1
Ring-billed Gull 10/1
Herring Gull 6/2
Great Black-backed Gull 3/2
Rock Pigeon c/3
Mourning Dove 6/3
Great Horned Owl (1 in NY)
Snowy Owl 2/1
Barred Owl 1/1
Great Gray Owl 1/1
Downy Woodpecker 1/2
Hairy Woodpecker 1/2
Northern Flicker h/1
Northern Shrike (1 in NY)
Gray Jay 6/2
Blue Jay 9/2
American Crow c/3
Common Raven 25/3
Horned Lark 1/1
Black-capped Chickadee 30/3
Tufted Titmouse h/1
Red-breasted Nuthatch 4/3
White-breasted Nuthatch 1/2
European Starling c/3
American Tree Sparrow 6/1
Dark-eyed Junco 3/1
Snow Bunting 26/1
Northern Cardinal 1/1
Pine Grosbeak 25/2
Common Redpoll 120/2
American Goldfinch 3/1
Evening Grosbeak 50/1
House Sparrow 3/2

Mammals:
Grey Squirrel 1/1
Red Squirrel 4/2
Red Fox 1/2
White-tailed Deer 3/2
American Marten 1/2