The MBO Birdathon Team (Marcel Gahbauer, Marie-Anne Hudson, Barbara Frei, Lina Bardo, Steven Dedesko, Manon Dubé, Sarah Fraser, Barbara MacDuff, Lance Laviolette, Mike Mayerhofer, Sandy McNeil, and Chris Murphy) accumulated a list of 120 species on Saturday May 20.  The weather was rather dismal, with a steady temperature of around 10 degrees, and light showers throughout the day with only brief breaks - and an unpleasant wind at times too.  It was worth persevering through the weather though (see the highlights below), and though we know we could have done much better under drier skies, we're very happy with the results under these circumstances.  Thanks to all who took part, and just as importantly, all those who sponsored us to raise money for MBO!

Part of the MBO Birdathon Team scanning the gulls and terns at Fort Chambly.  From left to right:
Marcel Gahbauer, Marie-Anne Hudson, Mike Mayerhofter, Steven Dedesko, Manon Dubé, Lina
Bardo, and Sarah Fraser.  (Photo by Barbara Frei)

Despite the weather, the birding was enjoyable throughout the day, and there were plenty of memorable moments.  Over half of the participants were able to add one or more birds to their life lists, and others enjoyed uncommonly good views of some rather infrequently seen species.  Among the most memorable sightings of the day:

  • 3 Little Gulls in beautiful breeding plumage, flying back and forth past us at Fort Chambly

  • A rather rain-soaked Eastern Screech-Owl peering out from its roost at Summit Park

  • 2 Common Terns perching on the rails of the boardwalk at Ile Bizard, just metres in front of us

  • A large flock of around 200 Brant coming in for a landing on the Chambly Basin

  • A rotund little vole scurrying around on a small island of vegetation along the Ile Bizard boardwalk

  • 6 American Woodcocks 'timberdoodling' across the sky at our final stop

  • A Ruffed Grouse perched a few metres up in a small aspen tree along the road at the Marcel-Raymond Reserve

In some more detail, here is how the day unfolded at each of our stops:

McGill Bird Observatory (MBO):
How could we start anywhere but MBO?  Aside from loyalty to our site, warbler diversity in recent days has been as good here as anywhere else in the Montreal area.  We weren't disappointed.  Our walk of the census loop produced 50 species, including three new ones for the year: Indigo Bunting, Mourning Warbler, and Yellow-bellied Flycatcher.  We didn't encounter any of them again elsewhere, and likewise our only Blackburnian Warbler, Wilson's Warbler, and Purple Finch came here - the latter perching obligingly along the road as we put our first entries on the checklist.  

Parc Nature de l'Ile Bizard (PB):
Our second stop, at Ile Bizard, boosted our total to 84 species.  A brief walk north from the parking lot yielded our only Tennessee Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, and Red-breasted Mergansers of the day, but the gusty winds there convinced us to turn back before long.  The main boardwalk was very disappointing in terms of waterfowl, but it was otherwise rewarding, with nice looks at Black and Common Terns, plus Belted Kingfisher, Green Heron, Common Moorhen and Pied-billed Grebe.  Also near the path, but well-hidden, were both Sora and Virginia Rail.  The woods beyond proved to be a bit much of a time sink, but did give us some important additions for the day, including Scarlet Tanager, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, and Red-eyed Vireo.

The view from the lookout at Summit Park in Westmount around noon.  This was one of the brighter skies
we saw during the day... (Photo by Barbara Frei)

Summit Park (SP):
This site was new for the majority of participants, and we were all grateful for the expert leadership of Chris Murphy, both in terms of navigating us along the roads to find the park, and for leading us to the Eastern Screech-Owl and some nice pockets of warbler activity.  A Ruby-crowned Kinglet with black flecks on the head was an interesting sight, as were two Northern Parulas perched less than a metre away from the sleeping owl, chipping at agitatedly.  At the lookout, our only Ruby-throated Hummingbird of the day whipped by overhead.

The resident Eastern Screech-Owl at Summit Park looks like it might also be wishing for drier weather...
 (Photo by Barbara Frei)

Chambly Basin (CB):
From rue Martel, we scanned the Chambly Basin and had some nice sightings.  Off to the north we spotted 8 Common Loons together on the water, and over near the east side were at least half a dozen late-lingering White-winged Scoters.  As we were watching them, a large flock of about 200 Brant flew in from the southeast and settled on the water.

Fort Chambly (FC):
From rue Martel, we could see what appeared to be another 20 Brant near Fort Chambly, but little did we know how many other highlights we would discover there.  Almost as soon as we got to the corner lookout, we spotted 3 Little Gulls in spectacular full breeding plumage.  Nearby for comparison were 4 Bonaparte's Gulls, including one in breeding plumage, and dozens of Common Terns (we searched in vain for an Arctic or Forster's Tern among them).  Sharing the airspace over the river were all 6 swallow species and some Chimney Swifts.  We spotted nests of both Cliff and Northern Rough-winged Swallow, but Barn were by far the most common of the swallows.  We also added to our meagre raptor count with a Turkey Vulture and an immature Bald Eagle soaring across the river, bringing our total up to 100 species.

Quiz: how many species can you recognize?  Answers at the bottom of the page.  (Photo by Barbara Frei)

St-Blaise (SB):
Over the previous week, all 3 phalarope species had been reported from the flooded fields in and around St-Blaise, as had many other shorebirds.  Unfortunately, our sightings were limited to Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs (kind enough to pose for side-by-side comparison), plus Solitary and Spotted Sandpipers.  Despite all the flooding, the only ducks we could find in the fields were Mallards.  However, we made up for those disappointments by adding on unexpected species such as Snow Goose and Common Merganser, and also with a nice view of a female Northern Harrier under attack from local Red-winged Blackbirds.

Henryville, rue Melaven (HV):
We made a brief side trip up rue Melaven to the Marcel-Raymond Reserve, hoping for Blue-gray Gnatcatcher or an early Willow Flycatcher.  These we could not find, but a Ruffed Grouse perched in a small aspen right by the road was more than interesting enough to compensate for their absence.  There was also a fair amount of warbler song, but nothing else new for the day.

Walking along rue Melaven, Mike spotted this rather unusual sight, a Ruffed Grouse perched
on a small Trembling Aspen branch right beside the road.  (Photo by Barbara Frei)

Philipsburg (PB):
At last our luck ran out a bit at Philipsburg.  A brief foray along the trails made us face two realities: the rain had made the paths extremely muddy and treacherous even away from low-lying spots, and aside from Baltimore Orioles, the birds seemed to be largely silent.  In better weather and earlier in the day, it probably would have been a very productive stop, but it wasn't to be this time.  At least we were able to add Eastern Bluebird to the list before heading back west.

Hemmingford (HF):
Barbara's knowledge of the area paid off with a nice field full of Bobolink song, and with an obliging Brown Thrasher calling nearby as a bonus.  Just down the road we added Eastern Meadowlark to give us at least a modest representation of grassland birds on the day's list.

Pitch Pine Reserve (PP):
By the time we reached this area, it was already getting dark, and the wind was picking up again.  Nonetheless, we parked and took one final walk along a gravel sideroad, and were rewarded with our last two species of the day.  A Wilson's Snipe took flight up ahead, and a few minutes later, the darkening sky became the backdrop for at least half a dozen male American Woodcock performing their spectacular display flights.

McGill Bird Observatory (MBO):
Since we only started the Birdathon at 6:00 a.m. on Saturday, we technically had until 6:00 a.m. on Sunday to find species, so the first hour of Sunday's banding session was fair game.  Sure enough, the first walk down to the end of the B nets yielded a persistently singing Northern Waterthrush to bring our total to 120.

The list below includes all of the species seen and/or heard during our Birdathon.  We did very poorly with waterfowl (10 species) and raptors (4 species), and our list of shorebirds (7 species) was also much shorter than expected.  However, we did quite well with warblers (19 species) and passerines on the whole (72 species), and had good luck with some birds often difficult to find on Birdathons, such as the woodpeckers, grouse, and owl.  We are already looking forward to better weather and even greater results in 2007!

Complete list of species observed:  (in groups of ten)
(Locations:  MBO - McGill Bird Observatory; IB - Parc Nature de l'Ile Bizard; SP - Summit Park; CB - Chambly Basin, rue Martel; FC - Fort Chambly, SB - Saint-Blaise, HV - Henryville, rue Melaven; PB - Philipsburg, HF - Hemmingford, PP - Pitch Pine Reserve)

Common Loon / Plongeon huard (CB)
Pied-billed Grebe / Grèbe à bec bigarré (IB)
Double-crested Cormorant / Cormoran à aigrettes (CB, FC)
Great Blue Heron / Grand Héron (IB, SB, PB)
Green Heron / Héron vert (IB)
Turkey Vulture / Urubu à tête rouge (FC, SB, PB, HF)
Snow Goose / Oie des neiges (SB, HV)
Canada Goose / Bernache du Canada (MBO, HV, PB)
Brant / Bernache cravant (CB, FC)
Wood Duck / Canard branchu (MBO, IB, PB)

Mallard / Canard colvert (MBO, IB, SB, HV, PB, HF)
Northern Pintail / Canard pilet (IB)
White-winged Scoter / Macreuse brune (CB)
Hooded Merganser / Harle couronné (IB)
Common Merganser / Grand harle (SB)
Red-breasted Merganser / Harle huppé (IB)
Bald Eagle / Pygargue à tête blanche (FC)
Northern Harrier / Busard Saint-Martin (SB, HF)
Red-shouldered Hawk / Buse à épaulettes (MBO)
Merlin / Faucon émerillon (Crossing Ile-des-Soeurs)

Ruffed Grouse / Gélinotte huppé (HV)
Virginia Rail / Râle de Virginie (IB)
Sora / Marouette de Caroline (IB)
Common Moorhen / Gallinule poule d'eau (IB)
Killdeer / Pluvier kildir (MBO, SB)
Greater Yellowlegs / Grand Chevalier (SB)
Lesser Yellowlegs / Petit Chevalier (SB)
Solitary Sandpiper / Chevalier solitaire (MBO, SB)
Spotted Sandpiper / Chevalier grivelé (SB)
Wilson's Snipe / Bécassine de Wilson (PP)

American Woodcock / Bécasse d'Amérique (PP)
Little Gull / Mouette pygmée (FC)
Bonaparte's Gull / Mouette de Bonaparte (FC)
Ring-billed Gull / Goéland à bec cerclé (MBO, IB, FC, SB, HV)
Great Black-backed Gull / Goéland marin (FC)
Common Tern / Sterne pierregarin (IB, FC)
Black Tern / Guifette noire (IB)
Rock Pigeon / Pigeon biset (IB, SP, FC)
Mourning Dove / Tourterelle triste (MBO, IB, CB, SB, PB, HF)
Eastern Screech-Owl / Petit-duc maculé (SP)

Chimney Swift / Martinet ramoneur (FC)
Ruby-throated Hummingbird / Colibri à gorge rubis (SP)
Belted Kingfisher / Martin-pêcheur d'Amérique (IB)
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker / Pic maculé (IB)
Downy Woodpecker / Pic mineur (MBO, IB, SP, HV)
Hairy Woodpecker / Pic chevelu (IB, SP)
Northern Flicker / Pic flamboyant (IB)
Pileated Woodpecker / Grand Pic (MBO, IB)
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher / Moucherolle à ventre jaune (MBO)
Least Flycatcher / Moucherolle tchébec (MBO, IB, SP)

Eastern Phoebe / Moucherolle phébi (IB)
Great Crested Flycatcher / Tyran huppé (IB)
Eastern Kingbird / Tyran tritri (MBO, IB, HV)
Blue-headed Vireo / Viréo à tête bleue (MBO, IB)
Warbling Vireo / Viréo mélodieux (MBO, HV)
Red-eyed Vireo / Viréo aux yeux rouges (IB, SP)
Blue Jay / Geai bleu (MBO, IB)
American Crow / Corneille d'Amérique (MBO, IB, SP, FC, SB, HV, PB, HF)
Common Raven / Grand Corbeau (MBO)
Purple Martin / Hirondelle noire (IB, FC)

Tree Swallow / Hirondelle bicolore (MBO, IB, FC, SB, HV)
Northern Rough-winged Swallow / Hirondelle à ailes hérissées (FC)
Bank Swallow / Hirondelle de rivage (FC)
Cliff Swallow / Hirondelle à front blanc (MBO, FC)
Barn Swallow / Hirondelle rustique (IB, FC)
Black-capped Chickadee / Mésange à tête noire (MBO, IB, SP, HV, PB)
White-breasted Nuthatch / Sittelle à poitrine blanche (MBO, IB, SP)
House Wren / Trogolodyte familier (IB, HV)
Winter Wren / Trogolodyte mignon (IB)
Marsh Wren / Troglodyte des marais (IB)

Ruby-crowned Kinglet / Roitelet à couronne rubis (IB, SP)
Eastern Bluebird / Merlebleu de l'est (PB)
Veery / Grive fauve (IB)
Swainson's Thrush / Grive à dos olive (HV)
Hermit Thrush / Grive solitaire (SP, PP)
Wood Thrush / Grive des bois (IB, HV)
American Robin / Merle d'Amérique (MBO, IB, SP, CB, FC, SB, HV, PB, HF, PP)
Gray Catbird / Moqueur chat (MBO, IB, HV)
Brown Thrasher / Moqueur roux (HF)
European Starling / Étourneau sansonnet (MBO, IB, SP, FC, SB, HF)

Cedar Waxwing / Jaseur d'Amérique (MBO, IB)
Tennessee Warbler / Paruline obscure (IB)
Nashville Warbler / Paruline à joues grises (MBO, IB, SP)
Northern Parula / Paruline à collier (SP)
Yellow Warbler / Paruline jaune (MBO, IB, HV, PB)
Chestnut-sided Warbler / Paruline à flancs marron (MBO, SP)
Magnolia Warbler / Paruline à tête cendrée (MBO, IB, SP, HV)
Black-throated Blue Warbler / Paruline bleue (MBO, IB, SP, HV)
Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler / Paruline à croupion jaune (MBO, IB, SP)
Black-throated Green Warbler / Paruline à gorge noire (MBO, IB, SP)

Blackburnian Warbler / Paruline à gorge orangée (MBO)
Blackpoll Warbler / Paruline rayée (IB)
Black-and-white Warbler / Paruline noir et blanc (MBO, IB, SP, HV)
American Redstart / Paruline flamboyante (MBO, IB, SP, HV)
Ovenbird / Paruline couronnée (IB, SP, HV)
Northern Waterthrush / Paruline des ruisseaux (MBO)
Mourning Warbler / Paruline triste (MBO)
Common Yellowthroat / Paruline masquée (MBO, IB, HV)
Wilson's Warbler / Paruline à calotte noire (MBO)
Canada Warbler / Paruline du Canada (SP)

Scarlet Tanager / Tangara écarlate (IB)
Chipping Sparrow / Bruant familier (IB)
Savannah Sparrow / Bruant des prés (SB)
Song Sparrow / Bruant chanteur (MBO, IB, SB, HV, PB, HF)
Swamp Sparrow / Bruant des marais (MBO, IB)
White-throated Sparrow / Bruant à gorge blanche (MBO, IB, PP)
White-crowned Sparrow / Bruant à couronne blanche (MBO, PB)
Northern Cardinal / Cardinal rouge (MBO, PB)
Rose-breasted Grosbeak / Cardinal à poitrine rose (MBO, IB, HF)
Indigo Bunting / Passerin indigo (MBO)

Bobolink / Goglu des prés (SB, HF)
Red-winged Blackbird / Carouge à épaulettes (MBO, IB, SB, HV, HF)
Eastern Meadowlark / Sturnelle des prés (HF)
Common Grackle / Quiscale bronzé (MBO, IB, FC, SB, HV, PB, HF)
Brown-headed Cowbird / Vacher à tête brune (MBO, IB)
Baltimore Oriole / Oriole de Baltimore (MBO, IB, SP, FC, HV, PB, HF)
Purple Finch / Roselin pourpré (MBO)
House Finch / Roselin familier (SP)
American Goldfinch / Chardonerret jaune (MBO, IB, HV, HF)
House Sparrow / Moineau domestique (MBO, SP, PB)

Answers to the Fort Chambly quiz: (click on photo for larger version)




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