Sunday, March 11, 2007

A lucky streak

A friend and I decided to profit from the great weather and extra hour of daylight by doing some South Shore birding this afternoon; neither of us had been able to get out for a while and the craving was on us. We thought we'd go to Parc de la Frayère in Boucherville and see if we could find a Long-eared Owl (Hibou moyen-duc), or two. Turned out to be no trouble: not far from the trail head, we came upon a small knot of people armed with cameras and binoculars and figured we were in the right place. Sure enough, a Long-eared Owl, clutching a vole in its talons was perched in quite an open location. We got great views--the best my friend and I had ever had of this species.

Having heard some of the other birders at Parc de la Frayère talk about the Short-eared Owl (Hiboux des marais), at the Saint-Basile composting site, we then decided to try our luck there. The afternoon was young, the weather was perfect, and the fact that neither of us had a clue where the composting site is was no obstacle, in our view: after all,Saint-Basile is a small town, and we were sure we'd find it easily enough. Amazingly, this proved to be true! Moreover, just as we got there, another birder was leaving the site; he not only confirmed that he'd seen a Short-eared Owl but kindly gave us detailed directions onhow to find it. We followed the directions and came up trumps again--again, our best ever looks at this particular species. Had we not encountered our helpful friend, we'd have had no chance of finding the bird.

We were now pumped and the sight of Mont Saint-Hilaire not far away gave us another idea: why not head over there and get us a gyr? Westill had a couple of hours of daylight in hand and we felt we wereon a roll. So to Mont Saint-Hilaire we went. Not five minutes after we arrived at the viewing field, the white Gyrfalcon (Faucons gerfaut) flew up and gave us a short but satisfying show! If we'd arrived much later, we probably wouldn't have seen it, as the only reason we could find it perched wasthat we had seen it fly in.

By this point, we felt that it would be reasonable to make up our minds to drive to Chambly to look for a bird of paradise with good hopes of success--at the very least, we should have bought lottery tickets! However, it was after 6:00 and our dinners were calling us, so we called it a day.A hat trick like this makes up for quite a few disappointments--such as dipping out on the Black-throated Gray!


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