As the circle shows, this area is quite complex with different habitats and potential places of interest. Herewith some more detailed descriptions that might help anyone not familiar with the area to get an idea of what it’s all about. It is also bigger than I thought – a diameter of 8km doesn’t sound all that much but in area this comes to 201 square-km, although a bit over half of that is water. Remarkable.
First of all, an overview. The area of interest – and there will be occasional and inevitable seasonal forays beyond these boundaries – is the circle described on the ‘Wildlife Circles’ page and indicated below:
As the above satellite image shows, there is a good mixture of forested area, agricultural fields, shoreline, suburban gardens and reasonably good public access to much of this. Brief descriptions of the main areas on which I will be concentrating follow … at the time of writing this should be enough but later I may need to add site-specific pages with more detail, if so there will be links in a drop down menu at the top of the page.
After six months cogitation, I made a land-grab on 23 June. You will see from the above map that the circle includes the western end of Ile-Bizard (where there are not many birds) but does not stretch to include the nature park in the eastern end of the island. After visiting the place and seeing some very nice birds I have decided to do a unilateral-Putin and grab the whole if the island for my birding area … so it is now an 8km circle with a bulge. My game, my rules 🙂
The main area in which I expect to spend more time than elsewhere is, of course, the Morgan Arboretum.
This is a publicly accessible area of considerable size with 24 km of walking trails … and far, far too many dogs, leashed and unleashed meaning that at weekends and early morning the best wildlife watching tends to be in the further corners of the site away from the main trails because birds and other critters know to keep away from loose dogs. I am on the board of the Friends of the Morgan Arboretum and this, I can tell you, is a lost battle.
Full details of the arboretum can be found on their website at www.morganarboretum.org but here is a map of the main areas. The yellow outlined section on the eastern side is the McGill Bird Observatory (MBO) where an extensive bird banding programme has been under way for several years. Fortunately, I am friends with them too so access is not a problem but for most of the public this piece is off limits.
The bird checklist for the arboretum stands at around 180 species with some 20 more having been recorded at the MBO. Forest flowers are abundant and there is no shortage of insects and spideres … especially no shortage of mosquitoes in summer. In winter, skiing and snowshoe trails help wildlifers to get around.
A municipal nature park with some interesting features. The main place for birds is the bay at the north-western end. At weekends it tends to have wind-surfers and other undesirables plus kids with buckets and spades but that is perhaps unavoidable. It is, however, canoeable and when water levels are low you can walk the sand/muddy shore to where the shorebirds are to be seen in quite large numbers in late summer migration. Terns fish here and Osprey cruise overhead.
The long narrow stretch of land away from the shore borders a stream (blue) and is worth checking for the sort of birds that shrubby woodland streams tend to attract. Fields beyond it are occasional accessible. sadly the whole place is under pressure from people wanting to build housing estates but with luck the damage they will do can be held off for some time.
Cap-St-Jacques Nature Park
This is a large multi-use park including everything north of the red line on the satellite photo below. There is a drivable loop road within it and plenty of trails, including one going all the way round the shore. To its lower left corner is the Anse-a-l’Orme park from which you can launch a canoe and circumnavigate Cap-St-Jacques. People tend to be more spread out in this park and less of a threat to birders with the exception of the sandy shored beach/bay on the western edge – rather like Blackpool in the summer but easily avoided. A mixture of forest and small fields with a rocky shoreline where the canoeing birder can see a remarkable number of birds not otherwise visible.
St-Anne-de-Bellevue is where too many people go to hang out and be cool but it has our favourite restaurant and is an easy walk from home at the centre of the circle. There is a lock gate here for pleasure boats to pass the (small) rapids under the rail and road bridge and as a consequence a lengthy breakwater just out into the river here from which a large area of river and shoreline can be scoped – marked with an X. This is where the Ouatouais River and the St-Lawrence meet and there is a pretty strong flow, as a consequence the water rarely if ever completely ices over in winter and so early migrating waterfowl have a tendency to settle here towards the end of winter and are easily seen. All those little islands also hold interesting birds on occasion – perching Bald Eagles for example. Other riverside access points exist.
The road at the top is the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 40) and has no access for pedestrians or cyclists which is a great shame as it is the logical route for me to get off the island. The bridge is known as the Ile-aux-tortes bridge because that largish island at its western end is the Ile-aux-tortes and named after the large number of Passenger Pigeons that, before men with guns made them extinct, could be “harvested” there for the pot. The nearest, the only, Passenger Pigeon these days is a stuffed one in the Redpath Museaum in downtown Montreal. The southern bridge does have a pedestrian/cyclist option and is what I have to use if trying to get out to see some wildlife on Ile-Perrot, the other large area of land in my wildlife circle.
Small but interesting. This compact “historic” park is at the far eastern tip of Ile-Perrot and is managed for things like historical re-enactments etc and for people who like to gawp at windmills, albeit this is a famous and historic windmill. From a wildlifer’s point of view, however, are the bays and shoreline that attract and hold remarkable concentrations of waterfowl at the appropriate times of the year. It is surrounded by golf course, as the map shows, which do not help at all.