Not a Field Guide, nothing to do with Bird ID
Coming in 2017 – detailed Species Accounts of the 300+ bird species to be seen in and around the Montreal region.
This will be a species by species account of the when, where and why of the Montreal birds – it is intended to supplement the many identification-oriented traditional field guides with additional information peculiar to this area. But, there are a lot of species that pass this way and so as accounts are completed links to them will be posted here in the left column. On completion of the full set, hopefully during 2017, free text copies will be available for download from our publications page.
Meanwhile here is are two sample accounts to whet your interest … the charts show variable abundance of the species in Montreal throughout the year. A link is given to an interactive, species-specific eBird map showing where birds have been reported in recent years. (Note, this sample account is an early draft and is subject to almost certain editing and additions but it should give you an idea of where the Sparroworks are going with this unique project):
Gadwall (Canard chipeau) Anas strepera
Status: Uncommon (R)
eBird Sightings Map: http://goo.gl/M4LRWQ
Locally breeding species. Seen in suitable habitat usually in small groups of 2-4 birds but up to 16 and occasionally more (highest = 50) on occasion when small fall congregations develop; this is not a bird that regularly forms huge groups though, don’t expect to often see more than a dozen or perhaps 20, albeit 130 were seen during November 2015 at Oka. Might be seen any month of the year if sufficient open water and food availability is present but are only consistently seen once ice has left the rivers any time from March onwards. Larger groups of birds form in late fall outside the breeding season and may stay into early winter. Winter sightings are unusual and mostly come from near Ile-Ste-Helene, the Lachine Rapids and the Récré-O-Parc. Early spring sightings might first be sought in the open waters near Hungry Bay. A good number of fall passage birds have been reported from the St-Lazare sand pits.
Distribution is widespread as seen on the map, with records from all the waters around Montreal and Laval as well as in the Richelieu valley. Most Gadwall breed in the mid-west prairies around small lakes and streams so those favouring the St-Lawrence valley are somewhat on the outer edges of their usual territory … though their populations have been increasing in recent decades.
During breeding season you should seek Gadwall on smaller bodies of water or along wetlands bordering the major rivers/streams that have plenty of aquatic vegetation. Gadwall often feed in slightly deeper water than other dabbling ducks and associate with many other duck species so it is worthwhile scanning congregations of other species to see if there are Gadwall amongst them. Nests can be up to 200m from the water in long grasses; small islands are favoured. From early April as birds arrive in the area you may see them in wet and flooded pastures holding temporary vernal pools – the Macdonald Campus farm fields south of the Autoroute 40 in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue are a typical and accessible example worth checking.
Gadwall are particularly numerous between the Boucherville Islands and Berthier-Sorel Islands, where it is the most abundant nesting waterfowl species. In a 2007 survey on the Varennes Islands (variously owned by Bird Protection Quebec, Ducks Unlimited Canada and Nature Conservancy Canada), good numbers of nests were found mainly in abandoned and improved pastureland.
Purple Martin (Hirondelle noire) Progne subis
Status: Uncommon (*R)
eBird sightings map: http://goo.gl/F45fDp
The first few Purple Martins typically start to be seen in the first half of April when so-called “scout” birds appear. Contrary to common thinking, these are not actually a first wave of males scouting for territory, but mature/experienced males coming back to the site they last nested in. Local populations build through May as juvenile inexperienced males plus females return. Young birds fledge in late June/early July and augment the numbers being seen with a peak around early July. Birds start to depart in the second half of July and are absent from the beginning of September with the majority leaving in August.
Geographic distribution is predominantly, and not unexpectedly, around the banks of the major watercourses where they nest; however they are also seen “inland” wherever concentrations of insects they feed on might be found with sightings in the area of the Morgan Arboretum and adjacent fields, on Mont Royale and in open areas within Montreal and Laval. Almost always nest in artificial nest box “colonies” located in suitable areas. Greatest concentration of sightings in recent years have been to the west if the island from Parc-des-Rapides and Lachine to Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, the western tip of Laval, Oka etc. A particularly large colony is located in Valois Bay, Dorval. Fewer records have been coming from the eastern end of Montreal than in earlier years.