“Just the place for a Snark!” the Birders cried,
As they entered the forest with care;
Stepping, each man, with gait broad and wide
While they searched for the Snark in his lair.

What the 21 intrepid BPQ and Arboretum birders were seeking this morning was perhaps not the Snark, which anyway turned to be a Boojum when finally spotted, but I knew they would be overjoyed by a close encounter with an owl. Any owl would do, just an owl. Wayne and I told them of the one we saw on this field trip a few years ago that was bloodily ripping a squirrel apart for its lunch … but we had to disappoint them. Not an owl was to be seen but the photo of the Owl at the top of this post is an Arboretum owl and so could have been the owl we all wanted had it been spotted. Think of it as a consolation. (note – see postscript below)

A gorgeous morning, bright sunshine and not too cold. We abandoned the snowshoes and followed the snowshoe trail cald only in boots – it was well compacted but step on foot to the side and you were up to your armpits in snow. Oh we did have fun.

As is always the case the first two thirds of the trail were not overly populated by birds. We heard Chickadees and Nuthatches and occasionally a distant Blue Jay or a drumming Woodpecker but the best birding didn’t really start until we got to the Canada 150 Trail and emerged from the larch plantation beside the sugar shack. Some serious peering was still needed but our tally for the morning rapidly shot up to 16 species … but still no owl. Wayne had arrived at the Arboretum before anyone else and heard a Red-bellied Woodpecker, which we heard again at the end of the walk near the Conservation Centre. A group of Cedar Waxwings with a single Bohemian were flying through the trees at Blossom Corner and a small number of Common Redpolls were also around.Plenty of Chickadees and Nuthatches as usual.

The eBird list was as follows.

Morgan Arboretum, Montréal, Quebec, CA
5.254 kilometer(s)
16 species

Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis) 1
Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) 1 … heard
Downy Woodpecker (Dryobates pubescens) 1
Hairy Woodpecker (Dryobates villosus) 1
Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) 1
Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata) 3
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) 1
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) 21
Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis) 1
White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) 5
Bohemian Waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus) 1
Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) 14
House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus) 1
Common Redpoll (Acanthis flammea) 6
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis) 22
Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) 3

Thanks to everyone who came out. It was a good morning. The Arboretum will be orgamnising a spring migration field trip on 11 May that will be led by Betsy Maxfarlane.


Now – a bonus:

I was contacted earlier in the week by the Montreal CBC Radio station and asked to talk to them about the trip. Turned out that they wanted much more material about birding in general and about how BPQ fits into things than the usual 20 second diary snippet. If you can bring yourself to suffer 11 minutes of my “soft Yorkshire accent” (as a friend who listened described it) then you will, I am sure you will feel the time was not entirely wasted. Follow this link: https://bit.ly/2H0m4rE


Most of the group carefully stepping in each others’ footsteps to avoid falling into the deep stuff

The birch field where birding started to pick up somewhat


Postscript …

Just after posting the above I had a message from a member of the group this morning who had stayed in the Arboretum, taken a walk along a different trail, and found himself being looked at by a fine owl. Later in the eying I also saw a photo of an owl seen by a friend who was skiing yesterday. Next winter when we do this walk we shooed abjure snowshoes and equip ourselves with skis for a change.


Post-postscriptum …

For anyone not familiar with the Hunting of the Snark, settle down comfortably and read:

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/43909/the-hunting-of-the-snark

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