Montée Biggar Bird Sanctuary

Getting away from the garden this morning I visited a new bird sanctuary in southern Quebec that has been purchased by my very good friends at Bird Protection Quebec (declaration of interest – I was on the board for ten years, President for three and still run the grants and sanctuaries committees … but they are still my “very good friends”).

The Biggar Sanctuary – I am assuming that will be its final name but who knows – lies along almost the entire 1.7km length of Montée Biggar just west of Huntingdon and not far from the US border. I believe the area is some 80+ acres of mixed grassland, scrub and forest with a small stream thrown in for good measure. It has deer, coyotes, beavers and, of course, birds. Perhaps more birds in one location than almost anywhere else in Quebec and certainly some of the most observed birds – this is indeed a hot spot and a half. Amongst a recorded 175 species of birds at this site undoubtedly the star species is a breeding population of Golden-winged Warblers who are suffering mightily from habitat loss and so BPQ will be paying special attention to their welfare in the years ahead.

This morning was the formal inauguration of the sanctuary with a few speeches and rounds of applause but no champagne. Before we set off to seek out birds we were warned that this is a really bad place for ticks and Lyme-disease and that, in fact, the ticks hunt in packs.

For now there are no changes expected in the restriction of birding to the road as the habitat is sensitive and several species of birds are ground nesters. Possibly a very few short trails will be made available in the years ahead but the 175 species were all seen from the road so this is not a major hardship. The site needs to be properly surveyed and a management plan developed before greater access can be permitted.

So – frankly not many birds in early October, which was expected, but at least a couple of Hermit Thrushes and briefly glimpsed Palm Warber in an open grassland area were worthy of note, as were at least four circling Red-tailed Hawks seen at different times during the morning. Blue Jays were ubiquitous.

For those who like details, the following 27 bird species (thanks Sheldon for tabulating this) were observed this morning …

Canada Goose – Great Blue Heron – Turkey Vulture – Cooper’s Hawk – Red-tailed Hawk – Ring-billed Gull – Downy Woodpecker – Northern Flicker – Merlin – Blue Jay – American Crow – Common Raven – Black-capped Chickadee – White-breasted Nuthatch – Ruby-crowned Kinglet – Hermit Thrush – American Robin – Gray Catbird – European Starling – Palm Warbler – Song Sparrow – White-throated Sparrow – White-crowned Sparrow – Eastern Phoebe – Purple Finch -Red-winged Blackbird – Common Grackle

M. Bougie from whom BPQ purchased the land to create this sanctuary

Overlooking the meeting place for the speeches and formal opening of the sanctuary were gang of curious American Robins

Birders from all over Quebec had arrived to be part of this occasion – all looking forward to some serious birding when spring migration 2019 comes around

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Sanctuary land is the right of the road – the foliage was turning beautifully this morning.

The new sanctuary is all of the land to the left of the (very quiet) road – this view was taken from about half way along the western boundary of the newly protected land

A typical portion of the forested area that occupies the northern half of the site.

One of four circling Red-tailed Hawks that dropped by this morning see what was happening

Part of the open scrub and grassland area (note, there is no public access to this part of the sanctuary at the moment)