This post is really about interesting atmospheric conditions but birds do creep in, inevitably. Every year we do “our” route in the annual Christmas Bird Count centred on Hudson in Quebec, just west of Montreal. We have been censusing birds on this same route for at least 20 years now – it isn’t an easy route but it does give us the chance to find some really “good” birds like Snowy Owls and the like if the stars align. This year it was truly hard going with abnormally warm temperatures and most of the birds being hard to charm from the trees but one surprise – which I will come to later – made the effort worthwhile.
That’s the context – what this is really about is the wonderful snow fog, for want of a better name. This is the Montreal region and by now in most years the snow is deep and even and the temperatures are falling fast towards the coming January lows. Not today, however. The snow is there but for whatever reasons the temperatures ranged from +3C to +8C. Unheard of. The result being that the snow was starting to melt and in the still air there was a white fog above the ground … I found that snow fog is the right technical term for this phenomenon caused when high pressure starts to melt and evaporate some of the snow, putting a lot of water vapour into the air just above the ground. At night, as temperatures cool, the water vapour condenses into water droplets and a snow fog forms and today it hung around from dawn to dusk. In some cases there was a clear area of just a few feet between the fog and the ground that you could look through as the blanket floated in the air.
Beautiful – so, of course, I had to take photographs.
Now, the bonus birds. Generally speaking Eastern Bluebirds are a species that by the New Year has migrated southwards but occasional a few hardy individuals hang around until lack of food and serious cold compels them to move on. Usually it is just the odd bird or two but today we chanced up a flock of 11 or 12 Bluebirds up in a tree and then later finding something interesting alongside a rural road. At first we thought they were Robins as those are the birds with reddish chests that you can see most winters in small groups but the silhouette was wrong somehow. When they flew off they were chattering – it was most certainly not a Robin song. Fortunately I managed a couple of definitive photographs.
And the other birds seen on the route? Here is the list – nineteen species in all with several Hawks.