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Change of Venue

Now that Christmas 2016 is behind us and we are heading pell-mell into a new year, please note that

Journal Articles will henceforth be published at the following address:

All the old posts (see below) will reman here and all the other Sparroworks Wildlife Co. stuff such as guide books for sale etc will also remain on this site. BUT … should you ever wish to check out an older post, look at a photograph or whatever prior to this change of location you can find them here AND ALSO on the new site … so head over to for a “one stop shop”

Please don’t ask why – but the reason is a good one.

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Feederwatch 2016/17 begins – 14 species

Unless something really unusual turns up over the winter we won’t be posting weekly Feederwatch updates here, but thought it interesting to at least share the first recordings of the annual season. We scored 14 species, most of them regulars but worthy of note is the continuing presence of a small flock of House Finches accompanied by a solitary female Purple Finch and the presence of a White-throated Sparrow. WTSparrows have usually gone by this date and in the 16 years we have been doing Feederwatching in this garden we have only ever seen one before – same week in 2013 … is this chance or climate change?

The birds seen were:

Sharp-shinned Hawk  1
Mourning Dove  3
Downy Woodpecker  2
Hairy Woodpecker  1
Blue Jay  2
Black-capped Chickadee  6
Red-breasted Nuthatch  1
White-breasted Nuthatch  2
American Robin  8
White-throated Sparrow  1
Northern Cardinal  3
House Finch  8
Purple Finch  1
American Goldfinch  3

We photographed as many of the birds as we could – didn’t get them all, but a good enough number are shown in the gallery below. Hover over each thumbnail to see the species being illustatred or click on any one to see a gallery at full size (much the best experience).

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Quebec Colours

Another hotter-than-it-should-be day today with bright sun and blue skies called us out to do some more fall colour admiring (all the more so it seems we are now in for several wet days which will probably cause most of the leaves to fall off the trees). This time we went to the two nature parks at Anse-à l’Orme and Cap-St-Jacques and managed to see a few birds as well … we took a lot of pictures, as one does at this time of year, but culled them down to, well, still quite a number … hence they are in the form of captioned thumbnails below. Just click any one that appeals to you and a slide show will open up.

Gorgeous time of year … though reality (and a marketing email from our garage yesterday) tell us that winter is coming and winter tires need to be put on the car before too long. Also noted in the last day or two that the long distance forecast for the winter ahead is for rather more snow than we have been used to in recent years … and as we always get plenty of the white stuff anyway, who know what lies in store.

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Wildlife from a different aspect – creatures working on our behalf

I’m not certain if this is appropriate for the wildlifing journal or the gardening one – but on balance I will share this here.

Taking the lid of one of the compost bins this morning I was struck by the activity that is going on in there. Everyone should have a compost bin or two or three … and if you have kids, all the more so. It’s a great learning opportunity and will fascinate their little minds.

So … this is what we are aiming for:

This is what the end product will look like in a few weeks - why buy it when you can make your own for free?
This is what the end product will look like in a few weeks – why buy it when you can make your own for free?


And this is how we get there … aided by all that wildlife busy working on our behalf:

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Confusing Blue Butterfly – a Cautionary Tale

Another beautiful sunny day butterfly put in an appearance and for once opened its wings briefly so that I could get good views of both upper and lower surfaces. Actual identification was not easy … to be honest I initially had it down as a Northern Blue Butterfly (Lycaeides argyrognomon) until I checked their range and found they are a western species … so I thought again and read some more and and decided that with their being nothing else like it then it was probably the very similar Orange-bordered Blue Butterfly (Lycaeides melissa). Thinking “that’s a lovely thing either way” I put the photos on this page and moved on to other matters.

But something nagged and I got in touch with Rick Cavasin who has published wonderful guides to the butterflies of Ontario and Quebec … and he put me right. This is what he wrote, and the story is fascinating:

The Melissa Blue ( Lycaeides melissa ) is a western species, except for the very rare eastern subspecies L. melissa samuelis or “Karner Blue”, which has been extirpated from Canada but still persists in a few isolated colonies in the Eastern US.   The Northern Blue ( Lycaeides idas ) is, as the name suggests, a Northern Species.  You would have to go  further North to find that one ( I’ve seen them out in Gaspesie, and in the Laurentians North of Quebec city ).
What you have there is probably the European Common Blue ( Polyommattus icarus ), which is shown on my website here:
As stated on the website, this species appears to have been introduced ( from Europe ) somewhere near Mirabel airport, and it has spread rapidly.   It is extremely common around Montreal, and I believe it has crossed over the river Eastward.   It will likely continue to spread since the larval host is Birdsfoot Trefoil ( Lotus corniculatus ) , a common ( introduced ) weed. The European Common Blue is slightly larger than our native Melissa/Karner and Northern Blues.   I can’t judge the size of your butterfly from the photos, but it is known to be common around Montreal.  It has around 3 flights per season, and should be on the wing right now.

So the pictures below are of the European Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus) 

** Rick Cavasin’s website is here – pay a visit: 20160903-20160903-001-2 20160903-20160903-002-2

Wikipedia says: Recently, the common blue butterfly was discovered in Mirabel, Quebec, Canada by Ara Sarafian, an amateur entomologist who observed the butterfly from 2005 to 2008. He contacted the Canadian National Collection of Insects in Ottawa where the butterfly was identified as Polyommatus icarus, a new alien butterfly to Canada and to North America. The butterfly seems to be well established and is extending its range from year to year.

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Shorebirds at Anse-à-l’Orme

For the first time in perhaps three years the water level at Anse-à-l’Orme has started to drop and expose the mud and sand that shorebirds like in migration. Only the start of the process at the moment but here are some tasters of more birds soon to come


Nothing exotic, but all nice to see and hear. This has been a splendid shorebird site in past years but until the current dry summer the water levels have been too high for several seasons to give them any shore to pass some time on.

Greater and Lesser yellowlegs, Killdeer, Least Sandpipers and a distant Green Heron.

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Long legs but not a “long-legs”

Today we have a lovely, large harvestman – specifically (at least so i believe) a Brown Daddy Long-legs (Phalangium opilio) some 3 to 4 inches from foot to foot that was hanging out on the wall of the house catching some rays this afternoon.

Not exactly uncommon, it’s the widest spread of its family on the planet … also, despite having four pairs of legs it’s not strictly a spider. Even more, we also have here yet another instance of innocently mis-used common nomenclature on this continent. Like Robins. This is certainly a harvestman but it is not, at least not to one who learned his taxonomy in Europe, a Daddy long-legs, a name which in the UK is reserved for Tipulidae or Crane Flies with six long legs and a pair of wings. Quite a different creature. Glad to have been able to sort that out for you all 🙂

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