In search of gainful occupation on this sunny, cool morning and having set the week’s bread to rise, my thoughts turned to birds and landscapes.
When we first arrived in Montreal we used to regularly visit the Parc-du-moulin in the tip of Ile-Perrot. This was where I saw my first close-up flock of Cedar Waxwings in Canada and was bowled over by their beauty as they swooped through the trees lining the path – they were almost within touch … but then, as is the way of these things the nearby golf courses felt that surrounding trees had to go and some excellent bird habitat went with them (vandals). About the same time the government who own the park decided that as it is a “Parc historique” rather than a nature park – it’s because of the windmill (a rare fortified windmill used by beaver pelt smugglers I have read – milling grain was very much a side-line) – they would close the gates, charge entry and fill the place in summer with costumed animateurs playing at early settlers to entertain the groundlings. All very educational, I am sure, but inimical to good birding and so we gradually stopped visiting. Plenty of other places to go and so we inadvertently denied ourselves one of the best water-fowl spotting spots around here. When we were regulars, I recall we went up there at midnight on 31 December 1999 to see the new year and the millennium in and stood at the point near the windmill in knee-deep snow at minus something painful to watch the fireworks 20km away downriver over Montreal – and we were not at all the only ones. That was a magical night, very clear with stars overhead and a great way to celebrate without crowds and noise.
The park actually attracts a lot of fine birds. It is surrounded by water and well tree-ed (is that a word?) and as it sticks out into the river across which many migrating birds have to cross on their way north it is a good place for them to pause and take stock. I checked it out on the web and found, to my delight, that they don’t start charging entry until May and so, as it is within my 7km “wildlife circle” decided to head over there and check it out. Next year when I am doing my green big year (Bigby) I shall have to make a day of it and go by cycle but today it was greenhouse gas emissions all the way I regret to say. I didn’t really expect to see many birds – though I did see some elderly birders with expensive scopes – but at least knew it would be a good place for getting better acquainted with my new camera.
But the birds were rather good as it turns out – not many individuals, it was mid-morning before I got there, but some nice new ticks for the year including Lesser Scaup, Cormorant, Eastern Wood Phoebe, Belted Kingfisher and huge numbers of Swallows. Tree Swallows I had expected but there were many, many Barn Swallows as well and I eventually worked out that they were setting up home under the roof of the windmill so that will be worth another visit. Not far from the windmill, on the edge of the river, was a tree overhanging the water in which the swallows were gathering – noisily. Why this tree and why that branch rather than one of the others nearby I don’t know but it seemed to have just what they desired. Naturally the sky was bright and sun was almost behind this bird-laden branch but judicious fiddling with the camera finally produced some reasonable record shots … more than I can say for the Kingfisher that I later tracked along the waterside. He kept flying ahead, chattering manically, but never settling long enough to get more than a really blurry shot that I won’t trouble you with – nice to see him though, first of the year. The Phoebe landed on a tree at head height just a few feet away and glared at me briefly before deciding it needed to be elsewhere.
So – some pictures, you have read enough of my wordiness for now but I will say I am pleased to have reacquainted myself with the windmill and will return again. There is a gallery below starting with the Swallows and then moving on to more artistic landscape images – the Swallows and then the landscapes. If you click on one of these thumbnails you will be taken into a high quality gallery showing the pictures as they are intended to be seen.