A New Year and a New Address

Welcome to the new home address for Sparroworking In Quebec … a combination of technical complexity with a software update and lack of time/inclination to beaver away at solving it persuaded me to shift the whole kit and caboodle over to this new address … and to take advantage of some layout enhancements and new features while doing so.  We hope you like it and we hope to see you back as often as you like to visit.

Note that you can now post comments on our texts and pictures – feel free.  Until we are sure that the spammers will not infiltrate (they tried hard at the old address) your comment may not appear until “approved” but with luck we will get past that stage rapidly.

Meanwhile, by way of a reward for following us here, we told you a few weeks ago about the black squirrel with the wobbly gait (https://sparroworks.wordpress.com/2008/11/29/wobbly-squirrel/) … now we have a short video of him wobbling – he goes by several names in this neighbourhood, Wobbly-the-squirrel, Mr. Peanuts, Blackie and (my preference) Gilbert in praise of W.S.Gilbert of ” – and Sullivan” fame.  Anyway, here’s the link to the video:

Wobbly Squirrel video

And also – special bonus – here’s a second video of Pine Siskins enjoying a free handout of niger seed.  If you are viewing this from Europe, it’s minus 15degC out there where the birds are, that’s colder than your kitchen freezer.  Don’t even ask what the added wind-chill factor is but the birds and squirrels seem to be able to cope.

Pine Siskin video


On keeping warm after winter birding

When we came to Canada to live almost eleven years ago we travelled with a selection of winter-warmer drinks we had made back in England; plenty of the traditional Sloe-Gin but also some creations of our own including Plum-Rum and Blackberry-Whisky.

By careful husbanding of this precious stock we have eked out what we had but reckon that next winter will see it all gone. Sloes don’t grow here and blackberries are not the same, not as juicy, as in Europe so we have experimented with Blueberry-Whisky (using Canadian whisky instead of scotch) but, while OK, it isn’t really the same.

We are in search of a suitable fruit/alcohol replacement that is typically Canadian and which will warm the cockles after a long and cold day skiing, snowshoeing or birding at minus 20degC.

Anyone got any suggestions?

A new year, an old friend and plenty of birds …

The house Sparrows (our favourite birds) have not been to the garden for months but they arrived today for a new year … not quite the first species on the year list, that was a Crow, but very welcome.

A couple of days ago I decided to see how many birds I could see today (NYD) under Bigby “rules” … well, despite the somewhat chilly weather the day’s total came out to a very satisfactory 18 species of which an gratifying 15 were seen in our garden.  You can’t get much greener than that.  The last three species took a long and very bone-chilling walk which was both invigorating and doubtless good for the heart and the waistline.

The 18 NYD-carbon-neutral birds were:  American Crow (first bird of the year), Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers, Goldfinch, Mourning Dove, Cardinal, Chickadee, Pine Siskins, Euro-Starling, House Finch, House Sparrow (very welcome – getting scarce around here), American Robins, DE Junco, Common Redpoll, White-breasted Nuthatch, Rock pigeon, Blue Jay and a solitary American Black Duck dabbling in the open water below the bridge at St-Anne-de-Bellevue where there was obviously enough weed etc to attract it.  Looking back at previous years of NYD birding, which have involved the internal combustion engine, this has actually turned out to be a personal best for the day around here – a surprise but I guess the birding gods are in a good mood.

This was a lot of fun – anyone else been counting today?

101st and final 2008 Bigby Bird

Need a reminder about Bigby Green Birding?  Follow the link

It’s the last day of 2008 and it was graced the appearance (at last) of that elusive little bird, the Pine Siskin, whom I have been waiting to reappear around here for the past two years … they used to be common in winter but never once appeared in 2007 and only just squeaked in by the skin of their teeth/beaks this year.  welcome back chaps …

We also were visited by in the garden by a beautiful Pine Grosbeak … not a Bigby bird as i had seen them around here a couple of times last January and February but an addition to my personal garden list and very welcome whatever.

I have mentioned a few days ago that we have a Robin in the garden this year … now his tiny flockette has grown to three, two of whom are here :

The Robins seem willing to share their amenities with others:


I have taken advantage of the cold weather and a few days off work to spiff up and reorganise my on-line photography galleries … you may visit them at http://www.sparroworks.ca/photographs2.html


And so …. what were my 101 Bigby species? The list is below and I am immensely proud of them as these are all, by definition, birds seen within walking/cycling distance (and I am not a great cyclist) of our suburban, if leafy, home …

From 1/1/2008 to 12/31/2008 ~ All Places ~ 101 seen
Common Loon
Pied-billed Grebe
Snow Goose
Canada Goose
Cackling Goose
Lesser Scaup
Common Goldeneye
Hooded Merganser
Common Merganser
Turkey Vulture
Bald Eagle
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Cooper’s Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Solitary Sandpiper
Spotted Sandpiper
Ring-billed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Rock Dove
Mourning Dove
Black-billed Cuckoo
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Pileated Woodpecker
Eastern Phoebe
Great Crested Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird
Tree Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Barn Swallow
American Pipit
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Bohemian Waxwing
Cedar Waxwing
Carolina Wren
Winter Wren
House Wren
Gray Catbird
Brown Thrasher
Swainson’s Thrush
Hermit Thrush
Wood Thrush
American Robin
Black-capped Chickadee
Red-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch
Blue Jay
American Crow
Common Raven
European Starling
Warbling Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Tennessee Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Northern Parula
Yellow Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Magnolia Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler
Pine Warbler
Bay-breasted Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Wilson’s Warbler
Canada Warbler
Scarlet Tanager
Chipping Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Song Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Indigo Bunting
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Baltimore Oriole
Pine Grosbeak
Purple Finch
House Finch
Common Redpoll
Hoary Redpoll
Pine Siskin
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow
Species seen – 101

Sliding for the birds

Boxing day was spent – as it should be – in front of a log fire with plenty of alcohol and some good books but today was the day of the annual Christmas Bird Count centred on Hudson, just to the west of us … and it was (still is) the foulest day imaginable to go out birding.  If it wasn’t for this important bit of citizen science we would not have stuck our noses out of the door but duty called and off we went – right now we are back home calming our shattered nerves.

Before Xmas we had lots and lots of lovely fluffy powdery snow and cold temperatures and so were looking forward to spending the holiday cross-country skiing or snowshoeing – but then we got waves after wave of cold-warm-rain-snow-warm etc and then last night and this morning freezing rain.  The back country roads that are part of our allocated CBC route were a skating rink with ditches on either side – I drove very, very carefully at about 5kph while J scanned for birds … when she spotted any (or when I did) I would try to stop the car with anti-lock brakes juddering away and white knuckles on the steering wheel.  Sometimes we stopped in time and sometimes we gracefully slid past the bird while J did a quick ID as it disappeared slowly behind us.  Talk about nerve racking!

Anyway – for all that, we saw two flocks of Snow Buntings and four American Tree Sparrows as well as reasonable numbers of the birds we expected,so the day was worth the effort. Of course, because of the weather, most birds were hunkered down keeping warm and so it was hard work getting any to count for the census at all – fortunately, we know our route pretty well now and could anticipate the best spots to check out. The ATSPs were hiding from the weather in this line of trees which gives some idea of the wonderful weather we are enjoying :

Once Monday comes it seems things will brighten and the sun will reappear – got to be better than today.  Usually the CBC is very cold and snowy – would that it were today, frostbite is better than terror any day.

*** For readers not familiar with freezing rain (ie: you don’t live around here), Wikipedia describes it as follows – it is truly awful stuff:

Usually freezing rain is associated with the approach of a warm front when cold air, at or below freezing temperature, is trapped in the lower levels of the atmosphere as warmth streams in aloft. This happens, for instance, when a low pressure system moves from the Mississippi River Valley toward the Appalachian Mountains and the Saint Lawrence River Valley of North America, in the cold season, and there is a strong high pressure system sitting further East. The warm air from the Gulf of Mexico is often the fuel for freezing precipitation.  Freezing rain develops as falling snow encounters a layer of warm air usually around 800 mbar (800 hPa) level, then the snow completely melts and becomes rain. As the rain continues to fall, it passes through a thin layer of cold air just above the surface and cools to a temperature below freezing (0 °C). However, the drops themselves do not freeze, a phenomenon called supercooling (or forming “supercooled drops“). When the supercooled drops strike ground below 0 °C or anything else below 0 °C (power lines, tree branches, air craft), they instantly freeze, forming a thin film of ice, hence freezing rain. The ice can accumulate to a thickness of several centimetres, called glaze ice. Freezing rain is notorious for causing travel problems on roadways, breaking tree limbs, and downing power lines. It is also known for being extremely dangerous to aircraft since the ice can effectually ‘remold’ the shape of the airfoil.

In a few days, once we get some sensible snow on the ground again, we shall go back in a calmer frame of mind and seek out the eight Snowy owls that are reported in the area … maybe some Horned Larks and Lapland Longspurs too, if we are lucky and the birding gods are smiling.

Christmas birds at the feeders

Nothing special, but the Robin returned and entertained us.  This experiment in posting videos is a first using U_Tube which is a piece of tacky advertising-ridden technology that needs serious editing (my Robin is embarrassed to be sharing space with such dross) but which does allow videos to appear here.

Christmas warm-up exercises

Meanwhile, some other smart birds came for a glass of seasonal cheer …

The Robin in detail

A Blue Jay

… and some of the smartest (if least loved by some) birds at this time of th eyear in their spiffy new plumage:

Nasty weather here … heavy snow (which is OK) on xmas-eve turned to warm rain resulting in the slippiest ice we have ever seen on the roads and paths.  Even today it`s almost impossible to stand up outside and tomorrow we are supposed to be going to take part in the Hudson Christmas Bird Count involving driving round some pretty out of the way minor roads – with freezing rain forecast for tonight and drizzle all day tomorrow.  Looks like a nasty weekend ahead.  Indoors with good books, mince-pies and sherry is the order for today.