|Dan looking worried about the future of the Technoparc site, with Shrijeet and Anita|
Long-eared Owl Asio otus
Yesterday Dan and I met up with McGill Students’ Birding Club members Anita and Shrijeet for an early morning session at the Technoparc. It was refreshing to bird with these passionate young birders. We had unseasonably balmy above-freezing temperatures, although our morning’s birding was set amidst the fairly depressing backdrop of ongoing noisy construction at (destruction of) the Technoparc site. The site boasts one of the highest species counts for the island of Montreal, including an impressive array of breeding water birds last summer, including Green Heron, Virginia Rail and Sora.
Unfortunately, the degradation of the prime wetland habitat is well underway, in preparation for the construction of the ‘Hubert Reeves Eco-campus ’, ironically named after a well-known ‘popularizer of science’. This monkey business is frustrating as hell, but it’s a familiar song after having lived in Korea for close to a decade. Same shit, different continent. Lucre, disinformation, greenwash. It’s ok to wipe out this ridiculously productive wetland because...because...we’re calling it an ‘Eco-campus’! Yep. Fake news!
Our target species was Long-eared Owl – I’ve only seen this species on one previous occasion (a quick encounter with an individual unfortunately being hunted by a Goshawk last year in Suncheon: http://snowyowllost.blogspot.ca/2015/11/suncheon-october-26-november-15.html. I’d forgotten how relatively small they are, in spite of echoing the morphology of the much larger Great Horned Owl. We also had a brief encounter with one of those impressive birds a bit earlier on.
We found the Long-eared Owl, still in the tree where Shrijeet first discovered it several weeks ago. Four photogs were huddled directly beneath the tree, snapping away at the owl, which had its tufts up in an alert posture. I always get a queasy feeling when it comes to witnessing photogs interacting with owls. I know, I know - I have a camera and I took a picture of the owl. I’d like to think the fact that we didn’t get as close, and were in and out in 20 seconds (as opposed to camping out and getting all up in the bird’s face) meant something - that there was a line in the snow that we didn’t cross. I dunno. I guess the stern words of Dr. Nial Moores still echo in my ears when it comes to birding ethics, especially where owls, a much sought after group of birds, are concerned. Over the years I’ve avoided photographing owls, posting images of owls, and even mentioning certain owl sightings, when I thought that the bird’s welfare was in question. Anyhow, that’s my rant, now give me my ‘Saint of Birding’ halo. Toss it up to me on my high horse.
There were reports of Snow Buntings and a Snowy Owl being sighted near the runways of the Trudeau Airport recently, but no dice yesterday. Shrijeet’s little bridge camera was badass, by the way. It made me re-evaluate my antiquated boat anchor. My New Year’s resolution? Get on eBird. I’ll do it soon.
Red-shouldered Hawk -1 probable, seen at a considerable distance near the runways
Red-tailed Hawk – 2
Rock Dove – 3
Long-eared Owl – 1
Great Horned Owl – 1
Downy Woodpecker – 8
Hairy Woodpecker – 1
Northern Flicker - 2
American Crow – 6+
Black-capped Chickadee – 8+
Brown Creeper – 1 heard
European Starling – 20+
Northern Cardinal – 6+
Dark-eyed Junco – 1
House Sparrow – 5+
American Goldfinch – 9
Pine Siskin – 1 mixed sneakily in with the Goldfinch group