Some 28 birders, about a third of whom were arboretum members joining the BPQ contingent (and maybe potential recruits), met at 8am this morning in bright sunshine and rather brisk minus 8C temperature, for a guided walk around the arboretum at this start-of-winter weekend.

Red-bellied Woodpecker (photograph by Michel Bourque)

Red-bellied Woodpecker (photograph by Michel Bourque)

The busiest activity was enjoyed in the first hour or so as birds headed out to eat at the well-stocked feeders near the Conservation Centre, Blossom Corner and beside the winter-finch-attracting, though not this morning, larch tree behind Chalet Pruche. From there we took the main trail anti-clockwise to the pond and turned right along the yellow trail down to Pullin’s Pasture which we crossed before turning south again beside the fields and the tall hedge to return to the our starting point via a second view of the Blossom Corner feeders.

After a ten minute warm up in the CC most people headed off towards the MBO (bird banding station) which is usually closed to visitors so that there is no interference with the research studies … today they had given us an open invitation to drop by and see what was around.

Our target bird for the day, as so often in this location, was the Red-bellied Woodpecker. One of our party, a friend of mine, had told me he had seen it five times in his last five visits so as we left the forest by the quarry and emerged into the south-western corner of Blossom Corner I jokingly turned to him and asked where it was … “just there he replied, pointing”. We watched it working a tree for almost ten minutes and the whole group had excellent opportunities to see this local rarity in bright sunlight. Today’s bird was a male and Michel told us he had seen a female on previous occasions so we are starting the winter with a pair once again. Good news.

Most of the other birds seen during this part of the walk – see list below – were the usual ones one would expect. Disappointingly we were not able to locate any Redpolls of Siskins but a couple have been around the area this week and hopefully more are on their way.

In the second half of the morning down at the MBO we added Northern Cardinals and European Starlings to our list, a couple of House Finches and, as were walking along the entrance trail, were all very pleased to see – and hear – a Ruffed Grouse noisily hastening away from our approach.

As leader of this morning’s group it was especially rewarding to have a number of novice birders with us who were not shy to ask questions about what we were seeing and who all seemed interested in the whole business of being out about with wildlife. Maybe some will become birders?

And so … a total of 21 species of birds plus an unidentified Gull. Pretty good for the season.

  • Canada Goose >500 (multiple overflying groups all morning)
  • Ruffed Grouse 1 at MBO
  • Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon) 12
  • Mourning Dove 2
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker 1
  • Downy Woodpecker 2
  • Hairy Woodpecker 1
  • Pileated Woodpecker 1
  • Blue Jay 5
  • American Crow 6
  • Common Raven 1
  • Black-capped Chickadee 40
  • Red-breasted Nuthatch 6
  • White-breasted Nuthatch 15
  • American Robin 24
  • European Starling 80 (at MBO)
  • Dark-eyed Junco 12
  • Northern Cardinal 4 (at MBO)
  • Red-winged Blackbird 4 (at MBO)
  • House Finch 2 (at MBO)
  • American Goldfinch 16