Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Gatineau Escarpment & The Steele Line with Tony Beck

Jan 4, 8:00am

Today, to start the New Year, we had a good crowd out. There were Bob, Peter, Rick, Jeremy and his British friends, Martin & Judy and, of course, Tony & Nina.

At our first stop, we were trailing along chatting about birding trips, when Tony suddenly took off into the underbrush. He had heard a bunch of Black-capped Chickadees giving their alarm call, and figured t was worth investigating. Sure enough, he soon spotted a Northern Saw-whet Owl perched low in the branches. It was a lifer for Nina, Martin and Judy. Nina got the only decent photo. Here it is.
The only other excitement was a Hairy Woodpecker, but Rick said afterwards that he saw a Downy Woodpecker and a White-breasted Nuthatch too.

We headed out Hwy 148 and stopped at Elm Road where Nina had spotted a Northern Hawk Owl the previous week. No action. So we continued along Hwy 148 until Tony spotted an adult Bald Eagle perched on a tree at the back of a field. We scoped it for awhile and also saw a distant Red-tailed Hawk. Then we spotted a reddish Coyote in the adjacent field.
Suddenly the Eagle flew over and attacked the Coyote. It made a second pass, but this time the Coyote was ready, and leaped into the air to repel the Eagle. What a sight! The tactics worked as the Eagle returned to its perch while the Coyote slinked off to join its comrades in the woods at the edge of the field.

After that excitement, we turned down Terrien Road and scanned the escarpment for more eagles. We saw none, but there was a whole mob of Blue Jays, making quite a racket. We investigated, but they did not seem focused on any one spot, so we figured they were not on a raptor.

We headed for the restaurant for a coffee and bathroom break. Outside, at the back, at feeders, there were House Sparrows, American Goldfinches, more Blue Jays, and a single Dark-eyed Junco.

We proceeded down the Eardley-Masham Road, stopping to check out some feeders, where Rick had spotted some White-winged Crossbills before Christmas. Nothing this time but Blue Jays and Chickadees.

We carried on and stopped before the escarpment to scope the hills for raptors. Judy saw two Common Ravens together in a tree up on top of the ridge. With the naked eye, they looked like one large raptor. Nina spotted a flock of 15 to 20 Wild Turkeys just inside the bush.

We travelled up the hill into the Gatineau Park, and made three stops without netting anything. (Later we met John Dubois, and he saw 8 Pine Grosbeaks on the road, shortly after we had passed). We went back down and stopped along Bradley when we saw another Red-tailed Hawk. We looked at the house where Evening Grosbeaks had been present last year, but there were none. Also, the owner had erected a board fence to block the view of the new home across the street, which also blocked our view of the feeders.

We carried on to the Steele Line. We were the third car in line, so we did not see the Golden Eagle that the others saw briefly. It seemed to have gone to ground, so we spent quite a while driving back and forth trying in vain to relocate it. However, we did see two more Bald Eagles in the process. This is when John Dubois stopped and gave us directions to a different Northern Hawk Owl.
We went to the end of Steele Line and tuned on to Lac des Loups to check the feeders there. We did see an American Tree Sparrow and a Red-breasted Nuthatch, so it was worthwhile.

By this time, we needed another break and some food, so we drove into Quyon to a d├ępanneur and got some sandwiches, chips and so on to see us through. Tony could not resist returning briefly to Steele Line to look for the Golden Eagle – no luck, just Mourning Doves, House Sparrows and yet another Bald Eagle.

We returned to Breckinridge to look for the Hawk Owl, and there it was. It was skittish, and moved from tree to hydro pole to another tree. Nina and I tried for photos, but we were unable to get close. John stopped by again and enjoyed our success. He was curious about the Northern Saw-whet Owl, so my car led him back to the spot.
Our tracks had filled in with the light snow, so we had difficulty finding the spot. We knew we were close, so looked all around, but were unable to relocate the owl for John.

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