Saturday, 27 September 2014

Smooth Rock Falls to Moosonee

Day one of the 2014 Netitishi expedition began in Smooth Rock Falls. The following evening I had driven up from Aurora, arriving around 2:00 AM at the motel. By 7:00 AM Alan and I were out the door, heading north of Smooth Rock Falls towards the dam at the Abitibi Canyon.

This drive is excellent for boreal birds and Spruce Grouse in particular are abundant along this road - we ended up seeing 6 this time.

The day was warm and sunny and by 8:00 AM we were birding the open shrubby areas surrounding the dam.

Abitibi Dam

Sparrows were common in several spots and I was happy to come across a family of Le Conte's Sparrows, my first in about a year.

Le Conte's Sparrow - Abitibi dam

Le Conte's Sparrow - Abitibi dam

One of the adults sat in a tree less than a meter above my head and watched me.

Le Conte's Sparrow - Abitibi dam

One of the babies tolerated my approach and sat up on some grass for some time, allowing a rare clean chance at a photo with this usually secretive species.

Le Conte's Sparrow - Abitibi dam

Some other birds seen here included a vocal male Eastern Bluebird, a flock of Rusty Blackbirds, 9 species of sparrows, Pileated Woodpecker, and a group of Palm Warblers.

Palm Warbler - Abitibi dam

Flyover Pipit...many more of these to come in the next few weeks!

American Pipit - Abitibi dam

The train ride to Moosonee was fairly non-eventful though we did have a few good bird sightings. Less than half an hour into the ride I noticed a Northern Hawk Owl glide away from the tracks and alight in a tree along the edge of the treeline - unfortunately much poorer looks than I would have liked. We also watched three groups of Sharp-tailed Grouse (15 birds in total) flush from the short grasses near the train tracks as we roared on by.

By mid afternoon we had arrived in Moosonee and immediately checked out the sewage lagoons south of town. We had 9 Wilson's Snipes, several yellowlegs and a Pectoral Sandpiper, a single Bonaparte's Gull, ten Redheads and a Peregrine Falcon harassing a Common Raven way up in the sky. On the walk back Alan and I came across a few Boreal Chickadees - my first of the year, but certainly the first of many more to come in the next few weeks. Boreal Chickadees were much more common than Black-capped Chickadees on last year's Netitishi trip.

By the time this robo-blog post is about to auto-post the four of us should be at the coast. The weather forecast is still holding as I write this on Thursday night...26 degrees on Thursday, forecasted 25, 24, and 15 degrees through the weekend, followed by some cooler temperatures. Should be a lot of fun!

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