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Two new species were predictable

January 25, 2012

This is the second weekend of my big year from our apartment, and I noticed that I am enjoying wandering around our apartment in my underwear with binoculars around my neck first thing on Saturday and Sunday mornings, looking out the west window at the feeders, then the north window over our neighbour’s roof, then the east window over the strip of Gatineau Park forest and the city below, and lastly then south window over the neighbour towards the river.

It occurred to me, after observing a flock of Rock Pigeons fly over in tight formation, species #11, that the neighbours in the apartment to the west, which is slightly higher than ours, might see a man in his underwear with binoculars around his neck, peering out of the window in their direction and arrive at the wrong conclusion.   Perhaps I should make a pre-emptive phone call to the Gatineau police to explain to them what I am doing and that I am not a trying to looking into people’s homes.  Perhaps I should put up a sign on my window that says “je suis un ornithologue” when I am actively birding.

I was deep in these thoughts when movement to the south-west caught my eye.  Four or five small dark birds dove into the cedar hedge, suspiciously like House Sparrows.  House Sparrow was not yet on my list, yet I was confident it would be soon, as a small flock was often heard chattering away a few houses down the alley – in fact the same houses where the cedar hedge grew.   If it had been warmer, I would have had simply needed to spend some time on the balcony, but it had been too cold.  Minus 20, and time on the balcony was still potentially months away.   So I grabbed my bins (short for binoculars) and carefully examined the hedge.  Sure enough, several House Sparrow were tucked amongst the foliage.  Species #12!   Two new species on January 21.

My joy was a bit muted though.  I should be excited about adding two new birds after a week with no new species.  But the reality was that I did not spend any time during the week birding.  I don’t even return from work until after 6 pm, so it is dark, and I am usually too hungry and tired to bird in the dark when the temperature is minus 20.   The other fact of interest is that Rock Pigeons and House Sparrows are two of the most abundant birds in any city in most of North America.  They are interesting species.  Both introduced to North America intentionally by Europeans – one as a source of food, and the other to eat silk worms (caterpillars) that had been introduced to produce silk but preferred eating orchards.   Now we have House Sparrows and Rock Pigeons almost everywhere, even on my Big Year from the Balcony list!   Now I am smiling!

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