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Taking some time to observe pays off

February 12, 2012

Last weekend I spent almost no time observing birds from our apartment and balcony.  During the week, I did not spend any time at all either.  Two weeks with no new species, two weeks with almost no observing.  Something needs to change.   So this morning, after a late breakfast, I grabbed my binoculars (bins), and stood sentry at the balcony window.  Same guys as usual . . . mainly American Goldfinches.  A flock of about 20 to 30 buzz around, dominating the hulled sunflower seed feeder, while ignoring almost entirely the niger seed feeder (except for the odd one that is excluded from the sunflower feeder by an extremely aggressive crowd).    The Downy Woodpecker was there on the suet, and a couple Chickadees found room on the sunflower seed feeder to quickly grab a few seeds.  A pair of White-breasted Nuthatches show up and are never deterred by the smaller chattering Goldfinches.  After a few minutes I shift to the other side of the house, and scan the horizon Government buildings at the Portage and beyond.  A pair of Ravens flies into my field of view, their distinctive shape – different from a crow’s – catching my eye, as does their beautiful choreographed flight.  The two birds were flying like one, matching eachother’s dips and rises to perfection.   Raven’s flying prowess and acrobacy takes my breath away.   I follow them from Portage, near the Ottawa river (which I cannot see from that angle), to the Casino near Lac Leamy, then lose them from view, but gain a feeling of exhileration and joy, and satisfaction that I had at last another species to add to my Big Year.

I then went outside, with a coat and warm clothing, and sat in the minus 14 temperature in the sun, on the balcony, as the Goldfinches gradually habituated to my presence and, as long as I sat motionless, began feeding on the sunflower seed bits.   Twenty minutes later there were no new sounds or species, so I came in to warm up.  Almost immediately, a flock of slightly larger birds wheeled past the house, catching my eye, but not enough to be sure what they were.   I rushed to the other window, but no sign of them.   About 15 minutes later Cris and I went out to the car, and as I stepped out of the house, my ears were greeted to the wonderful musical trills of dozens of Bohemian Waxwings.  They had in fact landed in the trees around the house, and not continued flying (I had suspected the flock I had seen a few minutes earlier was Bohemian Waxwings).  What a beautiful and joyous sound they make.  And, according to my wife, they put a great smile on my face.  Species 14, Bohemian Waxwing. Winter resident of the Gatineau, and magnificent visitor from the northern boreal forest of Quebec and Labrador.

I was very happy with the results of 30 minutes or so of birding – 2 new species, and a good discovery. . .  I realized that I can see the Ottawa river – sort of, from the balcony.   Though it is only a small area between two buildings, and once the deciduous tree leafs-out the view will be obscured, I am sure it will prove valuable in the months ahead with getting me some new species.


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