The 31st Annual Southeast Upsalquitch Christmas Bird Count
By Rod O’Connell
In the magazine “N.B. Naturalist Vol. 12, No. 1 1983”, on page 28, David S. Christie reports on the 1982-83 that the “Southeast Upsalquitch (SEU) 1st year Very little snow (2 – 5cm); rivers largely ice covered. Christopher Gauthier, Ronald Gauthier, Gilles Godin (compiler), James Meagher.” This outing was held on December 31st, 1982. A total of 14 party hours was reported in recording 8 species with a total of 26 birds. The species included; “10 Snow Bunting, 1 Evening Grosbeak, 1 Downy Woodpecker, 1 Pileated Woodpecker, 4 Gray Jays, 6 Common Ravens, 2 Black-cap Chickadee, and 1 Boreal Chickadee.”
This year’s outing is the 31st Annual SE Upsalquitch Christmas Bird Count. It was held on Thursday, December 20th, 2012. A total of 10 party hours with 14 species and a total of 90 birds documented. The species included: 1 Ruffed Grouse, 1 Barred Owl, 4 Downy Woodpeckers, 3 Hairy Woodpeckers, 3 Black-backed Woodpecker, 4 Pileated Woodpeckers, 12 Gray Jays, 7 Blue Jays, 7 Ravens, 29 Black-cap Chickadee, 6 Boreal Chickadee, 5 Red-breasted Nuthatch, 2 Golden-crowned Kinglet, and 6 Common Redpoll. Karl Branch, Hanson Miller Rod O’Connell (compiler).
Description of Outing: Yesterday’s weather, December 19th, was a mixture of freezing rain, hail and snow flurries with strong winds. Today, December 20th, we start the 31st Annual Southeast Upsalquitch CBC at 8:39 AM with a temperature of -6ºC, overcast with low clouds in the surrounding hills. It is dead calm; without the slightest breeze to interfere with detection of any bird call. We slowly make our way to the Southeast Upsalquitch Valley along Route 180. Our first bird sighting is of two ravens on a tree top, so close together; that at first we think that there is only one bird. Although the road has been salted and sanded, we do not see any birds on the road looking for grit. Once at the road junction to Upsalquitch Lake, we each take a wood’s road to do our 4 to 8 km walk. Karl takes his usual route towards Simpson’s Field, Hanson, the road to Upsalquitch Lake, while I take the road going to the Wind Farm, known previously as the Cook Savoy Road.
We meet back at the truck between 11:15 AM and 12:05 PM. Between the three of us, we cover approximately 18 km, totaling 8 party-hours. We note that there is a lack of seed feeding birds this year and the Boreal Chickadee and Red-breasted Nuthatch counts are low. While having lunch, we are visited by a Gray Jay and a Downey Woodpecker. We have a total of 12 different species from our morning observations. You can always count on the “moose bird” to come and visit while we are having lunch. We decide to adopt the Gray Jay (Perisoreus Canadensis) as our official bird of the SE Upsalquitch Christmas Bird Count. Whether we are heating our billycan to make tea or simply eating our sandwich, the “moose bird” (local name but also known as the “Canada Jay” or “Whiskey Jack”) will appear like a ghost as soon as we stop for lunch.
Gray Jay (Perisoreus Canadensis) Photo by Rod O’Connell
After lunch we drive to Popple Road and stop at the trail that leads to 3rd Portage Lake. While walking towards the lake, we observe many fresh weasel tracks along the trail. The lake is frozen and can support our weight. Karl and Hanson are curious about the beaver hut that can be seen on the other side of the lake. They walk across the lake to examine the fresh activities around the hut. We then proceed to the outlet of the lake and take the trail that leads to the Second Portage Lake. There are Black Cap Chickadees, Red-breasted Nuthatches and Karl’s fine ear catches the sound of Kinglets amongst them. We continue to the huge yellow birch along the trail. As we observe the cavities in this massive tree, we comment on the possible nesting sites for Barred Owl.
Suddenly, Karl spots a Barred Owl flying away from us. We separate and move towards the likely location of where it might have landed. Hanson’s sharp observation skill spots the owl high on a branch in a large spruce tree. Even by telling us where it is situated, Karl and I cannot detect the owl. We move to Hanson’s location and finally get to view the perched owl.
Barred Owl (Strix varia) Photo by Rod O`Connell
With my Nikon D40 camera and my 70-300mm lens, I start taking photos. The photo above was taken with the lens set at f 5.6, shutter speed 1/400 sec, at 300mm.
I comment that I sure would like to have my new 150-500mm lens. Karl offers to go to the truck and get the lens. When he returns, Karl and I try different locations with the 150-500mm lens. Karl has also brought my tripod, so we have no excuses for not getting at least one good photo of the owl.
We observe the owl for a good 40 minutes before continuing our hike towards Second Portage Lake. We arrive at the Second Lake, at 2:30 PM.
Barred Owl (Strix varia) Photo by Karl Branch
This photo was taken with the Nikon D40 with the 150-500mm lens. The settings are: f 6.3, shutter speed 1/400 sec, and the lens at 500mm.
We take a self-timer photo of the three of us with the lake in the background.
31st Annual SE Upsalquitch Christmas Bird Count
Thursday December 20, 2012 Second Portage Lake in the background
Left to right: Karl Branch, Hanson Miller and Rod O’Connell
Best Wishes for the New Year 2013 – from the South East Upsalquitch
We return to the truck and head back to the Southeast Upsalquitch Bridge to check for birds that may have found our bird feed that we had placed at the Upsalquitch Lake Road and the Wind Farm Road earlier in the day. We do not detect any birds at these locations. We drive to our starting point and note the time, weather and gather our different notes. I also send a SPOT message from this location (47.57489º latitude, -66.36749º longitude) saying we are on our way home.
It is 3:20 PM, -4ºC and we still have an overcast sky. We are very pleased with our outing, a day that can be distinguished as “The Sound of Silence.”
Hanson and Karl – looking at the beaver hut on the Third Portage Lake
Photo by Rod O’Connell