Winter Ornithology (3 of 4)

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During one of our outings, the weather was so cold that we went by car and stopped so that the guides could see if there was anything interesting in the distance. If yes, we got out, observe the subject and get back in the car.

It was during that outing — we were almost at the border with the United States in a rural town called Hemmingford — that I saw my favorite Quebec bird. And I wasn’t the only one happy since it was one of Quebec symbols: the snowy owl.

We saw various on electric poles. Our guides already knew they would be there, I would never have seen them at a distance. Not to mention that they’re black and white…on an endless snowy white background, they don’t particularly stand out!

The adult males are completely white, the young owls and females have black spots. They stop on the poles to see the movements of the small rodents that are their prey. And from up there, they dive silently on their prey.

The other benefit of winter bird watching is that some of the birds that don’t migrate like the black-capped chickadee come and eat in the throughs that people mount at the parks and in their yard.

Since there are less seeds during the cold season, they’re happy with what they found. They’re definitely not shy and check if we have sunflower seeds; after watching us for a while, they come flying and land on our hands and then leave.

The detail to keep in mind is too take off your gloves, otherwise they won’t approach you. Maybe they are scared to get their nails stuck in the wool. With freezing temperatures of -30 degrees Celsius, the time spent without your gloves must be short, otherwise they’ll freeze and really hurt.

Helena Arroyo

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