Quebec chronicles – landscapes and signs of humanity: part 2


Continuing on from my previous blog about people and landscapes in Quebec: walking along the shorelines was a pleasant activity; the rocky beaches could be quite beautiful and revealed different kinds of plant life there.





There were many signs along the roads we traveled; as elsewhere, many indicated how to get from one place to another.

The public toilets were a nice amenity.

In one Native Canadian village, the signs were not only in French but also the indigenous language. And it was nice to see scientific symbols on signs indicating research centers.

Other signs (photographed while in the car so somewhat blurry) advised about reporting crime and safe driving, including one about “cleaning your teeth” (an inside joke about mispronunciation of the French for flashing lights).



We were asked to watch out for wildlife. We never did see a moose but I saw several white-tailed deer during our trip (just not on the road).


We passed houses during our outings, as well as an “old time” covered bridge, for which we made a detour so we could drive through it. One car game was counting the number of “two-toned” houses, i.e., painted in two colors.


Barns dotted the landscape as well.


I noticed that people in this area used exactly the same recycling and garbage containers as we do in my town; the school buses look like US buses as well.


To get to the Tadoussac dunes, we had to cross a waterway on a ferry, which was really quite nice with a viewing deck and clean, spacious restrooms. They did have some signs that made us scratch our heads in a bit of wonderment, however.


The dunes where we saw the thousands of birds flying over in migration were lovely, albeit quite windy at times.


In the towns we saw some interesting people. I don’t know if the gentleman on the left was doing something in an official capacity, but the puppeteer on the right had apparently just entertained people. At Pointe-au-Pic, a woman was getting in her daily (?) exercise.

The birds continued getting their exercise by looking for insects, buds and seeds in the various deciduous evergreens and other trees.


The combination of forests, dunes, beautiful shorelines and waterways, charming villages and friendly people made our stay in Quebec a real pleasure. We were also greeted every morning and evening by a couple white-throated sparrows (Zonotrichia albicollis) who sang loudly to one another. One was singing when we left, too, and it was a very nice goodbye song.



My memories of the Quebec spring migration journey will be wonderful, too, and the beautifully blooming forget-me-nots (Myosotis) we saw were an apt symbol of remembrance!




Weaver birds – avian architects par excellence!

sociable weaver IMG_4297©Maria de BruynWatching different species of birds build their nests in the spring can be quite entertaining, but the most amazing nests that I’ve been privileged to see can’t be found in my immediate environment — those of the sociable weaver birds (Philetairus socius geminus), which I encountered in Namibia. (Their architectural feats are rivaled by those of the bower birds, which I haven’t been able to see in person yet – maybe one day!).

The sociable weavers are birds native to Southern Africa, where stiff grasses grow that are a main component of their large communal nests. The males build these shared homes in trees and on telephone and utility poles; they are the largest nests built by any bird and can house more than 100 pairs of several generations. Some nests have been occupied for more than a century and may weigh several tons!

Sociable weaver bird nest IMG_6610 ©Maria de Bruynres

sociable weaver bird nest IMG_6604©Maria de Bruyn

The nests are a technological marvel, highly structured and providing a more advantageous temperature inside compared to outside. The central chambers retain heat and are used for roosting at night. The birds use the outer rooms in the daytime to get some shade. The nesting chambers are lined from top to bottom with soft plant material, fur, cotton, and fluff, while sharp spikes of straw or twigs protect the entrances against predators such as Cape cobra snakes. Some birds appear to be caught, however.

sociable weaver IMG_4290©Maria de Bruynsociable weaver birds IMG_4284©Maria de Bruyn

The sociable weavers may not breed during periods of low rainfall and a considerable number (sometimes more than half) of the birds in a colony may not breed in a given season. Under typical conditions, sociable weaver birds raise up to four broods per breeding cycle, with nearly all pairs being assisted by helpers; for example, older birds may help care for younger siblings and unrelated hatchlings. Interestingly, other species of birds may also share these nests, including red-headed finches, rosy-faced lovebirds, pied barbets, familiar chats, ashy tits and pygmy falcons.

 baglafecht weaver IMG_1506 MdBweaver bird nest IMG_3560 ©Maria de BruynBaglafecht weaver (Ploceus baglafecht) in Kenya

Among other types of weaver birds, the males also are the nest builders, hoping to attract females with beautifully constructed homes. They can use their strong, conical beaks and feet to actually tie knots in the grasses used to form the nests, making the nests sturdier.

Weaver bird nests IMG_6570©Maria de Bruynresweaver bird nests IMG_6552©Maria de Bruynres

The male sparrow weavers of Africa build “apartment-house” nests, in which numerous birds live in separate but neighboring flask-shaped homes that are entered through tubes at the bottom.

The buffalo weavers, on the other hand, make large stick nests that are untidy outside but may have spherical woven nests inside.

red-billed weaver ©Maria de Bruyn

Red-billed buffalo weaver (Bubalornis niger) in South Africa

The bluebirds and robins here can make some nice-looking nests, but the weaver bird nests are among my real favorites!

Next blog: to be determined!