#The First Five Hundred – West Island Wildlife

A change of pace … 

500 days ago I set myself the daily challenge of identifying and then sharing at least one different species of bird, insect, plant etc that I could find locally. Today the number reached the 500 mark. My intention continues to be to double that and reach at least 1000 species but no longer will I be doing so at the rate of one a day … time for a change of pace.

Swamp Sparrow – Melospiza georgiana

Although I was always going to concentrate on the biodiversity of the Montreal West Island, the declaration of the covid pandemic less than a week after I started this fascinating journey really forced me to concentrate on what is almost literally on the doorstep as it were. There was no option to do otherwise as travelling was and still is heavily restricted. Starting in my garden in Baie-D’Urfé and then working outwards to places within a reasonable walk or cycle ride was thus my self-imposed patch — at most perhaps a 4 or5 km radius. 

What soon became evident was that although I live in a big city suburb, the wealth of wildlife and plants that is still around us, despite the best efforts of modern society to make life hard for them, is quite remarkable. All you have to do is pay attention and you will see.

I am taking a pause at this, the half-way point in my journey, and will for a while continue to publish new species as they appear rather than one a day. To be honest, five-hundred species rather impresses me, all the more so because a high proportion of them have been seen in or from my moderate sized garden. The biodiversity of cities is way more complex than perhaps most people suspect.

I intend to take some time now to go back over the species I have already shared with you and start to analyze what’s been observed. I am still progressing towards the thousand mark, just at a more measured pace than hitherto.

The remarkable thing really is just how relatively easy it has been to find all these many species in a “peri-urban” environment. I thought 250 or 300 would be fairly easy and then it would take more effort but that has not been the case. Thus far, I have shared some fairly basic details of:

  • 149 species of birds
  • 11 mammals
  • 132 insects
  • 12 spiders
  • 4 “other” arthropods (stuff like millipedes for example)
  • 2 amphibians
  • 1 reptile
  • 135 flowering plants (annuals and perennials)
  • 21 trees/shrubs/bushes
  • 16 fungi
  • 6 grasses
  • 2 mosses
  • 5 lichens
  • … and a single slime mould … the gloriously and appositely named dog vomit slime mould no less

All of which I think is pretty impressive for a suburban garden and a few nearby parks … OK, there is also Canada’s largest Arboretum within a short bike ride, but it’s nevertheless good to discover how many species I see in the forest there that can also be found living just down the road and in my garden. In your garden too, I’ll be bound.

The 1000 Species project will be continuing at least until the target is reached. In the meantime, if you find something that I have not catalogued then might I ask you to post a picture and details on the Nature Baie-D’Urfé Facebook group or send me the details to share by emailing me at [greenbirding@gmail.com].

Now – onwards to that second 500.

Two for the price of One

Today I found a woolly bear caterpillar – one day it will metamorphose into an Isabella Tiger Moth … and it struck me that Lepidoptera larvae will soon be featuring in this site in some number. What to do – wait until there’s an adult to share the glory with or what?

Simple decision. For the purposes of the 1000 Species Project larvae and adults will count as two separate “species” towards the thousand and beyond target.

Just seems practical.

The First Fifty

Looking back over the first fifty species recorded and shared, I find that they are an interestingly mixed bunch. During the late winter period and starting into post-snow spring it’s fairly easy to share one new species a day but as we go forward into spring proper with plants popping up all over and many, many species of migrating birds returning to breed that is going to be a limitation – still working out how best to handle the plenitude of riches ahead. Suggestions welcomed … but one a day at least.


American Robin
Northern Cardinal
Red-bellied woodpecker
Dark-eyed Junco
American Crow
Purple Finch
Mourning Dove
American Goldfinch
Barred Owl
Canada Goose
Red-winged Blackbird
Northern Cardinal
Common Grackle
White-breasted Nuthatch
Ruffed Grouse
Ring-billed Gull
Northern Flicker
Song Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Cooper’s Hawk
Hermit Thrush
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Great Blue Heron


Eastern Cottontail Rabbit
American Red Squirrel
Red Fox
Striped Skunk

Insects & Spiders

Golden Rod Gall Fly
Asian lady beetle
Dark Fishing Spider
Cluster Fly
Mourning Cloak Butterfly
Long-bodied Cellar Spider
Western conifer seed bug
Long-legged Sac Spider
Northern Spring Azure Butterfly

Other Arthropds 

Common Striped Woodlouse 

Flowering plants 



Staghorn Sumac
Eastern White Pine
European Larch


Marshmallow Polypore Fungus

Mosses & Lichens 

Oak Moss Lichen
Common Greensheild Lichen
Candleflame Lichen
Hygrohypnum sp. (moss)