One of the best gulls in the World

An Ivory Gull is always worth the effort to take a look at. Newfoundland might have over 100 at the moment but one will do and so it was that we ventured over the border nto the USA and enjoyed a corking adult  in trying conditions. In the usual twist of fate this bird chose to frequent an area of Lake Champlain at best 2km outside Quebec!

We arrived in perfect conditions, calm fine weather, nil wind. The bird showed at c300m or more, nice scope views but not what the camera desired. Slowly a distant squall dropped off the hills and proceded to push the ice the bird sat on closer to shore. We were perched on a stone jetty and I could see the bird was going to drift in nicely. Sandra, sensibly, went back to the car. I skipped like a nimble goat towards the end of the jetty and the bird did get close but so did the blizzard. I managed to get a couple of shots before taking time to wipe the lens. Sadly the bird took that opportunity to fly so I missed the flight shots I was after but at least got a perched shot.

Then we twitched a Tufted Duck! Just down the lake, well about 20 miles, a male Tufted Duck was enjoying spending the winter with a nice flock of Greater and Lesser Scaup. It was good to see so many wildfowl, the group even had a nice male Canvasback in there, a pretty scarce bird in Quebec. The ducks kept having little panic attacks and sure enough, a scan of the shore revealed a fine Bald Eagle, too distant to photograph well but great scope views.

Two North America ticks in one day is unusual locally and a visit out of Quebec was enjoyable, now its fingers crossed that the gull starts to wander north and we can all get it on our Quebec lists.

A taste of winter on Lake Champlain

It was a long way away, I was in New York State, it was in Georgia!

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Bogey Bird

Because we work for an American company we get President’s Day off, pity its not in May but there you go, anyway, not looking a gift President in the mouth we decided to venture out Gaspe way for three days, mostly to photograph gulls but also in the hope of perhaps a Thick-billed Murre. A snow forecast forced us to change plans at the last minute and so we ended up at Tadoussac on the north shore. Tadoussac has a resident birder who posts mouthwatering reports of daily sightings of grey form Gyr Falcons and who sees Purple Sandpipers at will.

We had ‘been’ for the sandpipers before and dipped, but now I thought I had the location pinned down and several more as back ups. We made Tadoussac in about six hours, rented a cabin (for the last time, they are now way overpriced) and settled in for the night. Next morning the sun shone, the wind barely rippled and half a dozen Pine Grosbeaks fed in the trees opposite. Good start or was this the usual peak in the first five minutes scenario?

We checked out the sandpiper’s supposed hang out, no luck so we thought we’d go down to Ecoumins, no luck, so we thought we’d drive xxxKm east to Godbout, checking along the way, you guessed it, no luck. We did see hundreds of both Barrow’s and Common G0ldeneye, likewise numerous Galucous and Iceland Gulls. Godbout also provided the only photographic opportunity of the trip, see below. So day 1 was pretty good really, surprise Hooded Merganser and a Bufflehead but no sandpipers.

Day 2 was rubbish! very windy and snowy, poor visibility and still no sandpipers. We checked out the Baie St-Catherine area and even drove inland towards Saguenay looking for activity but it was absolutely birdless.

Another part of the frustration of the trip was trying to get an internet connection to check out email to see whether Tadoussac birder was still seeing stuff and perhaps send him an email, in French (ish), asking for directions. No luck there either and the short of it is that we gave it up as a bad job and came home one day early. The weather was not going to improve and the sandpipers clearly do not want to know us. Naturally in the inbox was an email reporting two Purple Sandpipers at Tadoussac and eight (yes eight!) at Baie St-Catherine, oh and the Gyr Falcon put on something of a show but we missed that too.

A bogey bird is something that is fairly common but that for some reason you just don’t see. I had Purple Heron for along while inthe UK. It took 19 trips to see one. Now my offical bogey bird in North America is Purple Sandpiper (replacing Bachman’s Warbler, aim high). I’ve seen hundreds in the UK but if I’m going to see one here I think now it will just have to find me.

Next year’s Presidents day I think we will try Costa Rica and we will leave Tadoussac to shiver.

Below some photos of Barrow’s Goldeneye, there is also a nice shot with female Barrow’s and Common in the same view.

Common (f), Barrow’s (m & f), Common (m) Barrow’s (m & f) 

Four Snowies

A late Sunday afternoon cruise of the lanes of St-Clet were quite productive. Feeders on Chemin St-Emmanuel had 20 or so Wild Turkeys scratching below them. Further on the first Snowy Owl sat on a barn ridge, buffeted by the brisk wind so commonplace in the open landscape around St-Clet. I digiscoped it despite the wobble, compared to the shots through the 400mm lens the digishots were much better, I must use it more often.

Moving along St-Julie I added a further three Snowies to the count, none of which were male so it looks like he has pushed off for now. A few roadside Snow Buntings were welcome, the lack of snow has seen them move far out in the fields now, along with the Horned Larks and Lapland Longspurs but a good snow dump will make them more evident when it happens, and it surely will.  As the sun dropped I made my way back home passing a couple of seperate trees with Bohemian Waxwings in for a total of around 40 birds. Not  a great winter for them , as predicted by the finch forecast last autumn.

So that is the weekend done again, spring gets closer although one of the Woodchucks that they disturb to ask whether winter will last another six weeks saw its shadow so supposedly it will. I’m amazed that the people who believe that sort of thing can still find their magic mushrooms in winter. I’m predicting an early spring, the seaweed never lies!

Two shots of the Snowy Owl digiscoped at c150m, not bad really, the second version had the colour removed.

Back to Pincourt

Whilst driving in to work Friday I passed a dozen Wild Turkeys and two Pileated Woodpeckers flew over the car, a good omen that prompted me to return to Pincourt on Ile Perrot just west of the island containing Montreal for another look at the Northern Hawk Owl. This time the bird was on roadside wires 300m east of the Maxi Supermarket and had a small but appreciative audience. Three minutes into the viewing and photography session the bird flew low across the very busy road and began hunting a woodlot opposite. It eventually slipped away on its regular circuit, no doubt it will later appear back around the favoured Maxi car park but we were grateful for the brief views.

Wal-Mart called, our bird feeders needed a good re-stock, so we did the necessary. Not a great experience, I’m convinced that some of the creatures you see in there are actually mutant vegetables that have evolved under long forgotten shelves and taken on a passing resemblance to humans, visit a Wal-Mart yourself and see what I mean. On a lot outside a Merlin sat atop a utility pole unpeturbed by our presence but not really posing for shots.

So a quietish Saturday, the weather is still on the cold side but said to be improving next week, it feels like spring might be early this year.

Bombproof, the owl must be well able to filter out the little noises we camera totting birds make to attract its attention, it just completely ignored us.

Peek-a-boo Merlin