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)