One out of two

We have just returned from a long weekend on the north shore of the St-Lawrence at Les Escoumins. Last time we were there in winter we said, “never again” but I wanted to check out the hotels for setting up a guided fall trip and, with the possibility of Purple Sandpiper on offer, my Quebec nemesis bird, it looked set to be a reasonable trip. An added bonus would be the chance to try for a Red-headed Woodpecker out near Trois Riviere which everyone seems to be seeing and the weather forecast was pretty good.

We started badly, arriving at St-Leon-le-Grand to find that the bird had been visiting a feeder attached to someone’s front porch. We don’t like staring at folks’ houses at the best of times so we sat back and watched from a respectful distance. Needless to say the woodpecker did not show. We moved on through Quebec City and along the St-Lawrence, pausing only at St-Irene and Malbaie, neither site had much to offer, a few each of Glaucous and Iceland Gulls but that was it. At Ste-Catherine we stopped and scoped the rocks purported to host Purple Sandpipers from time to time, zilch. We then zipped around Tadoussac but saw nothing, this did not surprise us!

At Les Escoumins the view from the ferry dock was pretty good, with Black Guillemots riding the waves and a host of Barrow’s Goldeneyes sharing the bay with their common cousins. Gulls were everywhere, a few hundred each of Glaucous and Iceland but all too distant for the lens. We checked into the Hotel Pelchat at Escomins, reasonably priced, comfortable rooms with a nice restaurant and a bar. The mercury then dropped to -18 overnight.

Sunday was very bright and fine but cold. At Les Escoumins we scanned and we scanned but could not find any purple bastards. Two fine male Long-tailed Ducks were worth a prolonged look before we set off tocheck sites further east. At Forestville we took a road north and soon found Pine Grosbeaks gritting by the roadside along with Pine Siskins and Common Redpolls. One garden which had feeders was alive with Evening Grosbeaks but they were very flighty so no shots. To this point in the trip I had taken two frames of a distant female Pine Grosbeak! We drove as far as Baie Trinity which is about the same distance as the moon is from Montreal but the waters held little more than distant goldeneyes.

Monday was colder, clear though and not too windy until we got to Tadoussac when it was frigid. I had emailed a local birder there to ask for help, I thought he might give me a few pointers as to where to find the purple perils. He didn’t reply, perhaps he didn’t get it, Videotron do that sometimes, or perhaps he didn’t like me putting it through Babel Fish to translate the English message to French, either way we were on our own and didn’t find anything in the Tadoussac area.

Through the wonders of the Internet we had seen that the Red-headed Woodpecker had been seen the previous day so we dropped in on the way home. Ten minutes into the wait and ‘bingo’, the boy flew towards us from the hidden feeders and started to place pine seeds carefully into nooks in a tree trunk. I managed a few shots from range.

So the trip was a partial success although we could have done without the driving. I’ll be offering a long weekend trip to Les Escoumins and the area with stops on the way in autumn 2012, details to be announced when ready, they will be on my guiding blog.

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