After about ten days of cool to below zero temperatures, yesterday we had a Leveche blow through the area with the temp topping 17°C, a new record high for the date. For those who don’t know the Leveche is the warm desert air that blows through Southern Europe from time to time and has even been known to deposit Saharan sand on my car when I lived in Nottingham. You may wonder how you can tell desert sand from sand blown from the east coast resort of Skegness, let’s just say that it would smell quite different.
I decided to give Hungry Bay near Valleyfield a look seeing as it was flush with berries last time I was there and I wanted to find some Pine Grosbeaks that sat still. The calm weather meant that the bay and Beauharnois Canal were easy to work and birds that would have been dancing blobs on my last visit were now within identifiable range. The main bay had the same Surf Scoter I’ve seen on my last two visits, an immature. The Red-necked Grebe group had reduced to three but a Horned Grebe was a welcome month tick, yes I’m that sad. I counted 10 Common Loons along 1.5km of canal but nothing more exotic in that line. Part way up the canal I came across a couple of White-winged Scoters feeding about 80m out so I sat and waited while they made their way over. The light was good and the birds were good enough to show themselves nicely. Another 400m on and a group of Black Scoters were bobbing about so I tried the same tactic. They didn’t come quite so close but you can see enough detail on the two visible bills to note that they are immature males.
Needless to say, no grosbeaks were around but it had been a pleasant visit. A steady stream of Snow Geese overhead while I was there were all converging on my next port of call, Pont du Gonzague lake. This lake is a great place to see the geese locally and it would be really good if whoever owns it puts some viewing areas in. Failing that they could cut down some of the trees so that the lake can be viewed bclearly from the cycle track, unlikely to happen though. I know of one watch point at a provincial park which has a cluster of trees between it and the birds. I have no idea who manages these sites but they have zero idea of what is required for viewing the wildlife.
At the lake the carpet of noisy whiteness that greeted me set the standard for the task in hand, find a Ross’s Goose. None had been reported, mainly because people here don’t systematically check for them but also becasue you don’t see a spotting scope here as often as you would in Europe. Contrary to Ebird’s database, Ross’s Geese are not that rare in Quebec although I appreciate that the the database is only as good as the data so far submitted. It took me about 20 minutes to find the first but I was also checking the 2000 strong Ring-necked Duck/Lesser Scaup/Greater Scaup flock for anything with a crest. I also found and read five neck collars on the geese. I can now log on to the website and see that the geese were ringed in Northern Canada somewhere so that’s useful. Better would be some idea of where and when they went since being banded, perhaps with a map but it doesn’t seem to do that, perhaps I could search Ebird, I’ll have to check.
Back to today and the Leveche had gone away shaking its head wondering what it was doing in Canada in November and a blustery westerly wind, telling tales of snow and hardship on the prairies visited. At St-Lazare sand pits only a few Canada Geese were present when I arrived which suggests an eagle had visited early, more likely a Bald as Goldies like a lie in. The weather ripple stimulated a bit more movement than I’d had recently with 15 Pine Grosebeak and three Evening passing through. The Northern Grey Shrike was again present but left in a hurry when an adult Merlin showed interest.
The next few days should be interesting, perhaps a few Leveche related rarities will pop up although in Quebec it usually takes three tanks of gas to see them. Nearer to home, well three hours away, a Mountain Bluebird has been found and will hopefully stay long enough for me to add it to my Ontario and Canada list.
Below a few shots.