With the flurry of year ticks and site additions that have happened in the past few weeks my St-Lazare sand pits year list now stands at 169 species. If you have no idea what I’m talking about or what and where St-Lazare Sand pits are go back to your knitting. If you follow my posts with baited breath or even casual disinterest, read on…
Last year (2012) I recorded 175 bird species at St-Lazare sand pits, a site record for the year and very respectable for such a small recording area. If you glance at eBird and review local Québec patch stats you will see that I am top in the year and month categories for 2013. I was top in the local patch life list category too but now eBird now has some guy who has ‘Outaouais’ as his local patch in the life list lead, tsk – I ask you, how can you have a local patch the size of Kent? Answer, you can’t because you just cannot cover it so therefore it is not a local patch.
So why are St-Lazare sand pits so good? Size – my patch is relatively small, you can walk all of it twice in a day, maybe even three times if you don’t keep stopping to look at those pesky birds. Location – I sit between the St-Lawrence and Ottawa Rivers. Geographic orientation – I am on a ridge that runs southwest from Montreal island, down to Lake Ontario (virtually) placing me on a visible migration track. Habitat – I have a bit of everything but the open water is perhaps the biggest draw even though it is but a puddle when looked at in context of other local waters. All this adds up to a welcome stop-off for many species, even if they don’t stay long because of the disturbance the site gets.
After last year’s ‘result’ I thought it unlikely that I would get within ten species on 175 this year but a respectable amount of coverage, especially in the summer months, has put me within seven of a new record and so it seems logical to look at the prospects. I have no doubt missed birds. Owls are there, I’ve just not found them. A Northern Mockingbird was claimed for the recording area – I’m not including it because – (a), I didn’t see it and (b), I didn’t see it, my site, my rules. It may have been a good record but, to be honest, kids saying to Granddad “what’s that funny bird” (as per the translation of the account) does not fill me with confidence.
Below is a summary of what I think is probable, possible and within the bounds of current knowledge although unlikely . I’ve used only the species that I have data for and not species reported by others but without specific dates such as a date of occurrence or even years. That does not discount those records as such but you need the dates in order to be able to make an informed judgement and so, as far as I am concerned, no date, no record. This does not apply to species that historically occurred before status or habitat changes had an adverse impact on them, but that is only two – Grey Partridge and Short-eared Owl.
Good chance, turned up most years: Greater White-fronted Goose; Gadwall; Greater Scaup; Ruddy Duck; Black-crowned Night-Heron; Black-bellied Plover (addendum – two, Sat-31-Aug); American Golden-Plover; Hudsonian Godwit; Baird’s Sandpiper; Long-billed Dowitcher; Black-billed Cuckoo; Black-backed Woodpecker; Yellow-bellied Flycatcher (addendum – one, Tues-03-Sept); Brown Creeper; House Wren; Lapland Longspur; Pine Warbler; Northern Waterthrush; Lincoln’s Sparrow; Pine Grosbeak; House Finch; White-winged Crossbill; Hoary Redpoll; Pine Siskin.
Quite possible but site rarities based on the last ten years of records: Brant; Redhead; Surf Scoter; Long-tailed Duck; Red-breasted Merganser; Red-necked Grebe; Common Gallinule; American Coot; Ruddy Turnstone; Sanderling; Bonaparte’s Gull; American Black Tern (but getting late); Iceland Gull; Red-bellied Woodpecker, Gray Jay, Horned Lark; Gray-cheeked Thrush; Swainson’s Thrush; Wood Thrush; Clay-colored Sparrow.
Owls – you hear the, you see them or you don’t: Eastern Screech-Owl; Great Horned Owl, Barred Owl.
Outsiders – varying degrees of rare in Québec: Western Sandpiper; Buff-breasted Sandpiper; Lesser Black-backed Gull.
Some of the species listed are common to abundant locally at times but, for some reason, they rarely visit or fly over the pits. There is also the question of potential site additions such as Snowy Owl, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Wren and Red Crossbill to ponder but they are not the topic of discussion here. There is also the question of true QC rarities, again not discussed but site coverage eventually turns up a rarity, wherever the site is.
If you have read this far, congratulations, you are only a short step away from becoming a patch watcher, now go out and find a manageable patch of your own (I don’t mind sharing) and start recording.
All-time site stats: As of 29-Aug-2013 St-Lazare sand pits has recorded 221 species of bird; 78 species of dragonfly and 42 species of Butterfly. I’m also working on the mammals (13 sp.), reptiles (2 sp.) and amphibians (6 sp.), moths and grasshoppers at the site – will my (unpaid) work never end? Yes, once it’s all filled in and covered in houses!
Below a Solitary Sandpiper from yesterday – I was looking for a Yellow-billed Cuckoo, a site first, from the previous day when I got audio but not a decent view. Didn’t find it.