It is not often that you get to enjoy a warbler fallout in August in Québec but today was one of those days. Yesterday it rain off and on all day and was cold with it. The combination of a temperature drop and a wet front interrupting what had been prime migration conditions meant that my first port of call would be the small wood adjacent to the soccer pitch car park – part of my St-Lazare sand pits patch.
I quickly hit a group of warblers and stayed with them for about 20 minutes when they seemed to peter out. It was a good, mixed flock feeding in Birch and easy to watch. Having seen half a dozen species including my year Cape May I went a bit further on and played a couple of Swainson’s Thrush calls – a trick that has lured catharus thrushes out before. As I played I picked up a thrush like for coming towards me, focussing I realised that it was a waterthrush but not a Northern! I quickly noted the broad, white supercillium, square ended at the rear and the white underparts with uniform dark streaks and no chest cluster, all features of Louisiana Waterthrush. The bird flew closer and I was down to about 3m when I went for the camera – it shot off and didn’t reappear despite my searching and trying both waterthrush calls a few times. I decided to press on and, as I left, saw a yellow/green tanager – a Scarlet Tanager.
I did a full circuit of the works enjoying a flock of Semipalmated Plovers that lingered all of five minutes and finding another smaller warbler flock containing both Philadelphia and Warbling Vireo. The circuit kept adding species to my day list and I realised that I was getting to a pretty healthy total but that I hadn’t seen a Chipping Sparrow. Expecting to bump into one somewhere I headed back to the woodlot, hoping to get another waterthrush view and to pick through the warblers again, if they were still around.
Once back in place it was clear that there were a lot more birds than I thought. I added Wilson’s Warbler to the pits year list and proceeded to wade through the rest of the active flock – it was non-stop action as they moved at all levels. I caught a glimpse of the tanager again then got a full-on view of a Yellow-throated Vireo, another new species for the pits and something that would have been the highlight had that not already have happened. I followed the flock some way before trying Swainson’s Thrush again. The/a waterthrush zipped past and called twice, all over in an instant and I never did re-connect.
The warbler flock started to thin out as birds wandered into adjacent gardens but I saw the tanager again but this time much better – it seemed to have some white in the wing. I was camera in hand this time and managed a couple of poor side on shots that at least show the extent of the white. Now I was confused and still am to some extent. There appears to be a lot of white present, perhaps more than might be expected of a Scarlet Tanager. Is it possible that this is a Western Tanager with heavily abraded wings? I’d welcome any comments from those with more experience of both tanagers in autumn than me. Addendum – the comments I have had suggest that it is a hatch-year bird (Scarlet Tanager) but I cannot find much reference to what appear to be extensive, clear white where wingbars would be.
Below are shots of Least Flycatcher, Lesser Yellowlegs and the tanager.
Here is my pits day list (so far) – 74 species: Great Blue Heron; Turkey Vulture; Snow Goose; Canada Goose; Wood Duck; Green-winged Teal; Mallard; Sharp-shinned Hawk; Cooper’s Hawk ; Red-shouldered Hawk; Red-tailed Hawk; Wild Turkey; Wilson’s Snipe; Greater Yellowlegs; Lesser Yellowlegs ; Solitary Sandpiper; Spotted Sandpiper; Semipalmated Sandpiper; Least Sandpiper; Pectoral Sandpiper; Semipalmated Plover; Killdeer; Ring-billed Gull; Rock Pigeon; Mourning Dove; Ruby-throated Hummingbird; Belted Kingfisher; Yellow-bellied Sapsucker; Hairy Woodpecker; Northern Flicker; Alder Flycatcher; Least Flycatcher; Eastern Phoebe; Great Crested Flycatcher; Yellow-throated Vireo; Philadelphia Vireo; Red-eyed Vireo; Eastern Warbling-Vireo; Blue Jay; American Crow; Common Raven; Cedar Waxwing; Veery; Hermit Thrush; American Robin; Common Starling; Grey Catbird; Brown Thrasher; White-breasted Nuthatch; Black-capped Chickadee; Barn Swallow; Ruby-crowned Kinglet; American Goldfinch; Song Sparrow; Tennessee Warbler; Orange-crowned Warbler; Nashville Warbler; Chestnut-sided Warbler; Magnolia Warbler; Cape May Warbler; Yellow-rumped Warbler; Black-throated Green Warbler; Blackburnian Warbler; Bay-breasted Warbler; Black-and-white Warbler; American Redstart; Ovenbird; Louisiana Waterthrush; Common Yellowthroat; Wilson’s Warbler; Scarlet Tanager; Rose-breasted Grosbeak; Northern Cardinal; Common Grackle.
Going back later to look for nighthawks!
Additional – went back and added Common Nighthawk (3), Black Duck, Merlin and… Chipping Sparrow to the day list.