Overnight rain promised a bit of action down at the local patch – St-Lazare sand pits – and so my 119th trip there this year was a certainty. Up bright and early before the larks had cleared their throats I kick-started the PC to check whether a reported Rufous Hummingbird had been seen at I’le St-Bernard via Oiseaux Rares du Quebec http://www.quebecoiseaux.org/index.php?option=com_oiseauxrares&Itemid=133 and the first few lines were filled with scarce but common enough passage migrants then I got to:
|PHALAROPE À BEC ÉTROIT / RED-NECKED PHALAROPE|
|Saint-Lazare (Montérégie) ATTENTION, PROPRIÉTÉ PRIVÉE! – Un Phalarope à bec étroit a été vu avec plusieurs limicoles à la sablière Meloche de Saint-Lazare.
That made me sit up a bit! I got there pretty quickly and then covered the site very thoroughly, walking the areas where the shorebirds hide – not that phalaropes do – but no sign. There were some shorebirds, still two Baird’s Sandpipers in with a few Least, a single Semipalmated, both yellowlegs and a Pectoral, but more of that later.
For those who don’t understand French (and that would be me too but this I get!) the message reads ‘A Red-necked Phalarope was with lots of other sandpipers at St-Lazare sand pits, seen by Alain Quenneville’ no time when it was seen or whether it was feeding, flying or weaving baskets but that is normal here.
Now the first question birders ask when a rare bird is seen on their patch (and a site first at that) is “how good is the finder”? Alain is a good birder and so the record is reliable. Next question is “how many saw it”? No idea but presumably just Alain. You might gather from this that I know Alain, I do! You might also wonder why, with Alain knowing my affinity (read obsession) with St-Lazare sand pits, did he not send me an email on the day – me too and I’m tempted to add ‘again’!
For birders in the UK, the idea of a good bird being ‘sat on’ is nothing new. Suppression is rife at some sites while others are unrecognisable from when I lived there in terms of a new found liberal attitude towards sharing news. Here it is a whole different situation. The aforementioned rare bird web site is ranked high on the Fatbirder listings – 16th in the World (wide web) and yet as a medium for transmitting immediate rarity information it is about as effective as a passenger on the Titanic writing ‘help, we are sinking’ and shoving the note inside a bottle and tossing it into the sea. There is simply not the twitching mentality here or at least that mentality is limited to a very few Quebec birders.
I missed the bird I predicted might occur a couple of posts ago. I missed a site first. The fact is the pits year list is now 173 and just two off the all-time year record and I should rejoice in that because we have not even scratched ‘duck time’ yet but no, no rejoicing, I am disappointed.
While looking for the phalarope I flushed a sandpiper from heavy vegetation and it flew a short way, perhaps 10m, before plunging back into the mass. It didn’t call and it was one of the larger shorebirds. My instinct was that it was a Pectoral Sandpiper – it was seen without bins and only fleetingly. I stalked it and flushed it again. Pectoral Sandpipers are mud and grass birds in my experience. I’ve seen them on airports, turf farms and frequently at the pits. They like a bit of wet grass to wander around in but I don’t associated them with dense, 1m high cover albeit with a mud base.
Eventually I got into a position to see the bird well and to get a record shot. It was just a Pectoral Sandpiper but one behaving atypically. So, no phalarope, oddly behaving Pec, still two Baird’s Sands and an influx of Myrtle Warblers. Apart from the phalarope not a bad morning but, of course, I now have to go back and look again because you just never know. Maybe I missed it or maybe it is elsewhere and only occasionally visiting the pits – you can bet that if I see it I’ll tell you.
I wonder if this post will get a ‘like’ from Alain on Facebook like my last one did?
UPDATE: The phalarope was actually an immature Wilson’s and not a Red-necked, still a new species for the pits and still not there anymore. To help any future phalarope finders with the ID of both species I edited a photo of them both together. They are both adults in summer plumage but the biometrics would be the same on immatures in autumn. I did this in photoshop, I hope I have got the proportions correct – just to recap, Red-necked Phalarope is a small shorebird and Wilson’s Phalarope is a bit bigger! For those who have had a humour bypass – this is just a joke, a spoof, a wheeze and I’m not getting at Alain (again). Realistically, who wants to see a grotty autumn juv when I can look forwards to a belting summer plumage one some day (OK, that would be me).
Here are both photos full size just because they are worth looking at (again). Incidentally, these birds were together on a sewage tank at Baie du Febvre. The tanks were swarming with flies and they both fed within meters of each other. Thank you the good folks of Baie du Febvre for supplying the sewage – keep eating that poutine!
Here is the record shot of the Pec.