One last check for emails before I donned my scruffs and did something domestic on Wednesday 25th September was a good call, a bird at Baie-du-Febvre had been confirmed as a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper although I suspect that it knew what it was all the time. A quick call to tell Sandra that her high flying job had to go on the back burner for the rest of the day – capable car emergency, this was a lifer – and we were away by 3.30, told you she was a good one.
One morning in February the director of transportation in Quebec got up, had a mouth full of coffee then sneezed on his interactive computer screen. Unfortunately he’d been planning the road works for the forthcoming year and had left the program open, result, most of Québec’s roads are currently being moved three feet to the left for no apparent reason. This meant that it took us three hours instead of a lot less to get there but we were able to enjoy the delights of the Mercier Bridge on the way. Sharp-tailed Sandpiper has been a big ‘want’ of mine for many years and so it was ‘buttocks cracking walnuts’ time for the last 30km as the sun sank and the clock ticked.
Ten birders were staring into the drained sewage tank as we rolled up and we got onto the bird very quickly. It was good to see some of the cream of Québec birding there and to actually say hi in person to Leah, François, Samuel, Olivier etc. They in turn got to say hi to the fool that spends most of his life at St-Lazare sand pits and is always fatter and older than expected.
Going back to the Sharp-tailed and the classic comparison species is Pectoral Sandpiper but, really, they are chalk and cheese when you see one. Drained sewage tanks are always shorebird magnets and this one was no exception although the sinking sun meant that we concentrated on the lifer and didn’t get to look around the rest of the tank much. One bird did attract my attention briefly and I grabbed a few record shots of it, results below. I suspect that it is a hybrid White-rumped x Dunlin, the bill is over large for a White-rump and there is no attenuation to the rear caused by the long primary projection beyond the tail, comments welcome, photos here: Update – after a lengthy web search I’m more leaning towards a Dunlin in transitional plumage now, face on it looks most Dunlin like, side on it looks odd. Instructive at least.
As well as the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper I did get Ruddy Duck for the year in Quebec but missed out on a Long-billed Dowitcher – didn’t know it was there. The tanks had lots of other shorebirds as well though and, had we had that extra hour, it would have made some difference in terms of looking around. It really is a pity that all municipalities in Québec don’t have these open tanks, like they do in lots of places in Ontario. It’s probably down to some ‘nanny state’ law or other that prevents it – who cares if there is a bit of a stink down wind and the odd person falls in, never to be seen again, think shorebirds people!
Below then are the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper shots – not great due to the light etc. I’ve included a shot taken through the scope on the iPod – I wish I knew how to up the quality of the shots through that thing, it looks quite good in the iPod and was not particularly small as an image, no cropping took place here.