I try to avoid St-Lazare sand pits at the weekend if I can unless, that is, I can get there early and be away before other ‘users’ show. This weekend I had to go later than hoped, in part due to Premiership Football (a game involving kicking a round ball) and so it was nearing 2pm when I got there today.
I’d expected cars in the parking zone but there were none and nobody was visible from the gate. I entered and started scanning the 1100 or so Canada Geese when three cars and their noisy occupants arrived and disgorged into my space. I thought I’d seen all of the weekend irritations. Anglers, I accept not all are bad but those that leave yards of discarded monofilament line should have it tied tightly around their testicles just so they can see how it feels for a bird to suffer. Model plane fliers scare everything away, dog walkers are mostly ok but not all are responsible. Trials motorbikes and ATVs, well let’s just say I’m in favour of culling. Horse riders, mostly harmless and occasionally people bring toy yachts down to sail. Today I met the motorised toy car crowd, oh joy. They have these remote control dune buggy things that even a twelve year old would get bored with after a very short while and they race them all around the sand heaps. Maybe it’s just me as I get older and less tolerant but these people didn’t pay to enter the pits and then became a noisy nuisance so I made sure to put some distance between us. I know that natural selection means that their genetic line is doomed but honestly, it seems a long time to wait!
The birds at the pits were not untypical of the first week of November except for a Pectoral Sandpiper (see below). Earlier in the week I had to add the species to eBird, now it’s back unprompted – I guess that is what eBird is all about, flexibility and acknowledging the changing status of species, however gradual.
The waterfowl had the usual mix although the Common Merganser numbers are now up to 30. I’m hoping a Red-breasted Merganser might visit before the freeze up. The Ruddy Ducks have gone but a couple of Northern Shoveler remain along with Northern Pintails and between 60-90 Green-winged Teal. The next three weeks could be quite interesting as scoters move through the area, White-winged would be a nice addition, Common Goldeneye is also possible, Barrow’s is just a pipe dream.
While I was scanning the Canada Geese for a Cackling (no joy) a chap came up for a chat. He had a camera but no optics and was impressed by my Nikon scope so I showed him the geese through it. He is an occasional visitor to the pits and in winter goes snowshoeing with his camera along the trails. A couple of years ago he snapped an owl on one of the trails. He said Great Grey Owl but a couple of years ago they were scarce and I thought perhaps Barred Owl, however, he still had the image on his card and there it was, a live Great Grey Owl. It looks like I’ll have to get my own snow shoes out and trek the trails a bit, see what else is sat out there in winter.
Below are a few shots of the Pectoral Sandpiper.