Yesterday I started out at the pits as usual but ended up wandering to Hungry Bay, then the lake at Pont du Gonzague. The lake was a sea of white and I estimated 6000 Snow Geese were present. The lake is difficult to view because there is no management of the surrounding trees and so you are peeping through small gaps from the cycle path. The only real way to get a better look is to ignore the privee signs and go down the canal side of the lake where there is an unofficial view point.
This little spot is crying out for a public viewing pavilion on the morning light side, the geese are a great spectacle and the lake almost always has some birds on it to look at, don’t suppose it will ever happen though. There are many such spots around the canal area and St-Lawrence River out around Melocheville and St-Timothee (town) where a little investment would make a good birding stop.
The geese were relaxed and so I started to pick my way through them for two reasons. In any flock of Snow Geese my natural inclination is to look for a Ross’s Goose, in most large gatherings there are odd ones but not everyone has the patience (or skill) to find them. My process involved looking at the heads of the geese, find a triangular bill on a small bird and you are part way there. On this occasion I picked out the bill shape I was looking for but on a rather hefty individual. I looked hard at it and, apart from appearing to be a Ross’s Goose that ate all the pies, it looked pretty good. My test of whether a bird is distinctive or not, is to move off it completely for five minutes then go and look for it again. If it sticks out well enough to be easily found then fair enough.
My second reason for getting closer was to read the yellow neck bands that three birds were sporting. I got two but the third was having none of it and just kept tucked up asleep, as 60% of the flock were. I scanned back and found ‘the’ bird again easily but this time it had come a bit closer and was out in the open. It was a bruiser alright so I looked more critically at it. Feature number two when looking at the head of a Ross’s Goose is the base of the bill, straight or concave, this bird was ever so slightly concave. Two plus two makes hybrid, the bird was a cross between Snow Goose and Ross’s Goose and good enough to fool anyone on a distant view. I managed a few pictures, see below. Most show the bird next to a real Snow Goose but one is a shot of the general melange; see if you can pick it out. Incidentally a Ross’s was claimed for the site yesterday too, I must have missed it. Also below is a record shot of a real Ross’s Goose from the pits a few years ago, you can see the difference between it and the imposter.
I moved on to St-Timothee where excellent views of very tall Phragmites were obtained! There were some people cutting out will at the entrance, the bit where the Willow Flycatchers used to hang out and it appeared that they had strimmed the sides of the cycle track, very useful – not. I took matters into my own hands and snapped a gap where I wanted to look from. Plenty of duck were on show but won’t be for long. A couple of freezes and it will be done for the year. Further on towards the canal end I found an immature Black-crowned Night Heron in the little bit that you used to be able to see quite well at one time. As I was watching a late (and I don’t mean dead) American Bittern wandered out into view briefly.
If the people who ‘manage’ St-Timothee Marsh don’t take matters in hand then the only thing visible, until you get to the viewing platform, will be a tunnel of Phragmites. They need to flail the sides of the cycle track as far out as the arm will go and they need a controlled burn of
the Phragmites annually and preferably without burning down the viewing platform. The site could also do with some floating tern trays to encourage the Black Terns back, just simple 3’ x 3’ trays on 5L plastic containers and anchored out where the terns will use them would do.