No compensation after all

When news broke Saturday of a Ross’s Gull at Chambly Basin, and when I say broke I mean appeared on the QC listserv, I was immediately optimistic that it might stick a while. The bird was an adult and was found off the marina/fort area with a fair few Bonaparte’s Gulls so nice for comparison although not a confusion species at all. The bird had flown off in the afternoon with other gulls, presumably to roost and so we planned to be there the next morning. I felt a kind of symmetry happening as, in my old county of Nottinghamshire, they were enjoying the only ever twitchable Glossy Ibis (fourth county record) and, to make matters worse, a county first Pied Wheatear. Surely the Ross’s Gull was my compensation for the duo so unavailable to me.

We arrived in the rain at 9am and left in the rain at 11am without the bird showing, we could have stayed longer but pneumonia can ruin a day. We got home and the bird showed up again! The drive to Chambly is around an hour but by the time news was posted we decided we couldn’t get there in time and were right, if flew off again but a few people had managed excellent record shots.

Today I went back but not until I’d been to the pits, after all, I had missed a day Sunday and ANYTHING could be there now! As it happens it was pretty much the same as my last visit including a late Greater Yellowlegs that is ‘RARE’ according to eBird.

I got to Chambly at around 10:15am in nice light and with a fair bit of activity around the fort end of the basin. Plenty of Bonaparte’s Gulls were a-wing both close and far. Three Red-necked Grebes were still around to plus a year tick Horned Grebe, which was nice. I’d been there about 39 minutes when people suddenly became animated. Present were perhaps 30 other observers, most birders but a few photographers. The activity centered on a feeding flock of Bonaparte’s Gulls that were conveniently behind a raft of Canada Geese as a marker and the word was that THE bird was in that mix.

Naturally all scopes and other viewing devices were trained in the direction most promising. We scanned and we scanned and we scanned some more. We swept left and we swept right but all to no avail, the ‘in flight’ bird had somehow slipped passed us, only revealing itself to two lucky observers. It was disappointing but promising because that meant that the bird was still there and we only had to be patient before the next appearance. By 3pm I’d looked at an awful lot of Bonaparte’s Gulls, obviously many lots of times. I’d seen a couple of Long-tailed Ducks and pointed them out to others who saw them, even though they were a long way off, and I’d scrupulously noted all of the species I’d seen – counting all but the Mallards and less interesting gulls for eBird but I didn’t see a Ross’s Gull.

It started to rain again, my neck was cricked and I was sure I had feet when I started but could not have given a reliable location for them at that time. I went home without adding the superb Ross’s Gull to my lists but much, much sadder, I didn’t get to enjoy one of the top three gulls in the World again. Once home I thought it was time to post on the blog and so I dug out some scans of Ross’s Gull from my archive and also to see whether I would know the species again even if the image was a bit grainy. I did and this, my sixth (I think) would land behind a chip shop (casse-croute) in Scarborough, UK and allow better photographers than me to capture its beauty.

I later checked Louise Simard’s Québec rarities site and appreciated the sympathetic wording on the Ross’s Gull update. Tomorrow I’ll just lurk and see whether the bird shows up again before venturing off that way again or maybe I’ll get lucky and the Ross’s Gull will be at the pits just waiting for a digital portrait, stranger things happen in the birding World.

Addendum – the nasty little pink thing finally came in at 3.55 – I’d never have made it that long with no feeling in my feet!

My beautiful picture My beautiful picture My beautiful picture

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