Waiting for snowies

It has been a little while since I posted so here is a quick update.

Last week I went back for a look at the Ross’s Gull at Chambly. It had settled into a nice routine of visiting the local water treatment plant and showing very nicely and, even though it was cold, it was sunny and calm so I thought I might get a decent photo. I waited three hours and chatted to Ron from New York State but the bird never showed up, it seems I’d picked the day it changed its routine yet again. It later emerged that some people had been watching it for three hours just along from the fort at Chambly over the rapids – three hours and not one of them thought to pop the few kilometers along the road to the water treatment plant to tell the 30+ birders waiting there where it was, pity because some had traveled from as far away as Rhode Island to see it. This little episode highlighted a long-standing problem.

Bird news in Québec is a problem but one that can be solved, especially by some enterprising individual. I’ll just recount that, in the UK back in the early 1990s, a group of birders with contacts set up the Bird Information Service (BIS) and have made a living from it ever since by servicing the birding industry with up-to-the-minute bird news. I don’t think that there would be quite the same uptake here but, there is a niche market and perhaps the requirement for bird information can taken advantage of. Before I get comments about the BPQ occasional sightings page and Oiseaux Rares du Québec http://www.quebecoiseaux.org/index.php?option=com_oiseauxrares&Itemid=133 , yes I know they offer something but, frankly, not enough. If you don’t have an Internet connection you get nothing and it is too dated to be of value on the day. Speaking to Ron from NY he told me that they had a text system at Cape May for rarities so why not the same in Québec?

I suggest that a Francophone – because it would be in French – sets up a phone number and offers it on a subscription basis to those who want it. Any rarities found or any updates on existing rarities would appear on that number in the form of a short text and bird information texts sent to that number would automatically forward to all subscribers. The information would be self-perpetuating as individuals would want to send updates as they themselves would wish to receive them at times.  That is a simplistic synopsis of how it would work, in practice there would be hurdles, I know, I used to run a county birdline (for nine years) and I know the sort of problems that can occur. It would, however, be a start and it would offer an income (from the subscriptions) for the number ‘owner/administrator’ for the inconvenience. It might also grow into a self-supporting industry too, just like in the UK. I know a few of the guys at the top of the QC grapevine read this; they would need to be the ones to run it.

Back to the birding and it has been slow and cold. It is -13°C and the with a cutting -19°C wind chill today and the ground hard and frozen. I’ve been to the pits a couple of times but the water is diminishing and so are the birds. I’ve been down the lanes a couple of times but no Snowy Owls yet although they are popping up elsewhere now. In the garden a Fox Sparrow is still feasting on the seed but hopefully it will see sense and clear off, failing that it can stay until 2-December so I can add it to my winter list if it likes.

I did a bit of editing and there is a modified thing about local (to me) Snowy Owls on the top bar for those interested, mostly pretty pictures unless you are a mouse I suppose.

For now I’m waiting for the first of the winter Snowy Owls to show up, last winter was not great for them, we are perhaps due better this year. This year I might get the chance to take more photos like the one below, no harassment, no mice, just patience, field craft and luck.



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