Some birds have a mythical aura for a UK birder. They are usually ones that are very rare out of their normal range and even then they are usually one day, one observers things. Brϋnnich’s Guillemot is one of those species, better known as Thick-billed Murre on this side of the pond but I much prefer Brϋnnich’s. It is a bird I’d hoped to have bumped into by now but they are hard in Québec, not impossible if you take the mail boat out to Blanc Sablon but hard.

Yesterday, Ontbirds carried a message with details of a Thick-billed Murre showing doen to feet off the lake front at Kingston. Odds were that it was a sick bird, disorientated and in distress – it probably wouldn’t last the night or it might take the opportunity to lose itself out somewhere in the vastness of Lake Ontario. Either way the odds were pretty much against it still being there today.

Just in case, provisions were made for me to have the car capable of doing the trip and Sandra was willing to drive the wreck to work. As it happened circumstances conspired to make us both available for the trip and so we sped off down to Kingston once news came through that the bird was still present.

Ontbirds is a model for rapid bird information by email. It is updated by subscribers with not just initial discovery news but also updates and actual directions to the bird as a standard requirement. This excellent device meant that we were able to arrive at the site with minimal fuss and saw the bird before we even got out of the car. It was just sat out in slack water a few feet offshore showing the nonchalance that alcids often do in such situations.

Thick-billed Murre was a life bird and one I really expected to see as a blob offshore or barrelling along at 500m identified less by plumage and more by not being a Common Murre. Photos were taken and a few are reproduced below for your enjoyment.

Additional – the bird had gone the next day but people were claiming it, misidentifying a Common Loon for it. Call me controversial but, you have to be pretty crap at bird identification to mistake a loon for a murre, sorry but there it is. If you are reading this and were one of those who made that mistake, what were you thinking?

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Spot the murre!

A few more from yesterday – Sandra’s murre and Common Loon and Brown Creeper.

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2 thoughts on “Brϋnnich’s

  1. Great Post. It was me who first put out the news – glad that ONTBIRDs is doing such a good job. You must have something similar in Quebec I assume?
    I have to agree about the farce on Thursday. If I hadn’t have been in Niagara that day, all that false news may have been avoided. That’s the trouble with downtown twitches I guess – too many well-intentioned ‘bird watchers’ rather than birders.
    I spent many years in Notts too from the late 80’s to the mid-90’s. Got the Bufflehead at your place in ’94 but been a Kingston resident. for the last year…

    • Hi Mark – Glad you liked it. Very un-Canadian of me to make comments about people’s ID capabilities but really! Common Loon for a Thick-billed Murre! I miss Notts, they have some Parrot Crossbills there at the moment, a big grip back after suppressed birds in 1990/91. Kingston looks a nice place to be, lots of good and undiscovered sites out that way, I’m always impressed when we visit and we have yet to dip. Re bird news – no Quebec doesn’t have anything near Ontbirds. We have a web site (in French) with updates once per day, usually around 21:15. We also have the mailing list OrnithoQC but it doesn’t update like Ontbirds, maybe one day.

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