Skimmer twitch

The lively storm that swept past the east coast last week has been busy depositing goodies in Atlantic Canada and even as far as Québec. On 17-July a Black Skimmer, the first in the province since 1938, was found on the beach at Riviere-Ouelle about 4.5 hours east of Montreal, or perhaps in the lower St-Lawrence is a better guide! The news broke yesterday but we waited to see whether it had been seen until firing up Red Dwarf. Thanks to a prompt message from Yves Gauthier on OrnithoQC, we were soon on the busy road going east.

It wasn’t the only reason for going that way, Nelson’s Sparrow was an option at nearby La Pocatiere too, plus any of the St-Lawrence species that might be around, auks, loons, sea ducks etc all missing from my year ABA list. But first the priority was to see the skimmer.

We located the bird sat on a quieter bit of the beach area, then we saw the birders, well two, twitching happens differently here and the keenest had already been and gone. It was asleep for much of the time we watched it and range and heat haze proved to be our enemies. After long enough the bird took off and flew away but we presumed that it would come back for the birders still yet to arrive.

On the way to the skimmer spot we’d passed a muddy island in the mouth of the Ouelle River with a few birds resting on it. The tide was dropping as we left so we stopped and gave it as scan, hoping for a shorebird perhaps. There on the mud was the skimmer. I thought that we’d passed some birders arriving as we left so we skipped back and found them, telling were the bird was now, it was our duty as birders, do as you would be done by and all that.

We headed out to try to get a view of the open St-Lawrence but the receding tide had pushed everything beyond even decent scope range so we gave it up as futile. La Pocatiere was on the way home, unless we decided to jump on the ferry, go over to St-Siméon and then bird north to Les Escoumins, we didn’t! No bags, PC or toothbrush and, in the sweaty conditions, the smalls were no doubt ripening too.

At La Pocatiere loads of dark brown butterflies were feeding on the flowing plants, they were Common Wood Browns being common but actually well away from the woods. Our first sweep of the riverside grasses was a failure but, while Sandra took advantage of the facilities and a rest, I managed to find a Nelson’s Sparrow east of the parking lot.

Coming back the traffic was light and we had no problems right up until we got to Vaudreuil where they had shut the road because they are pulling down the old bridge over highway 40. All the way in there were no signs, nothing at all, right up until the cone lorry blocked the road. Fortunately we were going a slightly different way from most and only had a short delay. Those backed up past Hudson going east, and the long lines behind us heading for the Ile aux Tortes probably had a harder time of it. Once again Transport Québec shows what utterly brainless turds they are.

Back to the birding and it was a twitch and a good one. My ABA year list went up to 426 so now I at least have something to submit to Lister’s Corner in that category (it needs to be 400+). I also added a very rare QC and Canadian bird to my list and we got to meet some delightful people. The storm wrecked birds will no doubt continue to be found, there are two Laughing Gulls on the North Shore at the moment, so perhaps we will take advantage of the forthcoming long weekend, dust off the tent and head that way once again.

The photo is lousy I know.

IMG_3761 (2)


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