Serene St-Lawrence

If you didn’t read the last post then this one will make no sense, not that I can guarantee that it will anyway.

After seeing Sept-Isles and birding a few local spots we headed west to Baie Comeau and our hotel for the night. Some towns you drive through and like, they have an aura of nice, even friendly although it is all subjective. Baie Comeau doesn’t come across as anywhere you’d want to linger and the best part about it is the road leading west. By the time we’d got there it was late so we did a web search for a restaurant. MacDonald’s, Subway, Generic Pizza you are not restaurants but have hijacked the web to push yourself to the fore. If I want fast ‘food’ that is what I will type, now sod off. We ended up in ‘Mike’s’!

The best thing about the meal was seeing a flock of Common Nighthawks go past at eye-level almost. The worst thing was the grubby pair behind us. He left his seat to smoke outside the window a good half-dozen times and then brought back his nauseating aroma for all to enjoy. She doused herself from a bottle with a suction dropper containing some unction that smelt like a cross between lineament and Skunk. If we’d lived in ‘Game of Thrones’ times their heads would have been on a spike outside soonest. Then they had our waitress for their order. It was one of those not this, do this, why can’t I have this etc. You know the type, drowned in a bucket at birth would have been a mercy for us all.

We left Baie Comeau early the next day and headed west. We made a few stops but birdy sites were all a bit full with vacationing humans so we pushed on to Longue-Rive. The tide was falling and we hoped for shorebirds. To cut a short story shorter we saw ten Semipalmated Plovers and that was it. There are more shorebirds and more variety at St-Lazare sand pits at the moment but Longue-Rive will shine in a few weeks. Pushing on to Les Escoumins the tide had dropped and the basin in the town was full of Bonaparte’s Gulls doing their bow-legged waddle around the increasingly exposed muddy edges. Little Gull was our target here but none were to be found.

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Our last night was to be in a small hotel at Baie Ste-Catherine, a chalet as it happened and quite suitable. We didn’t stop at Tadoussac, too busy and besides, the place fancies itself something rotten. I’d liken it to one of those haughty types who think they are too good to even talk to you but who actually have a face like a smacked dogs arse. So we hopped on the ferry and decided to do an afternoon whale trip. It would get us out into the Minch where there would be birds and, presumably, a few of the regular Fin Whales. We’ve done the trips half-a-dozen times over the years and not really found them to be very (rare) birdy, but the whales are great and so our afternoon was settled.

The boat was busy, naturally, and there seemed to be a very high percentage of Chinese and Russian visitors. The excited and exotic gabble increased as we reached the best area for the whales, just offshore from Les Bergeronnes. There were several boats gathered and it was clear that there had been some activity, so we waited. The guide prattled on, as they do, until the surface broke and a Blue Whale spouted. The deck was awash with things beginning with i being used to take memorable photographs of sea recently vacated by whale.

More whales broke the surface all around us, we had five Blue Whales all feeding quietly while we all bobbed above them. The whales would break the surface, spout through their impressive blow-holes, then bob under. They’d do this five to seven times before diving. Blues will fluke (tail out of the water) but only one of the five was fluking and then only once. One they dive they are gone for either a few minutes of half-an-hour. These were of the five minute variety.

During the whale activity an adult Black-headed Gull appeared, had a look and decided that it would go elsewhere. Unexpected but not unwelcome.

The guide reckoned that the Blue Whales had only arrived two days before and that we had been on their best trip for blues ever. If your ambition is to see a Blue Whale go now, they won’t wait. When we decided to do the whale trip we toyed with taking a Zodiac instead of the bigger boat. It would have been interesting to have been as close as the Zodiac in the shot but perhaps also a bit nervy!

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After the trip we repaired to our base and checked the rare bird news. Poot, three Little Gulls had been seen at Les Escoumins on the high tide that morning. That particular event (the tide) would happen again very soon and so we set off back there. While waiting for the ferry we noted this sign. Presumably it is only directed at males, otherwise there would have been an equally graphic depiction of the barred activity. When I say graphic, clearly the sign said what not to do but the lack of equipment clearly suggests that it was modelled for in winter!

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We hared it back to Escoumins, enjoying yet another moment of driving glee as the guy behind us was one of those who assumed that he was the only one who wanted to pass the geriatrics in front, once the road becomes two lanes, wrong. He tried the ‘crossing solid lines’ thing but I did the ‘Hyundai coming through’ thing so he had to wait another ten seconds. I wonder if he thought I was calling him a  banker as he tore past, then went on to top at least 150 past everyone else. As we neared Les Escoumins we kept an eye out for a pink tree or rock but were disappointed.

At Les Escoumins there were Bonaparte’s Gulls everywhere and Black-legged Kittiwakes everywhere else. We scanned and re-scanned to no avail, so we decamped to the ferry dock and waited while the gulls all filed out of the harbour and off to roost on the river. At least two Little Gulls came out, they’d probably been in the entrance to the pool area all the time and so beyond our scoping range. Out on the river was a mass of white as all the local gulls settled down for the night. Presumably they all wake up well downstream and have to fly back every day but who am I to question their logic.

We left the area the next day, making home in five hours which is about right. It was a good trip with some nice stuff but a little too early for the real autumn migration. The additions to my North America year list made the trip worthwhile and the Blue Whales were just superb. It looks like jaegers will have to wait a few weeks.

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2 thoughts on “Serene St-Lawrence

  1. Only a German’s sense of humour could top your bleeding edge commentary today! I had a very nice dinner and hotel room at Hotel le Manoir in Baie Comeau (a good deal in off-season October, many years ago). The site was pretty but the rest of the town was as you described. Your birding descriptions and photos remain very educational. Helen K

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