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Thursday, 30 August 2018

Trip to Gaspé, QC, Part 3

14 August 2018
Newport - La Malbaie Salt Marsh - Forillon National Park - Percé- Newport

     We had received a tip from a fellow birder on the boat going over to Île Bonaventure about La Malbaie Salt Marsh as an excellent spot to find birds in both freshwater and saltwater habitat. So, based on her recommendation we decided to spend the morning exploring there.


     There appeared to be several access roads to the marsh so we chose one, parked and started to walk along the beach, with salt water on one side and boreal forest with fresh water marshes on the other.
     Several Ring-billed Gulls (Larus delawarensis) were hanging around on the beach and cruising up and down above the water, no doubt looking for fish at the surface.



     Miriam found a swing and it didn't take her long to invoke her inner child as she rocked back and forth.


     The birding was not especially terrific, but we did see a number of Lincoln's Sparrows (Melopsiza lincolnii) - without getting a single picture, however.
     We were a little more fortunate with Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), both adult and sub adult,  a familiar species, but always thrilling to see, especially when one contemplates that not so many years ago, in the unenlightened days of organochlorine pesticide abuse, extinction seemed a real possibility, at least for populations outside Alaska.




     A lone Savannah Sparrow, seemingly out of context, was seen, proving that birds in migration can show up just about anywhere.


     There seemed to be other areas to park, accessible only by going back out onto the road and driving a little, so that is what we did.
     Almost immediately we heard a Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) and saw it going from perch to perch along a stream, finally coming to rest to enable Franc to capture these glorious images.



     An Eastern Wood Pewee (Contopus virens) was seen artfully camouflaged at times, but appearing briefly in the open where Franc was on it like a duck on a June bug.



     We left La Malbaie at around 11h:30 and drove towards Gaspé to visit Forillon National Park. On the way we stopped at a halte municipale to enjoy the lunch we had brought from home.
     We were advised on entering Forillon that a few Razorbills (Alco torda) were still around, but we were unable to locate any. We were just a little late for the breeding season and the adults were no doubt far out at sea with their young.
     Many Double-crested Cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus) were present.



          And the fact that Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) was also there enabled us to make comparisons between the two species.




     In the wooded areas Ruby-throated Hummingbirds (Archilocus colubris) were fattening up for migration.



     And once again Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis) proved to be one of the most common woodland residents.



     We drove into Percé where we planned to have dinner, arriving on time to do a little shopping. Dinner was taken at Le Riotel restaurant, a place recommended by our friend on the boat the previous day. I started with a seafood chowder, which was thick and tasty, but barely lukewarm. Miriam had crispy shrimp with guacamole which she found delicious. We both had a filet of sole special of the evening, which was not bad, but far from memorable.
     We drove home, arriving just as it went dark. I didn't record what we did for the rest of the evening but I have no doubt that we engaged in esoteric conversations of the highest order, fuelled by generous quaffing from a box of fine Australian wine that Judy and I had bought. In fact she and Miriam sipped lightly and smiled, tippled generously and giggled, swigged mightily and laughed! I will say no more!

All species 14 August: Mallard, Common Eider, Green Heron, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Northern Gannet, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Cormorant, Spotted Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs, Black-legged Kittiwake, Ring-billed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, American Herring Gull, Black Guillemot, Rock Dove, Mourning Dove, Belted Kingfisher, Downy Woodpecker, Eastern Wood Pewee, American Crow, Northern Raven, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Common Starling, American Robin, House Finch, American Goldfinch, Pine Siskin, American Redstart, Magnolia Warbler, Song Sparrow, Lincoln's Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow.

15 August 2018
Newport - Réserve faunique de Port Daniel - St. Siméon - Newport

     Our first stop of the day was at the Réserve faunique de Port Daniel, a location that seemed to cater mainly to campers, and hunters and fishers in the appropriate season. 




    The prospect for birding did not initially seem too promising, but a friendly supervisor chatted to us and told us how to get to an isolated lake, closed to the general public for four years, therefore quiet and undisturbed, where we might find numerous species in classic boreal habitat.
     And so we did, this American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus) being one of the highlights.



     A Red Fox Sparrow (Passerella iliaca) was no less agreeable.




       Several Red-breasted Mergansers (Mergus serrator) darted out of little bays, all quite distant, however. 
     We returned to the parking area which was now alive with birds, especially foraging Pine Siskins (Spinus pinus) which, despite our best attempts eluded photographs.
     Cedar Waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum) were a little more cooperative.



      Cape May Warblers (Setophaga tigrina) played hide and seek with us, but enabled us to get a few shots, even dropping down onto the grass to snag an insect or two.




     Myrtle Warblers (Setophaga coronata) were also quite common.



     Upon leaving the reserve at Port Daniel we drove up and down the coast, finding an area with a bridge connecting a fresh water stream on one side to the ocean on the other. 
     On the ocean side many gulls occupied the shallows close to shore, including our only sighting of Bonaparte's Gull (Chroicocephalus philadelphia) for the trip.






     There were a few shorebirds too, mainly Semipalmated Sandpipers (Calidris pusilla) and Semipalmated Plovers (Charadrius semipalmatus), quite far out, however, and inaccessible for the most part.
     The freshwater side seemed to be a bathing area for gulls, with both Great Black-backed (Larus marinus) and American Herring Gulls (Larus smithsonianus) splashing and immersing themselves with vigour. 




     Bathing has a good deal to do with feather maintenance of course, but it is hard not to conclude that there is also a good deal of pleasure involved, when you see the sheer exuberance exhibited by the birds.

     
     A lone Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) seemed to feign invisibility for much of the time.


     But finally it tired of the human gawkers and flew away in regal majesty, mocking the earthbound witnesses it left behind.


      We were content to sit and eat our lunch with the birds that remained. A sandwich at home is a sandwich, a sandwich by the ocean with gulls circling and screaming, with a little breeze bearing the faint odour of salt, with shorebirds scurrying up and down, is a feast.
     Having eaten, we drove down the coast quite a way to St. Siméon, where we located a shorebird bonanza, and concluded that numbers of migratory birds must have arrived overnight, since their presence had been sparse up until now.
We returned to the same location the next day, where the results were even better, so I will save the pictures until then.
    We picked up a barbecued chicken at the grocery store, a baguette, and salad fixings - all that we needed for a fine dinner on our final night in Gaspé.

All species 15 August: Mallard, Common Eider, Harlequin Duck, Red-breasted Merganser, Pied-billed Grebe, American Bittern, Great Blue Heron, Northern Gannet, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Cormorant, Turkey Vulture, Grey Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Ruddy Turnstone, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs, Bonaparte's Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, American Herring Gull, Rock Dove, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Downy Woodpecker, American Crow, Northern Raven, Cedar Waxwing, Black-capped Chickadee, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Common Starling, American Robin, American Goldfinch, Pine Siskin, Black-and-White Warbler, Cape May Warbler, Bay-breasted Warbler, Myrtle Warbler, Red-winged Blackbird, Red Fox Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Lincoln's Sparrow, Chipping Sparrow.

16 August 2018
Newport - St. Siméon - Montmagny

     We breakfasted, loaded the vehicle and were soon on our way
     Having experienced our first substantial shorebird aggregation the previous day we decided to stop at St. Siméon to see what we could find. It was in fact even better, with new species having arrived - or perhaps we had missed them earlier.
     One of the most numerous species was Semipalmated Plover, with well in excess of a hundred I would imagine, often hunkered down on the stony beach like little dumplings sandwiched between the rocks. The feeding was good with polychaete worms providing an excellent return for the effort to find them.




     There was also a spectacular concentration of Grey Plovers (Pluvialis squatarola) in every plumage gradient from almost complete alternate plumage to definitive basic.



     Carol had spotted a Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres) the day before but despite intensive searching with two scopes we were unable to relocate it. A couple of Short-billed Dowitchers (Limnodromus griseus) was, however, more than adequate compensation.



     Often birds were whirring around in the air and meandering hither and yon in formation, in that classic shorebird fashion, often veering far offshore and coming to land at a distant spot. This flock of White-rumped Sandpipers (Calidris fuscicollis) never landed anywhere close but was distinctive in flight.


        Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes) was not hard to find.


  
     Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca) was present too, but so distant that photographs were out of the question.
     A couple of Sanderlings (Calidris alba) were much more photogenic.



     A Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularius) flew across in front of us showing its distinctive underwing pattern.

  
     As mentioned, Semipalmated Plover was probably the most numerous of the shorebirds, but Semipalmated Sandpiper (Calidris pusilla) was quite common too, often both foraging and flying together.






     Least Sandpiper (Calidris minutilla) was not nearly as common.


     And you can see a lone Pectoral Sandpiper (Calidris melanotos)  in the following picture.


     All too soon we had to depart, because to paraphrase Robert Frost we had "miles to go before we sleep." 
     It was an uneventful trip to Montmagny where we checked into the same motel we had stayed at on the way out. There was a wetland area nearby and Franc, Carol, Judy and I went to check it out. There were myriad shorebirds present but with waning light and distance being factors, it was impossible to identify most of them. But the pictures are enchanting nonetheless.



     As we left the marsh the sun was setting, a burst of beauty to cap an enjoyable day.



      Upon our return to the motel Judy decided that she only needed a few snacks from the cooler for dinner, but Franc and Carol, Miriam and I went out for pizza. The pizzas were huge and the toppings plentiful.
     We bade each other goodnight and turned in for a well earned rest.

All species 16 August: Mallard, American Black Duck, Common Eider, Great Blue Heron, Northern Gannet, Double-crested Cormorant, Western Osprey, Bald Eagle, Grey Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Sanderling, Least Sandpiper, White-rumped Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Short-billed Dowitcher, Spotted Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs, Greater Yellowlegs, Ring-billed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, American Herring Gull, Rock Dove, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Downy Woodpecker, American Crow, Common Starling, American Goldfinch, American Yellow Warbler, Brown-headed Cowbird, Song Sparrow.


17 August 2018
Montmagny, QC - Waterloo, ON

      We had the vehicle loaded before 06h:30 and stopped at Tim Horton's to pick up coffee and a bagel and cream cheese for Miriam. I had a slice of cold pizza from the night before.
      It was basically an uneventful drive home other than for a torrential rain shower going through Toronto, but even that didn't delay us too much. We were home around 17h:00.

General Comments

     This was a short trip but really quite fabulous. The experience with the colony of Northern Gannets left an indelible imprint, one which I am sure will remain with us all forever.
     I need to express my sincere appreciation to Carol for organizing the accommodation in Newport, making the motel reservations in Montmagny, and taking care of myriad other details. She does this so well, with good cheer, and we have come to rely on her so much.
     Franc was his usual ebullient self. Put a camera in his hand, a bird in front of him and he is happy.
     Judy was a great companion and made sure we had hot steaming coffee every morning - and there is little more important than that!
     Miriam as always was there to offer encouragement, inject good humour with her quick wit, and help me in so many ways I lose count.