We finally broke and headed off to Miramichi, New Brunswick hoping to see the very long-staying Mistle Thrush, a first for North America, and maybe even catch a little local music although I’m not sure that there are Miramichi bands roaming the streets playing in winter? It is about an eight hour trip from home on some of the finest, pot-holed roads Canada has to offer but we’d never been, now had a car we had confidence in and it would be a Canada tick too, what is not to like?
We got there late afternoon a bit unsure of exactly where to be, but Peter Gadd, the finder and now something of a Mistle Thrush addict, (he’s been to look for it every one of its 80 days stay) put us right. The weather was good, the subdivision iced up roads were so reminiscent of Quebec that we might have felt a twinge of ‘home’ sickness had we not had more sense. The spot to be was nice and open, the trees it used in full view, the light good and the temperature not as bad as it could have been, the only thing lacking was the thrush.
I’ll admit that chasing the Mistle Thrush had not been a priority. Had it been in Nova Scotia then that would be quite different but New Brunswick does not hold the same allure, splendid place that it no doubt is. Factor in too that Mistle Thrush used to breed in our UK yard and probably still do. It is an every day bird in the UK, literally and especially if you know the call and song. You might wonder at the title, the old or colloquial name for Mistle Thrush is Stormcock because they (reputedly) sing at the advent of a rain storm, so they pretty much sing all day long in Lancashire I expect.
Back to the tense story and, having failed on Feb-26th we found a nice little hotel, ate in a local eatery and set the alarm for dawn. A light frost greeted us when we headed out, just as the sun rose. We were quickly back at the scene of the crime, Peter was already there, and soon set about examining every avian thing that moved. I had set a ‘time of death’ as 10:00, my heart was full of optimism (and blood although it was rapidly draining) but my head made plain the realism of the obvious, it had gone. We did have some compensation in the form of a few New Brunswick ticks (like this Pileated Woodpecker) although that was akin to a one legged man winning a posh pair of sneakers!
We called it a bust and headed back to the best province in Canada, disappointed true but if you don’t dip now and then you don’t appreciate the successes and, hopefully, we have peaked in the dipping sense this year and so it should be plain ticking to the year’s end!
After a light repast in Amherst we headed to get the Eurasian Collared Dove for Sandra, it would be 299 in Nova Scotia and it was although it was crappy views but, sticking to theme, it was a bird that nested in our UK yard so one out of two was as good as it was going to be.
The Canvasback remains on full view like a very good duck, very much showing those aloof gulls how to do it I should say as it allows everyone who wants to see it the opportunity. Just before zapping off to New Brunswick I snapped it again, better than the first few attempts although it slept for much of the time I watched it, giving about 15 seconds of head-up time.
I took a few photos of a female Common Eider inside Daniel’s Head wharf recently. It struck me that it might be of the race Borealis, the northern version, which is known to appear here fairly frequently. I looked back in my archive and found one from the same location and time period in 2017. Obviously I need to pay closer attention. From what I have gleaned from the web, my 2017 bird appears to be borealis while the Feb-2018 bird may well be an intergrade between dresseri (ours) and borealis. I don’t intend to go too deeply into this, just present the images here, along with a ‘control’ regular dresseri female. Had this been a Pacific Eider (still a subspecies, be patient) then I would have been more effusive and, for encouragement, there has been one Newfoundland record (a male) plus what may have been a hybrid.
Above, our regular Dresser’s Eider (female, check out the lobes).
Above (2017), borealis? Below (2018), hybrid or borealis?
For a bit more reading on the Pacific Eider in Newfoundland, here are a couple of links that won’t disappoint. Also read all about Europe’s first Pacific Eider, surely we in Nova Scotia have a chance of this one showing up?