This is an update without anything solid to update with. No new birds, and we are getting our arses kicked. But since most people assume we are taking turns paddling a kayak across Alamo Lake in Arizona for an interloping Blue-footed Booby – and I truly wish we were – Robyn and I are in fact freezing and increasingly frustrated at the Gulf of Saint Lawrence in the heart of French Canada, dipping on my target birds in painfully slow motion. The plan was to find Dovekies on the Matane – Godbout Ferry, and Purple Sandpipers at one of several red-hot locations on the southern shoreline. This should have happened on Sunday and Monday. Monday was the big ferry ride – two hours out, and two hours back; departing Matane at 7:30am, and returning to dock at 1:30pm. But conditions on the prow of the ferry were brutal, and though I had several ‘almost sure sightings’ of Dovekies, on each occasion, upon returning to the protected cabin and inspecting my photos, they morphed into bigger birds of different species (Black Guillemots, Razorbills, Commonb Murres). The combination of fogged goggles, considerable distance, big waves and big hopes conspired to apparent ‘shrinkage’. As per the previous afternoon, we then searched unsucessfully for Purple Sandpipers – in one site where a flock had been spotted that very morning. Again, a false-hope internal high-five when I saw a Black-bellied Plover at a distance and gave a big thumbs up to Robyn some distance away. At least I added White-winged Scoter to my year photo list. Sheesh.
The most challenging part of playing it smart in this game is to know when to give up. With the competing factors of intermittent forecasts of good weather – the next being a particularly good day on Thursday, competing opportunities including the Booby, and the offer help from Quebec birder Vernon Buckle towards what looks to be a sure bet for Dovekies (but involves wildly expensive five stopover flights), and the difficulty I have in ‘killing’ one day, let alone two, as had me second-guessing on an hourly basis, after deciding to hang around for a second ferry run on Thursday. Today’s ferry was cancelled due to blizzard conditions, and tomorrow’s is also in jeopardy due to very big wind warnings. We combatted insane conditions today to try to ambush hunkered-down Purple Sandpipers, but this proved a really dumb idea. So one day killed towards a potential big day on Thursday, but I’m on the brink of cashing in my chips and shooting off to Arizona. I hate killing time, especially when I can access rare bird reports from elsewhere on an hourly basis. Anyway, that’s where I’m at – I’ll update next when I actually have something to report. Hope its before I leave Canada, but I give that a 50/50 chance only.
Video to follow: