Saturday, April 25, 2015

Snow Goose Extravaganza

I just got back a few days ago from a trip through Quebec with my girlfriend. We had a great time, with some pretty exciting birds along the way. The standout highlight was the numbers of Snow Geese present. I'll let this video set the scene.

At Baie-du-Febvre huge numbers of Greater Snow Geese stop over every spring and fall, and we were able to get close views of some pretty impressive flocks. I guessed that there were, as a very minimum, fifty thousand birds present, but the number could be much higher.

This banded bird was hanging out with a blue morph Snow Goose. Unfortunately I think there were more letters around the band that I couldn't read. 

Blue morphs are very common in the western Lesser Snow Geese, but I would say only about 1 in 500 or so were blue morphs in these flocks of Greaters.

Although their numbers paled in comparison, there were many other waterfowl present. Most abundant were Canada Goose (5000+) and Northern Pintail, Green-winged Teal and Ring-necked Duck (1000+ each). The rarest bird was this male Eurasian Wigeon that was one of the very first birds we saw.

Look for the bird in the middle with a reddish head and grey body. I've now seen three of these guys this spring!

We continued east to Quebec City and beyond, and traveled up the north shore of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. We had limited time but did see a few seabirds, including Common Eider, Barrow's Goldeneye and Black Guillemot (the last being a lifer for me). Based on an estimated eastern population of 4500 Barrow's Goldeneye, the 50-100 birds we saw represent 1-2 percent!

Only the eiders were close enough for (bad) photos. This is the largest species of duck in North America.

At the eastern end of Quebec City, large tidal mudflats were exposed and we were very surprised to see another massive gathering of Snow Geese. We were treated to the sight of the entire flock taking off at once, something very impressive we'd missed earlier at Baie-du-Febvre.

(photo by Pilar Manorome)

Overall an exciting, if whirlwind trip!

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