Fredericton Nature Club /
Club de la nature de Fredericton

Meetings are held at the Stepping Stone Centre (15 Saunders St.) in Fredericton
at 7:00pm on the 1st Thursday of the month from October to April.
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Saint John - October 19, 2008

With recent sightings of Laughing Gull and Hudsonian Godwit spurring us down Highway 7, 10 members of the Fredericton Nature Club embarked on a recent mid-Autumn trip to Saint John.   The skies were sunny, then cloudy and the temperature hovered below 5oC for much of the morning.   But, there is nothing like a good bird to draw you to a sewage lagoon in October!   Alas, the Laughing Gull was absent, and only15 or so gulls (mainly Herring and Ring-billed, with a few Great Black-backed Gulls) were at the Lancaster Waste Water Treatment site.   Waterfowl were plentiful though - 10 Canada Geese, 4 Shoveler, 2 Gadwall, 11 American Wigeon, 20 Scaup (I thought they were Greaters but I don't recall us discussing it!), 10 Bufflehead (who doesn't love those guys!) and a lovely Ruddy Duck - a Ruddy Duck in New Brunswick is a nice sighting and it helped warm up the hands.   The creek and trail at the gate is often good for something different and we had Swamp and Savannah Sparrows, plus a Lesser Yellowlegs.

Our next stop took us to the shoreline at Saint's Rest Marsh where we hoped for some seaducks but it was rather sparse - no eiders or gulls, or Black Guillemot but there was a Common Loon and 10 Surf Scoters bobbing along about 400m from the beach.   We drove along the Irving Nature Park with Sam Perring, a Naturalist with Irving, who foolishly told us what she had seen earlier and we feigned enough ignorance of her directions that she offered to lead us.   The tide was coming in and thus much of the shorebird activity was far from our observation point and, at over 1km, it's hard to scope a shorebird to species.   But the view was nice.   Around the corner gave us a White-winged Scoter in the Bay, and a Sharp-shinned Hawk overhead (strangely, our only raptor of the day).   We had a quick view of 30-40 Pine Siskins, but we did note spend time in the woods on this trip and passerines were not likely.   A highlight was 2 grebes below the observation platform.   We oscillated between Horned and Red-necked Grebe in winter plumage; the necks were too long for Horned Grebe, but the side plumage was quite white, indicating Horned Grebe.   We settled on Horned Grebe, but, because no one can stop me as I write this (!) I am calling them as Red-necks.   I have seen both species many times, and although these were fairly far off, we had a good, from-above view.   The necks were elongated and the birds quite large; Horned Grebes are similar in size to Pied- billed Grebe (around 12 inches) and these were too large to be Pied-billed.   Red-necked Grebes are much larger, at 20 inches.   I cannot account for the white sides on our birds and so there is that nagging bit of doubt, which I choose to ignore!

Our last stop was to Marsh Creek in industrial Saint John, and although not the prettiest locale for birding, it does provide a good look at shorebirds and waterfowl at the end of Hanover Street.   A Hudsonian Godwit had been sighted a few days earlier but we lucked out on that one.   There were lots of shorebirds though - I counted 38 Black-bellied Plovers, 12 Dunlin, 20 Semi- palmated Plover, and 1 Lesser Yellowleg (he mush have followed us from the morning).   There were about 40 Green-winged Teal, which looked fantastic in the sunlight, as did 4 Gadwall and few wigeon.   There were more Black Duck than I wanted to count, as were the gulls, mostly Herring Gull.   It was now 2 pm, and with a 1 hour drive home, we decided to wrap up the day.   Just as the last 2 cars were pulling out, a bird flew past and landed in a heavily- laden Mountain Ash, but only stayed for a few seconds before flying off into the Marsh.   I tried to make it into a Hudsonian Godwit but it was Northern Mockingbird, and a nice ending.

    Graham Forbes