The Bird Chasers #1, NW Ontario


November 13, 2013, Thunder Bay Ontario

Have you ever felt like a piece of garbage?  As they say, “sometimes you’re the windshield sometimes you’re the bug,” yesterday, I was thinking I was more like the bug, but I could have also been the windshield, cause after a two day drive, I hurt all over.   In reality I was not unlike this discarded monkey, useless but mostly recognizable, looking like a real birder but mostly a pretend one…but in the end thrown out with the rest of the trash.

My friend Jim and I went chasing birds yesterday to sunny, and balmy Thunder Bay Ontario after I received a hot tip of a code 3 rarity, the slaty-backed gull, located in of all places, a dump….ok, it was a landfill.  It was seen on the 7th and well it was still there on the 10th so Jim sitting at 530 for his year total after seeing a Thayer’s Gull in Lake Superior needed a bird so away, we went.

I have been stripped, prodded, poked, harassed while crossing into Canada, mostly in my youth but even twice in the last two years at Pigeon River south of Thunder Bay so I was a bit uncomfortable answering “why are you coming to Canada?”  Somehow going to see a bird in a dump, didn’t seem believable but I got a couple extra questions but nothing special, surprisingly so I was loose in Canada…eh!.  It was quite the prOcess…ok…I jest at the accents, but well, I’ve been in Canada so much I can pick up the ‘shield’ accent pretty easily, and I can pour gravy on my fries like the best Canuck ever.  I have even sang O’Canada to the fullest of my lungs at Hockey Games at GM Place in Vancouver, so give me a Blue, eh!

After we jumped a bobcat on the highway, a nice look at a male, all furred out, Jim and I met Brian, a local raptor expert at the dump, it was he who made the discovery of the rare Asian gull.  He was kind enough to give us the tour under the watchful eyes of nearly 200 eagles, and over a thousand Herring Gulls.  We started the slow slog sorting through the gulls,….. nope, not, sorry, no, nah…… was like finding a gull in gullstack, we did however identify somewhat of an oddity, the Glaucous Gull, a little larger and whiter than the Herrings, a few show up in the Lake Superior basin each fall.

glaucous gull

I hadn’t seen one in 2013 so that was something, in any event.  Jim had seen one in New Jersey so no new bird for him, we looked and looked but alas no rare gull, it had apparently flown the coup and was gone.

Now we sit here in America and think the US Government bureaucracy is the worst well, Canada is no slouch either….after two hours of searching we drove out through the dump gate and were notified that the dump is now closed for birding, the Ministry had determined us to be a liability, it was apparently nothing we had done and I cant believe they had seen all that many birders chasing this rare gull.  This a public dump.  Birders now need to sneak in with garbage I suppose and dawdle while throwing it out?  Another birding hot spot lost, too bad.  Brain looked in shock, I for one was well behaved, I was NOT even nude birding…….maybe I should have.  That would give them something….no it was cold out.

We want people to get out and do something, but apparently as long as it isn’t where anyone else is or in the way of anyone.  I have been banned from a train (wrong ticket), banned from a library (fines), and now I have been banned from a dump, what could be next?  It am sort of like that stuffed monkey, I look pretty useful but still thrown out anyhow.

The slaty gone, the dump closed….it was not a good trip home, I texted the North American Rare Bird Hotline the bad news.  We ate fried herring in Beaver Bay and shook our heads.  It is the usual story of the bird chasers….glamourless, long drives and hikes, ending in frustration.  Frustration…. the bane of all of us.  Sometimes one is just the bug and today…..a pretty pathetic one at that.

Brian was very kind and hopefully we will run into him again, just maybe not birding at the dump, maybe just throwing garbage out at the dump…wink wink.  Binoculars….what binoculars!

banned and beaten, but hopefully not forgotten


4 thoughts on “The Bird Chasers #1, NW Ontario

  1. Sorry to hear your beat and battered trip was un fruitful my son. Ask Loren to make Susan famous buttered baked potatoes and you will feel so much better…

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