Wednesday, December 3, 2014


Long-billed Curlew [David Robinson Photo]
On November 28 in the afternoon we received word that a LONG-BILLED CURLEW was seen in Cape Tormentine.  At first it was difficult to believe but two photos following shortly thereafter confirmed it.  The internet channels were instantly buzzing!  A Long-billed Curlew!  This species had not been reported from New Brunswick since the late 1800s.  The rush to get to Cape Tormentine was now on.

I drove down early Saturday morning, the 29th.  And so did another 10 or more vehicles.  I joined up with 3 more birders from Moncton and we scoured that tiny village for the entire day.  Frequently checking with the other birders, it was clear that the bird had either left or was hunkered down in some obscure location.  Thorough birding for about 7 hours by our group until dark did not produce the bird.  By interviewing residents of the village we discovered that the bird had been there for the last 3 days.  How frustrating to discover that such a rarity was present for 3 days and we did not know about it.  It was with disappointment that we headed home.  For me it was an overnight and then a long drive home. 

The bird resurfaced on Sunday, the 30th, appearing on people's lawns again!  On Monday I headed to Cape Tormentine again.  The bird had been found early that morning feeding in a large (~30 acres) ploughed field behind the houses where it had been seen earlier.  The warm weather had melted the snow that had covered the same field on Saturday.  Many people lined up on the TransCanada Trail running along the edge of the field with their scopes, marvelling at this rare visitor to New Brunswick.

When we arrived at 1:30PM four people were in the same area wondering where the bird had gone.  Surely we would not miss this sighting again!  We scoured the area in a heavy wind and found only a few gulls.  We scoured the village; no bird.  I was getting exasperated.  Finally we went out on a side road (Immigration Road) which had an open area giving a different view of the same field.  Two other cars were there and on our arrival I got an instant nod from one of our birders.  An experienced birder can instantly interpret that.  Setting up my scope I still could not find that bird.  One of the other birders came and looked through my scope telling me it was right in the middle of the optical field.  Even though it was there, it was very difficult to see.  It was not the size of the bird that made it difficult to see, because it was a large bird.  It just blended in so well with the habitat.  And wow, what a beautiful bird.

The bird was slowly moving from one place to another within a 40 metre area probing the muddy soil with its long bill and visibly retrieving morsels of food.  It looked like it was getting grubs and earthworms.  We all wished it well in getting plenty of sustenance to fatten it up so it could continue its journey southward.  

Long-billed Curlew [Photo from CBC]

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