Santa Comes Early to the Richelieu River

We were eating breakfast at the little cafe about 9:00 AM. Bland Liz, Zeke, Doug and I were all hungry from standing out in the wind, rain and cold.   The geese had all departed to feed in the fields and again the Graylag Goose was not to be seen.  Just as the waitress was bringing us our food the phone rang. Susan Billetdeux from NARBA was on the other line. I smiled. An early Christmas present?  When Susan calls it often meant another chasable rarity has shown up somewhere in North America.  But she surprised me when she asked if we’d seen the bird.  There was a report that it had been seen!  Moments later, Leah den Besten was on the phone asking us if we’d seen the goose.  It was apparently right in front of Zeke and I on the Richelieu R. on the east side.  We’d missed it!

No one was smiling as we wolfed down breakfast. Yesterday it was personal. Today we hated that damn goose.  I mean isn’t it the plainest goose in the world? Of course it was the type species for the genus Anser.  Probably Linnaeus himself named it. We drove the fields trying to find feeding flocks, without any luck so we repositioned ourselves on the west bank at around 12:00 PM and waited….and waited.  There wasn’t a single goose on the river.  Things looked bleak.  I promised myself that if necessary I would stay thru Thursday.  1:00 PM came and went. Then 1:30 PM.  Soon after though, an odd sight appeared down the road moving towards us.  I really couldn’t believe my eyes.

Santa Claus Running on the Rue Champlain (Photo by Doug Koch)

It was Santa Claus and he was running straight towards us.  If Susan Billetdeaux didn’t have an early present, perhaps Santa did?

This gave us a small lift.  We decided to cross back over to the east bank of the Richeliue R. and set up position where it had been seen this morning.  Unfortunatly, the geese came in late.  Around 4:00 PM, 15 to 20 thousand Greater Snow Geese  pored out of the sky to alight on the Richelieu about 1 mile south of us. It was a mind staggering, incredible sight.

10,000 Snow Geese on the Richelieu R. (Photo by Doug Koch)

But where were the Canada Geese. At 4:10PM we heard them.  Three thousand Canadas came in-now all at once and unlike yesterday when they staggered in over a period of 30 minutes.  We had to work fast, light was fading.  There were five scopes on the water, sifting through each Canada to find a goose without the white cheek patch.  Leah spotted it first and believe me folks it was a hell of a spot.  I went to her scope to verify and clearly saw the plain patterning, shorter thicker neck and orange bill.  Soon everyone but Liz was on it, but the light was fading fast and the current was pushing the entire armada down river

Tomorrow, Doug will drop me off in Albany, NY where I will fly to San Antonio, then drive to Salineno for the Brown Jay.  But before we go, we’ll help give Bland Liz an early Christmas present.  Graylag Goose on a silver platter!

Easy Viewing - Graylag Goose on the Richelieu R. (Photo by John Vanderpoel)


Graylag & Canada Goose (Photo by John Vanderpoel)

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14 Responses to Santa Comes Early to the Richelieu River

  1. Simon Duval says:

    It was a pleasure sharing that moment with you John! Good luck with the Brown Jay!

  2. Deanna Campbell says:

    Tres bien! Merveilleux! Hip Hip Hooray! Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’! Happy Texas! Deanna

  3. Wes Hatch says:

    Hey John,

    Congrats on the goose, just wanted to relay you that there has been a possible sighting of a Rufous-capped Warbler at Florida Wash, AZ. The bird has not been confirmed, but I will keep a look out for anymore information that comes across.

    Wes Hatch

  4. matt Beatty says:

    A red-flanked bluetail was reported on ebird today, on San Clemente Island (LA co., CA). Not sure if it’s been comfirmed, but .

  5. Mike Hendrickson says:

    The momentum has moved to your favor.. keep it going John!

  6. Mike Kilburn says:

    A great pull-back!

    Love the “message from the universe” provided by the nutcase jogger!

    Imagine how much fun we would have missed out on if you’d obeyed the golden rule of twitching (Go! . . Now!) and looked for the goose as soon as it turned up instead of playing it cool!

    Best wishes for at least nine more Christmas gifts in the next 24 days!


  7. Lamarr Eddings says:

    Rolling now! Let’s get the Jays now!

  8. JVK says:

    Red-flanked Bluetail found in California. Pictures posted on ebird.

  9. Wes Hatch says:

    There has also been a Red-flanked Bluetail found on December 6 2011 on San Clemente Island, California. Good Luck with the Brown Jays!

    Wes Hatch

  10. Wes Hatch says:

    The Rufous-capped Warbler has now been confirmed. It is being seen above the Florida Wash dam in Madera Canyon, AZ.

  11. Wim van Dam says:

    San Clemente Island is operated by the US Navy, which runs practice bombardments there. This Red-flanked Bluetail is pretty much the definition of an unchaseable bird.

  12. Brad Sillasen says:

    Re the Red-flanked Bluetail …I suggest you buy yourself a parachute and commission a small aircraft. Hopefully you’ll get the bird before your arrested, then be able to raise bail quickly enough to get back on the road and smoke 745!

    …seriously speaking, that is just painful! :(

  13. Liz Southworth says:

    A bland goose for Bland Liz :-)

    Bland Liz

  14. John says:

    FYI, the Bluetail was not refound today.

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