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Why 2 birders from St. John’s drove 2,800 km to see … this

Why 2 birders from St. John’s drove 2,800 km to see … this

It’s unlikely the typical North American would look twice in the event that they noticed a Eurasian blackbird within the wild. At first look, it resembles one thing near the essential robin, with its black plumage and pointy invoice. 

However relating to birds, Bruce Mactavish and Ken Knowles will not be common North People.

The 2 avid birders — Mactavish from St. John’s and Knowles from close by Outer Cove — had been shocked once they noticed an image circulating on social media days earlier than Christmas of the uncommon hen on the coast of Labrador. It’s a fundamental hen in Europe, identified there because the widespread blackbird, however the pair mentioned they’re solely conscious of 1 different recorded sighting in North America.

They shortly determined to hit the street. The issue? It was 1,400 kilometres away.

“It was most likely partly madness,” Knowles chuckled. “Bruce and I and quite a lot of different birders chase uncommon birds due to the individuality of it. If you happen to noticed a kangaroo in Australia, you wouldn’t exit of your solution to see it. However if you happen to noticed a kangaroo in Newfoundland, you most likely would.”

There was an impediment standing of their method — Christmas. Certainly they couldn’t skip Christmas to see a hen, and vacation closures would trigger issues alongside the route. In order that they took an opportunity on the hen nonetheless being there, and deliberate to go away on Dec. 27.

They left St. John’s round 3:30 a.m. and headed north. They reached the tip of Newfoundland 12 hours later, simply in time to catch the ferry to Labrador. They had been welcomed on the opposite facet by fellow birder Vernon Buckle, who had alerted them to the Eurasian blackbird after it was noticed by a pair, Jeff and Tracy Martin, in Cartwright.

Bruce Mactavish, left, Vernon Buckle and Ken Knowles went for supper at Jungle Jims after seeing the uncommon Eurasian blackbird in Labrador. (Submitted by Bruce Mactavish)

The trio slept half the evening in southern Labrador earlier than driving 4 hours to Cartwright, arriving simply because the solar got here up.

And there it was.

“The hen was there below a spruce tree selecting at some frozen apples,” Knowles mentioned. “We had been fairly excited as a result of typically once we go in search of these uncommon birds we wait, and wait, and wait, and typically they by no means present up. However typically they present up instantly, and the remainder of the time you get with the hen is all gravy.”

So how lengthy do you spend watching a uncommon hen you drove 1,400 kilometres to see?

“We left after 4 hours feeling fairly content material,” Mactavish mentioned.

“You’d surprise why we spent 4 hours trying on the similar hen and photographing it, however I took over 300 images and I believe I received one which got here out properly,” Knowles laughed. “The hen, as is its tendency, hides on the bottom within the bushes and bushes and shrubs, so it was fairly annoying at instances.”

A small, black bird sits on white snow with flecks of green grass poking up through the snow.
The boys watched the hen for 4 hours, snapping a whole bunch of images earlier than happening their method. (Bruce Mactavish)

They rushed again to Blanc-Sablon, on the Quebec facet of the border with southern Labrador, and caught the ferry again to Newfoundland at 7 p.m. the exact same evening.

They drove 12 extra hours, arriving again to the Avalon Peninsula barely three days after they set out within the first place.

 “We had been elated however drained,” Mactavish mentioned. “We had slightly celebratory drink after which went to mattress.”

The 2 birders had been nonetheless feeling the consequences of the journey once they spoke to CBC Information earlier this week — however not as a result of they had been drained.

“There’s type of this heat glow,” Knowles mentioned. “Hardly anybody in North America will get to see that hen.”

St John’s Morning Present9:41A uncommon Eurasian Blackbird sighting in Labrador

A uncommon Eurasian Blackbird turned up in Labrador over Christmas, and two native birders weren’t going to overlook their likelihood to see a hen that’s solely been noticed a handful of instances in North America.

Learn extra from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador