After working in Fredericton on Tuesday I took the scenic route along the Sheffield route to Lower Jemseg to see if I could spot any Blue-winged Teals.
As often is the case I spent too much time stopping at non-fruitful spots along the way and realized all too late that I should have just driven directly to the Jemseg Ferry Road. I never did get there, but I hope I have a reason to get there again in the not too far off future because it was a huge mistake not to spend some time there. Honestly, you do have to make a few scouting tours through an area to learn how to bird an area. Or you could read blogs like this one and save some time 😉
Starting around McGowan’s Corner in Sheffield and down the old highway into Jemseg is actually a lovely drive and later in the season would produce better results. I know last year I stopped along the road in the summer and it was riddled with Tree Swallows fishing the river for insects, and who knows what else I didn’t see as I was too new to take it all in properly.
Northern Shovelers in particular love this area around the farmland ponds. They are not a bird we see a lot of in Nova Scotia so nice to see them in numbers.
I say there wasn’t much to see along the route but that was not true it was a great learning experience to see what species were present as it is much different than Nova Scotia where I do the majority of my birding. I was very surprised to see many Common Goldeneyes in small groups all along the Saint John River as I drove toward Jemseg. I was under the impression they had migrated for the season so this must be a staging area.
Similarily there where large numbers of Scaup clumped together in a group of almost 40 in Lower Jemseg in fact. I am still fairly new to birding and have difficulty telling the Lesser and Greater Scaup apart but would say with almost 100% certainty from the rounded head shape that they were Greater Scaup. What do you think?
So back to the Sheffied to Jemseg drive. I was keen on finding some Blue-winged Teal and had read that they were hiding in out of sight spots eluding the local bird nerds so I stopped many times looking in brush along the river and marshy ponds near farms. Nothing. But I saw a myriad of Muskrat, and at one point a local girl stopped to ask me if I’d seen the 3 moose up the road and I explained that I was “duck hunting” and that moose were actually way cooler and got the directions. Sure enough, there was a moose lying in the field with two others hanging by eating grass. I was a bit worried there was something wrong with the moose that was laying down but I didn’t call DNR as many people locally would also see this moose and know better than me what to do. But it does appear to be missing a large amount of fur possibly due to mange or something. Or perhaps it is fine. I hope so. Apologies for my poor photos but I certainly was not going to try to get closer to 3 moose for many reasons.
Down the road a little further I spent some time watching ducks in a large pond near the highway exit to Moncton in Jemseq. Two of them flew and I got it in my head they had blueish underwings but upon close study I realized these were male Northern Shovelers. I’ve seen these lots of times, but never in flight. They are very colourful in flight. I spooked a bunch of Green-winged Teal but never did find a Blue-winged Teal unfortunately.
Recently I read my birding friend’s Cape Sable Island guide and he has a passage about how skittish the ducks are since they are heavily hunted. I’ve never personally encountered skittish ducks but the Jemseg ducks are bloody terrified. Like Mark mentions in his guide the mere sight of binoculars rising will send them flying in every direction. It was really weird (and highly annoying) that even from a great distance and while still in my car the ducks flew off in a panic. Poor things, it has to be a hard life and I surely didn’t mean to make it worse. That entire area is filled with hunting lodges though so this does make sense.
Duly noted then it is very difficult to observe the beautiful ducks in this area without great effort, patience, and perhaps a blind of some sort. And so I will have a better time next visit with this and better knowledge of the area.
I had it in my mind that I would look for the Ducks Unlimited area but sometimes it is challenging to work out locations when you are on the fly so I just set my GPS to Lower Jemseg. When I arrived at a fork in the road with a sign that “road closed open to local traffic only” I decided I would take that road for some reason. Well primarily because it looked like it was finally going to turn into wetlands. And good thing I did this because voila I was in the Ducks Unlimited area. And as mentioned as I wasted way too much time on the road on the way down, I only had a half hour or so to poke around there in the end before I had to high tail it to Moncton to meet clients.
Anyway, this place is just wonderful. I really can’t wait to go back someday there are nesting boxes all through that from the number of Wood Ducks I observed (about 30-40 at a guess) it must be a major nesting area for that species.
As well large numbers of Green-winged Teal, and a nice mix of Northern Shovellers. Again, the Goldeneye and Scaup were happily mixed in. Many Ring-necked Ducks, and a few American Wigeons, and a pair of Northern Pintails for good measure. This was what I saw on a quick drive through so just imagine.
Jemseg has captured my attention in a big way. I think it should be renamed “GEMseg”.
Below you will find a collection of photos I took along the road none specatular, and some disturbing 😉