Hooded Oriole!
by: Irene Doyle 

        During the week of Nov. 20th to the 25th, when birding is quiet a phone call made from Raymond Chiasson to Margaret Doyle, "a girl, from Matapedia, called and she says there's an oriole there that "doesn't look like the ones they are use to seeing, looks like a "Hooded Oriole", is that possible ? "

        As our local careful, Mike Lushington would say "Yeah Right!!" we think the girl is a new birder, she probably made a mistake ! Then there are rumours of 5 or 6 Orioles in the same tree, goes to show what rumours can do huh ? almost made everyone forget about there being an oriole there in the first place. Now we are the ones saying "Yeah Right!!"

        Margaret places a post to the Nature NB discussion forum asking what are the possibilities of a Hooded Oriole being in Matapedia, P.Q.? I can just hear David, Mike, Brian and Jim and a few others now, "Oh my! Margaret has gone off the deep end!" Of course she gets a few answers telling her to "wake up" she's dreaming. So, she sets the thought aside of THAT possibility

        But a second call, Wednesday Nov. 25th, from Raymond Chiasson to Margaret makes us curious, if nothing else. She's talking to Bob Gillis and comes to me saying "Bob Gillis wants you to go with him to Matapedia in the morning to see if you guys can find that Oriole and help identify it" "Phone him and tell him if you want to go.." hummmmm who am I to argue with that :) so... "What time should I pick you up ?" Bob said .. And Thursday Nov. 26th, 8:30 AM "sharp" Bob was at my door, "Good man" I thought always right on time

        A 15-20 minute drive, and here we are at the church in Matapedia across from the house where the bird is suppose to be at. There are already 3 or 4 girls from Matapedia there and so is the bird. Telescope flies open, it's set up, "what do you think Irene?" says Bob. "Gheeee sure LOOKS like a Hooded Oriole to me Bob" was my response after my first look at this gorgeous little orange and black ball of a bird, still not believing what I was seeing, "let's look at all the details, let's not miss anything" Bob wisely says.

        "Well the head is orange", "the wings are black with two wing bars, one is wider than the other", "lets get the beak", "not easy with this bird who is moving around so much", "long black tail, with some white spots on the tips", "long black tail", "hey ! it has horizontal stripes on the back too", "yeah like little feathers", "the rest of the body is orangy to yellow", "the bill is silvery color", oh ! and curved at the tip" "the head is darker orange than the rest of the body"

        I think at this point the girls from Matapedia were talking to us saying something in the background but Oriole fever was setting in and it seems to affect the hearing and the eyes wich seem to be not big enough.

        Out comes the field guides, we look at one another... hummmm... "I'm gonna phone Raymond" says Bob, out comes one of those marvelous inventions "the cell!!" and a phone call to Raymond Chiasson is made at the Regional Hospital where him and Margaret both work, while I use Margaret's video camera to get some proof of our find.

        When I get home I call Mike Lushington, our local sceptic, careful birder, "I know darn well he wont believe me" I think as I'm dialing. "I can just hear him now", "Yeah right !" his favorite expression of disbelief when any of the local birders starts seeing things which are not suppose to be here. "HELLO IRENE, HOW ARE YA?" Mike answers in a loud, cheery tone.. hummm unusually glad to hear from me, something is not right! hehehehe "Hi Mike, I'm good, and you?" "FINE! WHAT YOU GOT?" "We have a rare bird! a Hooded Oriole in Matapedia", "Oh really? what do you think Irene ? " was his response.. "what do I think?? " hummmm now I know that something is not right, retirement is not agreeing with Mike for sure. I went on to describe the bird from the darker orange feathers of the head, to the white spots on the black tail. I know Mike still does not believe me so to be sure I invite him to visit the bird himself, "make sure you go see it for yourself, and let us know what you think ok ?" He says he "may" and thanks me for the information about the find "Yeah Right !! " I think.. "sure he'll go see it" Little did I know then that Bob had already called Mike and he knew all about "the bird" when I found that out, at least that explained some things :)

        Margaret runs away from work on her lunch hour, scoots up to Matapedia (and I'm glad there were no policemen around), she takes pictures of our newly found bird. After work she brings the film to the nearest one-hour developers and brings the finished photos to me to scan I scan, scale, crop, get a quick, simple one page web page together with the pictures, where will I put it ? I though.. hummm... well Margaret has an NBNet account and they offer web space so I go to their site, move right in to her space upload the pictures and page to the NBNet server and Voila ! Margaret's Galery web page is born (it was later moved to Tripod to have more room) and it can be seen at :

        Margaret sends a message to the rest of New Brunswick through Nature NB the Nature discussion forum we are subscribed to on the Internet, telling them that the pictures of the Hooded Oriole are on the "net" so they can see for themselves.

        I'm sure a few mouths fell opened on Friday after visiting the page but only one breathless message came from David Christie with congratulations on finding such a gorgeous bird.

        Saturday is a real nice day, a bit windy but no snow, no rain, roads are bare to the pave, the little churchyard in Matapedia has never seen so much trafic in one day I'm sure Margaret and I spent the day there getting to meet birders mostly from Quebec; Montreal, Matane, Gaspe Mont Joli, Rimouski, Longueuil, and the Acadian Penninsula, two people from Bathurst were there before we got there early morning. From 9:30 AM to 3:30 PM or so, about 75 people visit the bird..

        Sunday it is nice in the morning and we go back to the little churchyard. The bird is still there, the little yard is full of cars some people drove all nite from Montreal to get here, some from the Gaspe area again all over Quebec, one car from Dieppe but not names we know one man from Moncton we never met before makes it here hummm.. an other 70 to 80 people visited that day.

        Since that day, people have come from as far as Toronto to visit this rare little orange ball of feathers. Local people have built a shelter for it out of a foam cooler with a blue lightbulb to keep him warm food is being brought to it twice a day a concoction of orange juice crushed bananas, egg yoke, honey, exotic bird food and a bit of peanut butter.

        Almost unbelievable that such a little creature of nature could cause so many people to travel 100's of miles to see him, and so many people to go out of their way to make sure it survives the cold Northshore nights.

A few days after this article was written, the bird dissapeared. Unfortunately, it is believed that a cat may have made it its lunch as one was always around the tree.

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