It has been around six years or so since the last, twitchable white-arse showed up in Nova Scotia. You know it better as a Northern Wheatear but white-arse is the colloquial name for it in the UK, or at least if was many years ago. In anyone’s year prediction, it usually appeared as theoretically possible while steadfastly refusing to materially materialise. Our luck was definitely in when Larry Neily found one at Mosher’s Corner, a field north of Middleton, Annapolis County on the Fundy shore.
Despite it being clear overnight, the Northern Wheatear remained faithful to its field and delighted those who made the trek to see it. Northern Wheatears were often one of my first true migrants of the year in the UK and they also appeared at coastal sites in fall-outs when every fence post might have one, so common. That doesn’t detract from seeing one in Nova Scotia though and the bird was much appreciated by all. It was a little distant, not personally but in metres.
Wind back to the same date as the last post, August 30th and I was on the phone to Revenue Canada, always a fun event, and waiting in the queue for the next person to pick up the baton when I saw a bird fidgeting in the undergrowth. Raising the bins on-handed, I focused on a Northern Waterthrush, new for the year, new for the yard. Unfortunately Sandra was not able to get to the bird before it gave a shrug and cleared off. We spent yard time searching for it, turning up a few birds, but the star never reappeared. Yard bird 172.
The next day we had a ride down Blanche Peninsula. It wasn’t too birdy but we did get a couple of Canada Warblers and, perhaps even better, the Canada Jays which have been missing for two years also popped up but not in front of the lens.
The day after the Northern Wheatear, a stroll around The Cape wasn’t bad. We started with a nervy Bobolink, had a nice Cape May Warbler out in the open and then had a Northern Waterthrush strolling around the beach. The best bird waited until last, a Baird’s Sandpiper was on the beach and actually walked towards us as we headed to the boat.
Continuing the good run of birds, a Brown Pelican appeared on the Nova Scotia Bird Society Facebook page and details were quickly made available. It favoured an area called East Jeddore, a spot I visited a few years ago to twitch, successfully, a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. It is a tricky spot to get to, winding and technically slow roads and not that many spots available to look out into the sound. Luckily the pelican hung around off a wharf and so Sandra and I got good views if not good photos. We had planned for a full day of searching and an overnight, given that we had to be in Annapolis the next day. In the end it was just a drive up and see situation for us, we were just lucky as it wasn’t there next day.
It had been a busy time and I planned to spend Sept-05 on Cape Island hoping to find something there. That plan was dumped when a Little Blue Heron was found by Ervin on Sept-04. Our casual plan to head over, see the heron and do the shopping was given some urgency when Ervin had a Golden-winged Warbler. We went to look, of course, but our luck stuttered a little. We got the heron but the warbler didn’t show.
The pelican was no doubt a gift of damp squib Erin, the tropical storm that passed well out to sea. The next one, Dorian, is a different matter. It arrived as a genuine Hurricane, as I write it is a cat-01 verging 02 it may be heavily laden with birds and not just rain. You don’t like to think how many birds die in these things but that is how it works, you live, you die and how long is mainly a matter of luck.
I think I might have to take this year list thing a bit more seriously. I’m on 254 at the moment, which is not bad considering that it is a funny year. I don’t think my best year, 287 in 2017, is possible but somewhere in the 270s may be par. I don’t bother to travel for year ticks as such but I would expect to bump in to a few of the following current gaps in my year list while poking around Cape Island.
Snow Goose, Eurasian Wigeon, a cuckoo or two, American Golden Plover, Long-billed Dowitcher, Solitary Sandpiper, Mew Gull, Red-shouldered Hawk, Western Kingbird, Northern Shrike, Philadelphia Vireo and perhaps one of the rare three we get, Horned Lark, House and Marsh Wren, maybe gnatcatcher, Grey-cheeked Thrush, White-winged Crossbill, Lapland Longspur, Orange-crowned Warbler, Prairie Warbler, Mourning Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat, Eastern Towhee, Clay-coloured Sparrow, Lark Sparrow, Dickcissel, Rusty Blackbird and who knows what else?
There is a thing called continuous effort banding where nets are run at the same site as often as possible and over a number of years. Because the banders write down measurements, often involving the use of calipers, this is considered scientific, almost ornithology without the corpses except for those banders that also collect for ‘study’ skins, I have no problem with banding, or at least banding that does not deliberately collect. It answers the questions sure enough although, were it run as a results driven business, it would have gone bust 100 bands in! Obviously the not-too-distant future of banding will revolve around microchips and 100% tracking results, it will come.
I am one of quite a number of birders world-wide who go to the same sites repeatedly (called local patches) and who report the instant data of specific counts, migration movements, breeding success vagrancy and gender splits via eBird. This is ‘only’ Citizen Science so not really real, perhaps due to the lack of calipers and the tendency to let our birds get on with their difficult lives. It is probably not seen as constant effort either but, obviously, it is.
This little tirade was inspired by a Facebook thread where a bander from some shithole state, to paraphrase the orange buffoon, derided twitchers, birders and eBirders for not being scientific and only being interested in looking at birds. The rest of the thread showed birders relating a good, well organised and happy twitch that raised cash for local causes and raised the profile of birders attending. You hope, after a good experience then perhaps next time a good bird shows up there will not be a ‘no visitors’ notice posted for a bird in a publically viewable place.
Of course we all know the value of eBird, well at least the enlightened do. True, we have somewhat altered the bird recording scene through embracing eBird and yes, there are some reviewers who should not be let near anything sharp, let along people’s records (not here), but that is the same in any field where volunteers are employed. There is no such thing as a professional reviewer and some eBirders do forget that reviewers are volunteers. Ebird is way too polite to tell the moaners to take their complaints and place them ‘where the sun don’t shine’, but they can think it of course.
I expect, if we survive, that there will be a post about Hurricane Dorian and its birds to come. Sitting out a Hurricane will be a new experience for us although some winter storms do match the ferocity, they just fall outside the range date for being given a nice name.