A Year on the Island

The first anniversary of our arrival in Nova Scotia has just slipped quietly by. Remembering the journey here, the unknown and the upheaval and the wailing cats, it seems much longer since those interesting times because, Nova Scotia feels more like home than Quebec ever did. The stickler in me would have liked our first year to have run from January 1st, but May 28th it was and so I thought I’d ramble aimlessly a bit.

I don’t navigate my years the way normal people do. Most can remember when important people died or epoch-making events occurred, I just remember interesting birds that I saw so, if anyone wants me to remember anything important, make sure that it happens on the same day that a rare bird shows up, and I see it of course. Otherwise I sit there with a facial expression like a constipated Mole until I get given clues.

So, in the first twelve-months of residency in Nova Scotia I saw 276 species, finding 231 of them for myself. I am very happy and not a little surprised by that total, reflecting as it does the remarkable diversity of bird life in southern Nova Scotia, and I missed a fair few too. Obviously it helps to be stationed on Cape Sable Island and not subservient to an employer and that, coupled with the cooperation of the handful of birders we have down here has been a major factor and the way our new birding friends have accepted us is a very cherished plus. We love it here and are here for the long haul.

Enough of this meandering, let us look at a few recent photos.

First up is this set of Northern Parula shots. My friend Claude from Ontario visited recently on his way to Newfoundland. Yes it was a bit of a detour but well worth it to bird with me again (says he so modestly) and also to see our area and to meet Rachel. We saw 72 species on our short travels despite the weather being naughty at times. The 2m deep fog that shrouded the shorebirds on The Hawk the first time we visited was particularly sneaky. This parula came and looked at us a Cripple Creek, a site so well described in the free CSI birding guide.

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Winding back a little bit, while visiting Rachel on evening I glanced up as I left by the rear door and this Snowy Egret was up to its reproductive organs in water. Quite why it was in so deep I have no idea, they don’t normally have access to curry. When it took flight I grabbed these record shots, you can see what it is but the light and my photographic inability means it was an opportunity only partially exploited.

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In addition to seeing birds around CSI, I like to keep adding to my county list too. In the eBird stakes this year Halifax is edging Shelburne by a species or two, not bad considering the amount of habitat we have and the thinly spread birders. In Clyde River there is a site that has held Cliff Swallow in the past. I checked every time I passed last year and have looked a few times this so, it was delightful to find that they are still there and that they were actively building the mud nests. We had Bobolink and Chimney Swift there too which made for a good stop.

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Just to go back to the last post, I thought I’d show just how far that Grey Jay at Cripple Creek was. The beauty of digital is that you can grab shots and even expect something useful. The first shows the bird gliding from one tree top to the other, the other the bird perched up.

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With May going out in moist fashion, it looks like the first couple of weeks of June are when we hope to experience spring’s last throes. I’m very reliably assured that we might yet see a further arrival of migrants, if that arrival can include the odd gross rarity then I will be well satisfied. Then we enter the summer bird doldrums but, for me, it is a season of plenty as I turn my attention to dragonflies and butterflies.

While I was looking at this blog on a tablet recently it occurred to me that my prattling about clicking on the side bars to get to the free or cheap eBooks I write was a bit redundant, so I added a link for the free books (everybody’s favourite) on the page accessed from the tab at the top. The Cape Sable Island guide is edging towards 300 but since it only appeared on the Nova Scotia Bird Society Facebook page once it has likely been missed by many, feel free to share the link.




The past few days have seen another surge in the CSI year list including some unexpected species. When plotting and planning I drew up lists of what I expected and what I predicted. Those lists are under CSI Big Year the tab on the header, divided up as givens – almost guaranteed species, tricky buggers – just that and megas, surely self-explanatory. I’ve made every effort to keep up with what has been seen on CSI, not just by contenders but also by any other birders. Despite concerted coverage birders will always come down and see something we haven’t, this time it was four rare (here) Bank Swallows (but, oddly, no Tree Swallows in the same eBird checklist) and a White-rumped Sandpiper on The Cape, these things happen, it’s some inexplicable law.

Away from CSI, Ronnie, Sharron and I did a ride down the Frotton Road, near Quinan. It was heaving with warblers, especially Black-throated Blue and Chestnut-sided, strangely absent on the day was Blackburnian, maybe they were just having a quiet spell, saving their voices for when the girls arrive. That little jaunt boosted my NS year list to within one of 200, it now stands at 204 so another year barrier broken.

Not every bird seen recently was photographed but I did manage a record shot of this Bobolink, big thanks to Rachel for the call. It was only there a short while, a great one to get for the year, it’s usually an autumn find on The Cape.


In the yard it has been steady, the highlight being the Rose-breasted Grosbeak previously reported being replaced by a moulting male.

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Today (May-25) started interestingly with some migrants moving through the yard. This inspired me to walk the Cripple Creek Beach Trail (in the book!) looking for Spotted Sandpipers. Hopping out of the van, I picked up a bird flying into the top of a very distant tree. The instant ID was Grey Jay, an island mega really. I focused after a fashion, I had the lens set for short distance, and the bird flew to another tree so I kept snapping. The results are terrible but the bird is clearly identifiable as Grey Jay. In my notebook for 2015, sometime in the summer, I have a note stating ‘possible Grey Jay’, referring to a bird I saw behind the house, naked eye and just gliding through a small clearing, makes you think.


With such grand success and still the possibility of Spotted Sandpiper I pressed on. The sandpipers, bless them, were busy along the shore, as were the Willets.

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Having committed to being thorough, I pressed on even more. After about 1km of the trail I came to a small pool and there, chugging across the water, tail pumping like a pumping thing was a Common Gallinule.

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I grabbed some snaps and it grabbed some cover. At that point I met a guy and his wife who had seen the bird regularly over the past few days but had no idea what it was. I showed them the Sibley app, perhaps they are potential birders. I carried on to the point, adding Nelson’s Sparrow to the year list but the gallinule photos were not up to much so I headed back, bumping into Paul Gould. He’d heard all about the bird and had good looks but the photos ops had been similar to mine, so we staked it out and managed a few more. The object for me was to get a head shot of the bill and shield shape.

Being on CSI you have to consider all of the options. A few days prior we’d had a heavy storm from the east and there was the outside possibility of Common Moorhen, the Eurasian counterpart of Common Gallinule and formerly the same species. On David Sibley’s web site he illustrates the differences and, at first glance, the Cripple Creek bird looked good for Common Moorhen.

See here: http://www.sibleyguides.com/2011/02/can-eurasian-common-moorhen-be-identified-by-sight/

I posted the shots on Atlantic Canada Birding (Facebook) and David Bell pointed out that, although the bill had extensive yellow, the shape of the yellow is significant, a backslash (/) in Common Moorhen, a caret (>) on Common Gallinule. The shield on images I have of Common Moorhen show much more of an arch than Sibley’s illustration whereas it appears to be a flat-topped on Common Gallinule and tapering.

I have seen thousands of Common Moorhens, but probably only ever critically examined the first one I saw way back in c1967 (I think). Like House Sparrows, Starlings, Blackbirds and crows, etc., you see them on January 1st or on Big Day but after that they become background noise. Incidentally, I remember that most of the Common Moorhen nests I ever found were 2m higher or more in Hawthorn bushes.


This is a Common Moorhen.

Late on, after another perusal of the Common Gallinule, I dropped into Daniel’s Head and these two were on show behind Rachel’s place, her back deck has something of a commanding view, thanks for the hospitality Rachel.

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Now back to the subject of the CSI Big Year. Regular readers will know that there are at least three participants and that one, Mike, has had a chunk of May elsewhere. During this crucial period, Johnny and I have been piling on the year ticks and, in my case, CSI ticks to the point where the leads are becoming significant, well at first glance they are, however, in reality there have only been a few birds that might not show up again this year, the rest are ‘givens’ waiting to be got. If the gallinule sticks and the Green Heron is still lurking, then we only have stuff like Orchard Oriole, a reasonable hope for fall and Warbling Vireo that might be tricky to pull back. And there is the probability that there will still be birds seen by any one of us that the others will not connect with. So, although Mike currently ‘only’ has 141, there are a good 15 species waiting plus the hoped for stayers. Grey Jay may yet be a one observer job but, with luck and persistence, it too may fall.

At the end of June I’ll do a more thorough breakdown for those following the saga, I know that there are at least three!

Comments on anything I post here, good or bad, are always welcome.


Vive la Difference

My first Nova Scotia spring is slipping past at an alarming rate of knots, Red Knots as it happens. In April I was waiting patiently for May to happen and now I only have nine days of it left, mind you, a lot can happen in nine days. The focus of the spring, for me, has been experiencing migration on Cape Sable Island, the daily change that is sometimes quite subtle and other times blindingly obvious. My frame of reference has to be the twelve prior Quebec springs I experienced, notwithstanding some striking differences in the bird populations despite the relatively close proximity of my two Canadian abodes (see how that links with the title, I don’t just throw this together you know!).

Autumn migration is generally the one where birders see more birds. It’s a slower process and the birds are less preoccupied with getting on with stuff, which is mostly making more birds but also the holding territory, setting the alarm for the dawn chorus and generally fulfilling the field guide plumage prophecies. In Quebec, the spring warbler passage would result in many species on their way north pausing a few days at some spots, my St-Lazare sand pits site being one of them. Here the majority of the arriving migrants go straight to their summer home, set up their territory and off they go.

You might think that with us being the southernmost point of the mainland that we’d be getting mini fallouts but no, the birds are coming through but in small numbers and they are spread over a vast area. A snapshot of what is happening is better taken on a small island where coverage is more effective and complete. Bon Portage (pronounced Bon Portage) is just offshore and west of us a bit and is getting some good birds now that people are on there. Seal Island too, much further offshore, is accumulating nicely in the rare column (I heard Painted, or if you miss it, Painful Bunting). Both sites would benefit from blanket coverage during migration but both are not that easy to get to, especially the latter.

Most of our focus on CSI has been on The Hawk. CSI as a whole is too big a place to cover (and one of our number is shillyshallying in Ontario). There are so many spots you just can’t see and the birds may only be there for a short period. A case in point is a Blackburnian Warbler I watched on New Road by house 38 (you all know of this place because you have read the site guide). It fed actively, teased me moving on the very edge of a pine branch, almost to within a tertial of photo availability, then took off and flew strongly inland. It had arrived that morning I reckon, took in a light snack and was then off to find a friend. Because I saw the Blackburnian I persisted with watching the seemingly now devoid tangle of trees and I’m glad I did because this CSI first for me, Bay-breasted Warbler, popped up and did pose, if a little shyly. Bay-breasted is a good one to get, no doubt about it.


Being in the right place at the right time is obviously a benefit. Johnny and Sandra Nickerson have the right place, their home is right in the movement line for recent arrivals and they provide bird attracting food year-round. Attracting birds to feed attracts other birds that won’t use the feeders but that feel the comfort of the presence of other species, not least because a passing sharpie might eat one of the other birds, the odds are better. Sitting on the Nickerson’s bench at the rear of the house is a good way to experience the feeder effect and to see the unusual. The last post had an Orchard Oriole from that very spot. On May-19 I sat there on-spec and saw a Warbling Vireo. I called Johnny who was inside and we had good views. This one illustrates what I said earlier about striking differences in bird populations. In Quebec Warbling Vireo is a common summer visitor, a yard bird for me. Here it is scarce to rare and the one behind Johnny’s place was another CSI tick for me.

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Feeder birds at the Nickerson’s.

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This has been a shorebird spring in southern Nova Scotia. Such springs have been a regular occurrence in the past, as evidenced by the Nova Scotia Bird Society Bulletins which frequently noted shorebird totals around CSI in spring as being ‘many’ or with guesstimates in hundreds. As an inveterate counter I’ve tried to keep score, not always with success as the birds vary their feeding routine and, if they pick The Cape edge option, they are best guess species in some cases. In truth, with a good scope (like mine) you can ID the Black-bellied Plovers easily and the dowitchers to ‘sp’ level. When they chose the flats off Fish Plant Rd parking lot option, it is easy to get good counts and ID everything. At present eBird is not finely tuned enough for CSI counts to be unsurprising. I think just about every shorebird count over ten gets the ‘are you sure’ treatment but that is fine, tuning takes time and data input, that is happening now.

One group of eBird ‘are you sure’ merchants that did surprise were Sanderling. They pass through in both migration seasons and a few winter as best they can. We have 61 around at the moment and they move from Daniel’s Head beach to The Hawk depending on the tide. I managed a few shots of them, I concentrated on the ones in summer plumage, well almost, as we don’t see that plumage too often.

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From a day last week when we had none to the next day when we had some, through to now when we have lots, Yellow Warblers and Common Yellowthroats are now officially ‘in’.

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On May 21 a Blue-grey Gnatcatcher was seen on The Hawk. Despite a rapid assemblage of birders, it didn’t reappear and has now likely fled the cold rain, falling as I type. It would have been a good CSI and NS tick to get but you can’t see everything, or so I’m told. My searching did reveal this migrant Northern Parula, a female, perhaps a young (2cy) male. I have them in the yard as breeders but never tire of seeing them, they are such an exquisite combination. I did a little search of the meaning of the word ‘parula’ and it stems from the Latin ‘par’ as in parus as in tit (UK) or titmouse (US), the latter for those easily offended. In Kabalarian philosophy it is descriptive of restless or active behavior and, while Kabalarian stuff, like any nutty cult, is obviously iffy, they might have something there.

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And now a little round up as we enter the final phase of the spring push. I need one more year bird for 200, I’ll leave you to do the math! I have 170 for the CSI Big Year, nine more days of May and a week of June might see another ten or so added there, then it will be doldrums for a while. For those wanting detail, my lists are all at Bubo, here is the link. If you like to keep lists, this free web site is the easy place to do it: http://www.bubo.org/

My little rant in the last post seemed to hit the nail on the head for a few people. No more ranting for a while but I do have a post regarding the use of playback ready and waiting. Some might not like what I say, some might be persuaded to reconsider their opinion, some will be unmoved, yay for democracy.

And finally, we were graced by the presence of an ABA Big Year contender, Olaf Danielson recently. He came to see the Curlew Sandpipers, spent a full day looking but they had gone. He has since seen one elsewhere and is currently on 670-ish. As part of his documenting the year we were mentioned in dispatches on his blog. He griped about the lack of washrooms on CSI, which is a fair comment, nobody pees away from home here until the portable toilets get installed in late May. He also witnessed an illicit exchange in one of our parking lots. To read his comments click here: http://olafsbigyear.blogspot.ca/2016/05/the-swinging-bunt.html

Since I used French in the title, a la prochaine.


These two shots are from earlier in the week. A Black-crowned Night-heron takes fishing lessons from a young Great Blue Heron and below, scarce ducks here.


Try Harder

Decades ago the way to improve was to learn. You sat at the back and listened or you got everything you could find about the subject and read it until you felt confident enough to join the discussion, to be a participant and to contribute. Then they started giving prizes at school just for taking part and everything went to hell in a handcart. Yes folks, this isn’t one of those sunny posts but just me bitching – it’s cathartic!

Take bird and wildlife photography. If you are on Facebook, and nowadays most people are, you get so many photos posted of barely doc-shot quality that the proud taker has embossed with xxx wildlife photography. In a sense they are correct, they are photographing wildlife but they are doing it badly and forgetting to add that to their by-line. Their posted dross then provides a bar for the next wannabe to come up with something worse until you suddenly find yourself looking at shots taken through mosquito netting, I kid you not. Yes bad shots can be of great value, but not when they are common species and, if you don’t know what the status of the species you are so badly photographing actually is, buy a field guide and actually read it.

Then there are the people who put COPYRIGHT all over their generally below-average shots, like anybody cares. Copyright it if it is good, sure, but if it is the sort of thing most folk would delete off the back of the camera as below par, why bother. I can only think these people have less sense than a Tapioca pudding if they think National Geographic is going to cut corners to show their blurred cardinal on its cover without paying!

And what about all those insistent ‘what is this’ photos? Usually posted with the requester neglecting to add the word ‘please’. Even in the face of such a lack of manners, knowledgeable and respected birders will still often take time to identify birds for these ignorant people, only for fools to chime in with their worthless opinions when they’ve already been told what it is, ot to mention offering alternative names not used since the days of Audubon, they should have been drowned in a bucket at birth. Nobody objects to a polite request for an identification, but is it unreasonable to expect people to have made an effort first? There, I feel better now and, if you are the more sentient sort who shares the same opinions, (even if in secret), I bet you feel better too!

Additional: A group I used to belong to* just had a reasonable photo of two Northern Shovelers – males, and there was a request for an ID. Other people in the group gave the ID, instead of telling the guy to look in the duck section of his field guide. I can’t decide which is more stupid, people who tell others the ID of blindingly obvious species or those who ask!

*I left the group, can’t trust my fingers.

My wife Sandra is mad. We get up and drive 300+km to Halifax, she spends all day in a chair, then we drive back home and she absolutely insists that we ‘go’ for some Red-necked Phalaropes, even though we’ve seen this beautiful and enigmatic bird many times before and even though it adds 2.5 hours to an already trying day – mad I tell you. The phalaropes were worth it though and, despite the late hour, low sun, unreliable legs and the overwhelming need for a nice cup of tea and to get the curtains drawn, I got some shots.

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The day before we were in Yarmouth and chanced upon this Northern Mockingbird along Chebogue Point Road. I can’t say that I have had much luck there until the recent Grey-cheeked Thrush, lots of visits undertaken and just the odd thing to show for it, so a self-found Northern Mockingbird was welcome and just about tipped things back into the positive for the site.


Nearby at Overton these two sat on a tiny pond, not rare but always nice to see, even the stupid looking Northern Shoveler.

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Going back to the Halifax trip, I generally get out of the way if I can for a while. The staff there are superb and I feel it only fair to inflict myself on them in short bursts, so I went to Crystal Crescent Beach Provincial Park. While it is not yet open it is quite pleasant although the person who opens the gates will need an all-terrain vehicle to negotiate the piles of dog excrement so thoughtfully left by the dog walkers all over the access road. Big fines in Quebec is you don’t clear up, it’s not like they have to actually pocket the stuff, they could just flick it off the road where the accumulation is bound to attract flies and then insectivores, win, win for the birds..

The walk was nice but the birding slow, especially when you live on CSI. This is all I managed to photograph.

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And finally, yard tick 129, this Rose-breasted Grosbeak popped up today (5/18) and hung around devouring Sunflower seeds.


Just going back to Facebook. If you are a keen birder and prefer a group that is more targeted to rare and scare birds, distribution, behaviour and the like, search for Atlantic Canada Birding. All are welcome but, if you do not follow the guidelines and post stuff below the standard required then the administrators are ruthless, even with other administrators!

It Had to Happen!

There should be a golden rule about not going birding in the same area following a Big Day, it can only lead to disappointment. I suppose I can suffer it though and seeing Canada Geese (how did I not make sure!) and Common Loon, both fails yesterday, was tempered by a few good birds that I would have rather liked 24 hours ago.

First up was a yard-tick Eastern Towhee, it was a brief female that may or may not come back. Then Sandra and I had a roll out around West Head, Newellton looking for a Laughing Gull said to have been present all day on the Big Day – well I went there twice yesterday and didn’t see it, neither did Johnny. The Black-legged Kittiwake was again present though and looks like a right rag-tag. I got a couple of shots that show just how in need of a decent moult it is.

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Moving on to The Hawk, a fly past hirundine had us scanning and finding a couple of female type Purple Martins. Not a very common bird on Nova Scotia and a welcome year tick, sorry Mike.

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A little further around the road a couple of Eastern Kingbirds entertained, this one sat still.


So a quick post to this point. For those who like a bit of a read and staying in the Big Year scenario, here are a couple of ones I did elsewhere. You might need The Birds of Panama or patience with Google to get the full effect of the Gamboa Rainforest Lodge Big Day. No pictures.

The Taverner Cup, Canada’s premier bird race – May 2004

A few years ago bird races were in fashion and in Notts we had teams in the spring national and did our own thing in the autumn. When interest waned, the races petered out and sanity was restored to birding. I ‘retired’ from the national, in part due to not wanting to suffer from that day after nausea when your ears are still ringing and your body clock changes time-zones. I never really expected to do another 24 hour job again, I was wrong. Twelve months after moving across the pond to Canada I was invited to join a team to challenge for the Taverner Cup, Eastern Canada’s premier bird race.

The Taverner Cup takes place in late May and has done for the past eight years. Teams compete on the same day, midnight to midnight, and in two categories, recreational and competitive. We were to be one of five competitive teams and were, thanks to David Bird’s cogitative musings, christened the Raven-loon-a-ticks. The line-up for the team was Prof. David Bird, Prof. Rodger Titman, Dr. Richard Gregson, Marcel Gahbauer (now Dr.!), David’s post grad student and myself (width cert, Clifton Swimming Pool), a rare array of highly educated birding talent. The area selected for the competition takes in parts of Quebec and Ontario and so the distances between sites would be long. Traveling time equals no birds and so we formulated a plan to hop from site to site within a schedule, plan A.

The most experienced Taverner veteran in our team was also the youngest, Marcel. He produced several itineraries and scoured suggested scouting areas, David used his considerable influence to arrange sponsorship by, amongst others, the Province of Quebec Society for the Protection of Birds (PQSPB), and transport. Richard fiddled with computers to generate lists and I scouted a few ‘certs’ and brushed up on all the calls and songs of the birds we might encounter, easy!

May 29th saw us gather at the Birds’ (current) nest, he was moving house that week!, We got off to a good start, in the pitch black Richard fell in the (dry) storm ditch and Marcel attempted to sever a trailer towing hitch with both shins, unsuccessfully I might add. We set off in our hired Ford Freestar, a minivan (they seat seven) and sporting the famous hide and go seats (when you HIDE in the back your legs GO to mush). The first stop was a marsh on Lac St-Francois about an hours drive away. We stopped, the wind blew, the birds slept, move on. Next we slogged around something called the Great Egret trail, our reward was grunting Virginia Rail and distant Wilson’s Snipe, two on the board and it was only twelve-thirty, windy and cold, oh the joys of bird racing came flooding back to me. As we returned to the parking lot we flushed a bird from a ditch which gave a variety of undocumented noises, Black-crowned Night Heron or Great Egret, I thought the latter, Marcel the former, in zero visibilty who knows? No score. Next we picked our way through swamp-dweller country to a track famous for its biting flies, the Gowan Road. This area did not disappoint and both Barred and Great Horned Owls were soon inked in. Taverner memory number one was the seven suddenly active Barred Owls calling away in competition and probably putting the diminutive Saw-whets and Eastern Screech Owls into silent mode, big owls eat little owls.

We made our way east back to highway 20, our arterial route south, squeezing in Whip-poor-will and Eastern Screech Owl on the way. We had a few hours drive to an area called the Opinicon Road, a fine section of Carolinian Forest which would be the setting for our dawn chorus. We had all registered to drive and it was Richard’s turn, he cruised along at a steady 110 Kmph, it was his first bird race! A steady hour passed before Marcel resumed consciousness and took over the driving. Luckily, in Ontario, they put up a roadside board showing the cost of speeding, 120 got you $120, we went south at around the $180 mark, with occasional bursts up to the $250, allegedly!

The Opinicon Road is a quiet, mostly gravel track that is around 20Km long. It has several species you need to get quickly, Golden-winged and Cerulean Warbler, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Yellow-throated Vireo. We did a quick pause at a wet area to allow some of us to miss flying Wood Duck, hopefully that would not come back to haunt us. We quickly added species, Swainson’s Thrush squirling away in scrub, American Creeper hitting the high notes, a Hermit Thrush buried amongst the other singers, everyone get that, no, there should be plenty more. We’d planned for a couple of hours on the Opinicon Road and started birding there proper at Chaffey’s Locks, a short canal section from lake to lake. Loons flew over (loons to me now, Great Northern Divers to you UK folk) and our only chance of Pine Warbler, it duly obliged but, unfortunately, no sign of the area’s mythical Carolina Wren though, move on.

I had staked out a few birds ten days or so before and the Golden-winged Warblers issued their buzzy offering right on cue and location, both cuckoos called, Ruffed Grouse drummed, numerous common species were shouted out and then Cerulean Warbler and Yellow-throated Vireo appeared in quick succession. Suddenly a movement on one side of the track caught my eye and a Porcupine plodded slowly over the road, my first live one and Taverner memory number two. Brief views by two of us of Downy Woodpecker and a fly over hairy seen only by me saw us leaving Opinicon Road with a healthy score but much work to do. Next stop Amherst Island and a ferry to catch.

We pulled into the ferry dock in good time, thanks to a bit more warp speed driving, and found an obliging Night Heron by the dock. Offshore a Caspian Tern fed, but our focus was more on the restrooms, it had been a long night and when nature calls only a fool ignores such a juxtaposition of facility and readiness. Amherst Island is very lovely. It sits out in Lake Ontario and positively calls the migrating birds to it. We would try to be off in one hour, a tall order if the birding was good and so we flew down the narrow lanes with Marcel once again at the helm. Bobolinks fluttered around the grasslands, hirundines around the bays. A short stop gave us a boost of several duck species all in one place plus a few padders, another ten to the total. We sped on and as we passed a small plantation about 80m from the road I saw a lump on a branch, Nighthawk. We reversed back and quickly got onto the lump, not a Whip-poor-will, nope, chuck-will’s? Some hope, no, Common Nighthawk, a tricky bird race bird and not at all common in spring in Eastern Canada these days, a bonus bird.

At the north-east end of the island we made our way out to a point, lets just call it ‘Irritating Fly Point’ for want of a more descriptive name but wow, what a place. Wilson’s Phalaropes, loads of very tame shorebirds (waders) Osprey, gulls, terns, more ducks, geese, we could have spent another hour there but time was short. Taverner highlight three came here in the shape of two Brown Water Snakes which we got to within one metre of, superb.

We had missed the deadline for the ferry so dropped in at the owl wood, THE place for winter owling, and enjoyed Magnolia Warbler and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, more padders but no Pheasants, oh the disappointment! We cruised back to the returning dock picking up Hooded Merganser and American Kestrel, we were well into the 120s, Marcel had not had such a healthy total at this point in his previous races, we were really cooking with butane.

The weather, such a feature of any bird race, had been kind. The previous year the rain had been the talking point of bird race day as it had been continuous, this year the sun shone but Lake Ontario does like its winds. The light breeze of Amherst had increased to gale force at our next crucial stop, Presq’uile Park. The park can make or break a race. We had a possible 30 or so species penciled in, breeding Orchard Orioles, passage warblers, more shorebirds, guaranteed Bonaparte’s Gull, egrets, herons, migrants, we would require a couple of hours in and out, easy. It stared well with Mute Swans on the drive in, then the wind hit us. No shorebirds at all, this was bad, to cut a short story shorter, Presq’uile was a bomb out. We picked up a few additional species but three of our number chose the rest rooms over a plantation and dipped Downy Woodpecker again. We cut our losses and fled. It could have been worse, we were tailed by the Police as we left the park, luckily Marcel spotted them before we engaged the engines and we avoided a fine, that would really have been a downer.

The wind would now be a big factor. Our next stop was grasslands on the Napanee Plain, sparrows were the target and it was known to the post where they would be gleefully advertising their presence. We got to where they should be and they had not read the script, oh dear, more holes in the list and few options elsewhere. Now for the worst part of any bird race day, mid-afternoon, nice and warm and sleep dragging your eyes to a happy place, this was one of the reasons I retired. We had a three hour drive north, we had to finish in Ottawa at midnight, that was when all the teams hand in their lists before crawling into whatever sleepy hollow they have arranged. It was a long three hours away, no birds, no legs (I was in the cheap seats), eyes and neck aching from constant scanning for a Red-shouldered Hawk, Green Heron, anything. Oddly the only anything seen turned out to be a Ruby-throated Hummingbird, bless them, they always sit on bare snags. I was the fifth team member to see one and what a relief, all I had missed so far was a Cooper’s Hawk which un-sportingly flew behind the van on highway 20, denying those in the front the tick.

We had examined the options and reached plan Z. This had us going to Gatineau Park near Ottawa as we still needed some woodland birds. We also needed lots of wetland birds but the wetlands could wait, now for the woods. We passed quickly through Ottawa, a pretty city, pleasantly leafy, and scored Chimney Swift through sleepy eyes. We climbed into Gatineau and made a few stops, adding little until we made the Champlain lookout which is truly spectacular. We birded a short trail, renewing our love affair with Canadian insects and plucked Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Blackburnian Warbler and Philadelphia Vireo from the verdant canopies. A thrush called, distinctive and memorable, so we put on Richard’s MP3 player in the van and called a Grey-Cheeked, just as we suspected, we were back on the trail.

Being a newcomer to the area my local knowledge was sketchy in some areas, I knew bits of Quebec which had been helpful with owls etc, now I suggested that we should go to plan unspecified and drive the north shore of the Ottawa River, hopefully pick up a few birds and then cross at one of the ferry points to get to our almost final destination, Alfred Sewage Lagoons. The plan was good and worked quite well, even allowing for the unusually law abiding biker boys who cruised along in front of us at the speed limit for 20 or so kilometers, possibly frustrating our attempts to grab more of the fading light. We finally snaffled a Wood Duck en-route before hitting the Lefevre ferry spot on. I knew of a seepage pool two minutes form the dock where we added Pectoral and Solitary Sandpiper and Lesser Yellowlegs, now it was time to test the warp coil to its maximum, next stop Alfred Lagoons. We screamed down to the track and were not at all surprised to find other teams ending their day at one of the best sewage farms anywhere. Over the gate, ignore the signs saying keep out, and up the bank of the first of two lagoons. Moorhen, where, swam into the reeds, five minutes searching, move on, we need…

We easily picked up the ducks, Ruddy, Redhead, then Roger spotted a distant Green-winged Teal so we had to track back 100m. We needed to be at a point where we could view both lagoons, one for ducks, one covered in shorebirds. Scan for herons, where’s the teal? where’s the light, it had virtually gone. We could see loads of shorebirds but adding Moorhen and Green-winged Teal had cost us ten minutes or more, we needed that time on the shorebirds. We were itchy, fatigued but not quite finished. We were making our way back to the van when a bird flew over in the gloom and called, what was that? nobody knew. Back at the road sharp ears picked out American Woodcock and Grey Partridge, options? Atocos Bay, a Ducks Unlimited reserve nearby for maybe Sora and maybe Short-eared Owl. We shuffled into the reserve, hearing nothing, seeing less when another call, almost directly overhead sharpened the senses, any takers, owl? Upland Sandpiper? too tired, don’t know, might be a short-eared.

We drove back to Ottawa, stopping at an Upland Sandpiper site but without success. One last throw saw us in the middle of down town Ottawa scanning a fancy hotel looking for Peregrines which nest there, five bedraggled creatures smelling strongly of insect repellent and eyes of indescribable colour, no joy and, thankfully, no Police. We drove to the rendezvous, handed in our score and went to Marcel’s apartment on the last night of his lease. The odometer told us we had covered 1250 kilometers, we had all been awake about 42 hours and now we settled down on the bare floor with our heads ringing to the sound of the elusive Black-throated Blue Warbler amongst other things

The sun shone the next day and a lonely Blackpoll Warbler serenaded us from the parking lot, where were you yesterday? In a very civilized manner all the teams turn up for a breakfast together. Stories are swapped, scores are guarded, you eat, you listen and then the presentation. Every team gets a Taverner T-shirt with a very attractive Loggerhead Shrike on. First the recreational teams come up, the talk is of a great day, great birding, great birds, many that we had missed. The competitive role call begins, Raven-Loonatics, 144, are we fifth, no, but not first either. We come in fourth, the winners scoring 164. A great day of birding, scores improved right at the end at Alfred, we exchange knowing glances, especially the unexpected birds continues one racer, Marbled Godwit, Whimbrel, Red-necked Phalarope, all at Alfred at dusk, all on the second lagoon, bloody Moorhens! The call we heard was the godwit, that bird would have tied us with the Swarovski Cool Cats in third place, the phalarope would have put us one clear. In the end the second team’s score was 155 but third is better than fourth, next year, next year.

We had a two hour trip back to Montreal, the weather was great, would we go back via Alfred, you bet. Alfred still had the godwit and phalarope and we enjoyed good looks at both before returning home. The van was abuzz with plans, Gatineau first, better marshes, don’t bother with Presq’uile, better transport, lots to ponder.

I had been concerned that only one year’s experience of North American birds would mean I was a liability, as it happened I was not and a great team effort led to a great days birding. I am now officially out of retirement (on this Continent at least) and May 28th 2005 is eagerly awaited.


So what did we miss? No Green Heron or Great Egret, Ring-necked Duck eluded us, four hawks, Sora, Turkey, seven shorebirds, Bonaparte’s Gull, Saw-whet Owl, four woodpeckers, two flycatchers, Loggerhead Shrike, four wrens, eight sparrows, seven warblers, Orchard Oriole, so 144 + 45, even with only a width certificate, I can do the math.

Gamboa Rainforest Resort Panama– Big Day

28-January 2012

During a week-long vacation at the Gamboa Rainforest Resort in Panama, it occurred to me that it would be fun to see how many species of bird it would be possible to see on the site in one day, basically from dawn to dusk or exhaustion, which ever arrived first! The Big Day would take place on holiday day #5, so there would be plenty of accumulated knowledge about the site’s birds and their whereabouts. Also, I’d taken a casual three hour walk around 30% of the site the previous afternoon and scored 80!

For those who have never heard of a Big Day in birding, the object is to see or hear, within time or geographic boundaries, as many bird species as possible. The evening before I picked my way through our bird list from a previous Gamboa visit, highlighting the possibilities, and came up with a list of around 160+ potential species. This may seem a lot but the site list will actually be much higher, probably around the 240 mark. It should also be said that some of the species considered possible are transient in their occurrence and also that some species have rather small populations at the Gamboa, i.e. probably only one or two individuals.

The strategy employed would be to bird the edge areas until it got warm, then get into the ‘jungle’. After a short break we would then cover the other areas for the ‘easy’ birds before hitting the trails again. If we were still breathing at the end of the day we would go owling, if! What follows is an account of the day with the species listed in order of appearance. I will tell you now that we found a high proportion of the possible species available. I will also tell you that some ‘certs’ failed to show and eve some non-contenders put in an appearance. Dawn was around 06.11 and a Common Pauraque was calling away outside, species numero 1. We headed down to the historic villas, just down the road from the main building, we had hit 14 species by the time we got there, with Blue-headed Parrot, Red-lored Parrot, Yellow-bellied Elaenia, Mealy Parrot, Great Egret, Tropical Kingbird, Whooping Motmot, Clay-colored Robin, Great Kiskadee, Broad-billed Motmot, Gray-headed Chachalaca, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, Keel-billed Toucan and on the list. There then followed a typical early morning flurry of birds as they awoke and joined the fun and so House Wren, Southern Bentbill, Green Shrike-Vireo, Buff-breasted Wren, Collared Aracari (below), Band-rumped Swift, Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift, Pale-vented Pigeon, Orange-chinned Parakeet, Thick-billed Euphonia, Short-tailed Swift, Blue-gray Tanager, and the very vocal White-bellied Antbird pushed us up to 27 species.


The period after dawn is crucial for birding in the Neotropics. The day soon heats up and many birds feed quickly before hiding and idly waiting for the heat to dissipate, or they actually retreat to an alternate universe, at least that is how it often seems when searching a seemingly empty rainforest in the heat of the day. So, we are still in the rush period and it was no real surprise to add Red-legged Honeycreeper, Social Flycatcher, Crimson-backed Tanager, Flame-rumped Tanager, Violaceous Trogon, Streaked Flycatcher, Plain-colored Tanager, Yellow Warbler, Red-crowned Woodpecker and Gray-breasted Martin all to the list and all before we got to the birdy bit, this being the road junction to Los Lagatos restaurant.

The site did not disappoint and soon we had Golden-hooded Tanager, Yellow-crowned Euphonia, Cocoa Woodcreeper, Bay Wren, Palm Tanager, Black Vulture, Blue-chested Hummingbird, Western Slaty Antshrike, Green Honeycreeper, Shining Honeycreeper, Southern Beardless Tyrannulet, Variable Seedeater, Scarlet-rumped Cacique, Red-throated Ant-Tanager, Lesser Greenlet, Streak-headed Woodcreeper, Panama Flycatcher, Song Wren, Yellow-throated Vireo, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Northern Waterthrush, Brown Pelican, Tropical Gnatcatcher, Gray Hawk and Chestnut-headed Oropendola, then we stepped into the forest.


At this point we had been going for about an hour and a quarter, the score was 63. We probably had found as many of the species present in the immediate area as we could, we needed the deeper forest birds now. The Senderos la Laguna runs below the site access road and is perhaps just under a kilometer long. It comprises a nice damp area at the canal end, drying out as you reach the Gamboa Village access road. A steady walk with plenty of stops to look, see and listen means you can cover it in an hour or so. The number of bird species expected here was not particularly high but this was the only shot at them.

A stake out for a Buff-rumped Warbler failed to produce but we did find Orange-billed Sparrow, which was a real bonus. A White-tipped Dove ambled over the path, as they do and an Acadian Flycatcher called away above us. Overhead a Yellow-headed Caracara swept past. Crimson-crested Woodpecker, Turkey Vulture, Red-eyed and Yellow-green Vireo and Cinnamon Becard all followed before we found a flycatcher high up a vine. After changing our angle the bird’s ID was resolved as Black-tailed Flycatcher, a good and another unexpected find. As we approached the end of the trail, the Golden-Collared Manakin lek was in full swing with the over excited males wing snapping away in the depths of the foliage.

Now we were back out in the open and peering into the depths of a flowering tree. Our target here was hummingbirds, preferably all of them. Violet-bellied Hummingbird was the first to make it’s presence felt, hummers are notoriously argumentative and this one was no exception, seemingly falling out with its own shadow. A Buff-throated Saltator did a good job of sneaking around and a larger, dark hummingbird was glimpsed. Close views showed it to be a Rufous-breasted Hermit, our third big surprise of the day so far. None of the other hummer species showed up so, adding just Blue Dacnis to the total of 78, we set off for breakfast and a scan from the balcony, then a second plunge into the Rainforest was required.

The breakfast balcony is on level three and gives a great vista to scan from. Northern and Southern Rough-winged Swallows cruised past and a distant Osprey was soon joined by a second. Neotropical Cormorant, Little Blue Heron, Royal Tern and Magnificent Frigatebird were all expected, less so were the two King Vultures seen only by me, the first picked up as it dived into the forest flushing a second. After refreshing on juice, coffee, oatmeal and an artery clogging fried breakfast we added Mangrove Swallow and Tropical Mockingbird to the score and set off once more.


We checked the hummer tree again with no luck. Moving on to the Hill Trail we passed through some open, parkland type ground picking up Ruddy Ground-Dove. The trail itself was of no help whatsoever, only two days before we had heard three species of antbird, today zilch. We left the trail to emerge onto the tarmac road which climbs The Hill, noisy birds resolved themselves into Summer Tanager, Slaty-tailed Trogon (below), Paltry Tyrannulet, Plain Wren and Dusky Antbird, a Short-tailed Hawk sailed over and that was 95.


Continuing up the hill we found a wee small flock containing Plain Xenops, Dot-winged Antwren, Tawny-crowned Greenlet and Bay-breasted Warbler, a Black-mandibled Toucan called nearby and became species 100. The sun was well up by now and the heat making things quiet, bird wise. A little flitting thing turned out to be Ruddy-tailed Flycatcher, a Baltimore Oriole fed in a flowering tree and Common Tody-Flycatcher, the comedy turn of the tropics, had somehow been missed earlier. A Great-crested Flycatcher being the only one seen on the trip was very pleasing to find.

Decision time, we were entering the most unproductive phase of the tropical day, we knew that our balcony would produce some birds though and we could scan for hawks, etc. We resolved to head back to the room for a rest via the lake edge. As we left the hill we added Bright-rumped Attila and Rufous & White Wren. In the open area Southern Lapwing (below), Wattled Jacana, Great-tailed Grackle, Rusty-margined Flycatcher, Lesser Kiskadee and Shiny Cowbird signed off the morning’s efforts, 112 with plenty left to go for, but not until we’d cooled our feet and replenished our water supply.


The balcony was a bit of a let-down, several of the species we had been seeing daily were just not around. After 45 minutes we hauled ourselves up and headed for the Marina/Los Lagatos area to tidy up a few things, then we intended to walk the lake margin down to the La Chunga trail, it seemed that this was the hottest day of the trip so far and now a stiff breeze was building too, this would make some birds keep low.

The Marina area added Purple Gallinule, American Coot, Common Gallinule and Spotted Sandpiper. We flushed a Great Blue Heron in very fortuitous circumstances, then had good views of Lesser Elaenia and Scrub Greenlet along the margins, along with an Orchard Oriole. A Yellow-crowned Tyrannulet gave us the run around and a Snowy-bellied Hummingbird took to pointing out as it sat trying to ignore us, nearby Golden-fronted Greenlet performed much better. The long expected White-throated Crake finally called and a White-necked Jacobin was a relief to find, we’d expected that one to be very easy, typical bird race.

The energy sapping heat was now taking its toll. We were both walking like little old ladies, neither of us being in peak physical condition. I always find that, towards the end of Big Days I become much more reliant on seeing, rather than hearing species, I’m pretty sure this weakness, which in mitigation is brought on by sensory overload, cost a couple of species, must try harder!  Sensing that we were running out of steam, we put on the afterburners after spending some time on an Elaenia which we had to work hard to see well and was worth it in the end, it being a Greenish Elaenia. We were now entering the final leg with, we hoped, some of the staked out birds that we had been seeing in the same place each time we birded that way.

A Tennessee Warbler was a relief to find, better still was our regular Black-bellied Wren that did its duty. We still had gaps but birds were just not cooperating and dusk was starting to arrive. We plucked a Squirrel Cuckoo out of the air (not literally, that would be cruel) before finally seeing Smooth-billed Ani but we were pretty much spent by this time. We headed back to base hoping for a late hurrah and to recheck the list. We had been writing the species down as we went but it is very easy to let something slip by and we would use the master checklist later to finalise the count.

Back at the room we scanned front and back in the rapidly fading light, the day still held a few birds and a long expected Great Tinamou called its ethereal notes, a hawking Lesser Nighthawk (below) bounced past on stiff wings and a gang of roosting Cattle Egrets were exactly where I knew that they would be. Finally the regular, marauding Bat Falcon came in late for its leathery evening snacks to round things off; that was it, we were done.


We tallied up the log and found that we had managed 134 species, not bad at all but the question after every Big Day is, what did we miss?

Leafing through the birds seen on site so far we had to ask, Barred Antshrike, where were you? I could not remember hearing one but we saw one daily otherwise, including the very next morning. Yellow-tailed Oriole was another easy tick missed and yes, they were back the next day too. No Red-capped Manakins showed, no Snowy Egrets or Tricolored Herons. Black-throated Mango had been present the day before (and after) as had Ringed Kingfisher. Fasciated Antshrike had become invisible and the ant lovers, Spot-crowned Antvireo, Chestnut-backed Antbird, Ocellated Antbird and Jet Antbird all of which are normally very vocal, just were not by the time we got to their locations. A Fork-tailed Flycatcher was present every day outside our room, except for on the Big Day, and neither Masked or Black-crowned Tityra could be found anywhere. On the same day, another birder saw Blue Cotinga and Rufescent Tiger-Heron and I’m sure that the staked out Buff-rumped Warbler and White-shouldered Tanager were laughing behind a mossy trunk somewhere. Add to the missing list Rufous-breasted Wren (which we almost certainly heard but it didn’t register!), Thick-billed Seed-Finch, Yellow-bellied Seedeater and Streaked Saltator and you can see that we could have done better.

In doing this Big Day we have set the bar and, hopefully shown how great the Gamboa is for birds. The resident site guide will beat the Big Day score easily, as should anyone else who gets more than one week a year in the tropics, as we do. It was great fun to do and if, or perhaps when we go back we have something to aim at.

There we are then, incidentally, the Gamboa big year account is included in the free birding guide to the site, with photos.

Global Big Day – 2016

Big Days are days when you go out within a predefined area and see and hear as many bird species as possible in 24 hours, midnight to midnight or whatever hours you chose. There, you are up to date with the concept, now the rationale. A Big Day is not just about chasing birds for a list. This one is an eBird event, another one of their ploys to encourage birders to get out, as if birders need such things during a top migration month. The list of birds seen on a big day is always interesting; it often contains the unusual and can give a precise snapshot of the happenings in the avian world on that very day. It is also just as interesting what you did not see as what you did.

Fear not, there are lots of photos later as I have deliberately refrained from posting for a few days and they just sort of accumulate. On the day itself, Saturday May 14th 2016, I took very few photos.

The list then, 78 species, 156km driven or walked, 15 hours five minutes birding although, with living in the defined Big Day area of Cape Sable Island, food and drinks breaks meant I could cover the yard.

I’ll start with what I didn’t see:

In the ‘should have been somewhere’ camp are: Canada Goose, Surf Scoter, Common Loon, Bald Eagle, Semipalmated Plover, Least Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Belted Kingfisher, Downy Woodpecker, Cedar Waxwing, American Redstart, Magnolia Warbler, House Sparrow.

Seen on the day by others but dipped by me: Northern Mockingbird, White-crowned Sparrow.

Not seen due to visibility issues: Black Guillemot, Atlantic Puffin.

Still around a day or two before – * = day before: Long-tailed Duck*, Common Merganser*, Sharp-shinned Hawk*, Cooper’s Hawk*, Broad-winged Hawk*, Stilt Sandpiper*, Long-billed Dowitcher, Glaucous Gull, American Kestrel, Eastern Kingbird*, Brown Thrasher, Eastern Towhee, Blue Grosbeak,  Rose-breasted Grosbeak*, Indigo Bunting.

Reasonable to expect at least a few of these on migration? Seems not: Killdeer, Red-eyed Vireo, Swainson’s Thrush, Nashville Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler.

Now what I did see, and the good stuff first: Green Heron and Orchard Oriole were the ‘best’ birds.


Same bird below on the day Johnny found it.


Green Heron is scarce but annual in Nova Scotia, this one opted for a typical micro-habitat, a tiny roadside pool that was loud with frog-song in the evening, I wonder how it ended up there!

The full list – * = year tick: Brant, American Black Duck, Mallard, Common Eider, White-winged Scoter, Black Scoter, Bufflehead, Red-breasted Merganser, Ring-necked Pheasant, Red-necked Grebe, Northern Gannet, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Green Heron, Black-crowned Night-heron, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Northern Harrier, American Oystercatcher, Black-bellied Plover, Piping Plover, Greater Yellowlegs, Willet, Lesser Yellowlegs, Ruddy Turnstone, Red Knot, Sanderling, Dunlin, Short-billed Dowitcher, Black-legged Kittiwake, Herring Gull, Iceland Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Common Tern, Arctic Tern, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Hairy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Merlin, Blue-headed Vireo*, Blue Jay, American Crow, Common Raven, Tree Swallow, Barn Swallow, Black-capped Chickadee, Boreal Chickadee, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Hermit Thrush, American Robin, Gray Catbird, European Starling, Black-and-white Warbler, Common Yellowthroat*, Northern Parula ,Yellow Warbler, Palm Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Savannah Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird, Orchard Oriole, Baltimore Oriole, Purple Finch, Pine Siskin, American Goldfinch.

The day dawned foggy and I was out at 5:55. The fog remained until around 4:30 on The Hawk although it was a little clearer by early afternoon on the north of the island and folk in Barrington, a gull flap just across a causeway, probably had to use sunblock!

I spent all morning in different spots catching up with any birds that were within 50m then covered the open water in the north which was practically duck-less. Once The Hawk cleared I did two visits trying to catch the falling tide and ended the day at Daniel’s Head where I finally bagged a Piping Plover. Had I missed our marquee bird you would not be reading this.

Now back to a few days prior and just a load of shots with some gibberish to keep you entertained. For the stat junkies out there; 186 species for the year in NS so far, 164 on CSI.

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Better shots of the Blue Grosbeak, left two days before the Big Day – clearly a young male.


Yard Baltimore Oriole, stayed one day, ate all the oranges.


One of two Broad-winged Hawks that came over the yard.


I saw one Rose-breasted Grosbeak on CSI last year and now two this. This scabby male didn’t linger.


Pine Siskin at the MacDonald feeder. Below are two of the tree Eastern Kingbirds at the same spot. Since then Yellow Warbler and both Arctic and Common Terns have been seen from the yard.

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One of the four Long-billed Dowitchers that were around The Hawk. Chunky looking beasts, this one seems to have a retained tertial and the bill length suggests a female.


Seems to have been a good White-throated Sparrow spring.


Eastern Towhee on The Cape. A CSI tick for me.

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Baltimore Oriole in Johnny and Sandra’s yard.

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A different Black-crowned Night-heron, this one is from the recharge pool on The Hawk.


First of the season Common Yellowthroat. May 13th there were none, May 14th lots.


One of the spring CSI stars, immature male Orchard Oriole at Johnny and Sandra’s place.

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There is still half of May to go and still a load of birds to arrive for the summer or just because they are lost. I will, of course, keep you updated on the turn of events, next in should be Alder Flycatcher followed by…

Bit of a Let Down

So people had travelled from afar and the scene was set for our temporary guests, the Curlew Sandpipers, to put on a repeat performance, find their way on to a few Nova Scotia life lists and generally be good little peeps but alas, it was not to be. There were lots of birds around, including the ever elusive Blue Grosbeak that gleefully hoped around the rocks and weeds in front of its admirers, but they didn’t quite hit the mark as the sandpipers failed to respect the tides, maybe tomorrow.


The day started well when the Solitary Sandpiper that had been so elusive yesterday finally gave itself up, thanks to Johnny for the first call of the day. The second call was close behind when two more year ticks and good birds graced his feeders, a Field Sparrow and a White-crowned Sparrow. The latter I’d expect to find at some point but the former is easily missed here so good to have it in the bag.



Winding back a bit and the Indigo Bunting was still in the yard this morning and posed nicely in one of the Apple trees. It really is mega-blue, well indigo-ish, even the photos don’t quite do it justice.

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The fourth addition to the year list was Semipalmated Plover – nice to see them back and things are rolling along nicely. CSI 150 for the year beckons, at this rate it could be 160 by the end of the week!