Dropping a Clanger

There is nothing quite like the bucket of cold water that is knowing you have made a stupid mistake and then shared it with half the planet on Facebook. Everyone makes them, some make a habit of making them, but we usually have an in-built device that prevents them, a little voice saying it doesn’t look quite right, it is a good device, if you take notice of it that is.

It is strangely quiet in Nova Scotia for peak migration time, so you tend to be left flogging the bushes more in hope than expectation. Such was the situation today (10/13/16) when I made my way for pick-up to go to The Cape. Five minutes earlier I’d had good scope views of a Long-billed Dowitcher, stood next to its less well-endowed cousin on The Guzzle and showing those nice, pale edged but not notched tertials of an immature.

Moving further down the road I pished and played alarm calls hoping for ANY warbler to show. None did but a sparrow, seen briefly through the camera lens, scuttled through and was duly snapped. I focused on the broad, grey collar and the lack of a line through the lores. Two and two made five and I leapt to the rash conclusion that it was a Clay-colored Sparrow, despite thinking it looked a little odd. A 5km walk around The Cape turned up nothing, almost literally, and so I buoyed my enthusiasm with the thought of a year-tick in the bag. At home I edited the first shot showing the whole bird and posted it to the Atlantic Canada Birding Facebook group.

People with a more critical eye in operation yelled Swamp, so I looked and it was, that was exactly why it looked odd! One of the advantages of being a Facebook group admin is that you can remove posts, so I did before my faux-pas became more widely enjoyed. As very few people read this blog I can confess here and be confident of a certain amount of damage limitation. Unfortunately there are no mitigating circumstances for this one, just rank sloppiness and a comment ‘must concentrate more’ on my end of term report. Here is the photo of the Swamp Sparrow. Now squint for the Clay-colored effect!


And when I next find a Clay-colored I do know I’ll need a photo!

I’m still wondering why pickings have become so scarce though. Saturday was a good day with some arrival but everything left that evening and there is little succor to be had. Will we miss out on the expected level of migration due to the ever-fine days?, or will Mother Nature finally pitch that storm our way (not before 10/24 please) and bring us the birds and the rain we desperately need.

On the bright side my evening reading will be occupied by poring through this:


If you enjoy birding sites that capture the essence of bird migration, and you find yourself in the UK, specifically East Yorkshire in October-early November, you could do worse than visit Spurn. PS. Thanks for the use of the photo, whoever.

Addendum: There might not be much happening land-bird wise but a peaking tide, evening sea watch last night was pretty good. For once the sky was overcast and the sea not glassy. The details of the short watch are on eBird, the highlight was adding Northern Fulmar to my Cape Sable Island life and year list and Parasitic Jaeger to the latter too. I tried again this morning (10/14) but we are back to glassy, no Yellow-billed Cuckoo, as reported late yesterday either.


Looking for the big one at Daniel’s Head.


It was dark and foggy but a Great Horned Owl in the yard, Mike got to see it too, just look at those eyes.



6 thoughts on “Dropping a Clanger

  1. Hi Mark: You might be surprised how many birders read your excellent blog. As far as the missed i.d. is concerned, I believe that is what is called being human, and is something all birders do, perhaps on more occasions than they would care to admit to.
    However, living as close as you do to Acadian N.S., it is probably a matter of time before someone comments on your use of the term feu-pas. I believe the correct spelling is faux pas, although the meaning came through loud and clear. Good birding.


  2. Mark: You may be surprised at how many birders read your excellent blog,
    As far as your missed I.d. is concerned, we can all relate, perhaps more than we can to admit.
    However, as you live so close to Acadian Nova Scotia, I am sure it is only a matter of time before someone comments on your use of the term feu-pas. I believe the correct spelling would be faux pas, although your meaning came through loud and clear. Good birding.


  3. HI Mark: It happens to the best of us. Don’t worry about it as we all make mistakes. On my home turf on Sunday Sept. 11, I made a run from LaHave all along the shore to Vogler’s Cove. It was extremely quiet, which correlates to your Saturday notation. If not for a group of migrants at Cherry Hill Beach and a magnolia warbler at Vogler’s Cove my day list would have looked pretty drab and pathetic. There were literally no passerines anywhere else along the route that I traveled.


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