For only the second time in 31 visits (life total and counting) I went to The Cape in the afternoon. Morning birding is always best but late afternoon can provide surprises and so it was this time. Ronnie and I were deposited by Leslie in Mighty Cove, a lively swell making exiting a matter of timing if you wanted to keep your feet dry, we did. The lack of distant clatter from the Lighthouse suggested the workers were not in residence so perhaps more birds would be. That spot, once they’ve gone, would be a great place to build a shrubbery, nothing two-tiered or anything like that, just a few leafy and perhaps fruiting bushes that light-attracted migrants could use for sanctuary.
The first port of call once on the island, after carefully checking the sheep-stunted Alder scrub on the way, is The Forest. It doesn’t take long generally as there is precious little left but what there is can often keep a secret. The only bird we saw was a sparrow that was hiding under the large rock and that would not give a view of any sort.
On to the Lighthouse and a few birds were using the pseudo-vegetation, pallets of scaffold deck and sundry Lighthouse repair items, to feed amongst. The same Northern Parula from the day before was still present.
New was a Western Palm Warbler.
And this little group of sparrows snipped seed heads with gusto. Two were straightforward, Chipping. The other bird, although obviously with them, was more of a test and so we digitalised it for later perusal, the back of camera images seeming to suggest a lack of a dark line from the bill to eye, which would put it in the Clay-colored camp, but the rest of it was just not right. A bird of this age is unusual at this time of year, so the puzzle deepened.
Post-light sparrow frenzy! Ronnie did the beach while I retraced my steps back via The Forest. The sparrow was again glimpsed but this time via expensive glass and the three second view was enough to identify it as a Lincoln’s, Cape Sable Island tick for the year number 220. Little did I know at the time that Mike, MacDonald who had independently chosen to take a look at the little-visited Ratcliffe end of The Cape at the same time, had found a Lapland Longspur, his third CSI year bird for the day and, I think, #200 for the year. Congratulations on passing a milestone with not far short of three months left of 2016.
I had a good look for the sparrow, hoping to capture it in pixels when I heard a call not dissimilar to the expected Savannah Sparrow. The bird that bounded in was no Savannah though, it was our frail little representative of the woodcreeper family, Brown Creeper. It soon realised that more food was available on the fence than the near-fossilised trees and set about picking morsels from the lichen. They always look like they’d prefer to walk between trees when you see them in the woods, quite why this one was undertaking a flap to an offshore island who knows? Interestingly Ronnie had seen one creeping around the Lighthouse on a previous visit.
And so that was that. The gunners had done for the day, the afternoon was very peaceful and we had a good walk and some nice birds on The Cape. I dare say that were I to call Leslie now and head Cape-wards, there would be a different set of birds awaiting discovery, tempting!