I think it is fair to say that October has failed to thrill in birding terms. In part it is down to this ‘funny’ year we are having, post El-Nino, and perhaps that failure to produce is also down to the long, mostly hot days we’ve been having since spring, days that have brought dry wells and brown lawns to southern Nova Scotia and that have encouraged the birds to keep going. Long hot days sap the energy and means that only a very limited part of each day has any true potential, rarity-wise. We all know that birding the morning is the thing, followed very infrequently by the spell ‘after supper’. It would be interesting to see how many true rarities are found after the morning session, not too many I’d wager although excluding 1998 fall-outs, see the link.
A local highlight for October, and an afternoon bird in fact, would, had we seen it, have been something that should not be so uncommon in NS, and in fact is probably better classed as elusive and hard to find than actually uncommon, I’m talking Long-eared Owl. One was seen on Cape Sable Island at The Hawk but it was only brief and has, so far, failed to offer a repeat performance. They do tend to sit tight during the day and there is lots of tree cover there to grant their wish of anonymity. They do also hunt in daylight when hungry but the proliferation of tasty Meadow Voles, (they taste like vole) means that rabid hunger is unlikely at present and so we can place the sighting in the ‘right place at the right time’ category.
The owl was found when a local told Johnny of an odd bird at his feeder, it was an Eastern Towhee. Johnny went and identified the towhee and the owl popped up at the same time. The towhee is still there, making occasional visits to the feeder by the house at the end of Hawk Point Road but beware, in the evening the road gets a silly number of deer watchers, who seem to just sit in their cars and just peer at deer eating carrots. A bonus for towhee appreciators and owl seekers on October 20th was a Northern Mockingbird – likely the one that has popped up on CSI from time to time this year. The light was iffy but here are the mocker shots and a doc shot of the towhee.
At sea, in south to east Nova Scotia, it is still possible to look out to sea and not find Cory’s Shearwaters, this is very odd. The shearwater might be present off the whole of eastern Nova Scotia but there are not enough people looking to confirm that, however, their presence off Canso suggests that they are, in fact, out there. The numbers have probably re-written the records for NS and the whole incursion will take some assessment and writing. In the midst of the many Cory’s have been some Scopoli’s, a species recognised by some authorities but not by the American Ornithologist’s Union (AOU). Scopoli’s breeds mostly in the Mediterranean and is smaller, finer and has a mostly white underwing that extends to the wing tips, Cory’s have a white underwing also but it ends well short of the wing tip making the underwing look blob-ended. What else lurks?
Here is a link to the eBird checklist for October-1st when we saw 1-3 Scopoli’s off The Cape.
A contender for an imposter in the mix might seem to be Cape Verde Shearwater. Cory’s-like in general appearance but with a dusky bill, Cory’s is yellow tipped dark. Not too much is known about the dispersal pattern from their breeding colonies (guess where!) but they would seem to be part of the whole Cory’s family type and they may lurk as yet undocumented in NS waters, something to read up on I think, see the link. I’m seeing Cory’s whenever I look at the sea, here is a crappy composite of three birds off Baccaro.
Link to the first records for N. America of Cape Verde Shearwater.
Whingeing about how poor October has been might be considered poor form but really the highlights have been few and far between, for example, White-eyed Vireo at Cape Forchu. This year a highlight, last year a regular sub-rarity. Perhaps ‘Alifer’, the birding God, has more in store for us, a slice of the ‘Sibe’ bonanza currently pouring on Europe would be nice, very nice indeed. Time to start brushing up on Phylloscopus warblers and even accentors?
I keep checking Kenney Road on CSI (or Kenny, depends which way you approach, check out the road signs next time you pass) but nothing eye-popping has appeared yet, still this Orange-crowned Warbler was nice. And now, after having written this and in a spectacular reversal of fortune, October will produce the @big one’!