When Dave Currie found a Bell’s Vireo in Dartmouth, alarm bells rang and we just had to go and see it, but, because I got a terrible photo and this blog post will display same on Facebook, I’ll start at the end of the day and work back.

On October 28th Peggy Scanlon was birding the Canso Causeway when she photographed beautifully a Brown Booby. I, like most folk, expected it to be a fly-past but no, it was lingering the next day and so we sort of planned to try for it if we got the Dartmouth vireos. We got the most important one (missed Yellow-throated) and so set off towards new territory for me, Cape Breton.

The weather was fine and bright with fog and heavy rain while misty but clear, yes, mixed. We were just 20km from the causeway when Ken McKenna gave us an update, it is still here and it is not raining. Looking at the splattering water on the windshield we begged to differ but he was right. When we arrived there was a small and appreciative group there admiring the booby’s head, it was tucked into the causeway rocks and that was all we could see.


After a short wait, during which we were richly entertained by two Sunfish and Two Loggerhead Turtles (one below), the booby flew.


Leaving the rocks, the booby clearly had an idea that the surrounding Great Black-backed Gulls would take interest and it was not wrong, one gave it a right old chase and lent itself to a good size comparison.

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The attacking gull broke off and went back to sulking on a rock while the star bird circled back and landed on an exposed rock giving better views to everyone.


In the same bay this young Lesser Black-backed Gull also added the booby to its life list.


And these Harlequins Dots were equally baffled by the fuss.


The booby was restless and soon flew out to join a gang of Northern Gannets that were fishing. The water level melee also included a few Atlantic White-sided Dolphins munching the same fare. At this time the booby was quite distant and the light getting worse so we departed. Thanks to Ken and everyone for hanging around for us, thanks to Peggy for the great find.

Now, going back to earlier in the day, we arrived at Lakeside Terrace in Dartmouth, home of the vireo/s, to be greeted by a few other birders noting it was a no show so far for them, but it had been seen avoiding a local cat earlier. The owners of the three cats that had been stalking the goodies knew that there was a rare bird there but still let their cats out, pretty ignorant I’d say so I cursed the lady owner with cellulite for a first offence. One of the other local residents was very friendly and offered access to his property if the bird showed up there, and gave a cheery, not to mention loud toot on his truck’s horn a few times (once while we were watching it!), still, his heart is in the right place.

There was also a Yellow-breasted Chat there and we’d seen it quite well, for a chat. Later the Bell’s showed up just along the road from the main throng, unfortunately my camera had switched to video mode and the split second required to lower it, realise the problem and fix then re-focus was all the difference between these doc shots and something quite different. Chat first, Bell’s Vireo second.

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It was quite a long day but the taste of Cape Breton whetted the appetite for a return visit and it was great to see some of the Halifax/Dartmouth/Lunenburg County based birders again The two Nova Scotia ticks put me on 294, so only six to go. It may seem that Keith, on 299, is in pole position to get to the coveted 300 before me, and he with a two-year head start. He may be, but I live on CSI and Yellow-billed Cuckoo is my NS nemesis bird plus I have a few ‘easy’ ones missing off my list, so who wants to take that bet?

FYI – I added my NS list to the side bar, using the new ABA systematic list sequence.


4 thoughts on “Ding-a-ling

  1. I think my head start was only 1 year and 11 months. Until last week I would have bet on you beating me to 300 as the lifers were coming awfully these last few months but then then week. My closest thing to nemesis was a White-eyed Vireo but aside from me, Paolo and B also wanted that one so the three of us heading for the Lake Russel Trails first and nemesis no more, NS tick 300. Okay the race is on for 400 hundred now!


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