Big City Birding

It has been a while since my good lady wife Sandra and I went twitching together. We’ve previously been on some great jaunts, seeing some great birds and on November 1st 2016 we did it again. This blasted year has seen us visit Halifax too many times, not that there is anything wrong with Halifax you understand, but our visits have generally been less than cheerful.

For some reason, the Halifax/Dartmouth area has been host to some pretty rare birds for Nova Scotia. Quite why there is such a concentration is something of a mystery, or perhaps these birds are everywhere (except Cape Sable Island at the moment) but are just only being seen in the Halifax Metropolitan area because that is where the birders are. I’d already enjoyed a slice of the pie at the end of October in the form of the Bell’s Vireo, now our targets were a Grasshopper Sparrow and Yellow-billed Cuckoo. The latter not so rare but it, along with Ibisbill, is my Nova Scotia nemesis bird, the latter may be unrealistic but aim high, that is what I say.

Our first venue was Point Pleasant Park on the Halifax waterfront. Grasshopper Sparrows think they are mice, they run along the floor and are not that keen of perching up. This one was behaving true to form since ever it had been discovered, although it did break cover occasionally and posed for the camera. It had originally been found, then lost and now was found again, having been ferreted out by Diane LeBlanc who graciously agreed to meet us and show us just the spot. She spotted it again and we had good looks before it sloped off. The search continued and, just when we’d decided it was a last quick look before departing for a newly found MacGillivrays Warbler, up it popped.

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MacGillivray must have been lucky when he found, and named his warbler as they are real skulkers. We have seen them in the west and in a couple of other countries but a Nova Scotia one was unexpected. The tangle it favoured was empty when we arrived and it had probably wandered off a good few metres, refusing to show. Admitting a temporary defeat we moved on to look for a nearby, showy Yellow-billed Cuckoo. When we got there the cuckoo was not in view so we dug in and waited while a couple of photographers stalked the area. Later we mentioned the rare warbler to them and they went off to try while we made a concerted attempt at the cuckoo before resuming the MacGillivray’s search.

 A Wilson’s Warbler put in a brief appearance before the cuckoo finally graced us. It was the best and most agreeable Yellow-billed Cuckoo ever.

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Back at the warbler we heard from Jim Edsall that it had showed briefly, and we later saw one of the photographers collection of images and there was a shot of the star, there really is no justice! We searched a good while and I actually saw the belly, back and tail of the bird as it flew over Jim’s head and into cover. I’d also heard it call several times so technically tickable but not for me, not until I see the whites over (and under) its eyes.

The day had been great fun, two Nova Scotia ticks and a good day out with the missus. The next day it was back on the CSI beat where I lucked in on a Barred Owl on Kenney Road (photo below), a CSI tick and I was able to get Mike on it too. Later I checked on the two Cattle Egrets at nearby Barrington, yes two, the one had been joined by another.

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Today (11/3/16) I finally got to see the Evening Grosbeaks on Petticoat Lane, Barrington. I saw around 60 perched up waiting for Butch to re-stock the feeders. Not great shots but the light was not up to it.

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A little addendum. Mike, Ervin and I went uptown once again on November 4th. We got the MacGillivray’s, saw the cuckoo again, missed the Bell’s, got a Yellow-throated there though (NS tick), missed the sparrow and failed to find any Red-bellied Woodpeckers despite the help of B, a good day though.

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