Although a cold north-easterly wind blew all day, the birding was good, even surprising at times. Around Cape Sable Island the usual suspects were to be found but not an elusive Gyrfalcon that was seen around The Cape and The Hawk a couple of days ago. I’ll keep looking and hoping and, if is still around, I’ll bump into it at some point.
Sandra has decided to enter the birding world properly. After years of birding with me, but leaving me to fill in the eBird details, she now has her own account and I’m in the process of sharing our joint checklists. It will be interesting to see where that puts her, she even has some species over me, I was too windy to go up onto the canopy walkway in Ecuador, she did go up and got an extra six canopy huggers. She also has a Fire-throated Fruit-eater from earlier in the trip and when everyone ignored her when she tried to point it out to us, girls eh!
With her new-found gusto for listing she decided we needed to go and see Evening Grosbeaks in Barrington, only a year tick but she now has the bit between her teeth. The grosbeaks were badly behaved but the nearby Cattle Egrets were some compensation, even though we have previously enjoyed them. A bingly-beep-beep of the phone announced a text from Mike MacDonald, he’d found a roadside Blue Grosbeak at Port Latour. We were only going to shop for essentials so we abandoned that and we for a look-see.
For the second time in a day a grosbeak treated us shoddily, so we decided to visit Blanche hoping to find something else. Until our last visit down the Blanche Peninsula we had successfully avoided seeing Grey Jay there, then one popped up briefly and the duck was well and truly broken. Today two were hopping around the roadside and perching up nicely. I took a slew of photographs, then I noticed that my camera, a Canon 70D, seemed to be acting up. Several of the shots had a white band across them, like the image had been cleanly erased. Much poking and resetting didn’t resolve the problem and this with the camera is not quite two years old. We live in an age of ridiculous unnecessary obsolescence, when better design and manufacture should see a 2000CAN camera last five years minimum. Repairs will cost upwards of 50 percent of a new one, so it is out with the old one again for the time being.
At the end of Blanche we finally came across a few small birds, at first they just seemed to be Black-capped Chickadees but then a vireo came into view. You assume Blue-headed because that is what we have here, but I think this one sits on the fence between Blue-headed and Cassin’s. In favour of the former is location, Cassin’s is a western species. Perhaps as a pointer to the possibility of Cassin’s might be the presence of various western species in Nova Scotia, such as the much enjoyed, if only briefly, MacGillivray’s in Dartmouth. The two vireos are a tough call to split, very tough and only recently discussed on the Facebook group pages of Atlantic Canada Birding.
On-line reference is mixed and nobody seems to have produced anything definitive for solving the issue of brighter Cassin’s versus Blue-headed, although there is some suggestion that a lore darker than the head is indicative of Cassin’s. I don’t really know, few do, but the discoverer of this field mark is confident in it, more here:
Which brings me to the photographs, and I make no assumptions either way except to present the images here. I should also say that the lighting was bright and so some colour was flooded.
The top five are the Blanche bird, the rest are known Blue-headed Vireos from the autumn period, the tail seems to confirm the bird is a Blue-headed Vireo.
Having exhausted the virtues of Blanche we decided to go back via the absent Blue Grosbeak and there it was, an adult female taking grit and seeds on the verge. Naturally the road became busy, not just with passing cars (well trucks!) but with a school bus that stopped opposite it, lights and all, sending the bird reeling into the scrub. A patient wait got us good views and a few photo opportunities, limited by having to manually focus and place the bird at the bottom of the frame.
Comments welcome on the vireo, if you do comment I’ll put them on here.