Winter ticks

After my last post I realised that I’d made an assumption about people’s knowledge of what winter listing is. The title does rather give it away, but an important detail is the definitive period when birds for the winter list count, which is the beginning of December to the end of February. Winter listing is a great excuse to get out and see birds in the most inhospitable season, not that you need an excuse to go birding but it looks better if you see it in print, more of an official excuse as opposed to a flight of fancy.

Last winter (2015-16) was my first in Nova Scotia and I ended the period with 151 species, which is pretty reasonable. To give it more context, I’d never broken the 100 species season barrier while living in Quebec, although I didn’t chase there in the same way and the winter is so much less forgiving there so the birds, sensibly, clear off south. This year I’m not venturing to far, Shelburne, Yarmouth and the southern bit of Digby is probably my lot. It is going reasonably well, as of 8/12 I’m up to 100, but I can see it taking a while to bust 200 for life, I have nine to go.

Time for a few photos, all in a bit of a mixed up order really.

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In our area a Wood Duck is a good winter bird, thanks to Paul Gould for the heads-up with this one at Charlesville.

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Lucky Ervin has been weaving his magic again. He unearthed this House Wren (NS year tick 280) and Yellow-breasted Chat on the same back street at the unfashionable end of Yarmouth. The Mockingbird and the House Finches were there too, 7/12.

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There has been a Herring die-off in Fundy (mostly) and nobody currently knows why. The upshot is that gulls that would normally dine on fish plant outflow waste are filling up on sushi elsewhere. Even the Digby gull hot-spot of Meteghan has seen reduced gull capacity recently. Here is an Iceland and an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull there from 7/12 plus a montage of Iceland Gull wing patterns just to get you in the mood.


While out and about on 7/12 we decided to tour the back country and came across a couple of Pine Grosbeaks at Hectanooga. They are scarce in our neck of the woods but the lady at the site has been getting up to 25 each morning so perhaps there are better photo opportunities to be had than just this doc-shot.


We made a point of heading home via the Ohio road, well they call it a road but mostly it is potholes interspersed with paving. Aside from three Snow Buntings the only other highlight was this Ruffed Grouse, feasting on buds.

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Our yard on 6/12 hosted Evening Grosbeaks for the second day running. This time I got some reasonable shots although the males that had been there the previous day chose to dine elsewhere. As I watched them, a flock of c50 Bohemian Waxwings appeared in the trees behind the feeders. Cape Sable Island tick #247, CSI big year bird #231 (plus three heard only).

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A good life winter tick was this Brown Thrasher at Johnny Nickerson’s yard, thanks to Johnny for the heads-up.

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We don’t go to Brass Hill too often, although we pass it every time we head to the big city (Yarmouth or Halifax), but we went looking for a Mockingbird recently and found this Pine Warbler, a couple of Chipping Sparrows and a flock 40 strong of Evening Grosbeaks.

 With three weeks left of this year I can’t see too many more birds showing up although you never truly know. For me the biggest surprise was the lack of a Western Kingbird in NS, Barnacle Goose too failed to show while Eurasian Wigeon and Ruddy Duck need a filter tweak in eBird to reflect their current rarity, in Shelburne there has not been a record of either in the past 18-months, similarly Laughing Gull, has all but disappeared from the NS scene in 2016.

And finally, there has been a good discussion on Facebook re how strict eBird is. Some think it asks for too many details, others think differently. I think the answer to the details issue is, when you encounter a rare/scarce bird, photograph it. Obviously you cannot do so 100% of the time but more often than not you can get a photo, even a terrible doc-shot will do. That way eBird reviewers get an easier time of it, unless the bird you claim is not the one you photograph then for sure you will get asked ‘are you sure?’ and so you should.

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