This has been a good May for birding. There have been birds to see most days, Nova Scotia ticks, Cape Sable Island ticks and lots of learning curves to follow. We may even look back in the coming years and thing of May 2017 as a classic and we still have another six days of it left!
The trouble is, you can’t be in two places at once, so you are bound to miss out. The Cape has been good and awful, but the good outweighs the awful because, even when it is awful for birds, it has a serenity and during what turns out to be at least a healthy walk, there is zero chance of being hit by a truck! One thing The Cape can offer is photo ops, like this busy Red-breasted Nuthatch on a gnarled piece of driftwood. If I was a photographer I’d have done a better job and here is where I fall between two stools, I’m a birder who takes photos and not a photographer of birds.
This differential came home to me when The Hawk hosted my CSI tick Scarlet Tanager and Red-bellied Woodpecker, both in Aldridge’s (spelling?) yard at the end of Hawk Point Rd. In my excitement I neglected the camera settings and the results were somewhat mixed. I didn’t get anything decent on the woodpecker and got one lucky shot of the tanager, a poor hit rate out of 350 frames. Had I been a photographer first, then the settings on the camera would have been uppermost in my mind, as it was my limited RAM was taken up with actually seeing the birds, I suffer no self-delusion here, but many do.
If you have surrendered your privacy to Facebook, and be aware that your input is monitored so they can target, sorry, carefully select, products that might interest you as defined by your (on-line) preferences, then you will have seen very many photos where the person pressing the camera button announces themselves as ‘insert name’ photography, and my thought is always, well yes it is if you took the picture. There are many who can claim the photographer mantle due to the quality of their work, especially now that digital photography and the associated technology has greatly eased the load. But there are many more who just pump out shit pictures and who couldn’t photograph their own ass with a mirror. And the even stranger thing, yes stranger that the rampant self-delusion of the button presser, is that they get a ton of ‘likes’, so what does this tell us about the ‘likers’? I think I’ll shut up now!
Having made my excuses for the quality of the shots, some birds then!
The Cape, for those who don’t know, is the island off the south end of Cape Sable Island. We trip out in a little boat, weaving between the sand bars and then walk the island on a sort of pre-defined route. Check the marsh, check the scrub, Lockies Cabin, The Forest, The Light and shingle Ridge then back to pick-up via the many lost Lobster Traps along the north-east shore. We want to make this route more interesting with planting but more of that another time. The route may vary but the excitement does not. Sometimes you see a good bird as soon as you land, sometimes the best bird is seen almost as you are climbing into the boat to leave. They can be anywhere and so you just have to look.
On May-18th the bird of the day was this Purple Martin and it wasn’t even on The Cape! We passed it as we made out war to the pick-up point for an 07:30 departure!
Despite that I went back on the next day, same weather, or so it seemed, but this time some birds. A Yellow-bellied Flycatcher and a superb, male Bay-breasted Warbler.
And when we got off more birds around The Hawk. The top bird is a male Blackburnian Warbler. The bottom dodgy pair of photos are of an Olive-sided Flycatcher and yes, it is as exciting as it sounds, especially when it is very rare on CSI.
The next Cape visit was slower (May 22nd) but I did get these Laughing Gulls – I’ve only seen one on CSI (and in NS) previously.
A few shots from elsewhere. The third bird is a Swainson’s Thrush, only my second on CSI, both this year.
And in between we went to Cow Bay, Dartmouth for a King Eider. It threw it down all day, we eventually found it at Rainbow Haven, I didn’t take a photo and that tells you all you need to know!
May 24th saw us wandering around the Yarmouth area and we saw a few more birds.
And when we got home This House Wren was singing just along Stoney Island Road.
Prospects: The last week of May and the first two of June will continue to produce birds. The breeding species will fill the empty holes as more arrive and there will be some rarities. Whether we see one, two, all or none of them is an open question. I will, of course, wave my camera lens at anything we see. I won’t be labelling any photos ‘Mark Dennis Photography’ though I may try a macro self-portrait.
As an aside, there is now a Cape Sable Island Wildlife group on Facebook. Anyone can join so feel free also, if you like bird art, check out Sandra’s stuff. Link on the side bar.